It is a balmy Friday night in Southwest, the families, the kids, the teens all congregating like moths around a flame at a renovated gas station at 54th & Nicollet, the site of Liberty Frozen Custard.
Headlights sweep across the crowd, some seated, some standing, as another car pulls into the lot, illuminating a gaggle of gulp-able goodies: four-scoop custard cones, Italian ices, hot fudge and turtle sundaes, and a few delicious-looking hot dogs loaded with condiments.
More diners sit inside what used to be the old station’s auto service bay, at retro-inspired tables with candy apple red chairs, talking animatedly — and eating with gusto. Workers behind the counter laugh and interact as they hustle whipped cream onto yet another wildly wonderful concoction. Kids paw through an attention-grabbing array of wax fangs and mustaches, biplanes, Zotz and Teaberry gum. It’s quintessential Southwest here, ladies and gentlemen, right down to the doggie-height drinking fountain/water bowl outside.
Custard is a form of ice cream, made with cream and other milk solids, but by definition it must also have egg yolk. It’s also crafted with special equipment that creates less air and fewer ice crystals than regular hard frozen ice cream. The result: a rich, creamy product that almost seems to defy logic. How could it be so delicious and smooth, so cool and sweet? Also, the custard is made in batches throughout the day and is kept at a slightly warmer temp than ice cream to keep it soft.
Every day there are two special flavors along with the requisite chocolate and vanilla (the Friday I was there offered Banana and Rocky Road), plus a special Italian ice — which is made in the custard machine so it’s smooth and creamy as well, but is non-dairy and has no fat. Flavors include mango, lemon and black cherry, among others.
As my daughter “om-nom-nom’d” her turtle sundae, allowing me a paltry bottom-of-the-bowl scraping, I took great pleasure in my traditional banana split, with chocolate and vanilla frozen custard placed atop a perfectly ripe banana, lathered with chocolate, strawberry and pineapple toppings, whipped cream, chopped peanuts and two cherries. Delicious.
But don’t think this place is just about dessert. An assortment of deli sandwiches, pizza, salads and espresso treats are also available, along with free Wi-Fi for those who can multi-task and concentrate on something beyond the delicious custard. I’m not sure I could, but more power to you.
I have made a note to return soon, as the caramel cashew sundae appears to be calling to me. And I’ll be bringing my dog, Stash — he heard about the well-stocked Frosty Paws treats and there will be no living with him until I comply with his demands.
Liberty Frozen Custard
5401 Nicollet Ave.