Give me Liberty or give me — well, I won’t go so far as Patrick Henry’s famous ultimatum. Let’s just put it this way: Don’t mess up my sundae with Kemp’s. Liberty Frozen Custard is in a food realm all its own, not to be compared with other frozen-dessert drive-in fare, as the cars clogging its parking lot have testified ever since its inaugural six years ago.
If you’re from the East Coast, where the delicacy originated (at Coney Island in 1919, or so the story goes), I won’t have to explain. A few words for the rest of us: Frozen custard is like ice cream but, um, different. (Aficianados would say “better.”) It’s based on the same heavy cream and sugar, but something else: egg yolks. (That’s where the custard part comes in, along with the super-rich flavor). It’s also frozen at temperatures far colder than ice cream’s, which discourages ice crystals and make it ultra-smooth.
Liberty occupies what used to be an auto shop. These days, the garage doors fly up as soon as the frost leaves the ground, ready for another season cooling those ’40s chrome chairs and Formica tables. The former grease pit now boasts a comfy sofa, floor lamp, and on my most recent visit, four teenage boys cum dog, who polished off a mid-afternoon pepperoni pizza before digging into the main event, a quartet of cherry-topped hot fudge sundaes.
Nearby, two moms corralled seven swiveling youngsters, each with a cone or sundae, oblivious to the framed magazine ads of the time urging them to trade up to a Lincoln, or a Bissell Capri Special carpet sweeper at the very least. And to no avail: Clearly they aspired to no more than their frozen desserts.
Best seller, says the counter person, is the Turtle Sundae. Hesitant to go for the gold on my first visit, I initiated my taste buds with a dish of mixed flavors — mild, supple chocolate and the daily special, rum-raisin (plenty of both).
By now you know the world-is-ending mantra and eat dessert first, just in case. But should sanity prevail and you seek a less dramatic sequence, fine. Liberty also serves sandwiches and salads supreme (as well as that pepperoni pizza).
I ordered the half-of-each combo and was delighted with what proved to be far beyond your customary drive-in fare. The camera-ready salad was composed of micro greens laden with a fan of rich and fleshy avocado, chunky artichoke hearts, rings of red onion and nicely chewy strands of sundried tomatoes, all begging to be sprinkled with the sweet onion dressing at its side.
My choice of sandwich — when in Rome — was the Liberty: a jaw-wrenching stack of turkey, Swiss and baby greens, all moistened with a sundried-tomato pesto, served on sourdough (or choose white or wheat). Then back for another go at the custard, just because. Flavors — literally dozens of them — rotate from amaretto praline to wild berry crunch. And to be extra nice, Liberty offers seniors a 10 percent discount and sells kiddy cones for 93 cents. Surely Patrick Henry would lay down his life for some.
Liberty Frozen Custard
5401 Nicollet Ave. S.