Where To Find The Best Frozen Custard In America

If you want to find the best frozen custard shop in the country, might we recommend you take a trek to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where, upon arrival, you pick up a rock and throw it up in the air? Wherever it lands, it's likely to be near someone enjoying that delicious recipe comprised of at least 10% butterfat and 1.4% egg yolk. After a few minutes of watching said custard eater enjoying the concoction, you'll wonder if you must beg for a bite of his vanilla custard covered with crumbled Oreos. Or if you'll just go ahead and find a frozen custard restaurant and bust out the five bucks necessary to get your own. That shouldn't be too hard. Word has it that Wisconsin has the highest concentration of frozen custard shops in the world, so our rock-throwing method would likely work as well as any when you need help finding a cone of your own. 

This isn't to say that Milwaukee is the only place where you'll find frightfully good frozen custard. For those who enjoy a good foodie diaspora story, you'll find it if you follow the frozen custard trail back to its beginnings on the East Coast. Over 100 years and almost 1,000 miles stand between Milwaukee and the first frozen custard, which is more than enough time to perfect this classic treat, making our job of finding the top 12 frozen custard restaurants in the U.S. a challenging but yummy task.

Kohr's Frozen Custard — Seaside Heights, New Jersey

Around the turn of the 20th century, the three Kohrs brothers, Archie, Clair, and Elton, discovered that adding egg yolks to an ice cream recipe would forever change Coney Island Boardwalk food culture. It was a result they could have hardly imagined as they traipsed from house to house selling ice cream and milk out of a horse-drawn carriage. The boys were at a crossroads. They could continue selling ice cream door to door or do something different and level up their operation.

The game-changer was an ice cream maker Meisenhelter Ice Cream Freezer. Before hitting the boardwalk, they tried their machine out at local affairs. A bit of tinkering transformed the machine into a softie-making empire. The Kohrs just needed some sun, surf, and the salty Atlantic air of the Boardwalk. At a nickel a piece, those servings of ice cream probably seemed like a bargain to the 18,000 people who lined up that first day to get relief from the heat. 

There was just one problem. Salty air plus ice cream equaled rapid melting. The Kohrs solved the problem by adding eggs to the recipe, which allowed the frozen dessert to stand up to the heat. This invention merited a new name: frozen custard. Although the original Coney Island Kohr's closed, the recipe and tradition live on at Kohr's in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

Surfside Frozen Custard – Sea Girt, New Jersey

How do you take some already delish chocolate or coffee-flavored frozen custard and improve it? Why, by adding extras like Oreo cookie crumbles, mini gummy bears, and some Reese's peanut butter cup bits for good measure. Of course, purists, who have tasted the frozen custard stylings of Surfside Frozen Custard in Sea Girt, New Jersey, might balk at the idea of adding anything at all to the restaurant's made-fresh-daily custard. In many respects, the Surfside Frozen Custard restaurant couldn't be more different than the boardwalk ice cream and frozen custard "mini-marts."

It sits on a more residential plot of land, protected by the shade of mature trees. Like the original Kohr's restaurants, Surfside Frozen Custard is the passion project of three brothers, T.J. Earle, Michael Earle, and Walter Earle II. Owning a frozen custard business allows them to enjoy the summer sun with local New Jersey residents. It's an experience that's made lovelier if you nab a seat on the nearby picnic benches, right under the fairy lights. It's all part of the restaurant's outdoor seating area. And it's pure summer magic.

Queen City Creamery & Deli — Cumberland, Maryland

It's difficult to talk about the history of frozen custard without talking about ice cream. And in the U.S., it's impossible to talk about ice cream without mentioning where someone took the first bite of it. We'll save you the suspense. It was in Maryland in 1744, at a private affair at the Annapolis home of then-Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen. That fact gives ice cream lovers in Maryland a conversational jumping-off point when they're ready to trek down Maryland's Ice Cream Trail. And the place to get your custard fix in Maryland is the Queen City Creamery & Deli in Cumberland. The shop serves vanilla and chocolate custard plus one other custard of the day. 

Naturally, the shop also knows how to decorate a custard cone by offering a variety of toppings, including peach, strawberry, and Kit Kat. The frozen dessert has become so popular that you can now find tubs of it in the frozen food aisle of local grocery stores. Queen City Creamery & Deli is also the place to go if you'd like something savory with that sweet. Shop visitors can order a sandwich and a gourmet cuppa java before digging into their favorite frozen dessert. That Maryland has an Ice Cream Trail should come as no surprise. The state boasts around 40,000 dairy cows, more than enough to fill the Ice Cream Trail with tall scoops of frozen dessert numerous times over.

Glen's Custard – Springdale, Pennsylvania

Nowadays, going out to eat has become another form of entertainment, like going to the movies or playing a round of miniature golf with friends. Fortunately for frozen custard lovers in Springdale, Pennsylvania, a trip to the frozen custard stand means more than two scoops of deliciousness. It also means a round of mini-golf if the mood strikes, making Glen's Custard one of the more unique places around the country to get your frozen dessert fix.

Glen's began just a few years after the close of World War II. It's easy to imagine how refreshing its ice-cold frozen custard must have been to Springdale residents after the austere war years. Classic favorites include vanilla and chocolate, but Glen's also offers a specialty menu, filled with flavors like red velvet cupcake, pistachio, rockin' cotton candy, and more. If you're feeling a bit more peckish, Glen's also offers made-to-order frozen custard cakes, which are undoubtedly popular with the birthday crowd who spend their special days hitting golf balls around the mini-golf area and noshing on frozen custard.

As of this writing, this hand-me-down family business is on iteration No. 4, with Glenn No. 3 and his son, Eli, at the helm. It's regularly named one of the best places to have frozen custard in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And for those who just need one more bite of custard for the road, the restaurant also makes tubs of frozen custard to go.

LaScola's Italian Ice and Custard — Highland Park, Pennsylvania

Like the Kohr's before them, Tish and Tom LaScola of LaScola's Italian Ice and Custard in Highland Park, Pennsylvania, began by peddling their wares at fairs before moving their business to a more permanent location. Granted, they were on the road a lot longer than the Kohrs — 14 years to be exact — but the wait for them to find a permanent place to call home was worth it. Now, LaScola's is one of Highland Park's best-known dessert palaces in the city. And while being a freakin' delicious place to eat isn't so unusual on this list, LaScola's does bring a little something extra to the frozen custard market by bringing a cross-cultural element to the table: Italian ice. The combination of Italian ice and its famous frozen custard forms the restaurant's signature dish, the "Ice Burg." 

Aside from that, it's difficult to be a Debbie Downer at LaScola's. The happy feelings start even before the sugar high sets in. On the walls near its outdoor seating area is a Technicolor mural filled with sunshine and flowers and all manner of things that are bound to bump your mood up on the happiness scale. Once at the you-serve window, you'll see offerings for more than just chocolate and vanilla. Lemon olive oil, salted caramel, and rum raisin are just a few of the must-try flavors.

Gilles Frozen Custard — Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Although the custard craze started in New York's Coney Island in the early 1900s, Wisconsin usurped New York's place as king of custard to become the "Unofficial Custard Capital of the World" by the 1930s. This had largely to do with the collision of three separate but important factors. First, a lot of dairy cows live in Wisconsin: It's second in the nation for the number of dairy cows. Second, since Prohibition put the kibosh on adult beverages in 1920, the brewers of the Midwest turned to frozen custard to make up for their shortfalls. And third, when the World's Fair came to the area — Chicago, to be exact — Midwesterners got their first real introduction to frozen custard. One person to try it there was Paul Gilles, who was wowed by how many people he saw waiting to get their frozen custard. 

Not long after that, Gilles Frozen Custard opened its stand in Milwaukee in 1938. It was the first in the city. Throughout its existence, Gilles Frozen Custard employed some key people, including Paul's brother, Tom, and later Leon Schneider, who was Gilles' night manager until he opened his own frozen custard restaurant in Milwaukee. And while it might be tempting to think that big competition sprang up from that, it didn't. This may be a key factor in why Gilles has been open for so long and why its classic chocolate custard always makes the city's many "Best Of" lists.

Leon's Frozen Custard — Milwaukee, Wisconsin

While Leon's Frozen Custard restaurant can't brag about being Milwaukee's oldest frozen custard joint, it can brag about having the coolest retro design. The neon lights and rounded corners on the roof fit the Googie-style diner architecture that became popular in the 1950s. It's those bright lights that beckon hungry travelers off the road and into frozen custard heaven. The more scoops of frozen custard, the more heavenly it becomes. Given that the biggest serving stands five scoops tall, the capacity for joy looms large here.

And while it might not be Milwaukee's oldest frozen custard restaurant, Leon's is the second-oldest and a long-time city favorite. When it began in 1942, the restaurant only offered vanilla frozen custard. By the 1960s, other flavors hit the menu. The building's current Googie-style design happened between those two occasions, making it modern for the 1950s but retro today. Its founding father, Leon Schneider, started in the frozen custard business by first working at another Milwaukee favorite, Gilles. Currently, Leon's son, Ron, owns and operates the business. While making delish frozen custard means a great deal to him, he says the most fun comes from watching the kids, noses up to the diner window, staring in wonder as the magic of the frozen dessert comes alive right before their eyes.

Kopp's Frozen Custard – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Although Kopp's Frozen Custard now enjoys just as much fame for its burgers as it does frozen custard, it's Kopp's philosophy of "have dessert first" that keeps people coming back. Like all the frozen custard restaurants in the area, Kopp's makes its frozen custard with plenty of egg yolks and lots of butter fat. That's why this frozen custard tastes great anytime and why Kopp's sells about 50 gallons of it daily. As for its burgers, big dollops of butter on the bun are one of the not-so-secret ingredients that make the restaurant's burgers irresistible. On a good day, the restaurant will serve 2,000 of them. 

Like Leon's and Gilles, Kopp's has called Milwaukee home for decades. Started by Elsa Kopp in 1950, the restaurant builds loyalty from the customer's first visit. It's not unusual for customers to begin their relationship with Kopp's when they are mere munchkins. Nor is it unusual for them to continue the frozen custard tradition with their own kids. And Kopp's is so good that it doesn't just attract the locals. Some long-time customers hail from places as far away as Texas, and while they could go anywhere they want when they visit the city, it's not a visit to Milwaukee until they've made their stop-off at Kopp's Frozen Custard.

Scooter's Frozen Custard – Chicago, Illinois

Smithsonian Magazine said the World Fair was "where people [could] go to learn about ways the world [was] heading." For visitors to Chicago's 1933 World's Fair, the world was heading to the frozen custard stand. It had been a little more than a dozen years since the frozen concoction was born on Coney Island, and the recipe had worked its way across the U.S. 'til it reached the heartland. When Mardi and Denny Moore created Scooter's Frozen Custard in 2003, they wanted to honor the frozen dessert's roots in Chicago. One way they do this is by getting their custard-makings from the same dairy that brought the recipe to Chicago in 1933.  

And like the World's Fair before it, Scooter's runs a seasonal affair. Come the second Friday after Turkey Day, it's time to close shop so that the Moore's can enjoy a long Winter's Nap, but not before every last drop of their frozen Ambrosia goes out the door. In the months when Scooter's is open, locals eat up concoctions like the strawberry concrete and the Elvis. If Scooter's Frozen Custard customers would like a little sandwich to go with their custard, the Moores serve hot dogs as well to give restaurant visitors a little savory to go with their sweet.

Ritter's Frozen Custard – Terre Haute, Indiana

Statistics tell us that we're living longer today than most people in previous generations did, with the average life expectancy now being 76 for men and 81 for women compared to 46 for men and 48 for women just a century ago, according to The Hamilton Project. This leaves many people wondering what they'll do with the second act of their lives — that time post-retirement when they're not quite ready for a rocking chair on the porch but not quite ready to return to business as usual either. 

John Ritter of Ritter's Frozen Custard found himself wondering that as he was winding down a 35-year career in animation. Right before he retired, he got a nudge from one of his sons to start an ice cream shop. When Ritter was a teen, he worked at the local ice cream shop, and while his career took many meandering turns, it finally brought him back to the frozen dessert business in the second act of his life.

Today, Ritter's Frozen Custard has stores in six states, including Texas and Indiana. The stores serve a variety of custard flavors, including amaretto cherry chunk and apple cobbler. The frozen custard restaurant in Terre Haute, Indiana, updates its frozen custard regularly and even employs a few cake maestros to create delish and super cute frozen custard cakes to help customers celebrate birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions in grand style.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard — St. Louis, Missouri

In 1946, the Nat King Cole Trio encouraged people to get their kicks on Route 66. The song mentions St. Louis, Missouri as a must-see stop along that long highway, and as any business owner along the trail can tell you, being on Route 66 creates business dollars. Merge that location with nostalgic food like frozen custard, and you have frozen food gold. This may explain why Ted Drewes in St. Louis remains a popular stomping ground for tourists, despite being open only about five months of the year. There's even a street sign touting it as a Route 66 attraction. 

But no sign would engender the kind of loyalty that Ted Drewes does if the restaurant didn't serve quality frozen custard. And if the number of people lined up at the window and nearly around the block proves anything, it's that the frozen custard here merits the wait. To the uninitiated, the store's signature dessert, the concrete, might sound less than appetizing, but the name shouldn't stop them. The consistency of the frozen dessert runs so thick you can liken it to the consistency of concrete. Being able to turn the full cup sans lid upside counts as one of the concrete's most convincing selling points. Add some tasty toppings like cinnamon and pecans or chocolate and mints, and you'll be convinced that Ted Drewes' concrete counts as the tastiest concrete on all of Route 66.

Erma's Original Frozen Custard — Shelby Township, Michigan

Take one look at Erma's "Original" Frozen Custard menu, and you know you've probably passed into Nirvana unnoticed in your sleep because if these wares don't epitomize heavenly, we don't know what does. A quick perusal of their special flavors reads like the who's who of the custard world. Banana kicks off custard season's beginning, followed by flavors like toasted coconut and Dutch apple pie. 

Naturally, come fall harvest, pumpkin, pumpkin, and even more pumpkin land on the menu as a last hurrah before Erma's shutters for the season. And while some may be tempted to think that Erma's takes menu ideas from Starbucks' fall playbook, that isn't the case. Pumpkin has appeared on the menu since the 1970s. It's even made with the good stuff. That is, no food substitutes. The pumpkin and the pumpkin pie spice are as real and wholesome as the fresh eggs and butterfat in the custard itself.

As if that weren't enough, the custard restaurant offers at least 30 different kinds of parfait, giving ardent custard lovers an excuse to come back every day of the month to try something new.