Monday, May 30, 2011

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

What does ice cream and the Mother Road have in common? This establishment is an institution, a St. Louis icon, a mingling place, a summer night's paradise, located on Chippewa, a stretch of old US Highway 66. Photo taken last evening.

Ted Drewes opened TED DREWES FROZEN CUSTARD in 1930 in North St. Louis city. He'd learned to make it while working a carnival in 1929 in St. Petersburg, FL. He moved his business to south St. Louis in 1931, and the South Grand Avenue location became his flagship store. It was located near Cleveland High School. I cringed at the sight of Ted Drewes sign advertising fresh custard. The thought of it took me back to childhood when my parents used to make me eat custard pie. Yuck! All I could think of was that eggy-tasting custard filling, that once in a while wasn't quite as solid as I preferred. So the thought of biting into FROZEN CUSTARD made me nauseous.

Then one day in my twenties, when my kids were little, I took them to the Chippewa location (shown above) and noticed it was not that yellow yuck afterall, but soft serve ICE CREAM. Oh my gosh, I was hooked.

A local television reporter, Tom O'Neal was doing a feature on Ted Drewes and asked if he could photograph my kids for a story as they ate their ice cream sundaes. My kids had a moment of fame on the 10:00 p.m. news.

Ted Drewes custard is made with honey. The hot fudge sauce is one of a kind delicious, no other has ever compared. They are famous for concretes which are sort of like malts that are so thick you can turn the cup upside down, and the contents do not spill. At Christmas they actually sell Ted Drewes cups filled with real concrete and a gift certificate. What a novel present in the middle of winter when St. Louisans are longing for hot summer days.

The ice cream business dies down in November, but the store remains open and sells gorgeous, real Christmas trees through the holidays. The store closes in January, but reopens in February.

One cold November day, when my best friend was dying from cancer she was craving a Ted Drewes, so I went to get her one. I was the only person at the window when an Asian film crew pulled up and exited a van with a microphone boom and began to interview me. They were thoroughly confused and wanted to know where the crowds were. They had heard about T.D. and were doing a documentary. I had to explain that the crowds come in summer, (as you can see). This location is on a four lane busy street, and the lines are ten deep at eight-ten windows and move quickly. the parking lots of surrounding businesses, across the street and next door overflow with people lounging on their cars, perched on stoops, curbs, anywhere they can to enjoy an ice cream from Ted Drewes, who by the way, still works here sometimes. This activity is a throw back to the days when people sat on their porches and visited with neighbors on hot summer nights.

They serve ONLY vanilla custard and any variety of flavors and yummies you can think to combine. Pumpkin pie, no problem, they'll slice a piece and mix it in your concrete. Apple crumb pie too, topped with whipped cream, yum! A variety of nuts, fruits, candies, the possibilities are endless.

When my grandson was a baby, a journalist from the local newspaper asked if we were going to give Nicholas ice cream. He was hoping for a good photo of someone having a brain freeze from ice cream. Luckily Nick didn't have a brain freeze and the photo journalist moved on. Those film guys seem to follow me, don't they?


Thisisme. said...

They certainly do, Linda. My goodness, my mouth is really watering with the lovely descriptions of all that delicious ice cream. It's amazing that that store has been open for so long! What a good idea, also, that it sells real Christmas trees during November and December.

Val Thevictorian said...

You are quite the media magnet!

Is that near the old Sears on Grand? I think I might have been by there as a kid. No Ted Drewes in my neck of the woods. But we have General Custard's Retreat. I know it doesn't compare. It's like the lesser babka of frozen custard. But it does have vanilla and chocolate, and a sugar-free variety.

Carol said...

95 degrees today! Perfect day for frozen custard. Count me in !

Susan said...

Ooooooooooo, sounds like a great place, Linda. I know I'd love it. Susan

Sioux said...

Thanks, Linda. I'm trying to stay away from sugary treats, but in my past life, I loved the order Fox Treats or hot fudge macadamian nut sundaes.

We live at least 45 minutes away, and pass up other frozen custard places to go to ted Drewes. (They'll even give you dry ice to keep your goodies cold if you have a long trip.)

Again, thanks soooo much, Linda!--Sioux

June Freaking Cleaver said...

I've been in the area almost three years, and have not been to Ted Drewes yet, though I've heard many positive reviews.

Maybe I'll get there one of these days.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

It's so satisfying to read about the slower paced past that is still here in the present and going strong! Long live Ted Drewes' frozen Vanilla Custard!

Tammy said...

I've lived in quite a few cities, and they all have their specialties. This is one of the most charming because it really is more than food--it's a summer experience that children grow up with. You really captured it.