Ice cream and frozen custard are very important to St. Louisans: It’s widely accepted, after all, that the ice-cream cone originated at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair. And now, 114 years later, we’re still enjoying the cool treat out of cones, spooned from overflowing sundae boats, flipped upside down, yogurt-based and piled with toppings, and more.
Arguably the most iconic place for a frozen treat in St. Louis is Ted Drewes, founded by Ted Drewes Sr. himself in 1930. The frozen custard – thicker than ice cream and made with egg yolk – is served out of two old-school stands in St. Louis City. The most frequented location and tourist favorite is the Chippewa location in St. Louis Hills off the historic Route 66, with its distinct pointed roof with icicle shingles, bold red lettering, neon lighting and walk-up windows. Crane your neck around the ever-present line, and you’ll see handwritten specials taped up to the glass – the pumpkin pie concrete is a must-try in the fall, as well as the carrot cake-cream cheese Bunny-Crete around Easter.
The custard itself is indulgent, rich and thick – so thick, in fact, that the employees serve your cup upside-down. Order your frozen custard in a classic concrete, malts, shakes and sundaes. Best-sellers include the banana split, strawberry shortcake (shortcake topped with frozen custard, strawberries and whipped cream) and Cardinal Sin – a concrete or sundae with tart cherries and hot fudge.
“You can’t really say that you’re the best ice cream or best frozen custard to everyone because everyone has different taste buds,” says Travis Dillon, owner and son-in-law of Ted Drewes Jr. (and who’s worked with Ted since the late ’70s). “What I do know is the ingredients we use are great quality – real vanilla and honey, real cream and eggs – so as long as I keep the recipe the same, I know it’s going to be a good product.”
Another timeless ice-cream favorite in St. Louis is Tower Grove Creamery, serving up hand-dipped ice cream and gelato made by Central Dairy in Jefferson City, Missouri. The mom-and-pop shop, owned by effervescent David and Beulah Ann McCreery, is located on a prominent corner of the South Grand dining district and is just a short stroll to Tower Grove Park. The vibrant, airy corner shop offers classic flavors; “primary” options like cinnamon, Butter Brickle and cherry-vanilla; or premium ice cream such as black walnut, Jamocha Almond Fudge and Extreme Chocolate. Sherbet, frozen yogurt and additional seasonal flavors, as well as banana splits, malts, shakes, floats, massive ice-cream sandwiches and housemade Oreo cream pie should satisfy just about anyone looking for something sweet.
Get the scoop on one of the latest options in town: Newcomer Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery opened a vintage-inspired ice-cream parlor in Lafayette Square in 2015 and has since expanded to the DeMun neighborhood in Clayton, Missouri, with a third location in Southampton in the works for an early fall opening.
Clementine’s dubs itself the area’s first and only “microcreamery,” which owner and “flavor temptress” Tamara Keefe says requires a small-batch and by-hand preparation, being all-natural, containing more than 16 percent butterfat and being very dense – specifically, less than 30 percent overrun, which describes the amount of air whipped into the ice cream.
The resulting treat is a decadent indulgence, especially if you venture over to the “naughty” side of the scoop selections: These flavors are made with alcohol, up to 18 percent ABV, including maple-bourbon-pecan, Manhattan and chocolate-Cabernet (“for those who love chocolate and wine together,” Keefe says).
Don’t let the “nice” moniker fool you, however. Nonalcoholic flavors are just as adventurous and creative, including signatures such as strawberry-balsamic-white pepper, salted crack caramel and gooey butter cake. (Three rotating vegan flavors are even offered.) Seasonal flavors are constantly added into the lineup, including one featuring local strawberries and housemade toaster pastry and one with barbecue sauce-infused ice cream and chunks of smoky brisket – yes, really – this summer. And the cherry on top: If you can’t decide on a flavor, Clementine’s offers a Grand Cru flight of five choices.
“I get flavor inspiration from everywhere, from countries [to which] I’ve traveled to savory dishes I’ve eaten,” Keefe says. “I really try to push the palate and elevate St. Louis to try new and different things. Plus ice cream is an amazing carrier for so many wonderful flavors.”
Those who struggle to choose just one flavor might have to make a split decision (pun intended) at Ben & Jerry’s location on The Loop in University City, Missouri, which is locally owned and operated. Among its 20-plus flavors are the more familiar Cherry Garcia and strawberry-cheesecake to off-the-wall offerings like Coconut Seven Layer Bar (coconut ice cream, coconut and fudge flakes, walnuts, graham-cracker swirls) and Cinndoughrella (cinnamon-caramel ice cream, cinnamon bun dough, shortbread and oatmeal-cinnamon cookie swirls). Ben & Jerry’s serves more than just scoops, including sorbet, nondairy frozen desserts, loaded sundaes, fruit smoothies and milkshakes made with its signature ice-cream flavors.
For a taste of something tropical, head to the aptly named The Island Frozen Yogurt & Frozen Liqueurs in the historic Soulard neighborhood.
“What I hear about this place that makes it unique is the vibe: It’s a tropical, island vibe,” says owner Jason Stump. “We try to keep it relaxed; we keep it fun.” The colorful décor, hand-painted beach wall mural and strumming soundtrack makes it the ideal oasis to ease your mind with a frozen treat in hand.
Try a spiked shake-style drink made with its frozen custard, frozen yogurt, fruit and more. The best-selling Pineapple Charlie (named after Stump’s father), for example, features frozen yogurt, real pineapple, pineapple Bacardí rum and fresh strawberries. The Island added daiquiri-style boozy slushies a few years ago, as well, like the Call Ya Mama, with Big O ginger liqueur and strawberries. According to Stump, the employee who created it called it that because “it’s so good that you have to call your mom and tell her.”
For the 21-and-under crowd, you can concoct your own treat by choosing from eight frozen yogurt flavors, which rotate every other week: everything from blackberry bramble to brownie batter to Belgian waffle. From there, you can top your treat with an assortment of fruit pieces, fruity boba balls, candies, nuts and sauces.
From rich and creamy frozen custard to artisan ice cream, you’re sure to find plenty of places to sate your sweet tooth in St. Louis.
“If you enjoy ice cream, St. Louis has a plethora of wonderful options no matter where you live,” says Travis Dillon at Ted Drewes. “Bring your family in the evening on a nice summer night, come in after the ballgame or the Muny or [The Fabulous] Fox Theatre and top off the evening.”
Ben & Jerry’s, 6380 Delmar Blvd., University City, Missouri, 314.721.8887, benjerry.com/ucity
Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery; 730 De Mun Ave., Clayton, Missouri; 1637 S. 18th St., Lafayette Square, St. Louis, Missouri; 314.858.6100; clementinescreamery.com
The Island Frozen Yogurt & Frozen Liqueurs, 1009 Russell Blvd., Soulard, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.664.6678, theislandstl.com
Ted Drewes; 6726 Chippewa St., St. Louis Hills, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.481.2652; 4224 S. Grand Blvd., Dutchtown, St. Louis, Missouri; 314.352.7376; teddrewes.com
Tower Grove Creamery, 3101 S. Grand Blvd., Tower Grove South, St. Louis, 314.772.2456, towergrovecreamery.com