In case you haven’t duly celebrated National Ice Cream Month, we’re reminding you that there’s still time to do so. In fact, with the warm weather, you may want to lick a cone, scoop a sundae or chug a malt more than once in celebration. And there’s no better place to mark this fun event than at St. Louis’ own Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. Sure, the custard comes in one flavor – vanilla – but with all of Ted’s toppings, who needs any more?
There are a lot of things you should know about Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard, that hallowed St. Louis landmark that dispenses chilly treats beyond your wildest dreams.
But here’s the first thing you should know – don’t let the lines scare you.
If you pull your vehicle around the corner onto Chippewa, your heart may sink at the sight of scores of people filling the extra wide sidewalk in front of TD’s, as the locals call it.
The lines look impossible but here’s the thing: Ted’s crews really know what they’re doing. The folks working the windows might engage in a little friendly banter but even with a gaggle of people ahead of you, you’ll soon hear “I can help the next customer,” and guess what? They mean you!
Place your order and stand back to let the next party place theirs because the guy or gal who takes your order doesn’t leave the window. The “creation crew” behind them scurry about putting together concretes, sundaes and specialty treats lightning fast.
You’ll probably be glad for a little “wait” time because unless you’ve got a favorite you always order, you’ll need some time to figure out which of Ted’s amazing concoctions to order.
On our latest visit, we overheard a man telling the counter clerk, “My friends are new – they don’t know what they want.” It was clear they were trying to figure out the myriad of signs about the offerings.
Within a flash after you order, though, the window person is announcing what you ordered and presenting it to you. And, if it’s a concrete, he or she will likely stick a straw in it and turn it upside down in front of you so you’ll see just how thick it is.
“Concrete?” you may wonder. “What’s that?”
It’s just Ted’s term for the thickest shakes on the planet.
The term started back in 1959 when Ted Drewes Jr., son of the founder of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, was working at the Chippewa store. Steve Gamber, a neighborhood boy, would come up to the stand and ask Ted to make the thickest shake he could.
“One day Ted decided he wasn’t going to put any milk in the shake,” Travis Dillon, Ted Drewes Jr.’s son-in-law and manager of the company, said. “He used the hardest custard we had and just mixed in the flavor.
“Then he put the shake in a cup, turned it upside and said, ‘There, is that thick enough?’ And Steve said, ‘That’s just like concrete.’”
The people standing in line next to him wanted one too, and the idea just caught on.”
Gamber grew up and left the neighborhood but he still lives in the St. Louis area and comes by often to order the shakes that have been known as “concretes” ever since.
Gamber is also a member of the “Ted Drewes Hall of Fame,” a way Ted Drewes honors long-time customers for their loyalty. Since 1990, Ted Drewes has been inducting members of the hall of fame annually by taking them to lunch and giving them gift certificates.
“It’s something fun we like to do to show our appreciation to those who have been our customers for 30, 40, 50 years,” Dillon said. “They’re our biggest fans, and we’ve developed friendships with them.”
Here’s another thing you need to know about Ted Drewes: even though Ted serves only one flavor of frozen custard – vanilla – the choices are almost endless. In addition to more than 30 toppings and flavors for concretes, Ted offers more than a dozen specialties. Oh, the decisions you’ll have to make! It’ll take you a month of Sundays to try them all.
Don’t even think you’ll be able to keep up with them! Ted is always experimenting with new combinations and also offers seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie featuring actual pieces of pumpkin and pie crust.
It’s good to consult the menu online because the on-site listings can be overwhelming.
Here are some of Ted’s specialties:
• The Christy, named for Ted’s daughter: an iced brownie topped with frozen custard, caramel and hot fudge
• The Dottie,” named for Ted’s wife: a concrete or sundae with mint, chocolate and macadamia nuts
• Flying Dutchman: chocolate, butterscotch and pecans. Available as a concrete or sundae
• The Hawaiian: a concrete or shake made with bananas, pineapple, coconut and macadamia nuts
• All Shook Up: a combination of peanut butter cookie and bananas. Available as a concrete or sundae
• Fox Treat, a concrete or sundae made with hot fudge, raspberries and macadamia nuts
• Crater Copernicus: devil’s food cake topped with frozen custard, hot fudge and whipped cream
• Caramel apple: apple pie topped with frozen custard, caramel and almonds
• Strawberry shortcake: short cake topped with frozen custard, strawberries and whipped cream
• Southern Delight: a concrete or sundae made with praline pecans and butterscotch
• Tedad, a sandwich made with frozen custard between two Dad’s Scotch Oatmeal Cookies
• Terramizzou, a concrete or sundae made with Ted’s secret blend of chocolate and pistachio nuts.
In addition, Ted also serves the traditional banana split, floats and sodas – all made with delicious frozen custard, of course!
Just recently we learned Ted offers a “micro” version of his concretes and sundaes that’s a smidge smaller than the micro size he’s been offering for some time. Make no mistake, though, even the “micro” is not some eensy weensy little thing. It’s a substantial serving that gives you more than just a taste.
Ted Drewes has two locations: 4224 S. Grand Blvd. (summer only) and 6726 Chippewa. To taste test your way throughout all of St. Louis’ chilled treats, log onto www.explorestlouis.com.