From Burlington to Fish Creek, you can’t go far without finding a must-have custard in eastern Wisconsin.
There’s nothing like a scoop of frozen custard on a hot Wisconsin summer day.
Anyone who’s tried it knows the creamy, sweet treat is so much better than ice cream. We chalk it up to the eggs added to the mixture for extra richness and body.
Although some consider Milwaukee the “Unofficial Frozen Custard Capital of the World,” the treat didn’t actually originate here.
In the 1930s, about 10 years after it was invented in Coney Island, New York, frozen custard came to Wisconsin —and we’ve never looked back The custard craze grabbed ahold of Wisconsinites so intensely, in fact, that some of the custard stands that existed back then are still standing today.
Here are a few Wisconsin favorites:
Gilles Frozen Custard, Milwaukee
The oldest custard stand in the state of Wisconsin is Gilles Frozen Custard in Milwaukee, which has been scooping up custard to its customers since 1938. They also offer a variety of hot sandwiches and sides, including their signature Gillieburger (a homemade sloppy joe).
In 1972, then-owner Paul Gilles sold the rights to the brand name to be used for frozen custard products in stores and supermarkets. According to their website, “that split would become a source of confusion for Gilles Frozen Custard customers for years to come.” Since they don’t own the name in stores, the recipe is different from what customers get at the stand in Milwaukee.
Along with the typical frozen custard flavors and sundaes, Gilles also sells specialty custard pies, log rolls filled with frozen custard, Gilliecookies (frozen custard sandwiched between two cookies), and Those Things, which is vanilla frozen custard with a homemade peanut butter cookie on a stick dipped in chocolate.
Leon’s Frozen Custard, Milwaukee
Owned and operated by the original family, Leon’s Frozen Custard is a drive-in that has been open for business since 1942. Since their opening, they remodeled the building in the early 1950s and the design still remains today.
Leon’s flavors include vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan, strawberry, raspberry, mint, maple walnut, and cinnamon. In May, they introduced blue moon into the rotation as well. The drive-in is open all year with full soda fountain service and a limited sandwich menu.
Kopp’s Frozen Custard, Greenfield, Glendale, and Brookfield
Elsa Kopp opened the Kopp’s Frozen Custard Stand in 1950, and now the business sells their frozen custard and burgers in Greenfield, Glendale, and Brookfield. Kopp’s became the first custard stand to offer a special flavor of the day In addition to the traditional chocolate and vanilla flavors.
Fast forward to today, and Kopp’s has two daily specialty custard flavors to choose from, as well as a featured shake and sundae of the month. On top of their signature jumbo burgers, Kopp’s also serves chicken and fish sandwiches, fries, and onion rings.
Both former Vice President Dick Cheney and President Joe Biden—then vice president—have visited the signature Glendale location during political campaigns.
Adrian’s Frozen Custard, Burlington
In Burlington, Adrian’s Frozen Custard has cones, flurries, shakes, sundaes, hot dogs, and more for customers to try. The Adrian Special, which is vanilla custard with extra sundae toppings of your choice, salted roasted pecans, whipped cream, and a cherry, is their largest sundae, and they have been serving it since they opened back in 1974.
Like Kopp’s, Adrian’s has a featured shake and sundae of the month. They also have a specialty flavor that changes daily, from Georgia peach almond to white chocolate avalanche.
Not Licked Yet Frozen Custard, Fish Creek
Susie and Clay Zielke, both Door County natives, opened Not Licked Yet in the summer of 1982 in Fish Creek. Initially, the stand only served frozen custard. That changed around 1987, when the owners started grilling up burgers, baking pies, and experimenting with new sundae combinations.
The giant playground is welcome to kids of all ages, and outdoor dining with a heated patio and rocking chairs along the waterfront for customers to enjoy their food.
Not Licked Yet keeps their custard flavors traditional with chocolate, vanilla, and butter pecan offered every day, along with a flavor of the day. For other sweets, the restaurant also offers homemade pie baked by Susie, banana “custard,” chocolate-dipped bananas, and fresh fruit ice pops.
Oscar’s Frozen Custard, Waukesha, West Allis, and Franklin
Oscar’s has been dishing out scoops of custard and grilling up sandwiches since 1984. Vanilla, chocolate, and a special flavor each day are available in homemade waffle cones or dishes, along with two monthly special shakes and sundaes.
On Tuesdays, Oscar’s offers two choices for the flavor of the day. Burgers, chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, and fried sides are also on the menu. Each month there is a different specialty sandwich offered in addition to the regular options.
Culver’s, All Over!
Last but certainly not least, the Wisconsin-based Culver’s has spread the frozen custard phenomenon to 25 states in the country in over 700 franchises.
Craig and Lea Culver founded the flagship Sauk City restaurant in 1984. Six years later, the first successful franchise opened in Baraboo. From Idaho to Florida, Culver’s scoops up vanilla and chocolate custard with over 30 toppings, along with the flavor of the day. In June, the chain introduced its new salted caramel pecan pie into the flavor forecasts. On July 10, Culver’s unveiled another new flavor of the day: strawberry chocolate parfait, which consists of vanilla custard with strawberries and pieces of chocolate cake.
Culver’s has offered their famous Wisconsin cheese curds since 1997, but their signature butterburgers were there from the start. According to their website, the first butterburgers were portioned with an ice cream scoop. The table tents that sit on the car window in the drive-through or dining booth table were not always in Culver’s restaurants; originally employees handwrote numbers on upside-down foam cups. 21 new franchises are set to open soon in 10 different states.