Luv-It Frozen Custard
Frozen custard? I went to Las Vegas and the best thing I ate there was… frozen custard? Yes. The best. Come on. I’ll take you there, and you’ll see for yourself.
Of course, when it comes to good food in Las Vegas, there’s no shortage of yummy. Gambling, booze and sex aren’t the town’s only sinful delights. And those of us who’ve reached a certain age know that sometimes great food has an even stronger siren call than Vegas’ other sinful specialties—although you’d never think that if you’d watched my mom, who was still a mean slots player in her 90s.
But of good food in Las Vegas there is an abundance, and I’ve sampled more than my share. When I was a professional Tour Director, many of my tours started or ended in Vegas, so I had many chances to check out the culinary scene.
I’ve tested the prime rib at Caesar’s Palace, enjoyed a meal at Gordon Ramsey’s “Steak.” I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to finish off THIS mountain of chicken, and waffles at Hashhouse a Go Go and I easily polished off a plate of the best hummus I’ve ever eaten at Paymon’s Lebanese Restaurant on Maryland Avenue.
They were all good; some were great. But the jewel in the glitzy, over-tinseled crown of Las Vegas dining was mined at an innocuous little hut in a parking lot at the far north end of the Vegas Strip. There’s a reason that Luv-It Frozen Custard has been an institution for generations of Las Vegas families. And it’s certainly not the location. Or the service. It’s the custard. The rich, creamy, eggy, velvety, sweet, not-too-hard-not-too-soft frozen custard.
Come On, Let’s Go Try Some
Although we’ll find Luv-It Frozen Custard just one building off Las Vegas Blvd, this is NOT “The Strip,” at least not the glitzy part. Nor is it far enough north to be called downtown. It’s that in-between no-man’s land called “The Naked City”—not the most scenic or savory part of town, to be sure. But that hasn’t seemed to hurt its business in the 40+ years it’s been dishing up the good stuff here. We’ll very likely have to wait in line for our frozen treats. The mayor or some performer from the Strip might be waiting next to us.
Located at 505 East Oakey, Luv-It Frozen Custard is one light past the Stratosphere Hotel. If carless, we can hop on the double-decker bus known as The Deuce, get off at the Stratosphere, and walk.
You’re likely going to be surprised, maybe even disappointed, by this nondescript little blue-and-white shack dumped on a parking lot next to a strip club. Just pretend you’re back in the ‘50s, because it looks like something off an old calendar.
We can’t even go inside; there’s only a walk-up window, not even a bench or a table. Most people eat in their cars or lean against the building in the shade of the wide awning while listening to the squeals of panic and delight wafting down from the wild carnival rides waaayyyy up there on top of the Strat nearby.
Don’t let the lack of amenities stop you. Don’t even let the homeless folks who tend to hang around the parking lot pan-handling for change stop you. It’s not about them. It’s all about the custard.
It’s been about the custard since 1973 when “Grandma” arrived from Wisconsin, where frozen custard is traditional, and brought a load of dairy machinery with her. Today, her great-grandchildren are dishing up the scoops at Luv-It, in the same location, still made fresh every morning, with dozens of hand-cracked eggs and other real ingredients, using Grandma’s original recipes.
And it’s good. This frozen custard is very, very good. Luv-It regularly makes the “Best in Vegas” lists of local newspapers, websites and going-out guides. As one Yelp reviewer said, “It was howl-at-the-moon kind of good. It was ‘holy hell, all ice cream will taste watery from this day forward’ kind of good.” Another reviewer said, “Am I considering living down the road so I can stop here three times a day? I would be lying if I said no.”
If you’ve never had frozen custard, it’s like more-solid soft-serve ice cream but with egg yolks added. It needs less churning than ice cream, so it’s denser, with fewer air pockets where ice can crystallize. That also makes it smoother. You can taste the egginess, but it’s not, well, flanny. It’s just flat good.
Don’t be misled by the long list of delectable sounding flavors listed on the board. They won’t have most of them. In fact, they’ll only have a couple. Since the custard is made fresh daily, they can’t handle a Baskin-Robbins trick. They make vanilla and chocolate daily then add two other flavors. It’s the luck of the draw. You can check their website, where they list each day’s special flavors weeks in advance. If you discover they’re serving up maple custard, cash in your chips NOW and get moving. It’s better than the best poker hand.
I’ve also tried the peanut butter, the pineapple (with chunks of fruit) and the lemon. Once I mixed orange custard with vanilla, swirled it all around in the cup and felt like I was a kid again licking a creamsicle from the ice cream man on a hot summer day.
My personal favorite? The Butter Crunch Sundae. Thick butterscotch (the real deal) topped with crunch, which tastes like you took the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar and crushed it fine with a rolling pin. But maybe you’d prefer the Cherry Yum Yum, with black cherries and chocolate cookie crumble. Or chocolate malt. Or sprinkles. Or hot apples and walnuts. Or….
Are you getting the picture here? You’re going to find something to love. Believe me on this point.
Luv-It Frozen Custard is open every day from 1-10 pm, and till 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. Important note: It’s a CASH ONLY business and they don’t take bills over $20. There’s an ATM machine in the gas station next door, but the fees are killer. Bring money. For flavors of the day and any other questions, you can visit the Luv-It Frozen Custard website.