Sugar Rush: Trail Mix Custard from Van's Frozen Custard, East Dundee, IL


[Photograph: Lauren Sloss]

I'm not sure if it's a Midwestern thing, but I didn't really know much about frozen custard until recently.* But, when spending some quality time in the Elgin-Dundee area of Illinois this summer, I found myself at Van's, a custard and burger spot perched precariously across the street from the town Dairy Queen (I smell a frozen-treat rumble coming on...).

*It's entirely possible that there's frozen custard all over California, and I somehow missed it in a childhood of ice cream/frozen yogurt eating. Stranger things have happened.

Man, have I been missing out. Custard, with those extra eggs, is a smooth, rich delight—it has the creaminess of soft serve but the satisfying stability of ice cream. Van's does it right, offering simple flavors (chocolate, vanilla) and a daily special or two, available for perusal on their website.

When I visited, the flavor was Trail Mix ($2.50 for a small), Van's standard vanilla studded with m&ms, granola, peanuts, and pretzels. The textural contrast alone was stellar—crunches and crackles of different varieties abound—but the salty, sweet, cinnamon-y, peanut-y, chocolatey flavor punch was even better. On a stormy-hot Midwestern day, I can think of nothing better... and frankly, would enjoy this with equal relish in the foggy-cold San Francisco summer.

Van's Frozen Custard

16 East Main Street, East Dundee, IL 60118 (map) 847-836-8267;