By Mike Wiltrout
In these dog days of summer, a little ice cream tourism can spell the difference between merely surviving the Hoosier heat and hands-down defeating it.
In Lafayette, there’s an establishment worth a trip, no matter how many counties you must cross to reach it. Original Frozen Custard, 2319 Wallace Avenue, has been the reigning champion for frosty dairy treats in Tippecanoe County since most people’s grandparents were kids. A treasured Lafayette tradition, this fourth-generation family business is well into its ninth decade thrilling local taste buds.
In 1932, Charlie and Florence Kirkoff opened the Frozen Custard Igloo, peddling the silkier, richer cousin of ice cream in a small shop resembling, appropriately, an igloo. In 1949, popularity demanded expansion, so they erected the gleaming white drive-in that locals still regard with such salivating reverence. With its cheerful neon signage, curved white walls inset with glass-block windows -- even a couple portholes -- the dazzling Art Moderne eatery most resembles a cruise ship chartered to navigate the Seas of Gustatory Delight. The same year, the Kirkoffs adopted the name Original Frozen Custard, to reassure folks that the building was the only thing that had changed.
(Photo: Robby Virus on Flickr)
Today when you walk up or drive in to Original Frozen Custard, Charlie and Florence’s great-grandchildren and company will be happy to serve up anything from delicious shakes and 10 different flavors of custard to coneydogs and onion rings.
Another can’t-miss favorite is the Fruit Drink, a proprietary blend of several fruit juices. Initially concocted out of necessity due to a Depression-era lease prohibiting carbonated beverages on the premises, the drink’s undeniable appeal earned it a permanent spot on the menu -- and in a community’s heart.
Take a moment, then to appreciate your good fortune: you don’t need misty reminiscences, yellowing scrapbooks or a time-machine to visit Lafayette’s legendary Original Frozen Custard. You can get in your car and drive there. Meet you under the neon sundae!
Original Frozen Custard is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
About Hidden Gems Indiana
Each week Indiana Landmarks uses insider knowledge to highlight historic places worth a visit, from the quirky to the sublime: small towns, neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, parks, cemeteries, scenic drives, museums -- you get the idea. Learn more about Indiana Landmarks at www.indianalandmarks.org.