Grading Old School Frozen Custard

“McDonald’s soft-serve.”

Harsh words, but that’s how two of my food-writing friends described what they ate at Old School Frozen Custard, which just opened on Capitol Hill.

Good timing on the opening, as the weather’s been warm and sunny—which puts so many in the mood for a cold, sweet treat. But what will the demand be like after the summer, I wonder? In my former state of Vermont, almost all of the creemee stands would close once foliage season ended.

In a city that’s embracing frozen desserts like ice cream and gelato, custard’s got a chance. Smoothness and creaminess are part of its appeal. But it also needs to taste good. Comparing the standards at Old School, the vanilla is better than the chocolate, as the egg yolk shines through, adding its richness. But both pale in comparison to what I’ve had in other parts of the country, particularly that dairy-loving state of Wisconsin, where Kopp’s is my cream of the crop. So light, creamy, and flavorful—with a very chocolately chocolate.

Even the Culver’s chain, based in Wisconsin, offers a scoop that bests Old School’s. And that always comes after a filling ButterBurger and a side of crinkle-cut fries. Both of which, incidentally, are about the same quality as McDonald’s.

Old School Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

Old School Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

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6 Responses to “Grading Old School Frozen Custard”

  1. June 10, 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    I don’t totally disagree. In Milwaukee, I was a Leon’s man myself, but Kopp’s was great too. I think for me, custard was always more about the experience of standing in line on a hot day and eating something cold and creamy with a crowd of happy people, more than the actual flavor. I wasn’t expecting profound chocolatiness. So I think I was more just in the mindset to enjoy Old School for the memory of Milwaukee… so enjoy it I did. But I think someone coming in to it with no disposition to love frozen custard might easily go “huh?”.

  2. admin
    June 10, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    I really wanted to simply enjoy the custard. Perhaps it was the hype that had me go “huh?”.

  3. Rob
    June 25, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    The fact that the “food-writing friends” were familiar enough with McDonald’s soft serve speaks volumes about their veracity as food critics.
    Perhaps they also think Spinasse’s fresh pasta compares unfavorably to Chef Boyardee.

  4. admin
    June 28, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    Rob, just conveying their comments. Many food writers try a range of offerings from low-end to high-end, which I would think only adds to their ability to critique what they eat.

  5. Pam
    December 23, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    Are any of you native Washingtonians? You all sound suspiciously like east coast snobs.

    The custard is delicious. We don’t have Culver’s, very few Ben and Jerry’s (in my opinion, highly overrated) Kopp’s, or whatever the other side of the country may have to offer. Old School Custard is a family-owned, totally unpretentious little place that serves a great tasting custard.

    And to those who say it tastes like McDonald’s soft-serve? Give me a break.

  6. admin
    December 23, 2009 at 7:11 am #

    Pam, thanks for your perspective.

    Not sure if being native is the issue here. Being from elsewhere, or having experienced food elsewhere, helps to set a standard of expectation. Have you had a banana anywhere near its growing area? If so, you’d frown upon what we can buy here – though it might not stop you (or me) from buying bananas here.

    Is Old School family-owned? Yes. Unpretentious? Yes. Little? Yes? Great-tasting? Well, I’m glad you like it. I appreciate what they’re trying to do there, and I think it’s good when consumers, competitors, and food writers challenge them (and any place) to try to continually improve their product.

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