Between the cheese, beer, and brats, it would seem that Wisconsin has plenty to offer by way of food and drink. But custard, the state’s creamy, egg-laced, and ultra-fresh take on ice cream, is an even better reason to get to America’s Dairyland before the summer ends. Here are seven favorite stops for the Badger State’s warm-weather must.
The greater Milwaukee area is home to three outposts of this historic dessert destination, which also draws crowds for its jumbo hamburgers. Create your own combo from more than a dozen options for toppings, from banana and marshmallow, to peanut butter and pineapple. You can’t go wrong with any of the house specialties—the fudge delight and banana split are just a couple of the sundaes that have kept this institution hopping since 1950.
Multiple generations of Milwaukee residents know and love Gilles—it dates back to 1938, making it the oldest custard stand in the city. In addition to the basics, this family-operated business offers a handful of innovative custard dishes, from sodas and Gilliecookies (custard sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies), to pies and Those Things (custard and a peanut butter cookie on a stick that is dipped in milk chocolate). Whatever you choose, you can do so in good conscience: The team here selects a different local charity each month to support.
Wholly Cow! Frozen Custard
Cows inspire everything from the dishes to the décor at this mom-and-pop custard shop, which is located in the original downtown business district of Delafield. Guests can up their custard game with any of the venue’s special sundaes, such as The Cowabunga (a riff on a turtle sundae) or one with peanut butter, hot fudge, and Reese’s Pieces (The Udderly Reeses). And custard isn’t the only craving they honor — the family business also serves local Wisconsin Cedar Crest ice cream, yogurt, and sherbet.
Zesty’s Frozen Custard & Grill
The first location of this custard shop opened in 1988, followed by two others in the Green Bay area. Fresh is the name of the game here—the team makes each batch of the frosty goodness from scratch every three hours, depending on how busy the day is. They’re also all about sharing the local spotlight: They use mint meltaways from Seroogy’s and kringle from Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe for two of their most popular custard flavors, which counter other favorites like amaretto cherry and Turtle Delite.
Michael’s Frozen Custard
Milwaukee may claim the most custard options in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t stop many of its residents from making the trek west to this Madison mainstay, which has been serving custard since 1986. Since then, the team has opened two more locations in the area, each serving more than 80 rotating flavors. Offerings like mint chip, butter pecan, and black raspberry provide fun contrast to the best-selling turtle, hot fudge, and cookie dough sundaes.
Where: Menomonee Falls
This eatery has been perfecting its lineup of custard, shakes, burgers, and fries for more than 37 years. Still, they’re not opposed to change and showcase that in their flavors of the day, all of which are made in house and range from mango berry and mint, to butter pecan and Bear Claw. If the flavors of the day don’t inspire you, you can always choose from vanilla, chocolate, and Oreo.
Those who think vanilla is a little too—well, vanilla—should think again when they enter either location of this Milwaukee staple, which uses real vanilla from Madagascar for its top seller. When it’s not the frozen dairy that’s winning over the hearts and palates of visitors, it’s another kind altogether—many have ranked their cheese curds as the best in the city.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Wisconsin Guide