Joco Diversions

February 5, 2014

Frozen custard is only the beginning at Foo’s

The Leawood cultivates a cozy atmosphere that invites you to linger over your latte or concrete

You wouldn’t expect an ice cream shop to serve a jalapeno and Sriracha-laced banh mi sandwich.

But Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard’s Leawood location isn’t solely a scoop shop: It’s also a coffee shop, candy store, lunch cafe and a community hub.

Like the original Foo’s in Brookside, which opened in 1988 and is owned by Betty Bremser, the eight-year-old Leawood location serves rich, creamy custard that customers can customize with sweet mix-ins. But the Foo’s in Leawood also sells soup, sandwiches and an array of locally made food products that includes Christopher Elbow chocolates, Hippie Chow, Oddly Correct coffee beans and Tall Grass Toffee.

On a custard-cold January day, I stopped in to Foo’s looking for something that would warm me up. Jeff Stottle, who owns the Leawood Foo’s, recommended his new chicken banh mi ($6.75). Stottle’s take on the Vietnamese sandwich comes on a panini-pressed Farm to Market hoagie roll. Inside, there’s garlic mayo, mesquite grilled chicken, a crisp green salad mix, crunchy pickled carrots, daikon radish and fresh cilantro. The heat comes from fresh slices of jalapeno and lots of Sriracha hot sauce.

“It’s a little spicy, a little sweet,” Stottle said.

I haven’t had every banh mi in the metro area — at least, not yet — but Foo’s take rivals all the ones I’ve tried. The bread tasted freshly baked, the flavor and spice levels were off the charts, and with a cup of the roasted red pepper and smoked Gouda soup ($3.29) on the side, the sandwich was the perfect antidote to the winter blahs.

(The roasted red pepper soup started as a soup of the day but became a menu staple after customers demanded its return.)

For dessert, I had to try the custard, which Stottle says gets its dense, creamy texture from real eggs and low air content. Stottle says the customer-favorite custard concretes are the Cookie Dough Crumble (vanilla or chocolate custard with cookie dough pieces, peanut butter and chocolate chips mixed in) and the Sticky Hickey (chocolate chips, caramel and marshmallow), which he said tastes kind of like a s’more.

Because it was so cold outside, I opted to drink my custard in a Foo latte ($3.80 for a 12-ounce cup). To make it, the barista scooped into a fat ribbon of fresh vanilla custard snaking its way out of the custard machine. He steamed the scoop of custard with milk, then poured in a shot of the Roasterie’s Super Tuscan espresso. The cocoa and caramel flavors in the espresso matched the velvety richness of the vanilla custard and made for a deliciously luxurious-tasting latte as warming as a cup of hot cocoa.

Unlike some other coffee and ice cream shops, Foo’s cultivates a cozy atmosphere that invites you to linger over your latte or concrete. The shop’s concrete floors and bare cinder block walls are warmed up with comfy couches, a fireplace, charming chandeliers, and a bookshelf full of books donated by customers. A 30-foot chalkboard displays kids’ artwork, and the community bulletin board is covered with everything from handmade ads for guitar lessons to thank you notes to a local soccer coach.

“We’ve tried to let the community take ownership of the shop,” Stottle says. “Foo’s is not so much a frozen treat destination as it is an opportunity for people to gather and socialize.”

Groups gather at Foo’s for everything from business meetings to baby showers and Bible study, Stottle says. The afternoon I went to Foo’s, Stottle was busy packing up 40 gallons of custard to serve to 700 students at Cure of Ars Catholic School for Student Appreciation Day.

“It's really cool,” Stottle says. “All the kids are excited to see you. They all know your name. Betty (Bremser) has the same thing in the Brookside. I guess when you’re the ice cream man or woman, you’re pretty popular with the kids.”

When the Cure of Ars kids turn 15 or 16, Stottle says, some of them will hop behind the counter at Foo’s. He says it’s incredibly rewarding watching kids tackle their first job, head off to college and grow into young adults.

“That’s the cool thing about Foo’s,” Stottle says. “We’re way more than frozen custard, and it’s all good.”

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