Monday, Jan 21 2013 09:00 PM

What's frozen custard? Get the scoop Tuesday

BY JENNIFER SELF Californian lifestyles editor jself@bakersfield.com

If a Wichita-based restaurant chain's website is to be believed, frozen custard is the most misunderstood member of the dessert world.

But starting Tuesday, residents will have the opportunity to clear up that mystery, one lick at a time: Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is opening for business at an old Burger King restaurant in the northwest -- right across the street from Dewar's, the undisputed champ of frozen treats in Bakersfield.

Related Info

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers g

2649 Calloway Drive; 587-3374; freddysusa.com

What : Grand opening today

Hours : 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (drive-through open until 11 p.m.); 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday (drive-through open until midnight)

But according to Kyle Gerstner, who co-owns the local franchise, there's more than enough room for a new rivalry in the gourmet dessert world.

"I believe there's plenty of business out there for everybody," said Gerstner, who moved to Bakersfield from Wichita two weeks ago. "If Dewar's has lines out the door, they might come and try us -- or vice versa."

Gerstner, preparing his 87 employees with a "friends and family opening" on Monday, said he expected anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 people to cross the threshold for the dress rehearsal, providing the staff an invaluable dry run before the public onslaught Tuesday.

"Everybody is definitely excited," Gerstner said. "There's a bigger buzz than I anticipated. They like the idea of a fresh-made product, and most are intrigued by the custard."

The chain's signature dessert -- though popular back East -- certainly counts as a novelty in California. In fact, Californian restaurant critic Pete Tittl, who likens the texture of the treat to soft-serve ice cream, said he can't recall ever seeing frozen custard offered in Bakersfield in the three decades he has written about the local dining scene.

So how does the confection differ from ice cream? Erin King, general manager at the Bakersfield location, explained:

"Freddy's frozen custard starts with a premium ice cream base. We add extra butter fat and egg yolks and it goes through a freezing process that creates a dense, airless, creamy frozen custard. It's very rich."

The custard comes in two base flavors: vanilla and chocolate. A variety of toppings can be added to customize the treat, said King, whose personal favorite is the PBC&B (vanilla custard with Reese's peanut butter cups and fresh bananas, topped with whipped cream and a cherry).

"I have a huge sweet tooth," he confessed.

As for the savory side of the menu, which includes a variety of burgers and hot dogs, King raved about a healthy option amid the sea of red meat and shoestring fries.

"We have a black-bean veggie burger, which is outstanding," he said. "I've never been one to go down the vegan road, but they're great."

Gerstner, who opened his first Freddy's in Colorado a year ago, is betting on pent-up demand for frozen custard in California: He and his partner own the franchise rights from northern Los Angeles all the way to Fresno, and they plan to open 20-plus restaurants in the state, including two more Bakersfield locations over the next 18 months.

"Bakersfield has that perfect mix of everything we look for: a great economy, great people and it's one of the fastest-growing cities in California," Gerstner said. "We just thought it was one of those great products that would be loved in Bakersfield."

The restaurant -- which Gerstner described as falling somewhere along the fast-food/full service continuum -- is 3,500 square feet, seats 94 people and has a patio and drive-through.

"We're kind of In-N-Out and Dewar's put together," said Gerstner, who took the opportunity to tout what he called Freddy's legendary customer service.

"I can make some of my employees dance for you," he joked. "We pride ourselves on providing a high level of hospitality."

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