Among the many odd flourishes inside Crown Candy Kitchen the WWII bomber pictures, the Coca-Cola girlie posters, the Jelly Belly clock is one that often goes unnoticed. On the south wall, above the front windows, is fake little two-dimensional balcony complete with foot-high windows, a thatched roof and a couple pint-size doors. It looks like it was designed for a puppet show; you half-expect King Friday from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to appear to address the masses. "I command you to eat your ice cream!" a falsettoed Friday might say, and Lord knows we'd obey.
But the truth is, we don't need no freaky puppet to justify a visit. Just this morning, in fact, we were considering some Ben & Jerry's for breakfast with a square of butter on top. We opted instead for some bullshit good-for-you wheat cereal (which we loaded with sugar anyway, so what's the diff?) and regret the decision. Quite simply: We like each and every branch of the dairy tree, from cheese to cream to yogurt to cheese to milk to half-and-half to cheese. And ice cream? It takes the cake.
But this truth should be self-evident: We're at Crown Candy and it's wintertime. In the summer, an afternoon visit's a no-brainer. But winter cold treats are for the soldiers on the front lines of the ice-cream wars. On this day, however, we had a good excuse. We were lured by the rumor of a winter confection so glorious and seasonally appropriate that we floated through old north St. Louis as if on air to order it: the eggnog shake.
You know the deal with Crown Candy born in 1913, passed down through three generations, the anchor of the north side. They serve decent-enough sandwiches but are best known for their ice cream, which has legions of devotees across the globe (including Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood fame).
Just as microbreweries have seasonal ales, Crown Candy offers seasonal shakes. Earlier in the fall they featured a reportedly exquisite pumpkin shake, which was retired in mid-November to make way for this holiday gem. The eggnog shake consists of two ingredients, our server concisely explains: "It's eggnog ice cream and milk, and that's it." (You'll have to spike it with your own smuggled rum.)
Oh, but such a description diminishes its beauty. Filled with so much nutmeg that you can see brown specks amidst the snowy whiteness, Crown Candy's crowning achievement is so rich and flavorful that the only justification needed for ordering one is its mere existence. Crown Candy shakes are delivered with two receptacles: an empty parfait glass and a full stainless steel cup, which contains two-and-a-half fills. Pour it gently, lest its frozen body avalanche onto the table. It slides into the parfait glass with just enough density and is straw-suckable without being watery. Rather, you draw it in with a small measure of resistance, just enough to feel like you earned your wintertime treat.
And if you need some guilt-free justification for a winter visit, here's a good one: Crown Candy sells some very nice baseball caps with their crown logo on them, and on the back adjustment strap, written in bold all-caps, is "St. Louis, MO." Fifteen bucks will purchase an excellent gift for those homesick relatives unable to return for the holidays.