By Ken and Angie Locke
We’ve had Garden Plain’s Frosty Treat on our list for a while, but we needed to wait until summer for it to be the right fit.
Although we are technically about 10 days short of summer, this afternoon was a part of a textbook summer Kansas day – perfect for a burger, some tots, and soft-serve ice cream. We’d been dozing under the sun on the shores of Lake Afton, all so we could get nice and sweaty and hungry for the trip to Frosty Treat. It’s barely five miles from Afton; you probably oughta stop there every time you go to the lake.
Frosty Treat is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. They are closed Monday. They are happy to prepare ‘to-go’ orders; call them at (316) 535-2259. The address is 203 W. Harry Street, in Garden Plain. If you take our advice and hit Lake Afton first, then drive up Garden Plain Road (295th Street West) to the north end of town and turn left. If you drive along Main Street first, then turn right on Harry about a block. If you drive in from Highway 54, go south off the highway and turn west at Harry.
The menu has a full selection of burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, corn dogs, pizza rolls, and egg rolls. There are five dinner basket options – chicken strips/nuggets, shrimp, egg rolls, or corn dogs. Shakes, frosties, floats, malts, cones, sundaes, banana splits are all available in several sizes. An entire quart of that perfect ice cream is available for only $3! Sides include plain fries, cheese fries, plain tots, cheese tots, onion rings, cheese sticks, and jalapeno poppers. I found out from a friend that you can order a peanut butter fudge shake (!), which makes me think the possibilities for custom-made ice cream dishes are practically endless.
You may be surprised to learn that this very Frosty Treat is on the register of the Kansas State Historical Society. Buildings such as the one Frosty Treat is in, called a Valentine Metal Building, were produced between the 1930s and the 1970s. There are now very few of them left, and you can read the letter from the KSHS, describing the building’s historical importance, inside the Frosty Treat.
You could probably get away with calling your trip a cultural experience! This very building has also been featured in two separate movies. During the spring of 1988, a scene from the movie “Twister” used the Frosty Treat, and during the summer of 2008, part of “The Sunset Sky” was filmed there. There are framed articles, pictures, and notes from movie personnel in the front of the Frosty Treat.
We were the only car there for a few minutes, although as we studied the menu board (almost five feet tall with the full menu painted on it), a “to-go” car pulled up – his order ready to go in a brown paper bag, and another couple drove up to study the possibilities for later. At that time of the afternoon, Frosty Treat was staffed entirely by Katie Hopper, who has worked there about a year.
Frosty Treat is set up to turn out both grill food and frozen ice cream food quickly – our ice cream was teeth-crackingly cold, and we had to blow on the tots and poppers before we ate them. Katie says that one person can run the shop during the slower times, but owners Eldon and Ann Butler (whose mother owned the shop before her) live right next to the “Treat” and come over to work a lot of the time, but especially during the busy hours.
Ang and I had our daughter Cassidy with us again, so we ordered an ice cream cone, a root beer float, tots (“ketchup packets are right here; take all you need,” said Katie), poppers (“let me know if you need more Ranch dressing”), a Pepsi, and a plain cheeseburger. Remember how you used to be able to find a bun that was crispy around the edges? Yep, they have ‘em. They serve a hickoryburger (all one word) in which they use a hickory smoky flavored basting or sautéing sauce, and I’ll bet you it’s a secret recipe. I’ll have to go back for one of those. Seriously, we only gave her a little bit more than 10 dollars for all that we ordered. She refilled our Pepsi at least twice – no charge.
How long has it been since you’ve eaten a soft-serve ice cream cone? Honestly, it’s been years since I had that timeless cone with a tower of ice cream. If for no other reason than to relive your childhood (pretend you got there on your Huffy bike, Hoyle’s playing cards attached to the frame with clothespins to make a motorcycle sound), find your way to Garden Plain’s Frosty Treat. My Huffy was gold, with a “cheater slick” tire on the back; I was pretty sure it made me go a LOT faster.
As I sat on the picnic table next to the building to eat my ice cream, the quiet of this small town engulfed me. A grain truck drove by, driven by a tanned, dusty, flat-topped high school kid. No highway noise, towering storm clouds off in the distance, gravel underfoot, the laboring exhaust fan of the grill all served to recalibrate me. It made a perfect scene.
The Frosty Treat, and Garden Plain, are the real thing. Take some time and head out there; and, while you drive, tell your kids a few stories about how you grew up.