In the world of cuisine, some things go together and others don't. So it's OK to be skeptical of the integration going on at Hank's Frozen Custard and Mexican Food.
"Some people think the pairing of the two is a little strange at first," agrees owner Jeff Kohlmann. "But for a lot of people growing up [around here], Hank's was their hangout, it's where they spent their youths."
The original frozen-custard stand opened in 1947 and added burgers and hot dogs a few years later. In the 1970s, the former owners discontinued the sandwiches, instead offering Mexican food. Since then, Kohlmann, who bought the stand seven years ago, has brought burgers, dogs and other items back to complement the Mexican cuisine.
"In those days," Kohlmann says, "the custard was sold in the front and the Mexican food in the back. It's definitely more [like] two-stores-in-one than an attempt to marry them together." But whether you go for a cone or a taco, you're in for a delicious, made-from-scratch treat.
On this June morning, Kohlmann is watching the banana custard stream out of the store's machine. The thick, flavorful custard is creamy on the tongue, before dissolving and sliding down the back of the throat. The fresh banana and cream flavors are a perfect match.
The shop offers chocolate- and vanilla-flavored custards daily, as well as seven daily flavors rotated through the week. Sunday is black raspberry; then, in order, it's pistachio, orange-pineapple, peanut butter, banana, strawberry and finally, on Saturday, dreamsicle. There are also daily favorites like White House cherry.
The Mexican fare, while typical, is all homemade. Kohlmann says he grinds nearly 800 pounds of beef each week -- which is then marinated in spices -- for the tacos, burritos and enchiladas. The mild and hot sauces are made in-house, and the taco shells are fried fresh everyday. The easy-to-eat tacos, not surprisingly, are the stand's top seller.
"We get people from all over coming to try the custard and Mexican food," Kohlmann explains. "We're kind of an institution around here. For those that know Hank's, the combination isn't that strange because we've been doing it that way for a real long time."
2210 Third Ave., New Brighton
The stand, along Route 65 in New Brighton, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.