Sweet, Sweet Liberty

Liberty Frozen Custard offers a chance to stop and smell the roses, child-style

Does this mean Liberty's custard is the best in the country? Maybe. There's definitely an argument to be made that it unites the best parts of the nation's best custards: Try the turtle sundae ($3.75), made with that sweet Illinois dairy custard, along with substantial and richly distinct New York hot caramel and hot fudge, and the toastiest, crispiest, sweetest, and saltiest pecans that Chicago has to offer, and you'll feel like the king of the world. Or the winner of a spelling bee, science fair, hockey game, or soccer tournament.

Myself, the last time I was in Liberty Custard, I ordered a banana split ($3.85). A whole banana, two scoops of vanilla custard and one of chocolate, plenty of chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple toppings, and chopped roasted peanuts, all surmounted by a towering cloud of whipped cream, and, of course, two cherries. Absolutely charming. So bowled over was I by receiving such a huge prize that I spent the rest of the day entirely convinced I had won a major spelling bee.

Being such a winner, I felt perfectly entitled to treat myself to a few rounds of the vintage arcade games that make a little quarter-driven museum in the rear of this timeless new spot. I worked as a "sidewalk engineer" from about the 1940s, moving scoops of lentils with a crane by means of a silver push button. I played a wooden pinball machine from the 1960s with an urban subway theme: It was Gottlieb's Crosstown, and I found the mechanical thud of the heavy chrome ball and the sound of metal and wood extremely gratifying; it was like getting permission to handle something ancient and precious, an old wood-block engraving, say. I wished I could have taken a turn on the old bowling game, played with a metal figure that looked just like Ronald Reagan, but sadly it was broken. Actually, to be perfectly honest, it was really only the degrading limitations of physical mass that prevented me from climbing into the painstakingly restored vintage red Austin Healy kiddie car, putting a quarter in the slot, and jostling around like Mr. Toad on his Wild Ride while getting a good picture for Grandma.

Outgrown your fascination with firetrucks? Think of it as arriving at an age when you can finish a really big sundae
Diana Watters
Outgrown your fascination with firetrucks? Think of it as arriving at an age when you can finish a really big sundae

At this point, you are probably saying, "This is all well and good, but you fail to answer the one question that would really bring this together for me: When exactly is my birthday?" To which I must reply that I do not know. However, long experience on this subject has taught me that the tallest people you live with will almost certainly have this answer, and can also, on certain summer days, be persuaded to admit the importance of looking at airplanes and watching for fire trucks while sharing a sundae.

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