LAKEVIEW — Scooter's Frozen Custard closes Friday for the winter. Don't say they didn't warn you.
Bright yellow signs taped to the windows of the Lakeview shop have for the past two weeks counted down the remaining days.
Plastered on the walls and cooler inside the store, more signs invite customers to "STOCK UP." Not that customers need much nudging.
Lexi Fink, 29, stopped in Wednesday with her young cousins and their friends. She had to — she's going out of town early Friday. "We had to get in one last Scooter's stop," said Fink, as she waited for her order, a chocolate-peanut butter-pretzel concrete.
"We have customers who try to be the first ones in [on closing day], and they will stay until we close. They literally come in and camp out," said Denny Moore. "Some will buy as many as 14 or 15 quarts."
Chicagoans know the joke about there being only two seasons in Chicago, winter and construction.
It could be argued that there is a third — the closing (and spring re-opening) of the very seasonal, family-run frozen treat shops around town.
Mario's Italian Lemonade, the famous little stand in Little Italy, is like a sweet summer fling, open only from May to September. Contributors to the food chat site LTHForum.com keep tabs on major developments at Mario's, such as when peach Italian ice is in.
The Original Rainbow Cone in Beverly runs from March to early November. Last week, it opened for a one-day, pre-Thanksgiving sale.
During its final week, Scooter's will sell more pints and quarts of its custard, in flavors that include Peppermint Candy and Coffee Buzz, than in any other month of the year, said Denny Moore.
The shop opens around 2 p.m. Friday and will sell out. It's just a matter of when. Could be 4 p.m., could be 7 p.m.
This is the 10th year in business for the Moores, who left their corporate telecommunications careers to open Scooter's on the northeast corner of Belmont Avenue and Paulina Street.
On summer evenings, a line routinely snakes out the door and onto the sidewalk on Paulina. Adults, kids, strollers and dogs share space on the benches and planters outside. It's a happy, sticky place.
That first winter, the Moores stayed open until Dec. 21 and re-opened shortly after New Year's. It was a blur. They didn't do that again.
Their break is longer now, and they try to get out of town for a week or so in January. But with wholesale clients that include Ina's in the West Loop and Jerry's Sandwich Shop in Wicker Park and Andersonville, and a trade show in Michigan that they attend yearly, their work is never done.
"It's probably the best custard I've ever had," said Mark Bires, owner of Jerry's Sandwiches, which uses Scooter's custard year-round in its desserts. "Their stuff is real clean-tasting, not fatty."
The Moores know their stuff. Get him going, and Denny Moore will tell you how frozen custard made its way from Coney Island in New York to the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago (the Wisconsin dairy the Moores use is the same dairy that supplied the Fair), and why custard is so much creamier than ice cream (much less air beaten in).
What you really should know: Air is the enemy of any frozen treat. So if you're lucky to snag a pint at Scooter's in these precious last days, Denny Moore suggests not removing the lid unless you're ready to eat it all — and to let it sit at room temperature to soften up a bit.
Otherwise, an unopened pint will keep for three months in the freezer. Which should tide you over until March 1, when Scooter's re-opens.