This is my first visit to Luv-It Frozen Custard, a bastion of Las Vegas decadence, and I have a blast treating myself to a tasty slice of the Vegas demographic. It’s been in the same spot and run by the same family since 1973. It’s a tiny shack adjacent to a Mighty Mart and Olympic Garden Strip Club on Oakey off of Las Vegas Boulevard, and many of its customers have been coming for decades.
I turn onto Oakey and swerve to avoid hitting a guy wearing a stars-and-stripes bandana and layers of Mardi Gras beads who walks in front of my car. He continues down the street, dazed but unfazed. I approach the tiny window, plastered with several prestigious awards (Best of Citysearch 2005, AOL Citywide City’s Best 2006 and 2007, Travelocity Local Fave), and meet Greg Teidemann, the owner, who took over the business from his grandmother and now runs the place with his wife. I ask him how he feels about the competition with Sheridan’s Frozen Custard, and he remarks without snark, “I wasn’t aware there was one. It’s not anything like the UNLV and UNR rivalry. You just show up to work and do your thing.”
Just then a taxicab pulls up; the driver gets halfway out and nods to Greg, who gets the driver’s regular, the Western Special, on the counter before the driver gets there. Several more cars pull up in quick succession: a hot young couple in a shiny new red convertible; a family of non-English-speaking Hispanics in an old station wagon; two African-American women with blinged-out wife-beaters in a Range Rover; a limo driver who frequently brings tourists (but today is by herself); two middle-aged Asian men who come at 9 p.m. to watch the strippers filtering into work next door; and a very nice family guy who, I come to find out, went to high school with my parents. He’s been coming since sixth grade and now brings his wife and kids and, when they’re in town, his in-laws from New York. “I am Vegas,” he declares, and goes on and on about the city’s growth and character. “This place is like East L.A.”
I interview Teidemann in between customers, who come in droves and are of all colors, sizes, ages and income levels. Everyone raves about Luv-It’s custard. “I’m diabetic, but oh well,” says one man as he digs into his custard sundae with a gleeful smile. Many people come a couple of times a week. Luv-It’s fame is international. The little shop has been featured on the Food Network and the Travel Channel. Tourists come from England, France and Japan, carrying hard-bound coffee books about Las Vegas landmarks or foreign-language guidebooks with pictures of Luv-It and a “must-see” injunction.
I’m having so much fun hearing Greg’s stories and conversing with his customers that I don’t want to leave, but it's turning to twilight. I grab the daily special, Champagne Cherry, and head south to Sheridan’s in Henderson. I stay only a few minutes at Sheridan’s, located in the heart of sterile suburbia, where the clientele is Hollister-clad families spilling out of mini-vans and SUVs. Mark Goldenberg, the owner, runs the franchise that has been here three and a half years. Staffed by a bunch of teens and sporting a drive-thru, it is modern, safe and fast-foodish. But Goldenberg himself comes to the window to take my order. When I ask him about the rivalry, he shakes his head and answers, “Have you been to Luv-It? I wouldn’t go there at night! I’m here for the family—Anthem, Seven Hills—that’s why I’m here.” He continues confidently: “No one is competition for me. Not for what I sell. We make the best.” With Sheridan’s comparable lack of character, reputation and experience, I am skeptical. But it turns out Goldenberg wasn’t lying.
The verdict: Both custards are thick and creamy, but underdog Sheridan’s beat out reigning champion Luv-It for intensity of flavor. Luv-It is more old-fashioned and homemade, with a distinctive fresh cream and egg base. Sheridan’s chocolate tastes like a melted Hershey bar, whereas Luv-It is like a watery Wendy’s Frosty. But for local flavor, Luv-It wins by a landslide.
Bottom line: Both places make delicious custard fresh daily. And the debate continues ...