Small restaurant gains big reputationPlatte shop offers fresh ice cream, food and song.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
PLATTE — Delicious food isn’t the only attraction at Little Brick Ice Cream.
The Platte restaurant and ice cream shop also uses music, sung poorly by its owner, to lure customers.
During lulls in business, owner Steve Frey grabs a small guitar from the wall to play a song and sing off-key.
“They go crazy,” Steve said of his patrons, particularly the high-schoolers. “I sing way off-key and they just have a blast. If I can touch one kid with my offbeat singing, it’s worth it.”
A group of high-schoolers gathered with Steve on Thursday to sing — again, off- key — a short Christmas carol.
More high school customers piled in later. They wanted ribs and the ice cream made by Steve’s wife and business partner, Marie.
“The ice cream is amazing,” said Brooks Koopal.
“It’s a fun place to hang out,” said Jacob Sybesma. “We enjoy the atmosphere.”
The tiny shop is a popular place for a fast and cheap, but tasty, meal. Every day, the building is packed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with high-schoolers and other locals ready for a good meal and a couple of scoops of one of Marie’s 80 flavors of ice cream.
“We do a lot of business here. It’s all strictly friends that want to have a really good atmosphere,” Steve said. “We’re not the biggest business, but we’re the friendliest.”
Every Thursday, the tiny building is packed wall-to-wall, every booth filled, all to get barbecue ribs — and mashed potatoes, gravy and mixed vegetables.
The building can hold 40 patrons at a time. Some come in to stay and eat, others take their food to go. Everyone comes for the atmosphere.
“I find the more we give away, the more comes in,” Steve said.
He had a special treat ready Thursday for Niki Nelson, who frequents the restaurant. Her eyes were huge and her laugh boisterous when Steve placed a big slab of barbecue ribs in front of her.
“Thank you, Steve!” she said, still laughing.
The kids also love the cheap price and quiet, relaxed atmosphere. For the high school kids, Steve offers an “all you can eat” meal along with a soda and ice cream for $4.
Everyone went back for seconds on Thursday.
The business is an offshoot of two widely known businesses created by Steve’s parents — Grandma Frey’s Gourmet Pies and Aristo Ice Cream.
Steve and Marie helped run the two companies with Steve’s parents, Harley and Berneice, at their business Aristocrat Café, which was in an old bank building in downtown Platte. When his parents died, Steve and Marie sold the companies and gave up the food business.
“But, Marie got tired of me laying on the couch, so we started the ice cream back up,” Steve said.
And about five years ago, the couple started Little Brick.
The couple creates ice cream and home-cooked food in an 11-by-20 foot former garage. When the couple started the business, customers sat on milk crates.
Soon the business boomed and the Freys rented and remodeled the next door building for seating space.
Marie makes the ice cream in her spare time, which is between midnight and about 5 a.m. Her full-time job as the manager of Casey’s in Platte takes up most of her days.
Marie was “very good friends” with Steve’s dad and became the ice cream-making guru.
“He taught her how to make ice cream,” Steve said. “So she took it up.”
A 10-gallon ice cream-making machine is her main device. She uses a special mix they order from a company in Minnesota. It contains high-end butter fat, which is key, and all flavors start off as vanilla, Steve said. And Marie cuts up all the ingredients herself, by hand.
“We sell a lot of ice cream. Marie has a hard time keeping up,” Steve said.
Some flavors include licorice, peppermint and Oreo, Snickers fudge and Butterfinger.
“She even has a flavor called ‘Kiss My Grass,’ ” Steve said. “It’s mint ice cream with toasted coconut and Hershey’s kisses.”
Coffee crunch is the favorite among adults, and children typically request purple cow ice cream, which is grape flavored.
The ice cream is reasonably priced as well, costing only $2 for a cone or a cup. But if a kid comes in and only has 50 cents, Steve gives that child some ice cream.
“Any kid that comes in has enough money,” he said. “Even if it’s 50 cents.” The business also sells quarts and gallons of ice cream, and Marie creates ice cream cakes and pies. The other half of the business is the famously cheap, fast and delicious lunches cooked up by Steve. Steve typically spends 12½ hours at the restaurant every day.
“We never have any meal over $5,” he said.
Steve serves home-cooked meals ranging from spaghetti and meatballs to turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and mixed vegetables. The meals are always “all you can eat.” He will soon add broasted chicken to the menu.
“It’s not about the money,” Steve said. “It’s just to treat people right. To do something no one else has ever done.”
A popular meal for on-the-go people is walking tacos, offered daily. Steve cooks the taco meat himself and offers all the fixings — cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and more. He pours a bag of Doritos chips into a paper bowl and puts on the meat and toppings. The Freys don’t foresee retirement anytime soon. Marie is 11 years younger than Steve, who’s 62, so she wants to keep him busy.
“I want to retire, but my wife doesn’t want me to,” he said. And neither do the students, who couldn’t say enough about the little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. “We love Steve,” Nelson said. “Yeah, Steve’s the best.”