I am not much of a dessert person. If you ask me to pick between a slice of cake and a cheese plate at the end of a meal, I’m going to go savory almost every time. It’s hard to make a dessert that hits my palate just right: not too sweet, not boring, not ridiculous, not heavy. Ice cream, done well, is a good answer, and the places that execute it beyond my expectations have my loyalty. La Michoacana…es Natural, in Hull, has been cranking out superlative ice cream and paletas (both cream- and water-based) for years now and almost never puts a foot wrong. Dinner Party, in Five Points, creates beautiful, perfectly balanced ice creams that are a highlight of its menu. It hasn’t really been hot enough for long enough to make a column devoted to four new ice cream options make sense, but I did it anyway. It’ll be plenty hot soon.
ANDY’S FROZEN CUSTARD (2180 W. Broad St., 762-356-4330): Opened in front of Walgreens and next to Checkers, by the Hawthorne/Alps/Broad intersection, this franchise out of Missouri does frozen custard rather than ice cream. What’s the difference? Picture a thicker, richer soft serve. The idea is that it’s churned continuously but slowly, making it rich and smooth, without a lot of air mixed in. Freddy’s, out on Epps Bridge Parkway, does it too, but without the variety of toppings and mix-ins and so on that Andy’s offers. The thing is that because all of the other flavors are based on vanilla (mostly) or chocolate, everything kind of tastes like vanilla—both literally and metaphorically—and the portions are gigantic. What you need, if you’re going to order a concrete (ice cream blended with something else), a jackhammer (the same but with stuff in the middle of the cup), a shake or something of the sort is both something to cut the sweetness and richness AND, ideally, someone to eat it with. Fresh fruit is a better mix-in than brownie bits or Oreos or cookie dough—not always, but in this case for sure. A root beer freeze, which is a float if you blended the ingredients rather than just dumping a scoop of ice cream into your drink, is good but also overkill, served with three-fourths of a 16 oz bottle of Sprecher’s root beer (the leftovers) on the side.
FIGMENT KOMBUCHA/THE PEOPLE’S PANTRY (1085 Baxter St., 706-850-3339): It has started making floats with its own brew. The result is a much sharper, more grown-up treat that is not smooth in the slightest, and is maybe better for it. The sorbet on hand, which the kombucha folks make themselves from the same fruit they use in their product, varies in flavor. When I went, it was mango, and although it is too full of ice crystals, it is a lovely combination with kombucha fresh from the tap, playing the natural sweetness of fruit against the zinginess and sometimes nose-clearing quality of the kombucha. The store is also full of fun snacks you won’t find anywhere else in town, plus cocktail fixings.
SUB ZERO NITROGEN ICE CREAM (140 W. Broad St., 706-850-1668): Another franchise, near the CVS downtown, is all gimmick. Select your base (original, yogurt, vegan, lactose-free, sugar-free, etc.), then pick your flavor (including some unusual choices, like cinnamon, pumpkin, huckleberry and marshmallow) and any mix-ins. The workers behind the counter will blast it with liquid nitrogen as they scrape and mix it together to solidify your ice cream right on the spot. The clouds that result are cool, but the ice cream is both expensive (around $7 a cup for a small) and, sadly, not good at all. The flavors are strongly artificial (watermelon tastes like a lollipop, not a fruit), the texture is weird and gummy, and everything is far too sweet. If you want a show, rolled ice cream or a cold-stone process is a better bet to produce a quality product, but there’s nothing wrong with ice cream that got made before you arrived.
BRUSTER’S (1029 Athens W. Pkwy., 706-850-1249): Another franchise, which used to have a location on Lexington Road by the movie theater, now has this new one off Epps Bridge Parkway, near Kohl’s. It’s not innovative, and it’s not the world’s most amazing ice cream, but it has a wealth of flavors, appears to be more functional than most Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins locations and is reasonably priced. There’s something to be said for that.
Andy’s is open 11 a.m.–11 p.m. most nights and until 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It has a drive-through, and its ordering counter is open air. Figment Kombucha/The People’s Pantry is open 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Sub Zero is open Monday through Thursday from 2–9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 12–11 p.m. and Sunday from 12–9 p.m. Bruster’s is open 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, has a drive-through and does catering.
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