Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Screaming for Ice Cream?

Today's weather may indeed be quite agreeable, but the unfortunate truth is that the balance of summer days in this area will be closer in nature to the sweltering heat we experienced last week. Remember how fun that was?

The only real benefit to be derived from this hellish weather is that it provides a excellent excuse to go out and consume some ice cream or comparable frozen treat. We are fortunate in that downtown Silver Spring and the immediately surrounding areas provide a number of options to those seeking to satisfy their summer sweet tooth.

Here's a brief rundown of local ice cream dispensaries. If there are any I've neglected to mention, let me know in the comments.

Tropical Ice Cream Cafe
9324 Georgia Avenue

This may be my personal favorite of the bunch, and I've been getting cones here since it opened over 25 years ago. Until fairly recently the shop was known as York Castle Ice Cream.  I don't know why the name changed after so many years, though I recently visited the actual York Castle and the location didn't exactly scream tropical flavors to me.

This shop may have the most interesting assortment of flavors in this group, as it features ice cream made with many tropical fruits of which I've never heard, including mamey sapote, atemoya and cherimoya. Located in a small strip mall on Georgia Avenue near the entrance to the Beltway (the same one as Goldberg's Bagels), the location isn't the most convenient, particularly if you are coming from the direction of downtown.

8030 Georgia Avenue

This South Silver Spring creamery features locally-produced ice cream in a variety of unique flavors. As with the Tropical Ice Cream Cafe, the only real downside might be the location, which is great if you live in South Silver Spring, but somewhat challenging for those driving due to limited parking.

Ben & Jerry's
903 Ellsworth Drive

Getting ice cream at Ben & Jerry's may be one of those rare occasions when you actually step foot in City Place.

Like Baskin-Robbins, everyone has likely had B&J countless times. Their ice cream is good enough, but you can go to Giant and pick up a pint of most of the flavors available at a B&J's retail outlet. I have noticed the employees are unusually friendly and helpful at this particular store, which in my experience is rarity at similar chain food service locations around here.

(Also, don't be fooled by their folksy presentation, hippies - they aren't owned by those dorky guys in City Slickers, but rather by giant multinational conglomerate Unilever.)

Coldstone Creamery
821 Ellsworth Drive

Based on the lines that form on hot summer evenings, this appears to be the most popular ice cream shop of the group. Either that, or they're really slow.

If you want to indugle in an extremely decadent desert, this is your place. The portions are giant and they will mix like what seems to be a pound of candy in with your ice cream. Cold Stone even has the distinction of having the unhealthiest drink in America, which puts it high in the runnin' for unhealthiest worldwide.

I think Aziz Ansari's take on Coldstone pretty much says it all. (Totally NSFW.)

Aziz Ansari - Cold Stone Creamery
Aziz Ansari Stand-UpAziz Ansari JokesBuy tickets to the New York Comedy Festival

935 Ellsworth Drive 

This local frozen yogurt chain just opened their Silver Spring location last month, and after a few visits it is starting to grow on me. There are quite a few flavors to choose from (red velvet is delicious) and the self-serve toppings bar allows you to be creative with how you supplement your yogurt.

Since you initiate the yogurt-buying process by picking up a giant empty cup, there exists a distinct danger of going overboard. Some combination of frozen yogurt and candy has to fill that cavernous void. Frozen yogurt is nominally more healthy than ice cream, but the differential can easily be erased at the aforementioned toppings bar.

8639 16th St

What can you really say about Baskin-Robbins? It's the biggest ice cream franchise in the world, and odds are that wherever you originally hail from, there was at least one outlet. In the Olden Days, I often frequented the Baskin-Robbins on Piney Branch Rd. While that location may be long gone, but there's still a BR located in the strip mall on 16th St.

The last time I went to BR was a couple years back in order to satisfy a nostalgic craving for peanut butter & chocolate ice cream, but I was disappointed to discover that my ice cream was tainted by freezer burn. I can do that myself at home.

If nothing else, you should sign up for their Birthday Club to take advantage of your annual free cone.

The Ice Cream Man
No Fixed Address

If you think about it, the Ice Cream Man was probably the original food truck. Sadly, he never patrolled my neighborhood when I was a kid. Perhaps that is why I am now obsessed with hunting him down. Like one of Pavlov's dogs, I will come running out of my home after hearing just a few distant notes of "The Entertainer". Unfortunately, I always seem to cross paths with ice cream trucks when I am out for a walk and don't have any cash on me. I suppose I could ask for a loan, but one of many things I learned from Friday is that you shouldn't be in debt to the Ice Cream Man.

The problem with a lot of the ice cream trucks these days is that their owners do a half-assed job of dressing up their vehicles. Like most of the cabs in D.C., they are simply older vehicles sloppily re-purposed, and frequently the owners don't do much to hide the truck's former function aside from haphazardly slapping on a few Good Humor logos. It makes them look sketchy even when they are perfectly legit.

Outside of the standalone shops mentioned above, there are also a handful of other frozen treat options in Silver Spring, including Whole Foods (gelato), Kefa Cafe (gelato), Mama Lucia's (gelato), Potbelly (cones and shakes) and Nando's (bottomless soft serve).

Sadly missing from the list is Dairy Queen. There are days where I would literally kill for a Blizzard or a soft-serve cone dipped in chocolate. For whatever reason, Dairy Queen locations are few and far between in MoCo. The closest (non-mall) DQ is in Twinbrook, and you have to deal with miles of slow-moving SSINO traffic to get there.

Did I miss anything?


Easley Does It said...

There's Carvel, which is Dairy Queen-ish, operating out of the Jerry's Subs at 4 Corners

Sligo said...

I once went to that Carvel looking for a Fudgie the Whale and the employee hadn't heard of it. Worst Carvel Ever.

wombat said...

I had an equally crappy service experience at that Carvel. Sad, because it is the soft ice cream of my youth, but I haven't been back. I make do with the Carvel ice cream cakes at the Safeway.

CBML said...

Rita's has frozen custard in addition to their liquid crack/italian ice. Well worth the hike up Georgia for me (sometimes).

Anonymous said...

Chik-fil-a has pretty good milkshakes at reasonable prices.

Anonymous said...

McD's has their McFlury crap.

Anonymous said...

I live within walking distance of Moorenkos and am addicted! They have a huge variety of unique flavors and are constantly changing them. Two of my favorites are orange chocolate chip and white chocolate blueberry. Parking is an issue - BUT - there is free parking for 30 minutes at The Veridian parking garage, which is maybe a two minute walk from all of this deliciousness. Highly recommended!

Anonymous said...

That FrozYo is doing a ton of business. I go through there every night and it looks like 50% of the people have a FrozYo cup in their hands.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

I love York Castle/Tropical Ice Cream, both for the ice cream and the family who owns/runs the store. Try some of the unusual flavors like soursop. Wonderful stuff.

At Moorenkos, I love their pear ice cream. I've never had that anywhere else.

Packed Suitcase said...

I literally have been to Fro-Zen Yo every lunch break since last week. While I admit that's a bit excessive, it's really good and I love how you can just get a small amount for a taste.

And I concur, the red velvet is my fave!

hockeypunk said...

is the DQ in Aspen Hill by the Outback still open or what?

Anonymous said...

I love Moorenko's, but their store management leaves something to be desired -- their hours are erratic, closed when they say they'll be open. You can't count on the place, and I really try hard to support the local businesses. I did notice their flavors at Giant in Wheaton the other day, so ironically that might be a more reliable supplier for pints!

Anonymous said...

It's a shame ice cream trucks aren't what they used to be. I'm old enough to remember the old purpose-built Good Humor trucks. And Giffords. Get off my lawn.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the name change from "York Castle" to "Tropical", the long-time current owner had a legal dispute with the previous owner. The previous owner opened a store up on Rockville Pike and if you go there he'll show you the court documents and tell you all about it.

Anonymous said...

I still miss the ORIGINAL Gifford's. The quality was great, the selection of options insanely large.... mmmmm... You'd sit at a table, a high school kid would bring glasses of ice water and the extensive menu, which was basically just variations on ice cream - sundaes, parfaits, floats, shakes, bannana splits, cones, dishes, etc, etc, etc.... In a few minutes after ordering, out came your selection, in the proper glassware and with the proper utensils for eating it. If you ordered a hot fudge sundae, the homemade hot fudge came HOT in its own little pitcher for you to pour over your ice cream...

And pretty much all their products were made on-site in DTSS. Sigh...
THAT was an ice cream shop that kicked b***!

Trixie said...

A DQ strawberry sundae remains one of my favorite desserts in the world.

Jim said...

Tropical Ice Cream Cafe (Silver Spring) and York Castle Ice Cream (Rockville) are 2 separate stores with a shared past.

The Silver Spring location was the original York Castle, started by a guy from Giffords. It then became a franchise, run by (I believe) the current owners of Tropical Ice Cream after the original owner moved to Florida. At the time, he was still making the ice cream sold there.

The 2 businesses have since parted ways, each making their own ice cream. When the original owner moved back up to the area, he opened a new place, York Castle Ice Cream, on rt. 355, just North of the Rockville metro.

They both offer interesting tropical fruit flavors. One day I'll do a side-by-side comparison to see which I actually like more; but from having visited both I prefer York Castle to Tropical Ice Cream.

Anonymous said...

sorry to say, but trop ice cream on ga ave is closed.