By Jane and Michael Stern
Originally Published 2002 Gourmet Magazine
WITH THE EXCEPTION of the hot dog bun, there has never been an edible invention as useful as the ice cream cone. Eat it all and leave nothing behind but a napkin. No need to sit down, and only one hand is required. We’ve hardly ever met a cone we didn’t like, but these are a dozen of the best places to take a double dip.
Timothy’s Technology is what makes Timothy’s cone a holy grail: Old-fashioned, hand-cranked salt-and-ice churners create elemental sweet cream (dulcet white with no flavor other than dairy sweetness) and supercharged Black Rock (French vanilla studded with chocolate-covered almonds, named for the store’s neighborhood). Waffle cones are made in irons behind the counter, and they are broad-mouthed enough to hold multiple scoops dolloped with fudge and whipped cream. 2974 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Ridgefield Ice Cream Shop A 24-minute drive—just long enough to polish off a double-dip cone—from the estimable Dr. Mike’s ice cream parlor of Bethel (see Two for the Road, July 1998), this roadside stand looks like one of countless Carvels, and a Carvel store is, in fact, what the Ridgefield Ice Cream Shop used to be. But, oh, what a difference. Using vintage chrome machines that he maintains with parts salvaged from old Carvels that go out of business, Felix Lechner makes what he calls “custard without the egg.” Opaque and full-flavored, the velvety creation is robust enough to mound up impossibly high on top of the store’s superior wafer cones. Even a large serving, which soars more than six inches above the rim of the cone, is dense enough to grasp a thick coating of sprinkles or a shell of quick-dry dip-top. 680 Danbury Road, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Bauder Pharmacy If you’ve eaten your way around the Iowa State Fair, you know the wonder of Bauder’s. The frozen sandwich made of peppermint ice cream, cookie crumbs, and fudge that Bauder’s sells at the fair is great, but a scoop of their fresh fruit ice cream served in a plain sugar cone at the 1920s drugstore is even better. Vivid pink strawberry is available from May through September; proprietor Mark Graziano uses Iowa berries whenever they are running big and sweet. Pale cream peach is on the menu from around Independence Day until the end of summer. 3802 Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa
Edina Creamery The waffle cones are baked and rolled before your eyes. The flavor list includes caramel cookie praline, blueberry cheesecake clumped with graham-cracker crust, and peach, which tastes like fresh-cut fruit in a bowl of sugared heavy cream. The scoops are immense—a triple dip is a marvel of confectionery architecture. But of all the attractions of this midcentury sweetshop with its red-upholstered booths and counter stools, the thing we appreciate most is the malted milk ball. Construction of each cone begins with the placement of this spherical candy at the bottom. It serves as a plug to keep dripping ice cream from softening the bottom of the cone and leaking out. For slow lickers, the malted milk ball definitely saves the day. 5055 France Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rick’s Ice Cream Exotic flavors rule in this congenial parlor, but even such complexities as white chocolate ginger and saffron pistachio engulf you foremost with their creaminess. The difficult choice between wafer cone and sugar cone necessarily goes to the former at Rick’s. While the sugar cone is tastier and crunchier, it tends to collapse under the weight of this substantial ice cream, while the wafer cone virtually merges with all the licks that melt down into its vortex. 3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California
Graeter’s You may think you have tasted good chocolate chip ice cream, but once you’ve had Graeter’s chocolate chip or black raspberry chocolate chip or mint chocolate chip, you will be spoiled for life. They are made by pouring molten chocolate into ice cream as it’s being churned in small batches. The chocolate chills, shatters, and spreads throughout the mixture in great lopsided pieces. Admittedly, the rugged product isn’t the easiest stuff to scoop from a tub and balance on a cone, but it’s worth the effort. 2145 Reading Road Cincinnati, OH, and 11 other locations in Cincinnati; franchises in Dayton and Columbus and in Kentucky.
Kopp’s Frozen Custard Technically speaking, Kopp’s does not serve ice cream. It serves frozen custard, which is usually not as rich as ice cream (about 10 percent butterfat as opposed to ice cream’s 12 to 18 percent) but somehow tastes even more luxurious. Custard is thick and soft, enriched—like gelato—with egg yolk, and always served fresh. It is not “soft-serve” ice cream, a wan concoction pumped full of air. We have to admit that cones aren’t Kopp’s forte. In truth, baroque sundaes are the thing to eat here, but you can get waffle cones big enough to hold up to six scoops of vanilla, Swiss chocolate, or the flavor of the day. It would be a culinary sin to be in the Milwaukee area and not eat custard. 5373 North Port Washington Road, Glendale, Wisconsin, and 3 other locations in Wisconsin
Doumar’s At the Jerusalem Exhibition of the 1904 World’s Fair (where it is said the hot dog bun was invented), Abe Doumar was selling paperweights filled with water from the River Jordan when he came up with a way to stimulate business. Doumar bought hot-off-the-griddle waffles from a nearby food stand, rolled them into cone shapes, and put globes of ice cream on top. His idea, to give fairgoers a way to stroll and eat at the same time, proved so popular that when he returned home to Virginia, Doumar designed a four-waffle iron and opened an ice cream cone store in Ocean View Park. Today, his progeny operate a vintage drive-in where the nonpareil waffle cone is an apt finale for meals of barbecue or grilled hot dogs. 20th Street and Monticello Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia
Gray’s Ice Cream Gray’s makes many flavors, including the Yankee curiosity Grape-Nuts, but the two that must be sampled (separately, not as a double dip) are ginger and coffee. The ginger ice cream has real bite from the bits of fresh ginger root that dot the cream; and the coffee, a flavor that is Rhode Island’s passion, is robust and just-right sweet, like the cream-and-sugar cup that might be served at the lunch counter in heaven. Located on one of New England’s prettiest country roads, Gray’s is a quirky combination of grocery store, short-order café, and ice cream parlor. You can eat in your car in the parking lot or at one of a handful of picnic tables with a view of the proprietor’s pet llama. 16 East Road, Tiverton Four Corners, Rhode Island
The Sugar Bowl Turkish coffee and old Dutch chocolate may sound like exotic flavors, but at The Sugar Bowl of Scottsdale they taste as friendly and sweet as the ice cream that made us smile when we were eight years old. The delight of a Sugar Bowl cone is not just the honest ice cream; it is the place itself—a beguiling 1958 sweet-shop with pink-striped wallpaper and plush-upholstered booths to match. 4005 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, Arizona
Young’s Jersey Dairy Early one Thursday at Young’s Jersey Dairy, we licked cones while standing in the dining room listening to live gospel music. We asked the staff if the group had a CD available, but the angel-voiced chorus has no recordings because it is not an official group, just a bunch of people from the community who get together once a week at breakfast. The ice cream is also special, and while the nutty flavors are noteworthy—black walnut and butter pecan in particular—give us vanilla or chocolate every time, piled into a pointy-bottomed sugar cone, a flat-bottomed cake cone, or a capacious waffle cone. 6880 Springfield-Xenia Road, Yellow Springs, Ohio
Toscanini’s The flavor rotation at Toscanini’s is mind-boggling. Cardamom or cake batter ice cream, anyone? How about cucumber sorbet? No matter what oddities may spring from the imagination of confectioner Gus Rancatore, one flavor is almost always on the menu, and it is guaranteed to bring us to our knees: burnt caramel. We get it in a cake cone because this pale-cookie vessel intrudes the least on the perfection of burnt caramel. If you appreciate the crust on a flawlessly blow torched creme brulee, you, too, will understand how a controlled sugar burn creates something that transcends sweetness and makes taste buds buzz with every lick. 159 First Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts