From April to Columbus Day, Bishop’s is besieged by customers who patiently wait for an opportunity to lick memorable New England ice cream. It is quite a sight, once the hungries get inside, to see their eager faces study the board on which are posted about two dozen flavors. Eyes light up and eager tongues moisten lips as groups of waiting children and adults confer about the exact details of the treat that is about to be theirs.
Bishop’s makes ingenuous ice cream. Oh, there are some baroque concoctions on the menu, Bishop’s Bash in particular (chocolate chips, nuts, and brownie chunks), but the best flavors here have the carefree quality of ice cream of the pre-Haagen-Dazs era. Vanilla is cream white; chocolate is not too serious; coffee is creamy as much as it is caffeinated. Here, too, is the old Yankee favorite, Grape-Nuts ice cream, with little nubs of cereal softened to bits of grainy texture in the smooth ivory custard.
Congeniality is part of the Bishop’s experience, such as the way a cone is handled when you order one: the server sets an empty into a varnished wood holder on a counter where you watch it as your chosen flavor is scooped. The cone is removed, topped with ice cream, then set back into the holder so that while you pay and take a napkin or a cup of water from the fountain you needn’t worry about juggling your ice cream cone. When you do take possession of it, we suggest you head outside and find a seat on a bench in front of the big house with its window boxes full of pansies. Lick away to the sound of a large American flag flapping high above.