What do we all scream for? ICE CREAM, FOOLS.
It’s likely that you’ve already hit up the traditional haunts on the Loop, including Ben and Jerry’s, Coldstone and FroYo. However, you may not have visited or even heard of some of the area’s more traditional and gourmet establishments.
St. Louis Icons
(6726 Chippewa Street)
Not technically ice cream, Ted Drewes serves a delicious concoction referred to as “frozen custard.” Slightly heavier than your traditional grocery store ice cream variety, Ted Drewes’ custard is sweet, smooth and dense.
For those without prior experience, a concrete is similar to a sundae, but rather than piling a heap of toppings onto a few scoops of custard, the whole shebang is mixed up together and then firmly pressed into a cup, complete with a spoon jammed in the middle.
Though I’m a diehard plain ol’ vanilla custard fan, I highly recommend the Fox Treat sundae: vanilla custard topped with hot fudge, crushed raspberries, macadamia nuts and whipped cream.
Crown Candy Kitchen
(1401 Saint Louis Avenue)
If you want to check out this local legend, be sure you’ve got time to spare and some gas in the tank as it takes a bit of driving to reach. Once there, however, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Located on the gloomiest street corner one can imagine for a charming little soda fountain, Crown Candy looks like it was zapped right out of 1950s suburbia and plopped down into 2010 St. Louis. (In reality, the establishment was opened in 1913.)
Perched on one of its vintage white booth benches, you’ll have a clear view of the soda fountain, above which is a list of every sandwich, soup, soda, shake, malt, float and ice cream available.
I opted for the hot fudge sundae: homemade fudge sauce over vanilla and strawberry ice cream topped with whipped cream, pecans and a maraschino cherry. The ice cream was lighter than I expected for something prepared on the premises, almost frothy and full of air but very, very sweet. The strawberry ice cream had big chunks of real fruit mixed right in, and the pecans and fudge were perfect toppings. The whole concoction was served in a giant glass tureen reminiscent of something you might find at a fancy English tea function.
A word to the wise: this sundae over-served two very hungry people. If you’re making the trip, take friends.
Gelato Di Riso
(4663 Maryland Avenue)
Gelato, if you’re not familiar with the substance, is a smooth, rich, traditionally Italian treat made fresh daily and eaten with tiny spoons. The American version is, of course, not quite the caliber of the original, but it is certainly no reason to stick up your nose in disdain.
Gelato Di Riso is decorated like a cheesy faux French bistro, complete with pastel walls and very fake flowers. The actual gelato, on the other hand, is authentic—not to mention delicious. I ordered two small cups (complete with mini spoons) for a fellow gastronomic adventurer and myself: pink grapefruit and chocolate for me, blood orange and pistachio for him.
The fruit flavors were exquisite; they combined just the right amounts of sweet and tangy to make me wish they would never disappear. The chocolate was indeed chocolaty and a pleasant complement to the pink grapefruit. The pistachio tasted nothing like a pistachio and nothing like pistachio gelato, but I actually liked it. Sort of creamy and mildly nutty, it was a not-too-sweet anomaly that was really quite enjoyable; it too went especially well with the chocolate.
(1327 Washington Avenue)
My favorite gelato spot this side of the Atlantic, this odd little joint is fully decked out with giant, chocolate-brown leather chairs. The walls are covered in black and white photos in minimalist frames and the floor is just the right stain of worn wood. Old fashioned radiators keep customers seated in the storefront windows toasty while enjoying their delicacy of choice, be it gelato, pastries, Italian sodas, floats, coffee, tea or even some kind of savory food (if you get there early enough, which sadly I never have).
If you’re looking for the right flavor here, steer clear of the fruit varieties. It’s not that they’re bad, but in a world of sorbet and smoothies, it’s just not worth it, especially because The Gelateria has the creamy flavors perfected. Caffe (coffee), baccio (chocolate and hazelnut), white chocolate or tiramisu are all excellent choices. My personal favorite, however, is what they call London Fog, an in-house creation comprised of earl grey tea and vanilla. It’s a flavor I’ve found nowhere else, and it’s not something to miss.
(8130 Big Bend Boulevard)
This charming little ice cream parlor envelopes you in its dense, sticky sweet smell the moment you step inside. But this is just the kind of sticky sweet smell you want enveloping you.
Serendipity is much like Ben & Jerry’s in the sense that it feels small and homey and you believe them when they tell you that they make the ice cream right there! The other perk is that they serve some rather unusual flavors, and give you scoops bigger than a small child’s head if you ask nicely.
Personally, I’m partial to cinnamon, which is one of my favorite flavors and not one you find often in America. Other recommendations include coffee, sweet cream (like vanilla but a little tangier), mint chocolate chip (wicked good), and English toffee.
The Fountain on Locust
(3037 Locust Street)
I’ve saved the best for last. This is, hands down, my favorite ice cream joint in all of St. Louis, quite possibly in all of the fifty United States of America. This is not a hyperbole, friends, this is honesty.
Step inside and you’ll find yourself in an odd 50’s style diner crossed with a pseudo-Greek fantasy world, crossed with a royal palace (ask for the throne seats). No doubt about it, this place is the funkiest of them all, and it is far cooler than your average dessert shop.
The Fountain serves lunch, dinner, drinks, floats, egg creams (ﬂavored syrup, milk and seltzer), phosphates (an egg cream sans milk) and ice cream— but seriously, please opt for the ice cream. Phenomenal and fantastical sundaes await you, sundaes you’ve never dreamed of, sundaes that thoroughly fill two stomachs, so bring a friend.
My personal recommendations (in no particular order and not to be taken lightly): Sweet Annina Twist (orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream with fresh raspberry sauce and hot fudge), Standing Banana Split (a bruléed banana and scoops of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, layered with fresh raspberry sauce and hot fudge, topped with whipped cream), Supreme Cream Puff (one 3” baked cream puff shell with Vanilla Deluxe ice cream topped with hot fudge sauce).