Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Scream, You Scream, Boston Screams for Ice Cream!

One of my favorite things about Boston is the local flavor.  Sure, we've still got McDonalds and Starbucks for the die-hards, but it is so EASY to avoid those national chains and find local favorites instead!  This goes for everything from groceries to beer to coffee shops to ice cream.  You don't necessarily know what to expect from the local places, since they don't have clones all across the country, but that's part of the fun.  And they're always delicious!

For example, Boston has Cold Stone and Dairy Queen.  Boston has Ben and Jerry's (which still gets an honorary 'local' mention since it's a New England original).  And then Boston has J.P. Licks and Emack & Bolio's.

Never heard of either?  Ever spent any time in New England?  Or Boston, specifically?  Well, that explains it!

I discovered Emack & Bolio's this year when I had to meet up with a friend and it was way too hot for the usual coffee shop rendezvous.  We looked for the nearest ice cream place instead, which led us to the Emack & Bolio's in Charlestown.  I walked inside and was promptly assaulted by a riot of tie-dye.  There was a not-quite-life-sized brightly painted cow right inside the door.  The menus were framed in lime green and neon orange.  There were ice-cream-eating moose and psychedelic planets and peace signs painted on the displays and the walls.  Love everywhere.  I felt like I was in the Beatles' movie Yellow Submarine.

Emack & Bolio's started in the 1970s near Coolidge Corner in Brookline, which is accessible via the Green line of the T.  According to the paraphernalia plastered all over their stores, the original ice cream parlor was a response to the early closing times of music clubs in Boston.  Self-described "hippie lawyers" rented a basement as a place for up-and-coming rock stars and their friends to hang out after the shows and continue jamming into the early morning hours while noshing on ridiculous concoctions of homemade ice cream.  They named the place after two homeless men for whom they did pro bono work.  Voila.  The rock and roll ice cream legend was born.

How is that for an origin story??  Over the years, Emack & Bolio's has collaborated with various music stars to create ice cream flavors.  They offer some very strange options, but also tamer flavors for the more conservative ice cream consumer.  They also serve milkshakes, make their own soda, supposedly pioneered the flavored cone, and they even have ice cream pizzas!  When you go to Emack & Bolio's, it's half for the delicious treats and half for the hippie experience.

The other local favorite is J.P. Licks.  The first time I heard of J.P. Licks was when I was participating in the Great Urban Race (aka a city-wide scavenger hunt) and it was integrated into one of the clues that took us out to Harvard Square.  I didn't even know it was an ice cream place until we ran by and saw the line of customers out the door.  Obviously not just an ice cream place, but a POPULAR one.  They serve ice cream and frozen yogurt, and have also ventured into coffee brewing.  The last time I visited the J.P. Licks at Harvard, I asked if I could get soft yogurt in a waffle cone.  The girl behind me in line stared with her jaw hanging loose and then said, "That is amazing.  You just changed my entire world."  She didn't look like she was joking.

J.P. Licks started in 1981 in Jamaica Plain (hence the J.P.), which is a neighborhood in southwest Boston.  Like Emack & Bolio's, they are known for bizarre flavors, and over time expanded into frozen yogurt and coffee products as well.  One thing on their menu which I never heard of previously is egg cream soda.  My Brooklyn-native friend attests that it's pretty good, and she would know since egg cream soda is originally a Brooklyn thing.  J.P. Licks decorates its shops with work from local artists, so although the ice cream offerings are mostly the same from store to store around Boston, the décor depends entirely on the imaginings of whichever artist is lucky enough to use the walls as their personal gallery.

This is why the local ice cream places are the best.  Not only do you get delicious (and very random) ice cream options; you also get a fun, unique place to hang out with your ice cream buddy, whether that's friend or family.  Or dog.  And that's why ice cream is such a popular summer treat, isn't it?  You satisfy your desire to fill your belly with something cold and tasty, and you get to take a quick break from the daily grind and spend a few carefree minutes hanging out and remembering what summer is all about.

P.S.  ICE CREAM HACK!  I love waffle cones.  I love waffle cones more than I love ice cream.  So I usually want the smallest serving of ice cream, but served in a waffle cone.  HOWEVER, if you ask for one scoop AND a waffle cone, you will ALWAYS get twice as much ice cream as you pay for because for some reason, the scoopers feel compelled to fill the waffle cone and one scoop does not even come close.  Now you've got a waffle cone and two+ scoops, whether you want it (everyone in the world) or not (me). 

No comments:

Post a Comment