The Observer's food critic, Scott Reitz, said recently that there's no such thing as a good ice cream sandwich. He said this in private, but I am making these statements public, because they deserve examination. His take: The cookies are too hard, the ice cream squishes out when you take a bite, and it all ends up an unwieldy, puddly mess. Is he right? Is the perfect ice cream sandwich a purely mythical beast?
I refuse to absorb this as a truth. Not in my America. So I have journeyed hither and yon on a quest to exercise the unalienable right to slap ice cream between two slabs of whatever the hell we want. The results? A list of five Dallas spots that offer their own take on the quintessential summer treat, and that (mostly) prove Reitz wrong.
Carnival Barker's Ice Creams (above) At this Truck Yard gem, ice cream purveyor Aaron Barker has reimagined the dessert in two glorious forms: Rice Krispy treat and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches. No, you are not dreaming. Barker has cleverly addressed the structural pitfalls by using bookends that stand up to ice cream's melty, soggifying nature, yet lend the necessary give so you can bite into it. (Pro tip: let the Pop Tart sandwich sit for a minute or two to make it more squishable.)
For now, your only option for the ice cream component is vanilla, but it's a rich, high-quality variety, with tangible bits of vanilla bean (Barker makes his own extract using vodka). In the near future, as they expand in Oak Cliff and have more space, they may offer more scoop options.
According to the Truck Yard's website, there are "no chemicals, fillers or bullshit added" to Carnival Barker's ice cream. Sitting at the rainbow-striped picnic table, in the abandoned amusement park atmosphere, I believed it -- no bullshit, just pure, unadulterated fun.
Lower Greenville, 5624 Sears St., Carnival Barker's Facebook page
Glazed Donut Works Located across the street from Trees and open until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, this is your go-to place for late-night munchies. If you find yourself craving an ice cream sandwich, and maybe you've had a sufficient amount of alcohol to dull your memory of the words "calories" and "guilt," stumble over to Glazed's donut window and treat yourself. Their doughnut and vanilla bean bourbon ice cream sandwich is exactly the happy marriage you would expect it to be. If they've run out of glazed by the time you make it to the front of the line, a helpful consultant will help you make a suitable donut choice from their jewelry case display, such as the Saigon Cinnamon. The thick, almost bagel-like donut has a heft that stands up to the rich, 16 percent milk fat ice cream specially made for them by Henry's. Maybe grab a coffee while you're there so you can sober up, Champ. Or not -- and end up on their Instagram feed wearing a Pikachu/hamburger costume like the rest of us.
Deep Ellum, 2644 Elm St., http://glazeddonutworks.com/
CBD Provisions The ice cream sandwich at CBD proves the "hot mess" hypothesis. Their version consists of mint chocolate chip ice cream wedged between two tough-to-chomp chocolate chip cookies. The ice cream oozes out with each bite, causing a sloppy mess. The cookies are too hard to attack with a fork or knife, and to make matters worse, neither the cookies nor the ice cream stand out on their own. Kind of surprising this dessert doesn't match up to their otherwise outstanding reputation. We did give them Dish of the Year in 2014, after all. Possible solution: pig's head carnitas ice cream sandwich.
Downtown, 1530 Main St., http://cbdprovisions.com/
Kate Weiser Chocolate The Trinity Groves spot is best known for their hand-painted artisan chocolates, but it also happens to be a great place to get an ice cream sandwich -- sometimes. They bake up a larger-than-usual version of their macaron to enclose their house-made ice cream, forming an ice cream sandwich that's super-adorable. Problem is, they change up their ice cream specials every week, so it's not always available. If this tragedy befalls you when you visit, you could give up and go to Joy Macarons (they have an ice cream sandwich, too), but there is a work-around at Kate Weiser: DIY it. Order a macaron, plus a scoop of ice cream, and assemble the layers yourself from your patio seat. Awesome combinations include lemon macaron with strawberry-rhubarb sorbet and sea salt macaron with Nutella ice cream. Bonus: You'll have extra ice cream to enjoy by the spoonful.
Trinity Groves, 3011 Gulden Lane No. 115, http://kateweiserchocolate.com/
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PS 214 Math flashcards loom overhead at the bar of this school-themed gastropub. Math hurts my brain, but cookies + ice cream is a formula I understand well. PS 214's spin on the ice cream sandwich is two ginormous chocolate chip cookies, each slathered with Nutella, cradling a mound of vanilla ice cream. But that's not all. Sprinkled on top of the vanilla ice cream is a generous amount of bacon brittle (carnitas ice cream sandwich not sounding so far-fetched now, huh?). The bacon brittle is amazing paired with the ice cream, but overall, it's the ice cream sandwich of Scott Reitz's nightmares. It's a squishy mess to eat, and the fact that it's glued to the plate with Nutella makes it feel more like an April Fool's prank than dessert. Probably best to peel of the top cookie and dig into the thing with a fork.
Uptown, 3700 McKinney Ave., http://psontap.com/