Every neighborhood should have an ice cream place within walking distance. It doesn’t matter what kind—Dairy Queen is just as good as a boutique parlor—but there’s something lovely about seeing families in line and sticky children, the ones who haven’t quite mastered the art of eating ice cream faster than it melts, sitting around the perimeter of the store. Strolling down the block for a post-dinner cone is a remnant of a bygone era, a callback to times when things were easier, so when my local Clintonville ice cream joint went out of business this past winter, I felt particularly bereft.
It wasn’t long, however, before another one filled its place. Just in time for the dog days of summer, Vienna Ice Café opened on High Street in Clintonville. Owned and operated by the folks at Mozarts, the shop makes its own ice creams, with a professed European style. (The story on their website says they went to Europe in June to research flavors. I’m open to working for anyone who wants to pay me to do the same. I will take mad notes on the essence of the European palate.)
While the interior of the store was nearly identical to its former tenant, one major change was apparent: a friendly staff. The gals behind the counter —new hires to the Mozart’s family of dessert shops — were happy to help us. They were well-informed about the company’s plans (the shop will soon carry milkshakes, waffles and ice cream sandwiches made with the bakery’s cookies) and happily gave us giant samples of any flavor we requested.
While I ended up liking many of their ice creams, one flavor is on my avoid list: the ever-gimmicky cotton candy. (This is, perhaps, because I no longer have the palate of a five year old. Even the sign mentions that it’s appropriate for their “future patrons.”)
Most of the rest of the flavors we tried fared better. I ordered a trio of caramel (not salty), chocolate truffle and vanilla. Kissed with small bits of ice, the texture was interesting and definitely felt home made. Not overly rich, the ice creams felt light, which was fine by me, with the exception of vanilla. While I wanted a little more from the vanilla, the caramel was incredible and was, by far, my favorite flavor. Smooth, creamy and delightful, I thoroughly enjoyed the unadulterated flavor of browned sugar. The chocolate boasted a strong cocoa profile, and definitely reminded me of the wares next door at the bakery.
My companion ordered tiramisu, chai and a gelato featuring praline and hazelnut. I avoided the latter of the three (due to a nut allergy), but went back for seconds of the tiramisu, which had pieces of the light cake enveloped within it. The chai was spot on and would be a refreshing replacement for the drink.
All in all, we were pleased. From the attention to detail (there’s something sophisticated about eating ice cream out of a bowl) to the attentive staff, the atmosphere was perfect. And there’s no question that they are sticking with what they know, whether it be from that June trip to Europe or from running a bakery for years. Either way, it’s a good thing. And I’m happy to welcome Vienna Ice Café to my neighborhood.
Vienna Ice Café
2899 North High Street