I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
Today I decided to take a trip over to Norton, Ohio to hit up two of it's purveyors of cool, creamy treats. Oddly enough, they are pretty close to each other, but it turns out that they are worlds apart in their approaches. Welch's Dairy Cream is located just north of the I-76 exit for Norton on Cleveland-Massillon Road. When you pull in, you'll notice a small fenced off area located beneath the sign:
And the actual shop exterior directly behind that:
While Welch's sells many products besides ice cream and frozen custard, I noticed that the sign today was advertising black cherry frozen custard. When I walked up to the window to order, I asked the young woman a couple of questions about their products. Was the custard homemade? Was their ice cream homemade? Unfortunately, the answers I got contradict what is stated on Welch's website. The website says they make at least the ice cream on-site. However, I was told that it was actually Smith Dairy. When she finally answered me about the frozen custard, she said that while the do churn and freeze the custard on-site, the "black cherry" portion was actually just a syrup they add to the custard base.
Normally in this situation I would look for the oldest person I could find working behind the counter; this is usually a manager or owner. Unfortunately, she was all that was available. I realized that any further probing on my part probably wouldn't have yielded substantial rewards, so I decided to parlay any further questioning and simply ordered a small black cherry sundae. At $1.60, it was entirely reasonable. I retired to a picnic bench and snapped a couple of photos of my cool treat:
While definitely creamy and smooth, the flavor didn't really knock me over. Yes, it tasted of black cherry, but this could've been so much better had they actually incorporated real cherries into the mix. I mean, at the time of consumption, cherries were lining supermarket shelves like mad. It did manage to maintain the flavor through the eating process, so it's not like the flavor was too delicate and temperature sensitive.
Once I finished up my cup of frozen custard, I tidied myself up a bit, threw away my trash and headed over to an establishment that has been around quite a long time, Sweet Henrie's, located at 1365 Gardner Avenue, Norton, OH, 44203; they can be reached at 330-825-0365. I looked around but couldn't locate a website for Sweet Henrie's. In case you go looking for information on your own, you should know that some websites reference this place as Sweet Henry's.
The sign out front gives away some of the interesting things you'll find inside:
And here is a shot of the front of the building. There is additional parking in the rear to the right of the building:
When I first walked in and sat down, I noticed that there were about ten to twelve flavors of ice cream listed on the wall up by the kitchen. These didn't look like temporary flavors, but ones that were available all the time. I wasn't sure if I should get my hopes up or not. I looked through the menu (and like Welch's, they offer far more on their menu than just sweet treats) and found the section on frozen desserts. Hmmm, nothing specific about homemade was mentioned, so I started to assume the worst.
That is, until my server came over to get my order. I expected to hear the same litany of corporate ice cream producers that I've heard at so many other places: Smith Dairy, Reiter, Superior, etc. To my complete amazement, however, not only are the flavors of the day made from scratch, but all the flavors listed on the menu (and wall) are also made from scratch. Score! I asked if I could just do a two scoop sundae and my server wholeheartedly agreed. When I asked her for two suggestions for flavors I should try, she suggested the pineapple and the berry cobbler.
I actually thought she was going to bring me out a dish with the scoops side by side, but what I received was this:
It was HUGE! The pineapple is on top and the berry cobbler is on the bottom. First let's talk about the pineapple:
This was quite good. It had actual bits of real pineapple in it and was smooth and creamy. The acidity of the pineapple flavor itself was a little bit muted because of the ice cream base, but overall this was a nice rendition. It did need a counterbalance, however, and I think had they incorporated some toasted coconut or maybe some coconut milk in place of some of the dairy, it would've really popped as a unique flavor.
After eating my way through part of the pineapple layer, I was finally able to access the berry cobbler layer:
Where I thought the pineapple layer could use that extra bit of "pop", the berry cobbler layer popped with flavor and was quite delicious. A mixture of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, this flavor had just the right amount of acidity to really sing. To my surprise and delight, strewn throughout this flavor were little "cobbler" bits that had been baked with a wonderful spicy surprise, cinnamon! The combination of the berries, cobbler pieces and earthy cinnamon meant that I truly enjoyed the entire layer of this ice cream.
When my sundae dish finally looked like this:
I cried, "Uncle!" and requested my check. For two huge scoops of ice cream, my treat had only come to $3.50. Pretty impressive given how much you received and how tasty the ice cream was. I left my server a $5 bill and walked out with a completely full stomach and sated appetite for anything cool and creamy.
If I had to choose between the two locations, Sweet Henrie's would win hands down, even with the disputed facts over whether Welch's does or does not make their own ice cream and frozen custard. The flavors not only popped at Sweet Henrie's, but they were also memorable. Given that the price points were similar, there are no other criteria left to judge on other than taste. Try Welch's if you want to, but be prepared to be surprised at how good the ice cream is at Sweet Henrie's.