As I peered into the nearly empty dining room of Steel City Pops (908 Currie St.), a new gourmet ice-pop joint in the West 7th area, I couldn’t help but wonder why the owners would open the place just in time for winter. North Texas hasn’t exactly been a deep-freeze so far this season, but still, winter weather can’t be great for businesses that purvey chilly treats, can it? I put on my warmest gloves and went to a few such places to check for signs of life in the month of Frosty the Snowman.
At Steel City Pops, an Alabama-based chain, I was promptly greeted by the fellow behind the counter, who seemed genuinely surprised to see me. He eagerly explained that the menu is separated into two categories: a.) fruity, which featured some interesting-sounding flavors, like bosc pear with honey and pineapple-jalapeño; and b.) creamy, with things like rum raisin, eggnog, and coffee mint. The nice man assured me that all the Popsicle-like concoctions are made in small batches, with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. It’s all gluten-free, vegetarian, locally sourced, blah, blah, blah. In other words, eat one and you’ll go to heaven.
I opted for the season-appropriate wassail-flavored pop ($3). Lo and behold, it tasted exactly like the spiked holiday punch. The mulled spice cider is a staple at Chow, Baby’s family holiday parties, but Steel City’s version didn’t have alcohol or the related side effects of arguing, crying, and blaming others for all my problems.
Three blocks away, Sweet Sammies (825 Currie St.), which specializes in ice cream sandwiches, has the added bonus of being directly next door to a gym. Again, I was the only person in the place, and again the counter guy seemed shocked to see me. I took my creamy, sickly sweet turtle caramel ice cream smushed between one chocolate chip cookie and one M&M cookie ($3), and stood in front of the window outside of L.A. Fitness to eat it, watched by a lot of people on treadmills. One man gasped when I threw half of it away, but I couldn’t eat any more, and it wasn’t like I was going to walk in and offer ice cream to a panting stranger.
On the next cold day, I hit Yogurtland (2600 W. 7th St.) in Montgomery Plaza. The place was packed full of teenagers, all of whom were apparently on dates in the middle of the afternoon on a school day. The self-serve yogurtorium has Slurpee machine-like contraptions oozing frozen yogurt, with a buffet of toppings that included Fruity Pebbles and Cap’n Crunch cereals. I went for the cloyingly sweet strawberry-cheesecake combo ($3.50). It had the texture of melted plastic, and I couldn’t help but feel as though I were eating industrial waste. But, hey, the truant kids were digging it.
My last cold treat was at Melt Ice Creams (954 W. Rosedale St.), in the “emerging” part of the Near Southside, just off Main Street. It was a fairly cool Saturday, but the tiny dining room and patio were packed, mostly with young people. If ever there was an ice cream shop that could make a person feel cool for being there, Melt is it. Like everything in that corner of the Fort, the place has a bohemian air, with a hip, pierced, and tattooed staff to match.
The made-in-house menu featured names like “Jolt to the World,” an eggnog-flavored ice cream, and the gingerbread-tasting “Catch Me if You Can.” I opted for the delicious vegan dessert “Rudolph’s Dream,” ($3) with cranberry jam, coconut milk, and a rich dark chocolate.
I guess its not a stretch to enjoy cold snacks on a winter day –– at least the North Texas version of winter. I mean, I have coffee every day regardless of the weather. If you’re willing to brave the cold and the accompanying brain freeze, I’d recommend Melt or Steel City. They’ll be very happy to see you.
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