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Grand Ole Creamery vs. Lynden Soda Fountain: Ice cream clash

Fresh strawberry ice cream
Fresh strawberry ice cream

Here are some stats from last Friday's blizzard: 17 inches of snow; post-snow highs in the single digits; 60,000 people without power; more than 1,900 automobile spin outs and 680 crashes; 100 flights cancelled; 66 jack-knifed semis; black ice under bridges and on ramps; and yet another school day cancelled. What we're saying is this: If current trends continue, we're right in the middle of one of the five coldest winters in Minnesota history.

What we're also saying is this: who feels like some ice cream (or maybe some sherbet)?

See also: First Course vs. 112 Eatery: Gnocchi knockout

Grand Ole Creamery German Chocolate and Black Cherry
Grand Ole Creamery German Chocolate and Black Cherry
Amy Dahlin

The Venue: This week features two St. Paul ice cream parlors that cultivate an old-timey atmosphere. Grand Ole Creamery on Grand Avenue has been a staple of that neighborhood since 1984 (there's a second location on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis). It's a warm and friendly place with a small shrine of autographed celebrity photos and some community-billboard detritus on the walls. Lynden's Soda Fountain is a clean, classy modern version of a Herbert Hoover-era ice cream joint. With counter stools, an honest-to-God soda fountain, and a back wall stocked with candies from days gone by, this is the perfect place for old and young folks to bridge the generation gap with a frozen treat.

The Weigh-in: Grand Ole Creamery regularly offers over 20 different flavors. Although Lynden's has fewer ice cream choices, they will whip up sodas, phosphates, malts, egg creams, shakes and even lime rickeys for any handlebar-moustachioed members of your posse. Grand Ole Creamery makes its own ice cream; Lynden's gets theirs from Madison's Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Company.

Round 1: Size When trying to forget this endless winter, the bigger the serving of ice cream, the better. At both shops, we asked for the same size serving in a cup. Grand Ole Creamery presented us with two scoops of ice cream as big as cue balls. Teenage boys would find these servings reasonable, but everyone else should suck in their gut and prepare for sugary, creamy bloat. In contrast, Lynden's serving size is entirely reasonable and satisfying, especially if you've just eaten a gargantuan burger/fries combo at The Nook next door.  

Lynden's Soda Fountain Chocolate and Coconut Almond Delight
Lynden's Soda Fountain Chocolate and Coconut Almond Delight
Amy Dahlin

Round 2: Texture Good ice cream, especially in winter, should be soft, not melty; creamy, not icy; and thick, not overly crunchy. Both shops passed the "lip gloss" test: after a few bites, their wares left a slight sheen of fat on our lips. Stick a utensil in the ice cream at either place and it will stay vertical for hours, but Grand Ole Creamery's was a little softer and easier to eat.

Grand Ole Creamery's Butterscotch Ice Cream Sandwich
Grand Ole Creamery's Butterscotch Ice Cream Sandwich
Amy Dahlin

Round 3: Flavor At the risk of sounding impolite, lavender-flavored ice cream can go to straight to hell, where it probably came from anyway. We were looking for deep, rich, traditional taste to chase away our sub-zero blues. At Grand Ole Creamery we enjoyed German Chocolate and Black Cherry. The coconut shreds offered a necessary texture contrast with the chocolate, and the big black cherry chunks lent a deep, true cherry flavor to the surrounding ice cream. But Lynden's version of chocolate ice cream is the Ur-chocolate -- dark, mysterious, decadent and thick enough to fill in potholes on residential streets. The Coconut Almond Bliss we paired it with was a traditional vanilla ice cream with bits of chocolate, almonds, and coconut. The nuts were chewy rather than crunchy (PRALINE THOSE NUTS STAT), and the coconut didn't dress up the vanilla enough.

And the winner is... Grand Ole Creamery. Perusing GOC's many flavors and then scaling their mountainous servings with a plastic spoon and a pal is a much better way to spend the winter than sweating it up at the gym, running multiple Netflix marathons, or murdering your whole family in a paroxysm of seasonal-affective disorder.

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