Izzy's, Sebastian Joe's, Dairy Queen, and more: Who makes the best root beer float?
Summer is the season for root beer floats, when we can burn off the calories from such sugary indulgences on a bike or the baseball diamond. We here at The Hot Dish decided to stage a float fight at a few of the Cities' ice cream hot spots: Izzy's Ice Cream, Minnesota's oldest Dairy Queen in Roseville, Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream Cafe, and the concessions stand at Lake Harriet.
Izzy's Ice Cream
The price tag for Izzy's root beer float ($5.75) made us raise our eyebrows at first, but we discovered the float made a healthy helping for two. Izzy's uses Sprecher Root Beer, made in Milwaukee, which was the favorite in a taste test of 25 root beers for the New York Times' food and wine writer Eric Asimov. To sweeten the deal, at Izzy's they don't just top off the float with root beer--they hand over the whole bottle. Izzy's also lets you choose which ice cream to add to the float. While one employee's mother had just come in for a float with soy blueberry ice cream, we stayed closer to the classic version, jazzing it up just a bit with vanilla bean ice cream.
The Dairy Queen didn't advertise root beer floats, but we got a small for $3.10. It was what you would expect from DQ--the classic swirl on the soft serve was pretty, but both the ice cream and the root beer (of unknown origin) were sickeningly sweet. The proportions were also out of whack, since we ran out of root beer long before we had finished the ice cream. The good news? Soft serve doesn't dissolve as quickly as ordinary ice cream, so there's not the usual aftermath of frothy, flat, watered-down root beer.
Sebastian Joe's didn't have root beer floats on its menu either, though it does have an entire menu devoted to floats made with Monin flavored syrups. We got a root beer float ($4.85 with tax) made with vanilla ice cream (no other flavors were offered) and Barq's root beer. The root beer was sweet, but the ice cream was Sebastian Joe's usual high quality. Our biggest complaint--flimsy spoons made it tough to get a bite of the soda-suspended ice cream.
Concessions at Lake Harriet
Ice cream floats are $3.50 at Lake Harriet, where the seating area overlooks anchored sailboats and passing joggers and cyclists. This was a classic root beer float, with root beer that wasn't overly sweet and ice cream that dissolved almost as quickly as we could eat it. The only problem was technical: The concessions stand didn't have straws. Sure, that might be more eco-friendly, but I prefer attacking a root beer float armed with a spoon and straw for alternating bites of ice cream with sips of root beer. The winner: Izzy's root beer float won us over by using premium root beer, giving us a choice of ice cream flavors, and for easily feeding two people. Sebastian Joe's would probably allow ice cream substitutions, but its root beer was an afterthought, and the portion was petite compared to Izzy's. We liked the nostalgia of going to Dairy Queen and the people-watching at Lake Harriet, but the floats weren't great.
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