If someone tells me to eat somewhere, I make a note of it. When two people tell me to eat somewhere, I underline it. When three or more people tell me to eat somewhere, I go there as soon as humanly possible.
That’s how I found myself on a twilight quest for ice cream in White Bear Lake, Minnesota on a hot summer night. I was bound for Cup and Cone, the 43 year old ice cream and fast food institution that inspired a stream of Tweets full of multiple exclamation marks and ice cream cone emojis. In my line of work, that kind of enthusiasm is a very good sign.
Another good sign? Cup and Cone is open from 10 to 10 every day of the week, yet there was still a line halfway down the block every time I drove by. If you decide to join the throngs of ice cream seekers at Cup and Cone, here’s what you can expect to encounter on your quest.
As previously mentioned, there will almost always be a line, unless you’re the sort that craves ice cream for breakfast. So you go when the ice cream spirit moves you.
You secure a spot in in line behind three elderly gentlemen, a father and his children and what appeared to be an entire Little League team still in uniform. Then you gather the group (in this case, my parents and son) to get down to the important business that brought you to this roadside kiosk at dusk in the first place: choosing your flavors.
Cup and Cone offers chocolate and vanilla soft serve ice cream and a variety of novelty treats every day. The mysterious flavors of the day are revealed at the window. (And on Twitter @CupandConewbl or on the Cup and Cone Facebook page, for those who hate surprises or are bad at deciding on the spot.) And decide you must, for the line is long and your fellow ice cream seekers are pretty darn decisive.
You’re drawn in by the weird glow of the menu boards stacked two deep. As with all good quests, this one leaves you pondering the big questions in life: What’s the difference between a submarine and a hoagie? Why don’t I know what capicola is? Why spell out “hard salami” and abbreviate “chez”? It’s just a few more letters! Ooh look, a croissant…
When you finally step up to the magical lighted window, you freeze. (No ice cream pun intended.) You will get distracted by the options and the stealthy Vanilla Ice reference in your field of vision. (You’re looking for it now, aren’t you?) You have no clue what to order when the moment of truth arrives.
Thankfully, the little girl ahead of you in line takes pity on you and insists you try a birthday cake waffle cone with such confidence that you just nod at the woman in the window to indicate your agreement. You recover your senses in time to add a lime freeze for the table to share, because someone you’ve never met on Twitter said it was awesome and strangely, tips like this almost always come through.
This time is no exception. The lime freeze is icy and refreshing, a mixture of a slush and soft serve. The ice cream itself is light and delicious. The waffle cone is thick, yet apparently permeable, since it begins dripping dramatically in all four cardinal directions mere seconds after it’s placed in your waiting hands.
Your party makes its way to a cluster of picnic tables, clutching an impressive (and rapidly depleting) supply of napkins. Miraculously, the crowds part and a table opens up. Your dad and son get vanilla and chocolate ice cream respectively. They are so busy inhaling it that you give up on the idea of taking a photo immediately, since keeping all of your fingers is actually quite important for someone who types for a living.
Your mother gets grape ice cream, which sounds odd, but is actually pretty good. Strangely, it is almost the exact same hue as your birthday cake cone, which could be a trick of the fading light or just another Cup and Cone mystery you’ve yet to unravel.
As darkness falls over White Bear Lake, you take one last look at the Cup and Cone sign, glowing like a beacon in the night. “Until next time,” you think as you turn to walk away. “I’ll be back.”
What about you? What do you order at Cup and Cone? What’s your go-to ice cream flavor? What’s your favorite summer night tradition?
Cup and Cone
2126 4th Street
White Bear Lake, MN
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