Ice Cream Showdown | Taste Test

If it’s July, and you haven’t had ice cream at least once this week, you’re falling hopelessly behind. Stark County boasts a plethora of tasty spots to help beat the heat and load up on sinful calories in the process. Here, we tend not to stray far from the classics — unlike Ohio City’s Mason’s Creamery, a food truck turned brick-and-mortar, churning out original recipes such as Vegan Thai Basil (yes, that’s an ice cream) and Vietnamese Coffee.

If it’s July, and you haven’t had ice cream at least once this week, you’re falling hopelessly behind. Stark County boasts a plethora of tasty spots to help beat the heat and load up on sinful calories in the process. Here, we tend not to stray far from the classics — unlike Ohio City’s Mason’s Creamery, a food truck turned brick-and-mortar, churning out original recipes such as Vegan Thai Basil (yes, that’s an ice cream) and Vietnamese Coffee.

No, like it or not, we stick to the good old-fashioned flavors—for now, anyway. This month, we feature five of our all-time favorite local homemade ice cream shops around the county.

New Baltimore

taste_newbaltLegendary in these parts, New Baltimore Ice Cream is a small, old-fashioned ice cream stand, serving utterly enormous portions of homemade made ice cream. It’s located just inside the Stark-Portage County border, east of Hartville in Marlboro Township.

The menu is simple and concise: Typically about nine flavors are available—four of which are constants (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and butter pecan) and five of which are rotating. Piña colada and maple nut won me over, and the kids loved the root beer ice cream. The place also offered a fro-yo option (Wildberry Granola, for example) and even a fat-free/sugar-free option, such as Amaretto Almond.

Needless to say, New Baltimore offers sundaes, floats, shakes and banana splits as well. But the biggest draw is the huge portions, with old-fashioned prices.

For less than what you’d pay for a grande mocha at Starbucks, you’ll walk away with a double scoop (I use that term loosely) of your favorite flavors on a waffle cone — which visually equates to a couple of pints of ice cream.

Patrons are friendly and loyal; we chatted with a couple from Tallmadge (which made us feel slightly less silly for driving 25 minutes). They told us about the crowds that convene on the hottest summer days, when lines extend to the street and beyond.

Ballfields around the corner also draw crowds of Little Leaguers post-game. Don’t forget to bring cash.

Woody’s

taste_woodysThere aren’t many true drive-in root beer stands around anymore. When I was a kid, my dad would take me to A&W for a frosty root beer and a coney dog. It was always exciting to see the energy and activity of the teenage staff (female, of course—the boys worked at Swenson’s!) running from car to car, yelling orders back to the kitchen.

Woody’s is a smaller version, but with more historical charm. Opened in 1947, Woody’s hasn’t changed much, from what I hear: It’s still serving homemade root beer (brewed on site) out of a small stand with parking for a couple of dozen cars, where carhops greet you as you pull in.

While the coney dogs, wrapped with melty American cheese, are superb (and unbeatably priced at only $2), don’t dare miss the root beer floats. Served in a heavy glass mug, the root beer is creamy and fantastic — worlds better than any you’ve tried before. And they give you enough to wash down your lunch, before digging into the scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream, shrouded in a thin layer of ice-cold, frosty brew.

The root beer is so good, you may want to take a gallon to-go ($6.50)—if you wonder what the empty milk cartons hanging around out front are for, that’s it. Woody’s is just nostalgic fun, a true gem in our little city. Another warning: cash only!

Taggarts

Everyone knows Taggarts as an institution in Canton for homemade ice cream and the almost-famous Bittner. A trip to Taggarts is like traveling back in time. The flagship location on Fulton Road has been serving Canton’s sweet tooth since 1926, situated in a picturesque old neighborhood not far from the McKinley monument.

Inside are two rooms: an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and the creaky wood booth-lined dining room, where you can order from a classic-filled menu including burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and homemade soups. Standard fare for the most part, not including the Ultimate Hot Dog, an all-beef frank topped with coney sauce, cheese, tomato, mustard, relish and chopped onion. A side of breaded, cheesy cauliflower beats french fries any day.

But at Taggarts, you must leave plenty of room for dessert. The classic Bittner, as we know, is traditionally vanilla ice cream, blended with homemade chocolate sauce until a smooth and creamy soft consistency is achieved, then topped with roasted salty whole cashews (enough to accompany nearly every bite), whipped cream and a cherry.

This combo is fantastic, but with a slight modification of salted caramel ice cream instead of vanilla, a whole new world is revealed. I’ll bet banana or coffee ice cream would work splendidly, too; you can dream up different combinations with Taggarts’ nearly 20 flavors of homemade ice cream.

Almost Heaven

taste_heavenMy husband and I have been bona fide followers of Almost Heaven since it made its debut at Taste of Canton several years back. It has a spiffy, clean location on Middlebranch Avenue NE that, like many seasonal stands, opens around late March and closes in October. There’s even a drive-thru for ice cream consumers on-the-go.

The menu consists of more than 20 homemade flavors of good old-fashioned hard ice cream. While it’s certainly not uber cutting edge with ingredient combinations, Almost Heaven does the classics well, such as butter pecan (phenomenal), Blue Moon (we don’t know what’s in it, but kids love it), and Oreo (loaded with crumbles of the good stuff).

Homemade waffle cones are the best vessel, allowing for maximum creamy indulgence. My two favorite flavors are orange pineapple — a creamsiclelike orange ice cream with pineapple blended in, and raspberry chip — a light, “berrilicious” base loaded with dark chocolate chunks.

The staff at Almost Heaven concocts a “flavor of the month” such as seasonal peach, or pumpkin in the early fall. It offers some chow too—a variety of hot dogs and coneys, as well as pulled pork.

In addition to your typical ice cream cones, Almost Heaven offers about every other ice cream dish imaginable: sundaes, shakes, banana splits, floats, slushies, even made-to-order ice cream cakes.

Cherry Street Creamery

taste_canalNothing makes you hungrier for ice cream than a nice long excursion on the Towpath Trail, which is why Cherry Street Creamery in downtown Canal Fulton is a perfect midride stop. CSC has more than 30 original varieties of homemade, hard-packed ice cream, including original recipes such as mocha cappuccino fudge and cream cheese carrot cake.

It has a variety of sundaes too, including my personal favorite, the hot fudge brownie mint sundae, served in a boat-shaped dish that will challenge even the biggest sweet tooth. It starts with a double-size chewy chocolate brownie, which is covered with two huge scoops of homemade mint chocolate-chip ice cream, then a hearty portion of hot fudge cascading over the top. This one is big enough to share—see for yourself.

In addition to “Red Hot Chicago” dogs, CSC has soft serve in three flavors plus a flavor of the week, yogurt and sugar-free options, sundaes, smoothies, etc. On my “must-try” list are the baked apple dumplings and homemade ice cream pies.

So next time you’re traveling through Canal Fulton on the towpath, remember that balance is important, and grab a cone for the road.

ICE CREAM
Modified Bittner

Taggarts
1401 Fulton Rd. NW, Canton, 330-452-6844
TaggartsIceCream.com
Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor on Urbanspoon

Root Beer Float

Woody’s the Rootbeer Stand
2303 Fulton Rd. NW, Canton, 330-455-2900
facebook.com/WoodysTheRootbeerStand
Woody's Root Beer Stand on Urbanspoon

Hot Fudge Brownie Mint Sundae

Cherry Street Creamery
136 W. Cherry St., Canal Fulton, 330-854-9939
facebook.com/CherryStreetCreamery
Cherry Street Creamery on Urbanspoon

Pina Colada and Maple Nut Ice Cream

New Baltimore Ice Cream
14738 Ravenna Ave. NE, Marlboro Township
facebook.com/NewBaltimoreHomemadeIceCream

Orange Pineapple and Raspberry Chip Ice Cream

Almost Heaven
6590 Middlebranch Ave. NE, Plain Township, 330-587-1094
AlmostHeavenIceCream.com
Almost Heaven on Urbanspoon