Some call it Spring …. I call it ice cream season.
It’s here! The time of year when my favorite mom-and-pop-style ice cream stands eagerly turn their signs from closed to open for business! I can’t wait to get that first taste of my favorite, chocolate and vanilla twist with chocolate sprinkles. Sure, temperatures still dip into the teens in the evening, and you may freeze standing in line for your favorite treat. But the payoff is so sweet as you take that first lick or scoop. It is spring in a cone, here to help us through the last doldrums of winter.
Because it is still chilly outside, I offer the following winter ice cream rules:
- Do not order a banana split – they take way too long!
- Know what you want to order before you get to the window.
- Tip your server! He or she is likely a high school or college student. Ice cream = kindness.
- Bring cash. Most of these stands are small businesses who may have to pay extra for credit or debit card transactions.
Whether you’re a cone, sundae or shake kind of person, where do you go for the best ice cream? Here’s a list of my favorite stops in Elmiraland:
KING KONE / 1315 College Avenue
Krunch Kote anyone? King Kone used to be one of the only stands that you could get this marvelously crunchy topping, which has since caught on at other places. This remains, however, the only one with bright yellow paint and a giant gorilla-holding-ice-cream on the roof. This stand is one that you might visit while on a first date after having seen a movie. It’s vintage! (And one of the first to open every year.)
BIG TOP/ Miracle Mile
Big Top is fantastic, so don’t let its location on the busy Miracle Mile scare you away! This little stand has been around for what seems like forever. While I used to be put off by all of the signs in the windows saying things like, “cash only” or “know what you want to order before coming to the window,” I now appreciate that they keep the lines moving. The Erie Railroad tracks run behind Big Top and occasionally the train will stop so conductors can grab lunch or a cone. That’s always fun to see.
FAIR SHAKE / Pine City
Fair Shake is really more of an experience, especially if you have young kids. They offer over 50 flavors of ice cream plus several dairy- or sugar-free options, a bunch of old arcade games inside, a fish pond in the back and a homemade barrel train that gives rides to little ones for FREE!
GRAND CENTRAL CREAMERY / Elmira Heights
Serving ice cream since 1959, Grand Central Creamery is the only local stand providing both walk-up AND drive-thru service. Here you’ll find 9 Perry’s soft-serve custard flavors along with over 40 varieties of hard ice cream. You can also spot the dole-whip flavor-of-the-week on their sign – I know a few friends who get really excited for pumpkin every year.
SERENDIPITY / Route 352, Big Flats
Serendipity is the new kid on the block. Stop here to break up your commute from Elmira to Corning or grab a sweet treat to enjoy at one of the tables outside. Serving Hershey’s ice cream, you’ll find all of the standards – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry – hard and soft, plus a bunch of other flavors. They have coffee, too, which I hear is great! This is a really nice place and a modern variation to the traditional stands we typically see in Elmira.
This wraps up my list of favorites … now get out there and enjoy some spring in a cone as we usher in the warmer weather!
I really don’t have the words to describe how fortunate we are to have Joycrest Skating Rink here in Elmiraland.
Upstate NY, “the hotbed for hot wings” as I’ve often called it; where every city has their own local spots that the citizens will say have the best wings out of anywhere. Elmira is no different.
I’ll start off by saying you can’t go wrong with any of these five options when you’re on the hunt to get your wing fix, but if you have lived in Elmira for any extended period of time, I’m willing to bet you know which two will be at the top. It’s an argument as old as time: Elbow Room vs. Bernie Murray’s. Everyone has their personal favorite, the place they need to go if they’ve left town for a while and need to get their favorite Elmira meal to make them feel right at home. I go back and forth between the two and have spent many sleepless nights deciding which one I will publicly claim as number one.
Well, I’ll stop wasting your time with the ranting and start wasting your time with my rankings. Here it goes:
1. Elbow Room
Like I said, this was an extremely difficult decision, but Elbow Room edged out Bernie Murray’s and the others for the top spot. The wings are amazing and what really pushed it over the top for me was the bleu cheese. While it isn’t part of the actual wing, it is part of the overall wing experience and given how close the two were, that is what broke the tie for me. The wings are crispy, delicious, and just all around fantastic, can’t beat ‘em! Preference: Hot with an extra bleu cheese (stingers if I’m feeling crazy)
2. Bernie Murray’s
Another establishment that is vital to the wing culture in Elmira, amazing wings that come out hot and crispy every time. What makes them a little bit different than Elbow Room is the sauce; the taste is pretty similar to Elbow Room but the consistency is a bit thicker which makes them stick to the wings better. Not sure if it’s less butter or how they go about it, but it’s fantastic. Look for them to contend again in 2019. Preference: Medium
This may be considered a sleeper pick – you don’t always hear them in the conversation for the best wings, but I personally love them (the pizza is amazing, too). The char grilled wings are delectable, and are great for when you’re looking for a change up from a normal wing. If you haven’t tried them yet make sure to move them to the top of your list. Preference: Garlic Parmesan
The wings at Pudgie’s remind me a lot of Elmira. To the outside eye maybe not the prettiest, maybe a little messy, but once you get familiar with them they will hold a special place in your heart forever. For Elmira natives, you’ve probably eaten these wings at pretty much every birthday party you’ve been to since the beginning of time. A party pack also makes for a great recovery Sunday meal if you spent your Saturday night at one of the local watering holes, as Elmirans have been known to do. Preference: Medium
5. Green Derby
I’m breaking the traditional mold here, and I may catch some heat for it, but that’s the risk you take when you get into hard hitting journalism pieces like this. Number Five for me is the popcorn chicken at Green Derby. Some might say that they aren’t wings, and this very well could be true, but I couldn’t write this article without including them, so feel free to berate me in the comments. Some prefer the larger boneless wings, but for me the popcorn chicken has been incredible every time, a true can’t-miss meal. Preference: Cattleman’s Gold
That’s my list; it ended up being a bit longer than I originally anticipated but it’s tough not to ramble when you’re discussing something you’re passionate about. I look forward to hearing about what I may have missed, or what your personal favorites are!
Opinions bravely contributed to Elmiraland by Mav Timson.
On a snowy, wintry night, sometimes you give into inertia and pile three to twelve blankets on yourself and extend a chilly digit or two out from underneath your heat nest only to affirm with a click “Yes, Netflix, I am still alive, if not necessarily well, and I do indeed want to watch another nine solid hours of this series.” (Just… just me?)
But sometimes I’m brave enough to stomp out into the snow. Recently, I walked over to the Finger Lakes House, a very short walk from the historic West Side and from downtown.
“Sometimes” is going to become “very often” if the restaurant keeps up with their fascinating revolving tap options, deep B-side cuts from the region’s breweries, and straight-up delicious food.
Anyway, my ear muffs and I are glad we went out.
There were too many obscure, interesting, mysterious options to limit myself to a pint. So my husband and I went for two flights – me and my dark porters/stouts/interesting reds, and he with his might-as-well-be-bludgeoned-by-a-pine-tree hoppy IPAs. There was a striking diversity of breweries represented on the menu, some I’d not heard of before, and a ton of beers that I know I’ve never seen at Wegmans. Finger Lakes Whiteout Wassail was my favorite of my flight – beautiful rich walnut color and a little burnt spice scent on top of a mellow brown ale.
Rotating taps and the enthusiastic curation of the region’s beer renaissance means I will be coming back often to see what’s new.
POTACHOSSSSSSSSSSS. (Kettle chip nachos + three cheeses!) Their take on beer cheese dip with carrots, apples, and soft pretzels was so rich that we cleaned the bowl in minutes.
On a less dairy-indulgent note, we also ordered the sweet potato flatbread with a drizzle of balsamic and it was an amazing savory addition. The food is sized to share several small plates – if they have that flatbread again, we’re each ordering our own next time, and we’ll share one of the cheesy options.
Will demand another investigative journalism trip to the Finger Lakes House. Will be walking over there again in the snow soon!
The house itself is a gorgeous remodeled 1870s row house, just cozy and charming from the pretty tin ceiling down to the long wood table with a custom inset of local river rocks. The level of care in the dining room echoes the owner’s devotion to the local beer and wine. A sweet respite from the snow and sure to be a sunny space as the days get longer in spring and summer.
It’s an easy five-minute walk from the First Arena to the restaurant. On-street parking is limited; there is a small parking area for customers immediately adjacent.