I Drink Your Milkshake

Amid L.A.’s civil war between trendy frozen yogurt chains, it’s easy to forget the Other White Dessert that predated all of this by decades: soft serve ice cream. I was reminded of the old stuff recently, when, ironically, returning from the dentist, I saw one of the L.A. area’s only Carvel locations, on Santa Monica Boulevard in West L.A.

For those of us who grew up in the New York area, seeing a Carvel on the other side of the country is an instant shot of comfort. Many of us have fond memories of the low-budget commercials by gravelly-voiced founder Tom Carvel, and of trips to the shiny steel and glass box Carvel store with the giant ice cream cone on top. We were served a variety of novelty products at Carvel, from swirly soft ice cream, to Flying Saucers (precursor of the Chipwich), to cakes in the shape of wacky characters such as Fudgie the Whale and my favorite, Cookie Puss.

With these memories in mind, novocaine-numbed mouth or not, I was determined to get my hands on some Carvel that day.  I navigated the rather tricky split road entrance east of Sepulveda and made my way inside. This Carvel was more modern and sterile-looking than I had remembered. But there was no mistaking those giant gloop-producing machines behind the counter. The store even had some Carvel historic information on the wall.

I ordered the standard form of currency in the ice cream world: a medium shake. Then I looked up at the price board. $ 4.95! My memories are jarred by Vincent Vega and the Five Dollar Shake. But in contrast to Mia Wallace’s “pretty fuckin’ good milk shake,” mine was only okay. I think the price was causing more pain than the novocaine was taking away.img_0884-wince.JPG

Afterward, I decided that, if the goal is to eat soft ice cream with history at a reasonable price in the L.A. area, then I must complete my cross-country journey by leaving Carvel for a new lover. Local long-time soft ice cream chain Foster’s Freeze sells medium shakes for $ 3.50. They’re pretty fuckin’ good. And the nostalgia is included for free.

7 Replies to “I Drink Your Milkshake”

  1. NEWSFLASH TO ALL YOU TRANSPLANTS!

    Carvel’s is NOT new to Los Angeles. In fact, there used to be more of them around circa mid-late 1970s. We too had those low-budget commercials with the ice cream cakes and whatnot. But you SoCal n00bs think you’re all special with your little East Coast nostalgia so you probably didn’t read this anyway.

  2. Thanks for the info., Militant. But I never wrote that Carvel was new to L.A. I wrote that there are only a few locations in the area. That’s a fact.

  3. There was a Carvel in Torrance (adjacent to the BEST – remember those?) when I was a kid. I totally grew up on the stuff and I have no idea why people think it’s an East Coast thing.

  4. Quick, somebody inform the San Diego Union-Tribune. They ran an article in 2004 entitled “East Coast’s Carvel Ice Cream Chain Makes New Attempt to Expand in West,” in which they cite Carvel’s “aggressive expansion beyond its New York base” and its unusual step of requesting zip code information from the Postal Service and various New York universities for New Yorkers who left town, so that Carvel could “target” these customers in their new locations.

    This is in addition to Carvel’s website, which indicates that Tom sold ice cream in New York for decades before expanding. But if Californians want to lay claim to Carvel, have at it. I’ll still be at Foster’s Freeze, saving money on milkshakes.

    However, if expansion into a new area decades later makes one a local or even a native, then I guess there’s no longer such a thing as an East Coast “transplant,” right?

Comments are closed.