Hoboken Ice Cream by Dina
Anyone who knows me knows ice cream is my obsession, but then again, who doesn’t like ice cream? To me, a night isn’t complete without a pint of Haagen-Dazs or a few scoops of really great ice cream. I prefer a creamier ice cream made from cream, milk and sugar (Philadelphia-style) as opposed to ones with many ingredients or “gums” or eggs (frozen custard or “French style”). That’s why any ice cream shop with a “homemade” tag under its name attracts me (though homemade ice cream can be and is made with eggs).
Luckily, I live in Hoboken where my need for a cool, smooth “homemade” treat can be satiated. After all, this town has an ice cream soda named after it: the “Hoboken special” made with pineapple soda and chocolate ice cream, and this is the birthplace of the ice cream cone. In 1896, Italo Marciony sold homemade lemon ice from a pushcart wagon on Wall Street in glasses. The glasses had a tendency to break or to not be returned, so he invented an edible cone to hold the ice. In 1903, he patented the cone and sold ice cream from cones in his shop on 219 Grand Street until a fire destroyed it in 1934. Marciony would be proud that Hoboken has three ice cream shops that make the frozen delight from scratch.
One is the Ice Hut (201 Washington St.). Owned by , the Ice Hut has been serving the city its homemade Italian ices and ice cream from its walk-up window for years. All its ices and ice creams are fat and cholesterol free, so health-conscious Hobokeners know where to go for a guilt-free treat without climbing a mountain as runners used to do for Roman Emperor Nero two thousand years ago. The insane ruler sent them to the mountains of Italy to get fresh snow to which would be added wine, honey or fruit for his highness to eat. At the Ice Hut, flavors are more palatable but just as fresh. They change weekly and include lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry, lime and more. Vanilla and chocolate are the two flavors of soft ice cream sold here. Ices and ice creams can be combined for a “cooler,” or you can order an “ice shake,” which is a shake made with any flavor of ice.
I come to the Ice Hut when I’m in the mood for a light, refreshing sweet. Five-year Hobokenite (and my partner-in-ice cream-crime) Sheree Feigelson likes that all is fat-free here. “I can’t taste the difference,” she admits. Another favorite of ice cream hound Feigelson is Baskin-Robbins, the only non-homemade, commercial ice cream shop in Hoboken. Opened as “Snowbird” in California in 1945 by Irv Robbins (who later went in business with brother-in-law Burt Baskin), the store debuted its 31 flavors in 1953. Though not homemade, Baskin-Robbins has fun flavors and all-around good ice cream. I enjoy a “Raspberry Cheese Louise” cone with swirls of raspberry and cheesecake flavors, which is lowfat. The shop has fat-free, lowfat and no-sugar-added ice creams and sherbets, sorbets and ices.
Back to homemade: Family Scoops (320 Washington Street) makes homemade Italian ices, gelato, ice cream and yogurt. Owned by Robert McGrath, Family Scoops has been dishing out yummy, natural frozen treats since last summer. The spot used to house Flip’s Ice Café, which McGrath owned with a partner for three years. They made like bananas and split, McGrath opening a shop of his own under the name Family Scoops with two locations, one in Old Bridge and one in Hoboken.
The walk-up window in Hoboken attracts drivers, including Carlito Francese from Riverdale in the Bronx, who stopped by with a friend named Henry for some soft-serve cones. “It’s quick and easy to get some ice cream,” he notes.
While the Bronx boys went for soft ice cream, I’m more impressed with Family’s unusual flavors like tiramisu gelato, which is addictive. They have low-fat vanilla and chocolate yogurt as well. Their ice cream flavors include cookie dough (McGrath’s favorite), rocky road, strawberry and cookies and cream, and their gelato comes in flavors like chocolate raspberry, coconut, malted milkball, pistachio and vanilla chip. McGrath’s gelato is made with milk (no eggs). He orders the base from Italy and adds milk and flavors (which he stresses are all-natural). His ices are just as interesting and all-natural: green apple (for all the martini lovers), cantaloupe, cannoli, banana, passionfruit, watermelon, lemon and cherry.
Says McGrath, “I try to keep flavors more natural with fruit.” He mentions a competitor making ices with names like “moose tracks.” He adds, “I use fruit, no extracts or colorings added. I keep it on the healthy side.”
McGrath makes his frozen treats daily in the Old Bridge location and delivers daily to the Hoboken store. He loves his business. “Everybody’s always in a good mood when they get ice cream,” he says. “They’re treating their families, grandkids, kids, boyfriends, girlfriends…”
And they’re dogs. Yes, dogs. Family Scoops sells Frosty Paws as well.
Up the street a bit is Hobos (636 Washington St.), which has the look of a traditional ice cream shop. In addition to ice cream, it makes homemade candy as well (check out the chocolate party favors like the heart-shaped trinket box with lid—all made from white chocolate). Out front, there’s a huge sign advertising chocolate dipped strawberries. Inside, there’s a line of folks waiting for the unusual flavored ice creams. Hobos has the biggest selection. Its ices include yum-yum (the old-fashioned term for vanilla and my mother’s favorite), chocolate, pina colada, root beer, tutti frutti, pineapple and more. The shop also has fat-free ice cream (in flavors like raspberry and chocolate marshmallow) and sugar-free (in flavors like peach). It also has yogurt in flavors besides vanilla and chocolate, like peach. They also have sherbet in flavors like cherry lemon. (For those of you wondering what sherbet is it’s sorbet—fruit, sugar and water—mixed with egg whites and maybe some milk.) The big thing at Hobos is the ice cream, in various flavors like strawberry fudge chip and chocolate brownie cookie dough. And everyone has a favorite flavor.
Tim Emr, a one-year Hoboken resident who works in pharmaceuticals, loves coffee chip. He says, “I really like the consistency and smoothness of the ice cream.”
Dave Briganti, a one-year Hoboken resident who works in market research, loves the mint chocolate chip. “I like a hint of chocolate chip and the kick of the mint,” he notes.
The ice cream isn’t the only reason people come to Hobos. Emr says, “Hobos has a great selection. I like the family atmosphere.”
Whether you’re stopping by on a day trip, taking the kids out, enjoying a walk with a significant other or taking a break from a stressful day, you’ve got many yummy choices for a sweet treat along Washington Street.