Wednesday, August 21, 2013

adventures in Brookings: the Dairy Bar edition.

I’m about to state the fairly obvious here, but I love ice cream. Who doesn’t? Summertime is prime time for ice cream, but I am more than happy to eat it all year round.

I’ve had a lot of good ice cream in my day (and don’t even get me started on gelato!). From Sebastian Joe’s in Minneapolis to the official Blue Bunny ice cream shop in Le Mars to your regular old Dairy Queen, it’s hard for me to find chocolate ice cream that I don’t like. But there is one ice cream shop that stands above the rest, and that’s the SDSU Dairy Bar.
The SDSU Dairy Bar has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m almost positive that the Dairy Bar is the first place I ever went out for an ice cream cone. When I was growing up, they were only open in the summertime and had less-than-perfect hours, so you had to change your schedule to fit them… but it was always worth it.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in Brookings with my grandparents. I took summer swimming lessons there, so I would ride in with my Mom every morning. She would drop me off with Grandma and Grandpa, and they’d take me to swimming lessons. After swimming lessons, though, the day was ours. Brookings was my oyster. Grandma and Grandpa were up for anything, and so I was I: especially if it involved eating. So after lunch at Nick’s or McDonald’s or wherever my five-year-old-heart desired at the time, we would almost always swing by the Dairy Bar.

While my grandparents were certainly the biggest propagators of SDSU ice cream in my younger days, those carefree days of ice cream and sunshine eventually came to an end. When my Brookings swimming lessons gave way to Arlington swimming lessons, I no longer spent the majority of my summer days with my grandparents (much to their relief, I would imagine!). I’d still head in to Brookings for a day here and there, and those summer days always involved ice cream.  

When I was old enough to have a driver’s license and a shiny silver Buick Park Avenue, my friends and I spent many MANY summer hours in Brookings. The Dairy Bar was always on our to-do list. Whenever cousins visited and ice cream was requested, I knew right where to take them.

My Dairy Bar days had a revival of sorts when I started going to band camp. Band camp was at SDSU, and as part of your camp tuition, you got a bunch of coupons for free ice cream. The counselors also had a bunch that they’d hand out at their discretion (usually to get us to shut up). We’d have some free time during each day, so naturally, we’d gather a big old group of band kids and wander away for ice cream. SDSU also had a habit of giving away ice cream coupons at every single SDSU event geared to high schoolers – I got Dairy Bar coupons when we went to an SDSU science fair, when we visited the cadaver lab (remember that story?), at the Festival of Cultures, and – of course – on college tours and the big college fair. If SDSU hadn’t been just too close to home, you better believe that all that free ice cream would’ve been an effective recruitment tool for me.

So I’ve told you all about my history with the Dairy Mart, but I haven’t yet told you just what makes the Dairy Bar so wonderful. First of all, their servings are HUGE. You choose how many scoops you want, but they always double whatever you asked for. You also choose the vehicle in which your ice cream would arrive: cone or dish. I have always been a cone person, but a heaping cone of SDSU ice cream is no match for me. Since there was always so much of it, the ice cream would melt and start trickling down my arm before I could even make much of a dent. So I stick with dishes.

And the FLAVORS! They have your run-of-the-mill stuff, like butter pecan and strawberry. Dairy Bar ice cream flavors don’t get too wild, but you can find pumpkin ice cream in the fall and mango (I think) in the summer. The rest of their flavors rotate, but you can always count on the classics – and honestly, the Dairy Bar has the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had. I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate ice cream in my time, but nothing has been able to outshine the Dairy Bar. It’s rich and creamy, and it’s made on-site. SDSU is well known for its agricultural programs, and dairy science is a tasty part of that (their cheese is amazing, too). Those dairy students sure know what they’re doing.
See how much they love the Dairy Bar?
Next time you’re in Brookings and get a burning desire for ice cream, skip Dairy Queen (BORING) and find the Dairy Bar. You can thank me later.

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