As someone currently allowed nowhere near an ice cream cone or hot dog, a girl can still dream. I liked this recent piece about Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue, in Norfolk, Virgina:
Now 88, Albert sports an orange cap bearing a stitched ice-cream cone and his nickname, “Big Al.” It sets off his gray suit, suspenders, and bow tie. Sitting by the humming soda fountains, he explains that Uncle Abe came to the United States from Damascus, Syria, around the turn of the 20th century, in hopes of making enough money to move his parents and three brothers here. Once his brother George joined him, the two worked in the waffle-cone business together, creating an ice-cream-cone empire. He would scout a location, arrange for a local ice-cream manufacturer to deliver his product, set up a site, and put one of his relatives in charge. The stands eventually stretched from Coney Island, N.Y., to Jacksonville, Fla.
Albert’s son-in-law, Randy Windley, says that at one point Norfolk boasted more than a dozen drive-ins, two of which were Doumar’s, including one on the beach near the Chesapeake Bay. In 1933, a hurricane flattened the restaurant on the water, and another in Florida closed when an interstate made the land it stood on more valuable than the restaurant. The Doumar’s that has stood on Monticello Avenue since 1934 is the family’s last outpost.
The place recalls another era: Fifty people can dine at the soda fountain or in booths that ring the restaurant, and the staff can serve about 60 cars at a time in the parking lot. Waitresses cruise the parking lot bearing trays of burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Several generations of one family arrive in search of homemade limeades or double scoops in a cone.
I live in a county north of New York City, with two foodie institutions I like, La Manda’s Restaurant — despite its formica, fluorescent lighting and noise — thriving since 1947 and Walter’s, whose extraordinary Chinese -themed red tiled roof and hanging lanterns on each corner has offered great hot dogs and curly fries on a quiet residential street in Mamaroneck since 1928.
When we’re in Paris, we live for Berthillon ice cream, with 33 amazing flavors like rhubarb and blood orange. The line-up at Berthillon’s shop on the Ile St. Louis (our rented apartment faced it) began early and often snaked around the corner.
(French women don’t get fat because when you order une boule [one ball, i.e. one scoop] it’s the size of a golf ball. Order a “small” in the U.S. at a Ben & Jerry’s or Baskin-Robbins and it’s three huge scoops, likely three times the calories.)
What’s your favorite foodie destination — in your town or elsewhere?