We eased into a parking spot directly in front of the new ice cream shop, awash in the bright light flooding out into the dark summer night that illuminated a throng of people inside.
It was after 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, not long after the rolled ice cream spot quietly opened at a strip mall on northwest Greensboro alongside Organix Juice Bar and Melt’s second location. But despite the quietude of the far-flung shopping area and the parking lot’s emptiness, it appears that the New Garden Road set have discovered the region’s hippest new dessertery en masse.
As I held the door open for a woman while she exited before we walked in she ominously said, “It’s worth the wait.”
Inside Ice Scraperz, it took my girlfriend and I second to calibrate the scene in front of us. What looked like a doubled back line to order was actually a crowd of people watching their ice cream being made, tapping their feet and twitching with mild irritation at the wait. A tall man standing at my shoulder offered unsolicited information — he’d been waiting for his order for 40 minutes already.
Rolled ice cream is one of the country’s biggest dessert trends right now, and visually it’s exactly what it sounds like. Liquid ice cream is poured on a freezing griddle — it’s 30 degrees below zero, according to a sign up at Ice Scraperz — and after toppings or flavors are mixed in, it’s pressed flat and then rolled up into tight spirals that are served standing up in a cup. Picture curled pieces of paper made of ice cream, creating an almost floral arrangement as they poke up from the cup.
Rolled ice cream traces its roots to Thai street food, and the culinary tradition started hitting the mainstream in the United States two years ago. Now it’s spread to the Triad, not unlike the DIY fro-yo places that took Greensboro by storm several years prior. But for now, Ice Scraperz is the Triad’s lone pioneer.
Behind the counter, a legion of what looked like mostly high schoolers working a summer job pounded out an incessant rhythm as they worked the griddles, sort of like a more involved version of what the staff does at Cold Stone. Despite being thoroughly staffed, there wasn’t anything the kids could do to speed up the process; they had to literally watch the ice cream freeze.
Most of the creations let you pick three toppings of your own. But after the warnings from two customers, we both chose pre-selected options for speed, choosing a cake batter special with whipped cream, Pocky (chocolate coated sticks) and sprinkles and a sweet & salty special with chocolate ice cream, pretzels, caramel and whipped cream. We could’ve been more adventurous and chosen variations with “unicorn bark,” Pop Rocks, cotton candy or Nutella, but we intentionally moved with speed.
And it paid off.
Moments after we ordered, a long line reaching out the door materialized. We’d come at a relative lull, our orders only taking 30 minutes. Compared to the weary man who warned us when we walked in — who waited for almost 15 more minutes on top of his estimated 40 before his cup was ready — and the rush that came after us, it appears we got off easy.
While rolled ice cream is made differently than the normal ice cream shop experience, the real appeal is aesthetic rather than material. Any difference in taste proved negligible — the chocolate seemed a little icier and maybe lighter than a usual cup, but otherwise we didn’t notice anything out of the norm. There’s an adventure factor, but the best approach is to accept ahead of time that you’re doing it for the ’gram.
And that’s why you should order something like the Unicorn, with its purple and sprinkled wedge of bark, or the more straightforward Strawberry Cheesecake. Namely, avoid toppings like a chocolate chip cookie or whipped cream that will obscure the top of the rolled ice cream — the rolls are the whole point!
Several teens snacked on the S’mores option, with a leaning tower of marshmallow atop graham crackers and chocolate. Instead try a more colorful ice cream like the Very Berry with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and lemon zest and add your own varied toppings: maybe pretzels, unicorn bark and sprinkles for color and crunch.
And good news — orders come with a color-changing spoon, adding to this dessert’s photogenic nature.
If you’re going, try to avoid peak hours, but plan to wait a little regardless. Stand in front of the glass and watch your order take form (without crowding those poor kids), and scout the menu on Ice Scraperz website so you have a rough sense of what you want beforehand.
It would be easy to add rolled ice cream to the list of novelty dessert trends that already exist here, especially over-the-top milkshakes at places like Burger Batch in Winston-Salem or Burger Warfare in Greensboro. The real question is whether it has staying power and will spread or whether this is more of a one-off sort of experience.
Will it catch on, similar to the spate of fro-yo topping bars around the city, and if it does will it knock off the nearby Feeney’s in the process? It’s hard to predict trends — the food/service industry is tricky enough as is, and somehow a solid, independent ice cream shop doesn’t seem to be able to make it downtown, with almost zero options citywide unless you include gelato, frozen yogurt, a couple chains or Blue Bell.
Even a national craze like rolled ice cream (or raw cookie dough at Tart Sweets in Winston-Salem) might not hold on long. But at the very least, Ice Scraperz is the flavor of the week, if not summer ’17.
Visit Ice Scraperz at 1941 New Garden Road, Suite 106 (GSO) or at icescraperz.com.