Take advantage of these late sunsets. Check out one of the Howard County joints offering variations on soft serve, frozen yogurt, or even a bowl of ice and a dozen Korean ingredients. From standard to exotic, they're all a chance to escape the heat, hang out with your people, and remember why the hottest night is still better than being trapped in your house by winter's dark and cold.
For bonus points, pair one of these joints with an easy dinner:
- Soft Stuff on Rte 40 in Ellicott City. This is the gold standard for a summer night out. Soft serve ice cream at a picnic table. Banana splits for a few dollars more. Nostalgia for free. (Pair with Korean barbecue at Honey Pig or Shin Chon Garden.)
- Seibel's in Burtonsville may have the best ice cream, although I haven't been there recently enough to crown them officially. They are the closest place that I know that makes its own ice cream. They're creamy and delicious. (Pair with Cuba de Ayer.)
- Tutti Frutti in Ellicott City is my favorite outpost of the sour frozen yogurt trend. A second franchise opened in Columbia, and there are similar spots like Iceberry and Pink Beach on Rte 40 and Yogiberry in the Columbia Mall. Last year, I asked for help sorting out the different chains. (Pair the Rte 40 joints with Korean barbecue or with Lighthouse Tofu soon doo boo.)
- Cindy's Soft Serve on U.S. 1 in Elkridge. This seasonal stand has been on my "to do" list for two years, but the Elkridge Patch echoes the recommendation that I first heard from Lanette for soft serve and other frozen treats. (Pair with pit beef from Smokey & Uncle Grube's.)
- Pepperjacks Deli in Laurel. This family-run joint just south of Rte 216 serves great sandwiches, and it also scoops ice cream and whips shakes. There is a homemade playground that looks great for young kids. (Pair with Pepperjack's own sandwiches.)
- Rita's in Columbia and Ellicott City. This is one of our favorites, although I know people see them as an invading chain. Black cherry ice layered with vanilla cream. (The absolute perfect pair with pumpkin, kabobs and bread at Maiwand Kabob or with pizza at Trattoria E Pizzeria Da Enrico.)
- Snowballs in Clarksville, the Snowball Stand on Rte 99, and KyKy's Hawaiian Ice in Elkridge for shaved ice -- along with Pete's Snowball stand at Oakland Mills Road and Old Montgomery Road in Columbia. These are super simple -- shaved ice topped with a flavor shot. They're my treat when I'm doing errands. Confirm that KyKy's and Pete's are open in 2011. I haven't been there yet this season.
- Bon Appetit Bakery in Ellicott City for bing soo. This is a Korean desert with shaved ice topped (and then mixed) with chocolate powder, condensed milk, canned fruit, mochi and more. Take a risk. It's an exotic flavor, but you're guaranteed to leave chilled -- and to enjoy Bon Appetit's other desserts. (Pair with black bean noodles from Tian.)
- (Update: Meadows Custard in Columbia, which I forgot until a commentor pointed it out. The offerings run similar to Rita's with custard and ice. Plus they have coffees and more. Lots of benches at the Hickory Ridge village center and a bunch of options to eat, including Hickory Ridge Grill, Chinese, Italian and Peruvian chicken.)
RIP: Arties in Clarksville that had been a local hangout, but closed last fall.
Can anyone recommend other places for ice cream outside? (Update: Amber tweeted about the Savage Sno Cone Shack.) Anywhere good in downtown Ellicott City? Does anyone in Howard County actually make their own ice cream?