Monday, July 17, 2017

Soft Stuff Lost The Creepy Motel, But Made A Friendly Corner On Rte 40 For Ice Cream

Soft Stuff ice cream with rainbow sprinkles
I didn't believe that Soft Stuff could recreate the magic on Rte 40, but now I've taken a kid to lick ice cream on a summer night -- and I can see they pulled it off.

Soft Stuff is now a cash-only ice cream takeout in a shopping center on Rte 40 across from the Enchanted Forest shopping center.  Years ago, it was a classic haunt -- a wooden ice cream stand attached to a rundown motel in sight of Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  In 2012, the old site was demolished to make way for the new construction.

Back then, I didn't think the new place would capture the magic.  Soft Stuff had a specific vibe.  Teenagers behind the counter.  Customers basically loitering in a parking lot on hot summer nights.  I loved it then, and I felt the same this summer as Lil' Chow negotiated his way into a waffle cone plus sprinkles, then licked, licked, licked ice cream overlooking the parking lots.

River House Pizza Co. going down the row
The folks who redeveloped the old motel hit some real home runs for food.  They have a Korean restaurant in there, a Korean coffee shop, another Asian restaurant, a kabob place, Glory Days and more.  On my last visit, I surprised to see signs for River House Pizza Co.  That's Nathan Sowers' mobile pizza operation that has run off Main Street for years, and they're expanding to run a restaurant and headquarter his catering business, according to Joshua Gordon in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Definitely hit up Soft Stuff.  It's worth a visit on its own.  You order at the counter, then enjoy one of the few inside seats or the row of outdoor benches.    It's pretty basic soft serve.  But that's perfect for a warm summer night, doubly perfect if you get to watch a kid try to eat the entire cone before everything melts. 

And keep Soft Stuff in mind when I write more about all the great restaurants in the neighborhood.  The Enchanted Forest is headlined by White Oak Tavern.  The Soft Stuff development has its own restaurants.  And across the parking lots is a renovated shopping center with established Honey Pig and a new run of Thai, hot pot and tea.  In many ways, Rte 40 is winning the restaurant competition around here, and I'll post more soon.


Ken Oh said...

Loved it before, love it now. Soft Stuff is the best soft serve.

My only regret is that Dan Bell wasn't able to get footage of the creepy motel.

Simon said...

Nice to hear you think it's good. Remembering the old Soft Stuff, I remember going after the remodel, and while the soft serve was good, it felt just like any of the other icecream and froyo places around: a bit too modern, and both in decor and temperature (the AC was entirely too low - even for an icecream place).

Maybe I ought to give it another try as I've not been motivated enough by my first experience to make the trek from Columbia again.

Leeann said...

I agree with Simon, above. The soul of Soft Stuff was lost for me when they moved.

That being said, you can get a great waffle with gelato and topping at Cafe Bene, along with great Honey Bread. And I can't wait for Riverhouse Pizza to open- that is GREAT pizza!

In the Enchanted Forest shopping center, we love Ernestos.

The Unmanly Chef said...

Recently visited the Korean restaurant on the bottom level of the new shopping center there, definitely has some potential, will be posting soon about it. Eager to try Riverhouse as well

LexC said...

If you still want the parking lot vibe, attached to a motel, with teenagers working you can always visit Cindy's in Elkridge! They have yummy soft serve, great milkshakes, banana splits, sundaes, snowballs. It's definitely a great place, even when the line is almost down to Route 1.

Eric said...

Just got notice Mimi's Cafe has closed. Will miss the muffins. Had seen several rumors about what may go in there. Anyone know for certain?

Anonymous said...

Mimi's is becoming Silver Diner (a relocation of sorts from their Laurel location, which is becoming a Double T Diner).

Gene said...

I agree something is missing at Soft Stuff. They made the store look nice but it is not the best layout for busy days. They have an end location, an outside walkup window, for summer evenings, would have given it more of the old Soft Stuff feel. It's almost too corporate and not homey enough. They sell snowballs, but they need chocolate.

Jim Smith said...

Glad to see Mimi's go. On May 5th my wife and I went there. Both On the Border and Houlihans were packed due to Cinco de Mayo stuff. Mimis was empty. No specials at all in the bar for Happy Hour, either food related or drink related.
The bartender was upset because he said both the bartender and the general manager quit that day. At the bar there was only one other group of people and in the restaurant only one family. This was the first time back in over a year because our food was horrible the last time we visited. Were not planning on going back.

Evelyn said...

We tried the Thai place, eattini, when it opened. The staff were super nice, but the food wasn't authentic enough for us. But I did like me a Kung Fu milk tea with bubbles!!

Anonymous said...

Can't say I was overly impressed with the "new" Soft Stuff when we went there shortly after it opened in the new spot, probably, what, three years ago? The "stripes" of flavor in the soft serve were gimmicky...could hardly taste them. Also, the "open slat" customer table tops were already filled with an accumulation of old sprinkles, ice cream drops, cone pieces, etc. that had fallen between the slats. Yuk. Why did they choose a design that can't be cleaned properly?! Haven't been back.

Katie said...

Just saw yesterday that they are building an ALDI in the Gateway Overlook shopping center in Columbia where Office Depot used to be. It is in the same shopping center as Costco.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's great news about Aldi! That location is only steps away from Trader Joe's. Doesn't Aldi _own_ TJ's? ??

Gene said...

Same family owns Aldi & Trader Joe's but they split up 50 years ago.

عبده العمراوى said...

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شركة نقل اثاث بالاحساء
شركة تنظيف موكيت بالدمام
شركة تنظيف موكيت بالخبر
شركة رش مبيدات بالدمام
شركة رش مبيدات بالخبر

dzoey said...

@Anonymous - Aldi's is run as two companies, Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud. Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe's and Aldi Sud owns Aldi in the US. Their both owned by the Albrecht family, but are run as separate businesses.

I think Gateway Overlook is a good place for an Aldi. I hope it does well.