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.

33 comments:

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...

قمة الدقة للخدمات
شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
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.

Anonymous said...

Texas Roadhouse/Columbia update. Was told today by T.R. rep at Rockburn Antique Car Show that Columbia will open end of Sept/early Oct.

Anonymous said...

Saw that OC Brewing Company opened in Gateway Overlook recently.

JR Rothschild said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Junior Barnes said...

FYI - The signs for OC Brewing Company just went up today.

Anonymous said...

Texas Roadhouse Columbia sked to open 9/18 https://www.facebook.com/txrhColumbiaMD/

Anonymous said...

Primo Hoagies has closed again.

Anonymous said...

Really (on Primo)? Not hugely surprised, always pretty empty at lunch time. A little disappointed. I thought the crowd level and food were both better prior to the first shut down, and they never really recovered.

RickC50 said...

I agree about Primo. Also, they did nothing to publicize their presence in Columbia, their service was extremely slow (even after the lunch rush), and they were not really visible from the roads around it. My neighbors and friends in Columbia were not aware of their existence! Even though I was a frequent patron, I had a gut feeling that they were not going to last. In Philadelphia, everybody knows Primo. Down here, they needed to make a name for themselves, but they never managed to do that.

Junior Barnes said...

WTOP.com is reporting that Sprouts Farmer Market will open in Ellicott City early next year. More specifically at 9150 Baltimore National Pike. In other openings, "Meatballs Etc" , a chain, will open up in Jessup in the shopping center where Moms is located, sometime this winter.

In old news, according to Food & Wine magazine, Royal Farms has been named "Best Gas Station Food in the US" (mainly for their fried chicken). (I guess it doesn't matter that the Royal Farms near me doesn't sell any gas.) (Courtesy of Patch.)

Also courtesy of Patch, the most scenic restaurants in Maryland were named. For some reason, they didn't pick our parking lot patios. I can't understand why not. :)

RickC50 said...

I think 9150 Baltimore National Pike is the former Mars Supermarket store.

Anonymous said...

Previously I highly recommended You Pizza. Well, I take it back..sort of. The pizza tasted great when they first opened but has not been the same for at least the past couple months. Even the cashier told me they have had numerous customers say the same. I was so disappointed with the pizza on my last few visits that I decided to try one of their salads. At $13.88 and up with one protein, they certainly not cheap.
However it was delicious and filling; that is what I will order going forward.

Anonymous said...

tried it one Fri night, busy, ordered a bunch of tater tots, burgers and was stuffed. decor is nice, and the little patio should hold more patrons though.

Anonymous said...

the decor was nice, they really try to bring Maryland flavor in it. we sat at the bar, was packed on a sat afternoon at 4pm. all the other booth and really were also filled. the bartenders were very attentive. portions were big, we got the catfish and burger with steak fries. also they got you a basket of rolls that are buttered and comes with a sweet spread (can't pinpoint the flavor of it). and they also got peanut bins everywhere to peel peanuts!

Anonymous said...

you can always order a Costco pizza for 10 bucks. the eatery now takes card!

Katie said...

Saw a sign for Xenia where Gadsby's used to be off of Centre Park Drive. They have a Facebook page which says coming in 2018. https://www.facebook.com/pg/Xenia-Greek-Kouzina-1442967085790244/about/?ref=page_internal

Junior Barnes said...

Patch is reporting that BIBIBOP -a Korean chain - has opened in the Columbia Mall where ShopHouse was located. It's build your own Korean dish kind of place. Web site is here: http://bibibop.com/

Junior Barnes said...

Shake Shack is opening at the Columbia Mall on Wednesday December 20 (h/t Patch).