Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
Desperately Needing Niederfrank’s
’Tis a roasting hot afternoon. Salty trickles run down, stinging my eyes. Reminds me of when I just about passed out in the Anza Borrego.
Then I have a refreshing thought. Happens I'm heading up from the Old Town area of National City. And guess what? The oldest ice cream joint in ’Diego is at hand! I head across E. 8th Street to Niederfrank’s (726 A Avenue, National City, 619-477-0828).
Actually I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time.
I remember the gals Hannah and Sarah at the Olive Café in Mission Beach said they only ever stock Niederfrank’s, because it’s nat’ral, and doesn’t have air pumped into it to make it look bigger, and doesn’t have any dyes or chemicals.
“Have the vanilla float,” says Jimmy Cucinotta.
He’s sitting slurping at an outside table with Barbara. She has a cappucino crunch.
Jimmy and Barbara
Turns out they’re living the ex-pat life down in Rosarito. “We make a bee-line for here every time we come up, because the ice cream is home-made,” says Barbara.
So I head in, past a nice big painting of National City back in the day…like the 1940’s when Elmer Niederfrank and his brother Ed turned up from Iowa, bought a second-hand, belt-driven ice cream maker and started turning out anything that Elmer could create from natural flavors.
It’s all white in here, except for a butter-yellow skirting board and black and white checker tile floor.
Right now, I see about fifty buckets of different flavored ice cream laid out in the long freezer-counter. Lawdie. Flavors from pistachio to green tea to, wow: French vanilla with Stone Smoked Porter beer in it.
“I pour a growler and two liters of the porter in to every 5-gallon batch,” says Mary Ellen Fraught. She’s the lady I discover actually making the ice cream just through the door behind the counter.
Right now, she’s pouring newly-minted ice cream out of Mr. Niederfrank’s original 100-year-old ice cream maker into five-gallon buckets and hauling them off to the 60-year-old wood-lined freezer.
Oh man – long story short – and I’m gonna do a Tin Fork on these gals – bottom line is Mary Ellen says this stuff is healthy for the same reason it’s a little expensive. She’s standing beside a huge bag of dried hibiscus flowers...
...and another loaded with pistachio nuts.
The real thing. Not crushed, powdered, treated.
“We won’t touch chemicals or dyes. That’s why our ice cream doesn’t look like electric green for mint or orange for orange. What’s bad for you in ice cream is the chemical additives. Our flavors are real, and you can taste it.”
I see what she means about more expensive: Single’s $3.25, double’s $5.25, triple’s $6.75. Jessica, the gal at the counter, gives me a taste of the French vanilla with Stone Smoked Porter beer in it, and a bunch of others.
Jessica and Mary Ellen
The thing I notice is how danged creamy they are. Total deliciosity. End up having a caramelly tub.
And here’s the thing. Because it’s more dense – partly because they don’t blow air into it to puff it up – it takes longer to eat. You savor it more. You find yourself spending a little time up on Cloud 9.
So yes, you gets your value for money and your bod says thanks for not dropping all those dyes and preservatives on it.
You come away feeling good, and, today being its roasting-hot self, cooler.