As seems to be the case all over the east coast, the temperatures in Roanoke have been steadily climbing and the humidity has been settling on in and making itself at home. I am not a summer person. Even after more than a decade, I have not acclimated to the intense, heavy heat of Virginia summers. They make me cranky and irritable and lazy. I would so much rather be way too cold than even slightly overheated. In the winter you can always add another cozy sweater or fleece blanket, but come June, once you're naked in front of a big box fan with a sweating glass of ice water, there's not a whole lot of options left. Except ice cream.
Cue the wisely timed arrival of Roanoke's newest ice cream shop, Blue Cow Ice Cream Co, located right off the Greenway in the old HITS location. I never went to HITS, but I know it had a devoted summer following, so I think Blue Cow, open year round, is going to fit nicely. It's a great spot. You can walk up the Greenway and get the nice, cooling breeze off the river, or sit at the base of Mill Mountain with a clear view of the Roanoke Star. I've been twice in the past week, and parking is a bit tight, so there's definitely something to be said for walking in. Plus that helps justify the calories, right? A big draw are their inventive, modern feeling flavors. I get the impression they'll rotate some of them out seasonally, which will keep me on the look out for surprising options. I love that they partnered with local coffee roasters Red Rooster for their coffee flavor. Roanoke businesses are so dedicated to supporting each other and making the neighborhoods more vibrant.
The interior of Blue Cow is right on trend with its reclaimed wood and industrial touches. The big, blue pendant lights above the counter are charming, and my daughter went crazy for the gorgeous cow painting by the door. Sorry if she disturbed anyone with her boisterous mooing. The first time we went, around 3:45 on a Thursday, the line was long and moved slowly with all the curious first-timers like myself, so timing your visit to avoid the crowds will probably be a bit of a guessing game for a while.
I ordered a mini scoop of vanilla for my daughter for $2.50 and a single scoop of goat cheese with blueberry swirl for myself for $3.75. My sister had the brownie sundae ($6.50), and my friend ordered the goat cheese as well. Right off the bat I have to say, this is good stuff. It's all made in-house, and you can taste the freshness. I'd been looking forward to trying the goat cheese flavor, and it was delicious and creamy with plenty of chunks of berries in the blueberry swirl. For me, I could have gladly had much more of the savory goat cheese tang, as it had more of a mild cheesecake flavor, but I'm just really into goat cheese. It was lovely as is. The vanilla was, unsurprisingly, simple and yummy, and my daughter enjoyed it. My sister said her brownie sundae, which she topped with pretzels, was awesome.
When I went back this past Monday, around 2:15, it was much quieter, and there was almost no line. My friend and I decided to share a flight (just like at a brewery, you can sample four mini scoops for $9, a savings of $1 over buying them individually) so we could each try several flavors. They do offer free tastes before you order, as well. We ordered the birthday cake, chocolate brownie, roasted sunflower seed with honey, and sweet corn with black raspberry swirl.
Again, they were all delicious. It may not suit everyone, but for me what's so nice about their ice cream is that none of it seems to be overly sweetened. Even the birthday cake flavor was more creamy than sweet, and was a surprise hit for me, as I'm not typically a fan of frosting or the standard box mix cakes you associate with birthdays. I could have gone for bigger chunks of brownie in the chocolate (always more brownies!), but the base itself was tasty and rich. The corn was a bit more savory than I was expecting, and it was very good, but I would probably skip it for something else next time. I loved the roasted sunflower seed. I suppose I was expecting the ice cream itself to have a stronger sunflower seed flavor, but I liked the crunch of the seeds and it had a much deeper honey flavor than I'd expected. I'm a huge honey fan, so I would happily eat this stuff several times a week.
My one hang up so far, as much as I hate to play the "mom card" here, is that the seating inside is not super kid friendly. I haven't been out to the patio seating because it was busy and I like the air conditioning, so I can't speak to that. But inside several of the tables are very high bar style tables with tall metal chairs. Beautiful! But not going to work with a toddler in tow. There are a couple lower tables with cute, old fashioned wire chairs, but they fill up quickly. And they don't seem to have any high chairs available. The first time we went, I was a little brain fried and I didn't think to bring our stroller. Trying to wrangle an ice cream covered toddler was an adventure, and a high chair would have been great. But I didn't forget the stroller the second time, and that worked just fine, so it certainly isn't a deal breaker for me to enjoy visiting.
Will I be back? Absolutely. At some point I'd like to splurge and get two full scoops in their house-made waffle cones ($1 extra, a generous size, and they smell so good cooking behind the counter!) to get the full Blue Cow experience. They also offer milkshakes, floats, reasonably priced pints to take home, and bottled water. And to my pleasant surprise (and great Lactaid pill taking convenience) little cups you can fill for free at the water fountain. The prices are a bit high for me to make it too much of a regular habit, but I don't think they're at all unreasonable for the obvious care and quality they put into the ice cream. When the initial waves of newcomer crowds (myself included!) slow down a bit and it's easier to predict when there'll be a big rush, this could definitely become a go-to treat a couple times a month. Hopefully next time we can go on a cooler evening and walk in from the Greenway.
Till then, if you need me, you can find me naked in front of a fan, ice water in hand.