If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then ice cream should be preening right now. Over the years, our beloved dairy confection has met many a cool challenger: Frozen custard, gelato and frozen yogurt have all vied for our appetites, and for a piece of the market.
Frozen yogurt hit a peak several years back with new shops opening faster than the speed of sprinkles. Though some have survived, many have since been shuttered. North Texas has several ice cream alternatives that have either proven their longevity, or are gamely — and busily — giving the market a tasty try.
And if you’re wondering how all this stuff differs from ice cream, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association can help out. It tells us that U.S. federal standards define ice cream as “not containing less than 10 percent milk fat and 20 percent milk solids, as weighing not less than 4.5 pounds per gallon, containing not less than 1.6 pounds of food solids per gallon and containing not more than 0.5 percent stabilizer.”
Frozen custard follows the same formula, except that it must also contain at least 1.4 percent egg-yolk solids. There are no federal standards for gelato or frozen yogurt.
Let’s dig in and sample a few other frozen-treat places with DFW roots.
Curly’s Frozen Custard: According to its website, this popular Camp Bowie Boulevard spot has a story that echoes many of the ice cream shop stories: After sampling his first frozen custard during a business trip to Wisconsin, Fort Worth’s Bourke Harvey decided to open a frozen-custard shop in Texas. He graduated from Frozen Custard School in Michigan in 2001, then opened Curly’s, featuring a regular menu of flavors and concretes (that’s custard with a combination of mix-in ingredients), plus a flavor of the month (we look forward to summer’s traditional peach). It’s not all frozen custard — Curly’s also offers hot dogs, Frito pie and even Cheeto pie. Although there has been talk of expansion, the Fort Worth Curly’s is currently the only location. 4017 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. 817-763-8700 ; curlysfrozencustard.com .
Woolley’s Frozen Custard: Unpretentiously situated in a strip shopping center on North Beach Street in far north Fort Worth, Woolley’s was opened in 2003 by longtime friends John Woolley and Brett Allen (both grads of Richland High School and the University of North Texas). Allen is a Fort Worth native; Woolley had lived in Springfield, Mo., where frozen-custard shops are common. Both were looking for a career change and found a sweet solution when they went into business for themselves. As befits UNT grads, they offer a concrete called UNT Mean Green — vanilla frozen custard with mint and Oreos. 7630 N. Beach St., No. 166. 817-503-9918 .
Sweet Sammies: This family-run shop in Fort Worth’s West 7th development doesn’t make its own ice cream, but its concept — ice cream sandwiches made with Blue Bell and homemade cookies “from Gramma and Grandpa’s kitchen” — is pretty hard to resist (yes, you can have cookie dough ice cream between two cookies). Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was a regular at the shop when he was still at TCU, and has been known to make return visits. 825 Currie St., Fort Worth. 817-332-0022 ; www.sweetsammies.com .
Pop-N-Cream: Owner Frank Bowles told DFW.com in 2013 that he’s going for a maltshop/nostalgia factor with this gourmet popcorn/vintage candy/ice cream store in Fort Worth’s Montgomery Plaza. The ice cream is, once again, Blue Bell — but try it in one of Pop-N-Cream’s signature Two-Step Sundaes, 24-ounce concoctions that are sundaes on the bottom and milkshakes on top. Yes, you’ll need a spoon along with your straw. 2600 W. Seventh St., Suite 135, Fort Worth. 817-870-5005; www.popn cream .com .
Yumilicious: Frozen yogurt is a tough biz, with several DFW shops opening and closing during the past five years, but Yumilicious has thrived since opening its first store in uptown Dallas in 2008. It now has more than a dozen locations, most of them in North Texas. Multiple area locations. http://yumilicious.co .
Wild Blueberries Frozen Yogurt: This shop across from Keller’s Central High School, formerly known as just Blueberries, had been dormant till recently. Lisa Regitz, who lives nearby and had been a regular visitor to the old store, bought it recently, added the “Wild” to the name and reopened it May 16. It has quickly become a gathering place for Central students, but there are plenty of adults in the booming surrounding Keller/far north Fort Worth area to check it out. 9500 Ray White Road, No. 127, Keller. 817-741-6634 ; Facebook: Wild Blueberries Frozen Yogurt .
Paciugo Gelato & Caffe: This gelato shop has 44 locations in 16 states now, but it started in Dallas. According to its website, Italy native Cristiana Ginatta fell in love with gelato, learned to make it in culinary school and perfected her skills at a Turin gelateria. In 2000, Ginatta and her family moved to Dallas, where they opened the first Paciugo (which means “messy concoction,” but the only messiness we’ve ever encountered with Paciugo is when one of its generous servings starts melting over the side of the cup). Paciugo has hundreds of flavors in rotation; Ginatta even once teamed with Food Network host Bob Blumer to make such unusual flavors as chocolate chipotle butter pecan for the 2009 Austin Ice Cream Festival. But most of what’s in the stores is more traditional. More than a dozen area locations. http://paciugo.com .
Central Market: The grocery store has gelato stands at its stores in Fort Worth, Southlake and Dallas, all of it made in-house. According to a company spokeswoman, the recipes have recently been revamped, based on a more authentic Italian process. Always worth checking out, but especially during Central Market’s occasional food fests, when you can find such items as chocolate Hatch chile gelato or other seasonal limited batches. Five area locations. www.centralmarket.com .
Wild About Harry’s: A frozen-custard pioneer in DFW, this shop (which also does some good hot dogs) in Dallas’ Knox-Henderson area has been going strong since 1996. Oklahoma native Harry Coley started the store, inspired by the frozen custard his mother made to relieve the hot summers when Coley was a boy. The store even uses Coley’s mother’s recipes. 3113 Knox St., Dallas. 214-520-3113 ; www.wildaboutharrys.com.
Sweet Firefly: Another candy store/ice cream parlor, Richardson-based Sweet Firefly makes its own ice cream weekly, but not on-site: According to proprietor Patti Otte, it churns across the street, in the kitchen of a local church. Sea salt caramel is the most popular flavor, but check out Kooky Monster (bright blue vanilla ice cream with gooey chocolate-chip cookies) or Beltline Berry, Richardson’s “official ice cream” — black raspberry with dark chocolate chunks. 2701 Custer Parkway, Richardson. 972-635-5635 ; www.sweetfirefly.com .
This report contains material from the DFW.com archives.