One thing Ohio does exceedingly well (besides giving birth to football coaches and fast food restaurants) is produce great ice cream. It defies logic really, why a place that is freezing cold for what seems like an eternity merits as perhaps the greatest state for a cold confection (sorry New Hampshire) but it is nonetheless true. Both Jeni’s (Columbus) and Graeter’s (Cincinnati) have there start in Ohio and both have been lauded as the best ice cream in America.
Given it was 907 degrees in Columbus The Monster took it upon himself to hit up both and this is what he found…
Jeni’s is the hip store of today to Graeter’s nostalgic soda shop feel. There are piercings and tattoos galore from the staff, indie rock playing and a lively atmosphere pervades as one is serenaded by the unusual flavors screaming to be consumed. And the staff here is not high school kids looking for extra cash over summer vacation, these are serious ice cream-heads who take great pleasure in describing the artisan choices.
The Monster ultimately gets a salty caramel with smoked almond macaroon with fresh whipped cream on top. It is a thing of beauty, it is a little piece of art as ice cream. And it is maddeningly delicious. Rich, flavorful, sweet, salty, it is a marvel for the taste buds. The Monster is highly impressed.
On to Graeter’s. This is a no frills take the kids for ice cream kind of place. It doesn’t mess around with fancy flavors or the cool factor. It says you want a banana split we’ll make you a great banana split. It says order some chocolate and vanilla ice cream and you’ll be happy. So that’s what The Monster does.
And it is delicious. Each bite is a little slice of growing up when going to get ice cream seemed like the greatest thing in the world. There is nothing fancy about it, none of the staff is there to talk you through Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate or Wildberry Lavender (actual flavors at Jeni’s). Graeter’s has been around since 1870 so it’s doing something right.
In the end, there is a place for both in The Monster’s world. Sometimes you want to be dazzled and sometimes you want to be wrapped in the warm embrace of familiarity.
Why go? It’s ice cream. Enough said.
Monster rating: Jeni’s 4½/5 Monsters, Graeter’s 4/5 Monsters