Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the Ice Cream (Pt 1)
444 Main Street, Monroe
Cost: a few bucks, but expensive for ice cream (Cash only), July 2010
(Don’t expect too much different here from the other Dr. Mike’s entry if you’ve read that one – from our visit to their Bethel location. which is a good thing, since Dr. Mike’s in Monroe has closed – Bethel location is still going strong.)
There are a few other Roadfood “Eat Before You Die” list entries with more than one location. Some of the others are mere pretenders; that is, the name is franchised (i.e., Swanky Frank’s) whereas others seem to be the real deal (i.e., Westbrook Lobster House in Wallingford or maybe Pepe’s pizza. But not really Pepe’s Pizza.) But CTMQ is only interested in the original joints. The places where it all began.
Well, except when it comes to premium ice cream apparently. BUT, there is a qualifier: The ice cream at the Monroe Dr. Mike’s location is made fresh and delivered daily at the original 10 miles northwest in Bethel. To reiterate, per the Dr. Mike’s Facebook fan page, “Dr. Mike’s in Bethel is still owned by the “original” owner. The ice cream we serve is made in that location daily and delivered to the Monroe store every day.”
Route 25 is one of my secret roads in the state. Since I-95 is always gridlocked at certain times, I usually take the Merritt up from lower Fairfield County. But since the Merritt is a total crapshoot, I’ve often been forced to seek alternate routes. Route 25 from Bridgeport to Newtown is one such route. It’s another of Connecticut’s fake highways – looking like an interstate for its southernmost ten miles, only to shrink to a two-lane road through Monroe and Newtown, it’s still a good way to get up to I-84 when in a pinch.
And, if you’re ever forced onto Route 25, psssst, there’s a little ice cream shop halfway to 84 that will make the detour more than worthwhile: Dr. Mike’s in Monroe. Keep a lookout for it on the right-hand side, as you get to the center of Monroe’s village of Stepney.
That’s right, Stepney. Don’t scoff, Stepney has a rich and proud history – and even a Stepney Heritage Trail. (I crossed the road to read the sign there, which is how I learned about the Trail – which I won’t be doing by the way. But know this: Mark Twain hung out right here, telling stories around a fire back in the day – so says the sign.
The things you learn while getting ice cream… I guess that’s what separates me from normal people. I make the effort to go read the random signs across roads.
But we were there to learn about good ice cream; aside from Roadfood’s love, Dr. Mike’s has been mentioned by more than one CTMQ reader through the years. Perhaps partly due to their longevity: Dr Mike’s has been around for 30+ years now.
For more than a quarter century now, Dr. Mike’s of Bethel, Connecticut, has been making what we consider to be the richest ice cream on earth. There aren’t a lot of flavors, maybe eight available at any one time in the small freezer of the pint-size store; but each flavor is devilishly rich, sensually creamy, and so intense that after two scoops, tastebuds are exhausted. If it is possible for an ice cream to be too rich, this stuff is at that line of demarcation.
Several of Dr. Mike’s flavors set standards only approached by other brands. “Rich chocolate” is more deliriously chocolaty than a melted Hershey bar, but with the added luxury of all that high-butterfat cream. “Chocolate lace and cream” is a Dr. Mike’s exclusive flavor, using a chocolate-covered hard candy that is made in big, webbed sheets by a local confectionery. The candy is broken into bite-size pieces and suspended in a pure white emulsion of sweetened cream: another dreamy experience, but we definitely suggest getting it in a cup rather than a cone. The crunch of the candy conflicts with the crunch of a cone.
A sundae at Dr. Mike’s is an ice-cream-a-holic’s dream. One pint container is filled approximately half full with globes of the ice cream flavor(s) of your choice. The ice cream is then heaped with dark, grainy, very-hot hot fudge or a syrup of sweet/tart cherries, then piled with freshly whipped cream and topped, if you wish, with chopped walnuts or mixed nuts. By this point, the pint container is full to the top; and eating it is ecstasy.
The CTMQ Experience
Since I knew I’d be hitting the two different Dr. Mike’s, I knew I could have one of the Roadfood recommendations now, and the other later. (Despite the wildly changeable menu, they always have a few stalwarts available – including the “required” Rich Chocolate and Chocolate Lace. This time, I went with the Chocolate Lace without having any idea what it actually was. (I didn’t read the full Roadfood review until now.)
Hoang had some sort of chocolate coconut almond concoction that I knew was ridiculously good simply because she was silent as she ate it. Damian, too, plowed into his cherry blueberry cream ice cream. (Though if I must find something to complain about, it’s these hard ice cream joints that provide customers with cheap flimsy spoons that simply cannot handle the hardness of the ice cream. For four year olds, it gets pretty frustrating.)
The chocolate lace was exactly as Michael Stern described it above. (Although I had it in a sugar cone and didn’t find that the crunchy cone detracted from the crunchy chocolate bits – that’s just silly.) I’m getting into this “sweet cream” ice cream stuff. I had never had it before I had the plain sweet cream down at Timothy’s in Bridgeport. It’s subtle and not too sweet; no complaints from me, but surely not for the more typical sweet tooth.
The Monroe location is confusingly in an old candy shop named B-Sweet Treats, which no longer exists as it once did. It’s now pretty much a Dr. Mike’s ice cream shop that also sells a few pieces of candy here and there.
Their concept of “single scoop” is similar to my late Granny’s, where one equals three. That meant I just had to finish off Damian’s cup, which was just as good as my own cone. The whole bits of cherry were tart and provided an excellent counterpoint to the sweetness of the rich cream.
Who says you can’t have ice cream for lunch on a hot summer’s day? And with over 130 flavors in rotation, that’s a lot of summer’s days one could visit a Dr. Mike’s and be happy every time.