The Dairy Godmother

Written by on September 21, 2012 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

( – Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia

How I heard of this place: We walked by, when our new friends, Hillah & Aaron, first introduced us to this quaint and very family-friendly neighborhood.

Looking out from inside


Type of cuisine: Wisconsin-style Frozen Custard, homemade fruit sorbets, and handy, exotic ice pops.”

Ambiance: Striving to create a “Third Place” setting, Liz, the owner follows Ray Oldenburg’s advice: “Social condensers” — the place where citizens of a community or neighborhood develop friendships, discuss issues, and interact with others — have always been an important way in which the community developed and retained cohesion and a sense of identity. Ray Oldenburg, in The Great Good Place (1989), calls these locations “third places.” (The first being the home and the second being work.) These third places are crucial to a community for a number of reasons, according to Oldenburg. They are distinctive informal gathering places, they make the citizen feel at home, they nourish relationships and a diversity of human contact, they help create a sense of place and community, they invoke a sense of civic pride, they provide numerous opportunities for serendipity, they promote companionship, they allow people to relax and unwind after a long day at work, they are socially binding, they encourage sociability instead of isolation, they make life more colorful, and they enrich public life and democracy. Their disappearance in our culture is unhealthy for our cities because, as Oldenburg points out, they are the bedrock of community life and all the benefits that come from such interaction. There are essential ingredients to a well-functioning third place. They must be free or quite inexpensive to enter and purchase food and drink within. They must be highly accessible to neighborhoods so that people find it easy to make the place a regular part of their routine — in other words, a lot of people should be able to comfortably walk to the place from their home. They should be a place where a number of people regularly go on a daily basis. It should be a place where the person feels welcome and comfortable, and where it is easy to enter into conversation. And a person who goes there should be able to expect to find both old and new friends each time she or he goes there.” The windows along Mount Vernon Avenue are set aglow with the light emanating from within the whimsical space. The Dairy Godmother logo, complete with sparkling, magic wand are displayed sweetly at the center of each of two, large street view windows. We enter and immediately stand in the line, which extends to the back of the square-shaped, sky blue space, winds past the Community Board of advertisements (mostly child-centered), back along the kitchen and order counter, around the wooden shelves of puzzles, t-shirts and bibs at the front, along the side wall with freezers for ice cream cakes, Puppy Pops (a frozen treat for dogs) and chalkboards noting Dairy Godmother news, prices and treat options. Rectangular-shaped fluorescent lights overhead are lined with wizard-blue plastic, cutout shapes of stars giving more whimsy to an already fairy-tale entangled setting. One wall is painted with a full-length/height/width mural of a star-studded night sky, complete with full moon and white picket fence; a real fence extending along the wall towards the back of the establishment to the jukebox and 3-D felt ice cream mobile hanging, enticing those of us waiting in line.

Wall Mural

What I ordered:  With limited custard/sorbet flavor options and plenty of mouth-watering sundae options, not to mention having seen the tray of freshly baked brownies, I immediately settled on the Godmom’s Brownie Sundae ($5), with warm, gooey brownies layered with vanilla frozen custard, fudge sauce and toasted almonds. Chris chose the Rice Crispy (large $4.75), vanilla custard layered with crispies and marshmallows, topped with whipped cream. Hillah selected the Dusty Road (small $4.24), vanilla custard layered with malt powder and fudge. Aaron went all out with the Banana Split ($6.49), topped with strawberries, fudge and pineapple.

Dairy Godmother Menu

What I loved: The warm, gooey brownies. The Rice Crispy’s sweetness surprised me, but sort of had me wanting more.

Why I loved it: A cute name for a family-friendly space full of children and their parents, a long, winding queue that moved continuously in a whimsical and artistic setting, just like the imagination of a happy-go-lucky five-year old.

Cost: Low to average ($6-$8 per bowl)

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