The 10 Best Classic Ice Cream Truck Treats

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The 10 Best Classic Ice Cream Truck Treats

Have you noticed fewer ice cream trucks in the last few years? You’re not alone. It turns out that rising food and gas prices have made owning an ice cream truck a tricky business. More and more ice cream truck owners are saying that they’re having a difficult time making ends meet as the price of everything from vanilla ice cream to sprinkles is on the rise.

But in years past, getting a freezing cold treat from the local ice cream truck was the highlight of the summer. As a kid, I remember running outside as soon as I heard the truck’s signature tinkling music, always a song that was familiar yet somehow alien coming from the vehicle’s strange, booming sound system. Sometimes, the neighbor kids would run out of their houses too, their hands clutching dollar bills, their parents trailing out behind them, less visibly excited at the thought of the sugar rush than their kids but still carefully eyeing the menu on the side of the truck. Our parents would chat, and I’d sit on the grass, letting the melted chocolate drip from the treat in my hand onto the grass, my legs, the chalk-decorated driveway.

Now, I always keep some ice cream stocked in the freezer, especially during the hotter months of the year. But walking to the kitchen after dinner doesn’t exactly hold the same appeal as hearing those first faint notes coming from the ice cream truck, going outside and chatting with the ice cream truck driver before enjoying my treat right there, in the heat of the sun. I can’t help but to be sad for the generation being raised on mini Hold the Cones from Trader Joe’s instead of classic ice cream truck fare.

I’ve decided to revisit some of my old favorites. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can still find ice cream trucks, these are the classics you have to try.

1. Drumstick

These sundae cones were an absolute staple of my childhood. I remember first trying them from the ice cream truck before my parents got a Sam’s Club membership and we would just buy them by the box. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is encased by both a waffle cone as well as a hard chocolate shell. The chocolate is also encrusted with crushed roasted peanuts. I would always go for the plain variety, as I thought the caramel-filled version was far too sweet.

2. Klondike Bar

Klondike Bars deserve recognition for their simplicity—it’s literally just vanilla ice cream in a hard chocolate coating. It may sound like it’s too simple, but the chocolate and vanilla flavor combo combined with the textural contrast between the soft ice cream and the brittle, breakable chocolate shell makes Klondike Bars one of the best ice cream truck treats out there. If it’s hot enough and the chocolate starts to melt, though, it’s game over. You have to eat these fast.

3. Push-Up

Ice cream truck selections can go heavy on the chocolate treats, which is why Push-Ups were one of my favorites. They offered a juicier, tarter alternative on those days when it was too hot to contemplate anything too rich. As a kid, I loved that they turned my tongue a different color, but I’d probably avoid these now for just that reason.

4. Fudge Pop

Fudge pops are for people who just like the idea of chocolate but don’t actually want the real thing. What I love about these treats is the fact that they’re so creamy. Do they taste a little artificial? Yes. But if you’re eating a fudge pop just for the texture, you’re going to love every bite.

5. Strawberry Shortcake

I never, ever ordered those strawberry shortcake bars on a stick when I was a kid, but I finally tried one a few years ago, and I was shocked to discover that it was actually really, really good. It’s probably pretty obvious that it doesn’t taste that much like an actually strawberry shortcake, but that artificial-tasting strawberry flavor is somehow perfect on a hot day.

6. Ice Cream Sandwich

There’s nothing like biting into a cold ice cream sandwich. No matter how frozen these things get, those thin chocolate cookies somehow always remain soft and pillowy, while the firm but velvety vanilla ice cream in the center delivers the perfect amount of creaminess.

7. Firecracker

Firecracker popsicle sticks were always my go-to treat around July 4th. I’m a lot less patriotic now than I was when I was eight years old, though, so I think the novelty of the red, white and blue stripes has worn off by this point. The fruity flavor profile has never been anything impressive—it’s all about the aesthetic.

8. Ice Cream Cup

Those circular ice cream cups with the wooden spoons may just be my all-time favorite dessert. The swirls of chocolate or fruit syrup transform the average-quality vanilla ice cream into a treat that’s deeply memorable, but the real magic is in that wooden spoon itself. It imparts its woody flavor on every bite of the ice cream, which is at once unappetizing and also kind of delicious in a nostalgic way.

9. Dreamsicle

This orange-flavored ice cream treat was horrifying to me when I was younger. Why would I pick a fruity milk on a stick when I could just take a fudge pop to the face? But now, I see the error of my ways. The Dreamsicle, with its bright, unfussy, almost tart flavor, is ultimately the most refreshing dessert you can choose from an ice cream truck.

10. Chipwich

I didn’t want to choose favorites, but it has to be said: The Chipwich is the best ice cream truck treat of them all. When you eat a Chipwich, you’re not forced into the old baked goods-or-ice cream dessert dichotomy. You can have the best of both, with a thick slab of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies. And the extra chocolate chips around the edges of the ice cream? Poetry.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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