Attention nostalgic ice cream lovers: We’ve found the best chocolate ice cream to hit St. Louis since the much-mourned Gold Coast Chocolate. At The Fountain on Locust, they bring their ice cream from Wisconsin, and while there are other flavors that are extremely enjoyable, the Zanzibar Chocolate is absolutely killer.
The Fountain on Locust is only a few months old. It’s two blocks east of Compton, in an old Stutz automobile showroom that’s been turned into an Art Deco festival, complete with murals and, naturally, fountain fixtures. It’s the creation of Joy Grdnic Christensen and Argentina-born Natalia Penchaszadeh. Besides the malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes and cones, there are sandwiches, salads and soups, if your conscience insists on something to prepare your stomach for dessert.
The effect is of a sweet shop for adults, with wildly imaginative ice-cream dishes and cocktails existing side-by-side with items as old-fashioned as phosphates, so that grandparents can show the children what we drank when we were young. Ice cream sodas are delicious, too, and are an area to let an imagination run from plain vanilla to the wildest of flavor combinations.
Penchaszadeh’s kitchen shows the same breezy attitude and wide-ranging imagination. A fountain salad is strips of grilled, herbed chicken breast on lettuce, with apples, dried cherries, a little parmesan and a lemon dressing. The mixed salad sandwich brings out a baguette of garlic bread topped with melting mozzarella and a salad over that, more of a knife-and-fork dish than a pick-up-and-eat sandwich, with pieces of lettuce, tomato, green pepper and artichoke hearts in a basil-laced vinaigrette. And a prosperity panino layered hummus (thick enough that it didn’t ooze out in an unseemly manner) with tomato, onion confit, eggplant and zucchini on a crisply grilled bread. Off a menu of evening specials, a mushroom crostini (shown below) took a generous slice of crusty bread that had been grilled and topped it with lots of sauteed mushrooms, a few strips of roasted red pepper and a nice hit of very mild goat cheese.
On the soup front, an old favorite from the days when Jimmy Carter was president, peanut soup, is a regular on the menu. The kitchen sprinkles a little pepper on top, to cut the richness, a good idea; without it, the soup is almost sweet. The other soup is totally new to town, we think. Polish dill pickle soup turns out to be a potato soup laced with shreds of the pickle, its tartness a surprise and a pleasure. Both soups are vegetarian, as are three sandwiches, three salads and both hot focaccias.
We’re deeply amused by the World’s Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae, a wee scoop of vanilla (or any flavor you’d like) topped with the house-made hot fudge and served in what can double as a shot glass. It’s a great idea, and darn tasty, too, perfect for one trying to keep sweets under control.
Another dessert is a Pineapple Inside-Out Cake. The cake is baked in a large coffee mug, and the dish arrives towering with whipped cream. Then comes ice cream, usually vanilla, but once we wanted chocolate, and that’s how we found the Zanzibar, and another time, the coconut almond joy, which was wonderful. Yes, the ice cream melts to form a sauce for the sponge cake, which includes a pineapple ring as well as a brown sugar-rum sauce on the bottom. Talk about a treasure hunt, going through the layers of that.
We also couldn’t resist what the menu calls a standing banana split. In a tall glass, almost ice cream soda-size, are chocolate and red raspberry ice creams, topped with raspberry sauce and the house hot fudge, plus, of course, banana spears. While the raspberry is nice, it’s the combo of the chocolate and banana that blows us away, especially, the gooey hot fudge.
We look forward to trying egg creams, phosphates, and some of the alcoholic ice cream drinks, like a brandy Alexander, which is one of their more traditional offerings. Some non-ice cream cocktails also are available.
We’ve seen all kinds of folks visiting here, from business types having lunch–the finally-burgeoning Grand Center area is enjoying the Fountain–to post-dinner couples to cops and blue-collar types. (We continue to believe that St. Louis policemen, trained at the Crown Candy Kitchen, don’t do doughnuts, they do ice cream.) The younger ones can even be seen tapping their toes to the music, also decidedly retro. Late in the week, it’s open until midnight, a nice idea after the Fox or Powell Hall, and of course, the soon-to-open Kranzberg Arts Center. Be sure and check out the ladies room, which looks to have been lifted bodily from a small-town movie theater, circa 1940. Service can be spotty sometimes, but it’s improving.
How much fun is an Art Deco ice cream parlor? Plenty, especially if you’re old enough to appreciate the decor and the fact that it also has a liquor license.
The Fountain On Locust
3037 Locust St.
Lunch until 5 p.m Tues.-Wed., Lunch & Dinner until midnight Thurs.-Sat.
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Satisfactory