Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there is no one who doesn't adore ice-cold treats in August. But the true believers are those who line up at ice cream shops and custard stands in April, paying homage to double dips of goodness on a chilly spring day. A Sunday afternoon field trip, searching out early-blooming bowls of double-dark fudge and cookies-and-cream, made us pray for a long, hot summer.
The line extended into the parking lot at Weber's Premium Ice Cream and Custard (20230 Lorain Road, Fairview Park; 440-331-0004) on the day we visited. Owner David Ford throws wide the doors each year around the time of the Indians' home opener and keeps going until the end of the season, whipping up cool treats in vintage machines at the rear of his tiny shop. Folklore has it that, back in the 1930s, Weber's was the actual birthplace of the Frosted Malted custard, made famous in the basement of Higbee's on Public Square. And to this day, staffers here can barely keep up with the demand for the nostalgic stuff, with its understated chocolate-malt flavor and its incredibly rich texture. A taste of days gone by can be had for as little as $2 for a single frosty, $3.35 for a double. Weber's is open daily noon to 9 p.m.
A little farther west, we found Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream (26161 Detroit Road, Westlake; 440-250-0952), a colorful, contemporary year-round parlor with lots of tables and chairs, as well as a few benches out front for alfresco pleasures. Here, brothers Mike and Pete Mitchell make what is probably the region's best ice cream, including delicate coconut, rich coffee, and our current fave, double-chocolate chunk, with big mouthfuls of soft candy -- almost like chocolate truffles -- embedded in high-intensity chocolate ice cream ($1.65/single, extra dips $1.15 each). If you can pull yourself away from the straightforward pleasure of cones and cups, there's also a mouthwatering selection of specialty sundaes, shakes, malts, sodas, and fat-free fresh fruit smoothies; Mitchell's ice cream also shows up on the menus of some of the area's hippest restaurants, including Lola and Kosta's in Tremont and Blake's Seafood Grill in Chagrin Falls. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Way down south -- in Macedonia, to be exact -- Tommy Olivo Jr. had just begun another season of making some of the most delicious and authentic-tasting lemon ice and orange sherbet around, in his modest little roadside stand, Tommy's Dairy Whip (1206 Aurora Road; 330-467-1004). Soft-textured and refreshing, with an inspired balance of sweet and citric flavors, the lemon ice is not only yummy, but has the added bonus of being fat-free. And while the sherbet has a bit of cream added for richness, it still captures that yin-yang, sweet-tart thing that makes us want to twist and shout. A large portion of either will set you back $2.60. Springtime hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday; extended hours in the summer.
Elegantly retro Johnny's Bar (3164 Fulton Road, 216-281-0055) just landed a DiRoNA Award, making it one of only 723 restaurants in America so honored. The award, established in 1990 to recognize outstanding dining rooms throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, will be presented at a Grand Awards Gala in Montreal on September 26.