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REVIEW + PHOTOS: At Loblolly in Little Rock, a frozen flavor fest

By Ellis Widner

This article was published August 10, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.


A Float and Brownie Sundae await diners at Loblolly Scoop Shop.

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Photos by Ellis Widner

The Mountain Bird Mocha Shake, with its ribbon of dark chocolate sauce streaming inside, delivers on the promise of a summer cool-down.

Loblolly Scoop Shop

Address: 1423 Main St., Little Rock

Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Cuisine: Ice cream

Credit cards: All

Reservations: No

Alcoholic beverages: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

(501) 396-9609

We all need to chill out now and then, especially during a hot and steamy Arkansas summer day.

And what better way to do that than with a cool, sweet ice cream treat?

Loblolly Scoop Shop on Main Street in Little Rock's SoMa neighborhood brings the many splendored flavors of Loblolly Creamery, along with house-made syrups and all-natural and organic toppings, to its customers one scoop at a time -- sometimes, two or more.

The sleek, upscale shop is spacious, bright and comfy with lots of room to spread out, especially compared to its former digs inside Green Corner Store next door. The shop has white walls, dark wood tables and chairs and sit-down bars in front of the two large windows that flank the entrance. Customers can park it on the wooden chairs and savor their ice cream as they check out the neighborhood. The back wall has a whimsical mural by Layet Johnson.

There are multiple outlets to recharge your electronic device as you text or surf the 'net. But, really now, why would you want to surf when your taste buds can get this kind of stimulation? After you post your check-in of course. And maybe an Instagram pic or two.

The dipping cabinet holds up to 32 flavors of ice cream and sorbet. Loblolly is particularly creative with its flavors. The Honey Fig ice cream was a tantalizing balance of honeyed sweetness and juicy fig. Other creative ice cream choices include Coffee and Cream, Orange Creme Fraiche, Campfire S'Mores, a fine Rock Town Bourbon Pecan and, as a tribute to the capital city, a scrumptious Little Rock-y Road.

You may not care for buttermilk, but you just might care about Buttermilk ice cream, which was satisfyingly rich and suggests a flavor of plain cheesecake. Adding peaches to make Buttermilk Peach tasted even better.

The creativity extends to sorbets as well: Blueberry Lemon Sangria, Vanilla Coconut and Blackberry Hibiscus. In between, there is Watermelon sorbet, which contains some dairy products.

A wide variety of flavors is all well and good, but a shop rises or falls on the strength of the basics: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

The Double Vanilla, Milk Chocolate and Strawberry deliver. Even better are the Spicy Chocolate ice cream and the Dark Chocolate and Strawberry sorbets.

My taste buds were positively thrilled by the Mint Chip (cup or cone, $2.25 mini [one scoop], $4.25 small [two] and $5.25 large [three]; waffle cones $1.50 extra). It captures the flavor of fresh mint and achieves the right taste balance with the chocolate chips and just the perfect amount of sweetness.

When you're faced with a well-stocked dipping cabinet, making a decision isn't easy. Sure, the friendly staff will offer you a free taste or two. But there's an even tastier option: an Ice Cream Flight ($11), which lets one sample eight different flavors to enjoy or share.

As tempting as it was to take Flight, my companion and I, over a few visits, checked out some of the house specialties.

The Mountain Bird Mocha Shake ($7.50), with a ribbon of house-made dark chocolate syrup inside the cup, was a creamy delight. Made with Double Vanilla ice cream and Mountain Bird coffee and topped by fresh whipped cream, it was cool and refreshing.

Chocolate lovers should savor the Brownie Sundae ($7.50), with the richest tasting brownie I've encountered in quite a while. The warmed, moist brownie was topped with choice of ice cream (this time, Double Vanilla) and three of the 12 homemade toppings (we chose the killer dark chocolate sauce, luscious maraschino cherries and fresh whipped cream). The intense chocolate experience was too rich for my companion, who couldn't finish it. Luckily, I could help him out (yum!). Loblolly's other toppings ($1 each) include dairy free marshmallows, fresh berries and wonderful candied pecans.

My companion wasn't so thrilled with the Ice Cream Sammie ($6.25). The chocolate chip cookies were large, thick and flavorful, but his ice cream choice -- a disappointingly bland Cookies and Cream -- didn't add much. It's also a bit cumbersome to eat. A different flavor ice cream, though, might bring a different response.

The Soda Float ($5.75) is two scoops of ice cream in a glass with choice of house-made soda, root beer, Fanta orange or Coca-Cola. I chose a dip of Mint Chip and one of Double Vanilla with a Big Rock root beer. The foam-topped glass arrived with the rest of the bottled root beer. The icy root beer made lightly crunchy crystals on the surface of the ice cream; the sweet mint and earthy root beer flavors blended very well.

On one especially hot afternoon, the Sorbet Freeze ($5.75) delivered a welcome chill. The blended slush drink is made with sorbet and soda water. One can also create a Sundae ($7.50) with two scoops of ice cream and three toppings; or a Shake ($7.50), with three scoops of ice cream, milk, vanilla syrup and fresh whipped cream (add 50 cents for malt; coconut milk is $1 extra).

Since its recent opening, Loblolly has added coffee and espresso beverages and, since it's a scoop shop, there's a Cold Brew Float ($5.75) with iced coffee and your choice of ice cream.

Another cool beverage option: a House Made Soda ($3), with your choice of one or two of the nine house-made syrups.

Chocolate chip cookies ($2) and brownies ($2) can be bought separately. Loblolly also offers French Macarons ($2.25 each, $24 a dozen).

But here's the scoop: it's all about the chill, especially on a hot day. And the answer, my friends, is chillin' in the dipping cabinet. Or what's in the freezer by the pint ($8) for take-out.

Weekend on 08/10/2017

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