- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The Ice Cream Factory & Cafe is nestled among the fast-growing suburban subdivisions between heavily traveled Routes 301 and 5 in Brandywine. Named a Prince George’s County historic site, the Ice Cream Factory & Cafe’s home is the former Marlow-Huntt General Store and Post Office, which dates to 1867.

Pulling up to the cafe, it is easy to see the attention that owner-operators Dave and Cheryl Watts have dedicated to this charming neighborhood eatery. A front porch wraps around the exterior, and classic Tiffany-style lamps and historic photos of the site grace the interior. For older patrons, a visit is sure to conjure images of a bygone era; young visitors can learn a little history just by stepping inside.

While many restaurants play mind games with their name, the Ice Cream Factory & Cafe couldn’t be more straightforward. The ice cream — or “soft-serve frozen custard” — is made daily on-site, and the cafe serves up a wide range of homemade delicacies. Although the food isn’t exactly four-star, the fare should exceed your culinary expectations of a neighborhood-style eatery.

Sides, or what could be considered starters or appetizers at any other restaurant, vary from mozzarella sticks and thick-cut onion rings to a delicious homemade cream of crab soup. One of the nice features of the Ice Cream Factory & Cafe, unlike some other small eateries, is that all items are cooked to order and make it to the table hot and fresh.

The cream of crab soup is a must if you are looking for a great start to your meal. Generous portions of crab are mixed with a creamy broth, creating a very balanced soup —not too chunky or too much liquid. The soup was slightly heavy on the Old Bay seasoning, but I think you have to chalk that up to being in Maryland.

The entrees include fresh deli sandwiches and boardwalk-style corn dogs, as well as several seafood options, such as crab cakes and fish and chips. Standouts on the entree menu included the crab cakes, which were cooked to perfection — crispy on the outside, soft and full of flavor on the inside — and they come with a generous helping of fries and cole slaw. The fish and chips and the seafood platter — fried shrimp, crab cake, rockfish and hush puppies — are two more delicious options for those looking for seafood.

The cafe offers a variety of other delectable offerings, such as pulled-pork barbecue sandwiches, Black Angus beef burgers, and deli sandwiches served hot or cold. Not to downplay the hot foods, but many of patrons come strictly for the desserts, and that is where the Ice Cream Factory & Cafe truly shines.

The establishment produces a rich, soft frozen custard that is available in 24 basic flavors, with seasonal additions. The flavors are blended into the frozen custard before it is served. Standouts include English toffee, peanut butter and pineapple-pistachio. For an added treat, try frozen custard in one of the specialty cones; choices includes pretzel, Reese’s Pieces and M&Ms.;

Sundaes, which can be made from any of the many flavor blends, come loaded with a mountain of fresh-crushed peanuts and whipped cream, and a cherry on top. Fruit smoothies are a welcome distraction from the almost all dairy-based dessert selection. Among the seven smoothie flavors, the strawberry-banana stood out with its fresh chunks of banana and strawberries.

Other choices include a hot fudge brownie sundae, malts, floats, milkshakes and iced coffee drinks. One of the most enjoyable sweet treats during my visit was the banana split boat, which could be a meal by itself. Constructed with a ripe split banana, the dish goes vertical from that point on. Vanilla and chocolate custard are then placed on top of the banana, along with strawberry, pineapple, a velvety smooth hot chocolate syrup, crushed peanuts, whipped cream and a solo cherry.

The staff is friendly and very attentive. During the visit, samples of desserts and fresh smoothies were offered to each table and those waiting in line. Interior seating can be a little cramped during a busy hour: The cafe offers only four tables inside. But there is plenty of seating outside, with benches and picnic tables in front of the historic building.

Although the Ice Cream Factory & Cafe is a little off the beaten path, it is definitely worth a visit, whether for lunch, dinner or a late-night run to satisfy that sweet tooth — it is open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

RESTAURANT: Ice Cream Factory & Cafe, 13700 Old Brandywine Road, Brandywine, Md.; 301/782-3444

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICES: Starters 75 cents to $6.75; entrees $1.55 to $12.95; desserts $1.25 to $5.25

CREDIT CARDS: Visa, Mastercard and Discover

PARKING: Lot parking

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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