Night was beginning to encroach. Not enough to merit using headlights, but enough to know that it was dusk that was on the way and it wasn’t just another flash storm. Sometimes even the least bit of illumination is enough to radiate, and this sign was glowing. I wasn’t even that hungry, but something wasn’t about to let me neglect it. I opted for a child sized Black & Tan. Cone, not pint.
Since 1937, this place has been evoking the same classic American charm on Route 117 at the town line between Maynard and Stow. With a single building standing amidst a gravel parking lot and backed into the woods, it’s not hard to imagine folks 50 years ago going here and chatting about the latest happenings with Wally and the Beaver. People pull in and park like this is a drive-in, and the majority of folks recongregate around (or in) their cars once they have a cone in hand. There are picnic benches behind the building, but in the heat of summer, they can be mosquito heavy.
Erikson’s Dairy seems to have always been here, one of the few things that has persisted in one of the smallest towns in Massachusetts. Even when the cars around are all SUVs and hybrids, just the way that people gather here and approach things at an extremely leisurely pace makes this seem very anachronistic, this is an homage to the era of the advent of the family automobile. While it is not a place that people can walk to (except the nearest of neighbors), it is a place that feels like home every time you pull into the parking lot, until that last weekend in September when their flavor list is eroding and they board up the windows until April (this year they opened the last weekend in March which may be the earliest they have done in decades).
As for my Black & Tan, I went into this cone blind, half hoping that it would actually be a combination of Guinness and Bass ice creams. The tan almost had enough of a bite that I thought it could be beer-based, but the black was clearly a chocolate swirl full of crispy cookie chunks, and not a stout. Turns out that the tan was actually a caramel ice cream, but it alone was a great confection, not the syrupy sweet mess that the flavor can be. The combination worked elegantly and the crunchy bite of the cookies made for a great contrast.
Erikson’s does one thing that many places neglect, especially with a child-sized cone. They actually pack ice cream into the cone, and don’t merely drop a scoop on the top. While this cone doesn’t look that formidible, it has got more ice cream in it than most small cones, and is the only place that you can get a frozen treat for under $2. Also, be aware not to order a milkshake here unless that is really what you want; the milkshake is just milk and syrup and has no ice cream. To get a blended ice cream drink be sure to order a frappe.
In some of the oldest pictures of Erikson’s, it seems as though the cars are parked as if they were kneeling toward their mecca – the scoop shop. It’s a practice that has remained to this day as cars park in arched rows around the main building. If this place is at all busy, you’ll understand as soon as you pull in; don’t be intimidated, it shows you just what to do. Oh, and since 1997, the menu has offered up hot dogs as well, just in case you were looking for options.
Cone – child $1.86 regular $3.14 large $4.14
Sundae – regular $4.52 large $5.57
Frappe $3.90 extra thick $4.95
Open from April to September
Monday-Saturday noon-9p, Sunday 11a-9p