The Scoop: On Friendly's Cone Head Sundae, My Childhood Favorite

Editor's note: Every weekday in July, the Serious Eats editors and staff will serve up their thoughts on everything from sprinkles to soft serve. It's all the ice cream you want, with no brain freeze.

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Three memories stand out most from my numerous childhood trips to the ice cream shop/diner chain Friendly's:

  1. Most of my meals started off with New England clam chowder. I'm pretty sure Friendly's is where I developed my deep affinity and non-discerning taste for clam chowder.
  2. On the children's activity placemat, I once colored in a drawing of the moon with a blue crayon. The pride I felt from my superior coloring skills was shot down when my older brother told me it was wrong and I should've used yellow. From then on, my blue moon-coloring days were over.
  3. I ended almost every meal with a Cone Head sundae.

For the purposes of this blog—which is not about clam chowder or kids who haven't fully grasped the moon's color—I'm here to reminisce about Friendly's Cone Head sundae, my favorite sundae as a kid. A sundae based on a character that terrifies kids I mean, delights youngsters around the world!

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Well, even if you hate clowns, this clown-themed sundae so tenuously resembles a clown's head—vanilla ice cream for the head, two Reese's Pieces and a maraschino cherry for the eyes and nose, whipped cream for the hair, and a hot fudge-dipped cone for the hat—that it poses no threat to the clown-averse. If anything, haters should find joy in the process of gouging the clown's face with a spoon and watching its head melt.

As a clown-ambivalent kid, I was drawn to the clown-inspired construction; as an adult, I'm drawn to things that remind me of those carefree, pre-Internet childhood days...along with vanilla ice cream (even if Friendly's vanilla ice cream isn't anything special), whipped cream, Reese's pieces, and cones. I also love the size—although made for kids (you won't find it on Friendly's regular dessert menu, just the kid's menu), the sundae is the right amount for adults who want something sweet after their meal without risk of ice cream coma. And as someone who rarely orders cones after an incident eight years ago when, while licking a boulder-sized ice cream scoop on a cone, it teetered off my cone and onto my pants (a small hazard, but one I'd rather avoid), I'm a big fan of the cone-as-a-hat, enhanced by a rim of chewy chocolatey fudge. (Another plus: it was only $2.39 at the Friendly's in Midland Park, New Jersey. It's hard for me to think of places where I could even get a scoop of ice cream that cheaply.)

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But...but the Reese's Pieces! WHERE ARE MAH PIECES? One of my favorite parts of the sundae as a kid was finding extra Reese's Pieces in the bottom of the cup coated in melted ice cream. During my visit last week, there were no extra Reese's Pieces. My sundae came with just two pieces of candy—not even three like shown in the photo on their website. (On the upside, it's not as bad as that time I got a Cone Head sundae in 2006 that replaced the Reese's Pieces with M&Ms. Midland Park Friendly's, you're not fooling anyone.)

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Despite the Reese's Pieces letdown, I still enjoy Cone Head sundaes as an adult—mostly because I ate them so many times as a kid, but also because I like cute things. Don't go to Friendly's and eat a Cone Head sundae expecting a rhapsodic experience. Your kids might enjoy it, though, and continue to eat it in their mid-20s during bouts of nostalgia.

About the author: Robyn Lee is the editor of A Hamburger Today and takes many of the photos for Serious Eats. She'll also doodle cute stuff when necessary. Read more from Robyn at her personal food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.

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