Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Humpty Dumpty in Saratoga Springs
Humpty Dumpty is an institution in Saratoga Springs. Located on West Avenue, it has served families and baseball teams since my kids were little. My own kids' baseball and softball teams often met there after a win, and sometimes, when necessary, after a disappointing loss.
When she was tiny, my daughter Meghan used to ask "Can we go to Humpity Dumpity?" My kids loved it then, and still do. It's a simple brick and wooden structure, all windows up front, with an awning overhead. They always have the prettiest window boxes filled with lush petunias and ivy. We don't go there for the simple charm, though. We go for ice cream! Ice cream orders are placed at the windows to the left, and submarine sandwiches at the window to the right. Usually, I order a dole whip twist, which is half soft sorbet (flavors change regularly) twisted with Only-8, a low-calorie vanilla yogurt. But for dinner last night, I was looking for something more substantial. I wanted some oomph, so ice cream it was. I don't know what brand of ice cream mix comes out of the machines at Humpty Dumpty, but it is creamy and silky smooth. The chocolate is dark and rich. It is not typical ice-cream-stand fare.
As I sat in my little Mazda eating my cone, I watched to see what people ordered. (I come from a long line of "gapers," my mother having been the champ.) Families with children sat at a picnic table with various-sized cones dipped in sprinkles. A tiny woman returned to her car (with a very impatient, very large barking dog) carrying a giant twist cone, so large it almost tipped over, and a little dish of vanilla, most likely for her noisy passenger. A couple of teenagers ordered milkshakes. Cars that don't stop at the stand slow down as they drive by, perhaps evaluating the length of the line or trying to decide, "should I?" Yes, you should.
Like most ice cream stands, Humpty Dumpty has a menu complete with cones and a variety of toppings, sundaes, ice cream sodas, shakes, flurries and more. I enjoy going there because an old friend from my kids' elementary school days, Bonnie Older, has worked there for years. We catch up at the window. She leans her tall self down to the screened opening, and we talk about what's going on in our lives, our kids, and now grandchildren.
It's good that Humpty Dumpty is still here. It's familiar, and people wait anxiously for it to open every spring. Sometimes I regret that Saratoga Springs has taken on such an anonymously-urban feel. Walking downtown, I miss the personal touch of the one-of-a-kind establishments that used to line Broadway, mostly owned for generations by one family. My friend Ricky's parents owned Covkin's; our neighbors, the Alberts, owned Glickman's. My own father-in-law had a TV repair store. Though our main thoroughfare is indeed more sophisticated now, beautiful and home to lovely stores (Eddie Bauer, Gap, Ann Taylor Loft, Borders to name a few), it is certainly less personal. So I take the short ride west of Broadway to West Avenue, and stop at Humpty Dumpty, and say hello to Bonnie.
Photo credit: http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/object2/512/114/n72270847522_4731.jpg