The Sampler at
The Chocolate Moose
When one calls to mind that ice cream institution The Chocolate Moose, born in the city of blooming knowledge to our geographic west sometime in the 1930s, the first image that probably comes to mind is of the line of helpless ice-cream-aholics one inevitably sees outside their walk up window on Bloomington’s South Walnut Street.
But things will be different with the new Chocolate Moose outlet on South Van Buren Street in Nashville. There is plenty of indoor seating, even some outdoor seating, and plans for a drive thru window soon. And there is coffee.
The old ice cream stand model has been wed to the more recent vintage Brown County Coffee Company to produce a two-headed, breakfast and dessert dynamo. Throw in a few sandwiches, and one can easily imagine whiling away morning, afternoon,and evening hours.
Excited and innervated by this prospect, I proceeded forthwith to the combination ice-cream and coffee shop to experience for myself the joyous advent of hand dipped cones, shakes, sundaes, and splits with multiple toppings and syrups.
The clean, airy space is furnished by a stand-up coffee bar, several small tables, and deep, comfortable sofas suitable for long-term lounging.
The service is quick and efficient, but the choices are nearly mind-boggling. Hand dipped or soft serve? Dish or cone? What kind of cone? Sprinkles, toppings, flavored syrups?
I hesitated ever so slightly over the notion of assaulting a sundae or even a banana split. I wanted to see how they would present it. In the end, I could not fight off my solemn devotion to butter pecan ice cream with a waffle cone.
No doubt, I will arrive one day soon at a rendezvous with the hot fudge sundae or an afternoon tryst with a fully loaded banana split. For now, I kept it simple.
Mrs. Sampler went for straight vanilla, soft-serve, with chocolate syrup—a classic ice cream treat.
The hand-dipped ice cream is still homemade at the parent Chocolate Moose store in Bloomington in 13 flavors.
The Moose also offers five flavors of vegan ice-cream made from coconut milk.
We sat at a small table and scrutinized the patrons, many of them small children, as they partook of their frozen delights. There is hardly anything more entertaining than watching children eat ice cream.
The friendly and capable staff tell me things have been going great, although still a little slow in the mornings. That may change when the drive-thru window is open, hopefully “in a couple of weeks.” Also, breakfast sandwiches may be in the offing.
The store is open 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The new Moose offers a hot ham and cheese sandwich, all beef hot dogs, Coney dogs, pulled pork barbecue, a “Frenchie”, which, apparently, is the “Champagne of sloppy Joe’s,” and a “Spanish burger,” baked in tomato sauce and topped with Coney sauce.
There’s also a black bean and chipotle patty vegetarian burger on a whole wheat bun.
Now, while one could enjoy an ice cream cone and then coffee, I wanted to do justice to the coffee experience by approaching it separately from the morning perspective.
Accordingly, upon the following morning, I escorted my kitchen companion once again to the Chocolate Moose, this time for morning coffee.
Brown County coffee is a burgeoning business that began as a hobby.
Nick Shultz got interested in home-roasting coffee through some articles on the Internet and soon invested in some equipment and began home-roasting his own beans. Now, Brown County Coffee is the third-largest coffee roaster in the state, producing about a ton of roasted coffee each week from two commercial roasting machines.
The packaged results can be purchased at several local stores, dozens of restaurants around the area, and of course, at the new storefront in Nashville.
I like my coffee plain black—no need to ruin a perfectly good cup of java with a lot of fooling around and nonsense. But I am aware that The Chocolate Moose/Brown County Coffee store is the kind of place where one can get not only lattes and mochas and cappuccinos and so forth, but experiment with all kinds of amendments and flavorings.
We sip our morning coffee as sunshine streams through the windows and a steady stream of locals and visitors pass through seeking coffee. A coffee shop is always a place of community, and the relaxed atmosphere seems perfect for that.
But the coffee just makes me want more ice cream. And the ice cream makes me want another cup of coffee. It occurs to me that I could become permanently entangled in the gravity loop, the infernal bittersweet paradox of an ice cream stand turned coffee house.
But I can comfort myself with the knowledge that, at the worst, I will continue to be profoundly satisfied.