Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour
My sweet tooth dictates that I can’t ignore news of the revival of an old-fashioned ice cream shop opening in my backyard. In 2009, news of the re-opening of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, using the same concept and philosophy of the original Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, was big news in Orange County, California. In 1963, Robert Farrell, opened the first Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour in Portland, Oregon, drawing on the nostalgia of a century’s old tradition of old-fashioned ice cream shops. The concept and store were so popular that at its height, Farrell’s grew to encompass over 130 shops nationwide. However, after the sale of the franchise from Farrell to a large multi-national corporation and then eventually to an investment group in the mid 1980s, which changed the concept of the traditional ice cream parlour, Farrell’s closed all of its doors by 1990. In 2009, the rights to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour was obtained by an Orange County-based company that aimed to bring back the concept of an old-fashioned ice cream shop with waiters dressed in pin stripe vests, old-fashioned ties, and cane hats, and guests were treated to a unique celebration restaurant. This new Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour was created with the motto of “old time memories for a new generation,” and its first location opened in Santa Clarita. After the success of Farrell’s in Santa Clarita, it was announced that a second store would open at the Shops in Mission Viejo. Being in Orange County, this was a big deal, and something I knew I wanted to try! An old-fashioned ice cream parlor that reminded me of ice cream shops such as Swensen’s which I loved so much, how could I not want to go. I had my sights set on Mission Viejo. So, on my birthday in early 2010, myself, my husband, and my parents headed down to Mission Viejo since I said I wanted to celebrate my birthday at Farrell’s. When we arrived, and located the store, I was distraught to discover an incredibly long line snaking around the restaurant. After checking in with the hostess, we discovered that the wait for a table was more than 2 hours long! Nooooooo! That day, trying to get into Farrell’s was a total failure and we ended up celebrating elsewhere. Since that time, other Farrell’s locations have opened up in Brea, Rancho Cucamonga and Riverside. When I heard that Farrell’s was opening in Brea, I was excited as that was much closer to where I was and I thought I might actually have a shot at trying Farrell’s. But almost 2 years have gone by, and every time my husband and I pass the Brea location, the line to get in is always out the door, no matter when we go, what month, what day, what time of day. I’d eventually given up hope of every trying Farrell’s.
That was until just recently, more than 4 years after I had heard about the return of Farrell’s, my husband and I were heading to Brea, intending to eat somewhere else, when we drove by Farrell’s and were shocked to discover that there wasn’t a line outside. I had to do a double take, and wondered if the store was even open since I’ve never seen it without a line! Sure enough, it was open, but there wasn’t a line. My husband said to me that if I ever wanted to go to Farrell’s, now would be the time to do it since we’d probably never get another opportunity. He suggested that we just go to Farrell’s and have dessert (they do have a full service menu) and I was onboard with this plan. Here was my opportunity, after 4 years, to finally give Farrell’s a try!
When you step into the restaurant, you truly are taken back in time and you have the distinct feeling that you’ve been transported to an old-fashioned ice cream shop. There’s an ice cream counter to one end of the restaurant where all of the ice cream dishes are hand scooped. The interior is brightly decorated, with waiters wandering around in crisp uniforms of pin stripes and vests and hats. The staff is singing, and banging drums, and telling corny jokes, and doing whatever they can to be wild and crazy and truly provide a unique celebratory environment. 10 minutes inside the restaurant and you can’t help but find yourself smiling and laughing and enjoying this incredibly fun atmosphere. This is the perfect place to have a kid’s birthday party as the staff really drum it up and aren’t afraid to embarrass the lucky guest of honor.
Once we were seated at our table, we were handed newspapers. But these weren’t just newspapers, this was our menu. The menus were printed on thin newspaper paper, in black and white, and laid out like a newspaper. The front page had stories and headlines for items relevant to Farrell’s, such as a promotion for their upcoming charity ice cream eating contest. Once you opened up the paper, you saw the actual menu printed inside. It was very clever, and certainly fit with their theme of nostalgia.
We started out ordering a couple of drinks with our dessert. My husband ordered sarsaparilla, which he said reminded him of when he was a kid. Sarsaparilla is a drink that was originally made from a plant, and therefore is often referred to as a type of root beer. This soft drink, which was popular in the United States in the 19th century, is to me, a bit more medicinal in flavor than root beer and is less subtle as a soft drink as it really lacks the carbonation. My husband said he couldn’t even remember the last time he had a sarsaparilla and he really enjoyed seeing it on the drink list. I ordered a strawberry lemonade, and much to my surprise (though I guess at a nostalgic ice cream shop like this, it shouldn’t be), what I got was old-fashioned strawberry lemonade. There was a couple of tablespoons of chunky pureed strawberry at the bottom of the glass, and fresh, homemade lemonade poured right over the puree.
Since we had already eaten lunch, my husband and I went straight for dessert at Farrell’s. I ordered the banana royale. After all, I can’t resist a banana dessert. The standard banana royale comes with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream, split banana, topped with pure whipped cream, toasted almonds, hot fudge and a cherry. However, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided I didn’t want 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream, so I asked to substitute one of the vanilla scoops for a scoop of coffee instead. I may be weird, but who cares when it’s so good? While 2 scoops of ice cream and some banana doesn’t sound like a lot, believe me, it was quite large. I really liked the coffee ice cream because the flavors were so subtle. In the end, the dessert proved to be a bit too much for me and I had to ask my husband to help me finish it.
My husband ordered the gold digger described as being 2 scoops of sumptuous butter pecan ice cream beneath a luscious lode of hot butterscotch and nuggets of fresh banana and whipped cream. What my husband enjoyed about this dessert is that they gave you a little saucer of hot butterscotch on the side and you could determine for yourself how much of it you wanted on your dessert. Of course, my husband just had to have the whole thing. He said it was rich and decadent and just the way he liked butterscotch.
Conveniently, right by the front entrance/exit to this particular Farrell’s location, you can find an old-fashioned candy shop with nostalgic candies, chocolates and toys that instantly remind you of your childhood.
It’s no wonder that Farrell’s has been voted the #1 best family friendly restaurant and #1 best ice cream in Orange County in the Orange County Register’s annual “best of” poll. This is definitely the place to come to celebrate and have a good time and reminisce about the “old days” – that is, if you can stand the long lines that are always waiting to get their taste of Farrell’s Ice cream Parlour.