Five nostalgic ice cream stands to seek out

Families, little league teams and neighborhood kids fresh off their bikes and gathered around picnic tables, twists of soft serve ice cream cones in hand—it's a quintessential scene of an American summer. Soft serve is not fancy, artisanal or hip. It's authentic. Here's a list of five spots in Central Ohio where you can get a soft-serve fix before the close of summer.

Double Happy

After opening last year, the West Side's Double Happy has quickly made a name for itself with the stand's thick, creamy and delicious hand-blended milkshakes. Offering unique flavors like caramel apple, chai and honey-roasted peanut, the shop's best-seller is the Brown & Hopkins, a concoction of soft serve, hot fudge and peanut butter that is aptly named after the intersection where the business resides. “What could go wrong with selling ice cream?” owner Ryan Troup says, laughing and reflecting on his pivot from a career in the finance industry to owning a roadside ice cream, coffee and food stand. Visitors to Double Happy will notice a rarity: an espresso machine next to the ice cream maker. Specialty coffee is on Troup's menu as well as treats that showcase the magical merger of ice cream and caffeine—like an Italian affogato made of soft serve drowned in espresso.

Dari Point

Delaware's Dari Point is a kids' delight with Smurf-themed ice cream cones. Made of blue raspberry sherbet, the whimsical cones include candy eyes and a marshmallow nose. Order the Papa Smurf to add hard cherry dip coating on top and a whipped cream beard, or try the Smurfette with whipped cream hair. Visitors to Dari Point can opt for soft serve in vanilla, chocolate, blue raspberry sherbet or black raspberry sherbet, as well as two other flavor options that change consistently, such as banana, strawberry, lemon or Key lime pie. “My favorite is Georgia peach,” says Jim Ballinger, the owner of the shop since 1989.

The Dairy Hut

Travel to The Dairy Hut in Pataskala to experience a truly indulgent treat: 12 specialty sundaes that weigh in at over a pound each thanks to layers of soft serve, syrup, candy and whipped cream. “The Buckeye Sundae is our most popular item,” says Gary Bocock, who owns the business with his wife, Karen. The concoction is made of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. The stand is also known for its Coney dogs topped with house-made Coney sauce. The recipe hasn't changed in the 40 years that the Bocock family has owned the business. “We're probably as well known for our Coney sauce as for our ice cream. People come from all over just to eat it,” Bocock says.

Cream & Sugar

Located in Columbus' Hilltop neighborhood, Cream & Sugar was opened in 2014 by Rachel Upton. The stand features vanilla and chocolate soft serve that's “the best you can buy,” says Upton, describing the ice cream made with 10 percent milk fat and sourced from Dairymens in Cleveland. The shop also offers rotating soft-serve flavors like peach, blueberry and black raspberry, as well as at least one Dole brand, which happens to be vegan. Visitors can also opt to dip their cones in chocolate or butterscotch. With novelties like Oreo ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-covered frozen bananas, Italian ice and real fruit smoothies, the stand offers several alternatives to a traditional roadside dairy dip.

Hilltop Dairy Twist

Also on the West Side—the city's soft-serve mecca, perhaps?—is Hilltop Dairy Twist, a throwback ice cream stand that appears unchanged by time. It's situated next to Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, so day-trippers can enjoy a bit of Civil War history with their ice cream. With 24 flavors of soft serve, there's something for every palate. “White cake batter, creamsicle, mint chocolate chip,” owner Larry Cordial rattles off. “Strawberry is my favorite,” he says with a grin. A retired Columbus firefighter, Cordial has operated the business for five years, but the stand has been part of the community for decades. “There have been people that have told me that they bought ice cream here when it was only a nickel a cone,” he says.

Psst! National Soft Ice Cream Day is Aug. 19.