There are very few things that I do not tolerate in this world. I’m a fairly easy-going guy. But one thing that I most certainly do NOT tolerate is lactose. I’m not quite sure what type of karmic punishment this is, but it has unfortunately plagued me for my entire life. Yes, I am that guy who asks for the cheeseburger without the cheese. I am that guy who ruined the pizza party by demanding that extra cheese was simply unnecessary. But never — not once — have I allowed this intolerance to get in the way of my love for ice cream. Ice cream is the all-time greatest in the Spencer Sigalow Snack Hall of Fame (with waffle fries and Pop Rocks closing out the top three). That is why I was ecstatic, popped a couple of Lactaid pills and dragged two of my friends with me to visit the brand-new Press Bay Alley location of Sweet Melissa’s that opened this past month.
The new shop is a quaint storefront near the iconic “Ithaca is Amusing” street art by the Commons. When I walked in, the first aspect that grabbed my attention was the space itself — it appears to be a converted garage, with glass doors that allow for ample sunlight to enter. There are sweets for sale immediately upon entering, and then, of course, the main attraction is to the right: the ice cream. There are a limited number of options compared to those of other larger ice cream venues, but the assortment was to my liking. Among the flavors they had, my friends and I made sure to taste a wide variety, including vegan peppermint cookie, mint chocolate chip, rose honeycomb, cookie dough and strawberry basil. The vegan options, of which there were two, are made using coconut milk, which added a nice, sweet and tangy flavor to the peppermint cookie we tasted. I ultimately opted for the cookie dough with rainbow sprinkles.
As a longtime fan of Sweet Melissa’s, I was undoubtedly satisfied with my ice cream experience. The ice cream was delightfully creamy and light, yet its consistency was neither too hard nor too soft. All of the flavors I tasted had a natural sweetness, which was neither overbearing nor overly sugary. In the future, I may opt for the strawberry basil, which was only placed into the freezer after I had finished my cookie dough flavor (and of course, we asked for a taste). The strawberry was better than typical strawberry ice cream, although I’m not quite sure what the purpose of the basil was! Although I was initially surprised to see that only hard ice cream was offered — as opposed to the typical soft serve I’m accustomed to — it immediately became clear that Sweet Melissa’s has mastered the art of both. The pricing was very standard, if not lower than that of a typical ice cream shop, with a two-scoop cup costing me $3.50.
My biggest critique of my experience was the lack of seating available. There were three chairs, positioned in the corner by the cash register, creating a crowded feeling when somebody else was paying. The physical space is small, so I understand that there are not many alternatives. Perhaps when it gets warmer, there will be outside seating. But for now, you are forced to leave with your ice cream if your party is greater than three, or if you are not the sole patrons. This likely will not be an issue when the weather is warmer, but I had very little interest in walking around the Commons with ice cream in the frigid weather.
Overall, the experience was absolutely lovely. The ice cream was delicious, the ambience and artwork were cheery and the employee who humored us with the plethora of samples that we requested was a saint. We even had a chance to meet Melissa on our way out, and spoiler alert: she really is sweet! When the weather is nicer, I can’t wait to come back with more friends and, of course, more Lactaid pills.
Serves: ice cream, chocolates
Vibe: casual, cozy and mellow