Simple Pleasures Ice Cafe has relocated since this review was published.
Two kinds of customers tend to frequent this cozy, 15-seat spot at the back of the Antique Depot in Bowie's historic district: those whose interest is piqued by the 64-inch-tall resin model sundae out front and those who have enjoyed the Russell family's food for the past nine years.
Both kinds tend to leave happy. Rodney and Terri Russell use primarily local ingredients to re-create the "cafe experience" they enjoyed while stationed for many years as Air Force and Defense Department personnel in Europe. "But our version has more than 'icy' things going for it," Terri says. They spent seven years building a clientele in a storefront on nearby Route 197 in Bowie, where they live. When higher rent became an issue, the Russells accepted the offer to move into the building on Ninth Street that houses several small antiques dealers.
Rodney is in charge of the ice cream, which is creamy without being overly rich. Using Shenandoah's Pride Dairy products, farmers market fruit and imported chocolate and syrups, he develops flavors such as lemon custard, mango, peach amaretto, sweet potato pecan and tiramisu, in small batches. (Check out his new bargain "family of four" sundae with toppings and four flavors for $4.75). Terri makes one or two soups daily ($4.25 to $5.25 per pint) and is known for her cream of broccoli and vegetarian chili. Her recent seafood bisque with shrimp and lobster had a nice touch of sherry and pureed sweet peppers from the farmers markets in Cheverly and Greenbelt, where the Russells sell ice cream on weekend mornings.
Terri and daughters Brittany, 22, and Rajah, 17, collaborate on green salads (three, $5.29 to $6.29) and sandwiches (seven). Mom roasts turkey and poaches chicken from Rohrer's Meats in Boonsboro, Md. The girls use them to build the popular Totally Turkey wrap ($6.89, with Swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce and a light dressing; recently that dressing was a chipotle creation of Rajah's) and the chicken salad sandwich ($7.29, with chopped greens, cucumber, tomato). Sandwiches and wraps come with veggie chips and a choice of house-made coleslaw or potato salad; the latter is a perfect picnic rendition. They use breads from Stone Hearth Bakery in Frederick.
Even if carryout is your aim, you may find yourself staying to chat with family. The Russells are clearly comfortable working together and make customers feel welcome. A sign on the wall for afternoon tea ($11.95 per person, reservations required; includes tea, sandwiches, cookies, scones and ice cream) sure seems like a deal worth checking out. Just remember: When the sundae's out, the Russells are in.
-- Bonnie Benwick (Good to Go, Sept. 30, 2009)