Ava's Home Made Ice Cream, at 1 W. Henry St., on a side street leading from downtown Basking Ridge, is in a location destined to draw customers — right next door to the Oak Street elementary school.
The whimsically decorated old-fashioned ice cream shop, with its pictures of cute faces painted on giant ice cream scoops outside the building, can expect kids out the door at the end of the school day in the warm months each fall and spring, said Ava's manager, Lindsay Zorn said. Students walk over from Oak Street and other township schools in the area, she said.
Ava's is open from March through November, but on seven days a week during that time, Zorn said. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m.
Other than coffee and some beverages, pretty much everything of what Ava's serves is ice cream-related.
Although Zorn may not remember, Ava's fills a void left behind when a popular ice cream shop on South Finley Avenue in downtown Basking Ridge left town before or around 2000.
Ice cream is not only a local favorite, but it's especially popular with some of the people who either work or accompany children to the downtown at all times of the day. On a recent afternoon, two moms with baby carriages stood outside the shop sharing ice cream with their tots — apparently, everyone seemed happy.
Zorn said she considers Ava's to be a "hidden gem" that people have to make a little effort to find, but that they return once they do.
She said prices are pretty good, too. A small shake with two scoops of ice cream is $2.94, including tax, she said. A large is $4.08, tax included. A popular shake flavor is Cookie D'Oreo, a mix of cookie dough ice cream and Oreo-flavored ice cream, she said.
Even the homemade chocolate chip cookies, baked on the premises, can for $2 be used to sandwich a scoop of homemade ice cream flavors, made on the premises by Zorn. (Sprinkles are included!) On a recent day, hard ice cream flavors included coconut and peanut butter flavors.
Zorn also promised the very popular chocolate caramel brownie flavor will be back this fall. A single scoop of ice cream costs $2.41 plus tax, she said.
Ava's also sells soft ice cream and soft frozen yogurt, made nearby, she said. (I especially enjoyed a creamy, smooth sample of the soft vanilla and chocolate.) One of the more unusual flavors is the red velvet frozen yogurt, Zorn said.
"The frozen yogurt is very popular in Basking Ridge," she said. "People are looking for ways to cut calories.
With that in mind, I tried a small cup of the shop's sugar-free chocolate chip vanilla ice cream. I don't usually like the taste of artificial sweeteners, although Zorn assures me a touch of vanilla extract seems to counterbalance that taste.
The ice cream was tasty, although next time, I may eat less lunch so I can try one of the other flavors!
Cups, cones, sundaes, smoothies, shakes and floats are on the menu.
Zorn said she considers Ava's Home Made Ice Cream to be a community-oriented business. She said the shop's employees generally come from nearby Ridge High School.