Well my family and I made the pilgrimage to Fenton's and I have to admit to being a bit disappointed. I had the black and tan sundae. And while they do a good job of distributing the toppings I was really underwhelmed by the vanilla icecream. I think the true meassure of any icecream parlor is their vanilla and theirs tasted over spun. Too buttery and grainy even. I had to dump it out...just so I could continue eating. The carmel and fudge were good, but they could not mask the vanilla. Well I have to say I will not be heading back anytime soon.
Could I recommend Lush Gelato just a few blocks down Piedmont. My current favorite place in the East Bay to get my ice cream fix. If only I could put Lush Gelato and Fenton's caramel sauce together, all would be right in my dessert world. I will not eat at Fenton's again unless my dad is in town - his fond memories of Fenton's from growing up in Oakland have yet to be dashed.
4184 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA
Having recently moved back to Oakland in the past year (after having been a long-time resident prior to moving to the Peninsula for a few years), I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with Fenton's. I recently went there for lunch when we had a rare stretch of hot weather. I had high expectations of introducing my wife to the glory of getting a scrumptious crab sandwich, to be followed by a ginormous black & tan sundae.
When we sat down, i was immediately struck by the fact that prices are considerably higher (I remember when the black & tan was $3.95, which now costs $9.95). Ah well, such is life in the Bay Area with inflation/cost of living increases. Things only got worse when our order arrived. The crab sandwich tasted tired, uninspired and way too salty. Worse, the serving size was more like a tea sandwich than a "normal" sized sandwich. The sandwich was only partially redeemed by the french fries, which were nicely crisp on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside. Would've been nice if the fries were a choice back in the day, instead of potato chips (which is still the standard side for sandwiches; the fries were a $1 upcharge IIRC).
The ice cream in the sundae itself was fine. The lack thereof at the price paid was the problem. I know my memory has not gotten that hazy. Plain and simple, Fenton's is using a noticeably smaller sundae glass nowadays than they did years ago. Higher price + smaller portion = wistful adult pining for his teenage and college years (and I like the arc of my adult life much better than my teen/college student era).
I left saddened. Though I am far more easily able to afford a meal at Fenton's now than when I was going there in my HS & college years, the experience and enjoyment of eating there during my poorer days was clearly missing. My wife will unfortunately never know how good Fenton's once was.
I think the true measure of any food establishment is in their particular best dishes and specialties. I might not go to Fenton's for their vanilla ice cream, but I had their CCAC (Cream Caramel Almond Crunch) at the Oakland Airport location and it definitely lived up to the post-Up hype.