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Carvel & Real Soft Serve [split from L.A.]

Just out of curiosity, what exactly do you mean by "good old fashion soft serve"?

Tom Carvel supposedly invented soft serve ice cream in New York in the 1930's, so I'd imagine you can't get much more "old fashion" than that. I grew up on the stuff and to my mind it's still the de-facto standard for soft serve ice cream, old fashioned or not.


Mr Taster

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  1. I grew up on Carvel too and for me it's the soft-serve standard. I just wish there was one closer. Though maybe I'm better off that there isn't.

    1. Yeah, seriously, Carvel is the freaking gold standard. Amazing stuff.

      1. As Tom himself said in his ads, "It's a bee-yoo-tiful product".

        1. A little known fact about "original" Carvel is that it was genuine extruded egg-based frozen custard for its first several decades. in fact, Tom Carvel prided himself in producing his own machines--the early ones were called "Custard King" and the later ones were plain box-shaped extrusion machines. Photos of these machines can be found on Google Images, or once in a while they show up on Ebay. There are a few really old Carvel's on the east coast that still use these machines today--and their product is outstanding! Carvel did not fully convert to dispensed "soft-serve" until after Tom Carvel sold out in 1989 (he died a year later), and Carvel became a corporate concern which switched to cheaper soft-serve machines to enhance shareholder equity. Tom Carvel would roll in his grave...

          6 Replies
          1. re: culinarycandy

            I actually found the photos of the Carvel Machines mentioned in my previous post, and have attached them here. While I agree that today's Carvel "soft-serve" is about aas good as soft-serve gets, it cannot compare with Tom Carvel's original custard formula extruded from his original custard machines.

            1. re: culinarycandy

              No "sharehholder equity." Carvel is owned by a privately held venture capital group that owns, among other things, Moe's, Cinnnabon, Schlotzky's, a quick sign place, a direct mail couponer, and a bunch of other random assorted businesses.

              The product does legally qualify as ice cream rather than ice milk, but only by the barest minimum. And I have heard from some old time operators that the old Tom Carvel-designed machines really are the best. The problem is that no one makes parts for them and any new parts have to be custom machined.

              1. re: rockycat


                The private equity has 100% of the "shareholder equity". In this case Roark bought a majority interest.

              2. re: culinarycandy

                I grew up in Brooklyn in the 50's, and Carvel was the one and only soft-serve product I can remember. Interestingly enough, we always referred to the product as "custard."

                1. re: culinarycandy

                  I appreciate the pictures and your insight on Tom Carvel.

                  DO you know much about Carvel's original custard recipe?
                  The product they make today is not custard but listed as icecream.
                  Carvel stores now have a new ice cream machine with an air pump to pump to increase overrun.
                  Do you know whose flavorings they use.
                  The closest Carvel store is 150 miles away so i would like to try my hand at replicating this product.

                2. I also love Carvel. I grew up in south Florida. If we didn't go to Carvel, then we had ice cream from Farm Stores. Farm Stores was great. You pulled up to a little building in your car and you could buy most dairy products. I haven't seen anything like that in YEARS.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TLC1971

                    Dairy drive ups still exist!

                    I remember seeing them in Wisconsin in the 80's. And they are still in Los Angeles, many featuring Alta Dena products, though some have Carnation.

                  2. Carvel was the go-to ice cream store when jfood was growing up. Now he lives in a town where Baskin Robbins is his only choice. Thirteen years and he has never eaten a cone or cup from BR.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jfood

                      Are you talking about another jfood experience or are you referring to yourself in the 3rd person for some reason? EDIT: OK, I should have looked at your prior posts... jfood always refers to jfood in the 3rd person. Ross Perot, is that you? :)

                      Where I grew up in central New Jersey, Carvel was the big game in town, though there may have been a Dairy Queen somewhere further afield. There was a local guy my dad became friends with who ran a little ice cream shop called "Peters Ice Cream Barn" and their soft serve was just phenomenal... they made these things called "cake bars" which were a 4" x 4" x 1" square of alternating 1" strips of yellow cake and vanilla ice cream, separated with a thin layer of chocolate fudge. The whole thing was dipped in chocolate and stuck on a popsicle stick. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else... my god those cake bars were good.

                      Mr Taster

                    2. His ads were the best (Even better than Potamkin Cadillac....)! "So, pleeze...visit your participating Carvel store and try our Fudgy the Whale cake, or take home some Thinny-Thins." Was a DQ boy in Central NJ until I discovered the wonders of Carvel @ age 8 or so. Their ice cream cakes (with oreo crumbs and lard-like buttercream frosting) were the gold standard and de rigeur at all birthday parties and family gatherings. adam

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: adamshoe

                        Tom Carvel's raspy voice and Fudgy the Whale brings me right back to the Carvel of my childhood. And I do remember the Thinny-Thins, too! Though I personally was always partial to vanilla flying saucers.

                        A montage of Carvel commercials with Tom Carvel doing voiceovers here:

                        But Adam, I'll trade you my Carvel for your DQ. ;)

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          waah, that made me tear up a little bit (snif...). Funny how all the cakes slightly resemble a lite-bulb???? Our local franchise in New Brunswick was owned the Pinnazotto's who lived in my boro, Highland Park. Ahh..good times.

                      2. I worked in a Carvel in high school, and our store had one of the old Custard King machines. That thing was a monster. Every night we took it apart and cleaned every single part. What a pain it was if you accidentally let it freeze. It was a genius invention though.

                        1. Soft serve, bleah! And those flavorless carvel cakes that were around when I was growing up. I'd take baskin robbins over ANY softserve anyday

                          1. I think DQ makes a much better soft serve than Carvel does, and Carvel has nothing like DQ's cocoa fudge. Every Carvel I've been to has been disappointing.

                            1. I've lived my whole live in CT and have had many a Carvel soft-serv cone but I yearn for what they refer to as "custard" or "frozen custard" out in the mid-west. What I've had as soft-serv at Carvel, Dairy Queen, fairs etc, isn't custard and I hate when other joints call it that.
                              I've had some Ted Drewes custard flown to me as a gift for my birthday a few years ago but since it was in a rock hard frozen pint, it was never soft enough to enjoy the way I'm sure it is meant to be. I've also tried "frozen custard" from the Shake Shack in Manhattan, NY and still it tasted just like all soft-serv I've had my whole life.

                              If anyone does know of a CT location of a carvel with the mythical old custard machines that does make it differently---do tell. I want to get me some!