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Apr 22, 2009 09:51 AM

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.