As summer begins to wind down in Vancouver, Case and I are trying to cram in as many summer traditions as we can before the cold hits. One of those traditions is heading down to Venables and participating in the insanity that is known as Las Casa Gelato, or as some of the locals like to refer to it: The Ice Cream Factory.
Why the insanity? Well, on a typical hot summer afternoon, you’ll find dozens of cars crawling around Venables and Union street trying hopelessly to find parking while hordes of people spill into the street from the entrance of La Casa Gelato. It gets hectic at times, so be prepared for the crowds.
The Ice Cream Factory are famous for their insane number and variety of flavours. So, Baskin Robbins has 31 flavours? La Casa Gelato has 218 — that’s right, 218 flavours — including such obscure and exotic varieties as Durian, Green Tea, Jalapeno and Wasabi. They also have your more conventional variety like Amaretto and Chocolate Chip Mint.
Once inside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by fridges full of buckets of ice cream and gelato. The fridges circle you like a colosseum while the center becomes a pooling mass of parents hopelessly reigning in their children who have at this point gone completely bonkers at the sight of all this ice cream.
Over the years, La Casa has refined their payment method. It used to be that you’d push yourself through the crowd and shout out your order to the flustered ice cream jockey behind the fridge; and then attempt to pay by lobbing some cash over the crowds and counter. Now, you simply prepay at the cashier, who’ll give you a coloured poker chip that varies depending on your order.
Across the street there’s a parking lot specifically for customers. Good luck getting a spot. They also have some benched seating — but most people are content to loiter around the sidewalks of the Ice Cream Factory, happily licking away at their cones.
Each year, Case and I try to convince each other to go for the crazier flavours. Unfortunately, we’ve been reluctant to try it out. A helpful hint to the patient patron: If you ask for a sample, the folks at La Casa are more than happy to oblige. In the end, we’ve been content with basking in the wonderfully refreshing creamy taste of the regular standbys. Perhaps next year we’ll be brave enough — or, that’s what we like to keep telling ourselves.