I’m never one to turn down a gustatory challenge. While I waited in line at Nathan’s Dairy Bar in Manassas last weekend, counting down each socially distanced sign that reminded guests to keep “one cow apart,” I spied a piece of paper taped to the side of the trailer. “DARE TO TRY OUR COWPIE,” it taunted me in all caps. I was already contemplating ordering the equally gross-sounding Worms & Dirt Sundae. Why not a dessert named to remind us of excrement?
In fact, there’s a long-ish tradition of poop-themed dessert cafes in Asia. So much so that that the trend made its way to North America five years ago in the form of Toronto’s aptly named Poop Cafe. And the truth is, I’ve been seeing chocolate candies of one variety or other labeled “cow pies” at country stores around New England since I was a kid. How does the cow pie at Nathan’s compare?
Unlike those clumpy chocolates, there’s nary a hint of coprophagia when digging into the ice cream sundae. In fact, it’s a ridiculously smooth eat, which seemed to slide down my gullet even more easily than its close cousin, the brownie sundae. That’s probably due to the fluffiness of the chocolate cake that forms the Cow Pie’s heart. The airy round of cake is consumed by a mound of vanilla soft-serve by default, but I asked for the flavor of the day, spice-laden cinnamon bun. The assertive flavors of the ice cream stood up admirably to a rockslide of crunchy Oreo bits. Warm fudge and a glug of marshmallow sauce buries it all, slowly melting the ice cream. Whipped cream and a Maraschino cherry are, well, the cherry on top.
I spend a lot of time eating at international ice cream spots. But sometimes a little bit of good old American innovation is most satisfying, even if it sounds like a dare. 8948 Mathis Ave., Manassas
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