New Monterey Ice Cream and Deli
Here’s the Scoop: New Monterey Ice Cream and Deli does the simple things beautifully.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Four ice cream shops have melted down on Alvarado Street in the past decade or so, but that doesn’t stop new ones from attempting to jumpstart a cooling trend. The latest casualty, Monterey Ice Cream, is now New Monterey Ice Cream and Deli under new owners Rafael and Gabriela Diaz.
More than an ice creamery, it’s a fueling station to meet your basic food-on-the-go needs in one quick stop. They offer everything but alcohol: caffeine, a square meal, a sugar rush, free wireless and affordability. The quality is good, and by that I mean that for those of us accustomed to dining well, this is not a gourmet experience, but there were no infractions on any of the hundred-plus mouthfuls analyzed, and plenty of delight. The bread was fresh, each ingredient in the sandwiches was fresh, the ice cream was fresh, and the assembly of elements worked. This is harder to achieve than it sounds.
The space is cleaner and cozier under the Diaz duo than it was previously, with natural wood furniture that Rafael designed and an ornamental canopy that dominates the ordering counter. Rafael is a veteran of the local restaurant industry, and his sister owns Old Monterey Café, right next door. He still helps her out part-time while ramping up his new business.
Simplicity is the hallmark of NMIC and the timing is good. Its future may be assured by low prices and no-frills comforts – always popular during economic downturns. Ingredients are not ambitious, but it always comes as a surprise to one who seeks the unusual how satisfying a turkey sandwich with jack cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato and mayonnaise is.
I had that sandwich for a mere $3.75. The crisp, chilled raw vegetables, the soft and nutty whole grain bread and the ample filling were a pleasure. On a second visit, I ordered the optional jalapeño peppers on a sandwich of roast beef – nicely pink in the middle. If wherever you get your sandwiches does not offer jalapeños as an ingredient, I recommend shifting loyalties to NMIC. It added a spicy jolt of joy to every bite.
Special sandwiches cost $4.50 and that category includes a club, a ham or turkey with melted cheese, a BMT (salami, pepperoni and ham) and a few others. Specialty coffees cost $2.50 for espresso, cappuccino, latte and the like. Fruit smoothies cost $3 or $5.
The ice cream is from two sources: the 50-year-old Marianne’s of Santa Cruz and the 70-year-old Cascade Glacier of Oregon. Rafael buys from both to maximize the selection of flavors. More than 30 are presented at NMIC, with 10 to 20 others in storage in order to rotate flavors.
By all appearances, this ice cream is fairly standard, with flavors like Cookies and Cream, Praline Pecan and Pistachio representative, but these are two of the better ice cream makers on the West Coast. I loaded up on chocolate peanut butter, caramel macchiato and vanilla. Each scoop was large and three flavors filled a pint for $5.50. Reasonable, considering that many grocery store ice cream pints are similarly priced.
The ice cream has a nice weight, which is important since my palate has been shaped over the years by the “mix-in” concept. Though a few flavors do have chunks of cookies, cake and candy, most are simpler and there is a small selection of additions you might choose. Four sizes are priced at $2 (kids), $2.50 (one scoop), $4 (two scoops) and $5.50 (three scoops). Milkshakes with two and a half scoops cost $5.50.
Marianne’s is beloved in Santa Cruz and their 10-20 flavor is locally famous. You can try it here with its caramel base, fudge swirl and crushed Oreos. Horchata is one of the more uncommon flavors – it’s a deliciously light cinnamon-vanilla concoction based on the Mexican rice milk drink. The Maui Waui wasn’t quite what I expected (not the kind we had in high school), but features guava, mango and citrus. Vanilla is an easy point of comparison, and this one was more custard-like than most, an eggy-buttery well-done classic.
Ice cream is so prevalent that it’s easy to take for granted. But I don’t. I imagine the sorry time before freezers and feel glad to be alive in the days of ice and cream. The Alvarado Street location makes it easy to drop in. The prices make it easy to get a freshly made meal within budget. And a scoop of ice cream makes it easy to savor the moment.
NEW MONTEREY ICE CREAM & DELI 491 Alvarado St., Monterey • 11am-8pm Daily• 333-0509.