Viceland has turned to ice cream for its latest food series, The Ice Cream Show, and some of Philadelphia’s most beloved dessert spots are highlighted throughout its first season.
The series highlights America’s obsession with ice cream through adventures with host Isaac Lappert, a third-generation ice cream maker and operator of California’s Lappert Ice Cream. Airing June 19 on Viceland, the episode “The Cool History of Ice Cream” is based entirely in Philadelphia.
In the premiere, Lappert heads to Franklin Fountain, where he meets with owners Ryan and Eric Berley. A well-known, 1920s-themed shop, Franklin Fountain allows The Ice Cream Show to delve back into the early dates of ice cream.
As the Berleys explain, soda fountains evolved out of pharmacies to serve milkshakes and root beer floats — the latter of which the brothers say is a Philly invention. Franklin Fountain’s version includes house-made root beer syrup made specifically to go with ice cream, plus a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream, all served up in a frosty mug.
Lappert also checks out Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Fishtown, where he meets with owner Pete Angevine and ice cream chef Karen Johnson. There, he tries off-the-wall flavors the shop is known for, such as pizza, Earl Grey Sriracha, everything bagel, and smoked cinnamon.
Across town at Reading Terminal Market, Lappert highlights the long-running Bassett’s Ice Cream, which started in 1861. The shop has been slinging ice cream out of Reading Terminal continuously since 1892, as president and CEO Michael Strange tells Lappert on the show. Favorite flavors there include vanilla (a “true Philadelphia-style” ice cream, as Strange says) and Guatemalan Ripple, a coffee ice cream.
To cap the episode, Lappert has an ice cream cone with Benjamin Franklin impersonator Bill Robling, who he meets at Franklin Square Playground. Lappert notes that if his history teachers who failed him in school saw him eating ice cream with Ben Franklin, they might change their tune. Franklin, for what it’s worth, had only two years of formal education.
“We’re not so different, Isaac,” Robling as Franklin tells the host. “A couple of ice cream connoisseurs you might say.”
In a later episode, “Treats,” Lappert returns to Philly to get the backstory on the Choco Taco, which was invented in Philly in 1983 by Alan Drazen. As Drazen tells Lappert in the episode, the Choco Taco came about as a result of his job with Good Humor, which wanted its own “unique ice cream novelty.”
At the time, Mexican food was the fastest growing segment of the food industry, and the taco was “the most recognizable shape,” as Drazen says. Putting out a sweet version seemed like a no-brainer, and it was a hit — important for Drazen, considering it was his first ice cream treat invention. “Treats” airs May 29.
Another episode, “Garden State Licks,” focuses on New Jersey’s ice cream favorites, including Kohr’s Frozen Custard, The Original in Seaside Heights, Margate Dairy Bar in Margate City, Duffer’s in Wildwood, and Asbury Park’s Coney Waffles & Ice Cream. That episode is currently available to stream online.