Located on Lafayette Square, Ice Queen joins a number of other recently opened stores and venues in bringing new life to historic downtown LaGrange.
Owner Kelly Ou opened the drink and ice cream shop in March of this year at the encouragement of a friend, himself a local restauranteur, who noticed a lack of dessert options in the area. Her business stands apart from the competition for its unusual variety of Asian-style drinks and ice cream treats.
The shop itself, filled with the sweet scents of various confections, is unassuming — the color palette, a mix of icy blues and grays, offset by wooden and steel trim; the décor, minimal, though sufficient, a “work in progress,” Ou says.
Quick in preparing and closing an order, the staff pause only to greet each customer individually, explain the menu, and make recommendations, careful to distinguish their shop from others.
“We’re not like Starbucks. We have a lot on the menu that people around here have never heard of,” says Mikayla Ren, standing behind the register. “All kinds of Asian flavors. Try a bubble tea. It’s our most popular drink.”
Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s and quickly gained popularity throughout Asia. Today, it’s on the menu at places across the U.S., as commonplace as Pho or Bibimbap, though not nearly as exotic in its ingredients. The drink consists of chilled tea and “boba,” or balls of tapioca, typically consumed through enormous straws and then chewed. The mixing of the two consistencies gives the appearance of bubbles.
At Ice Queen, customers can order boba in any type of drink: fruit slushes, milk slushes, fruit teas and milk teas. Other mixers include lychee jelly, fruit jelly, grass jelly and red bean. Though unusual to most Americans, these ingredients are widely used in Asian cuisine to add both texture and flavor to a dish.
“We’re going to add coffee drinks to the menu too. Sometime [in June]. We have a few new things we’re working on getting, actually,” Ren said. “New toppings for the rolled ice cream, like crêpes and cotton candy. Some new flavors.”
On steel plates cooled to below 20 degrees, staff prepare fresh rolled ice cream to order in about two minutes. The act of rolling ice cream — literally, like a carpet or a scroll — originated in Thailand in the early 2000s. It’s now the most common preparation one would find while traveling through Asia. The method doesn’t change the taste, of course, just the texture.
The menu offers five different ice cream options, each rolled and combined with certain mixings and toppings. The “Funkey Monkey [sic],” for example, comes with rolled vanilla ice cream, Nutella, Oreo, whipped cream and a torched marshmallow, all of which make for a treat loaded with flavor and sensation: soft, hard, squishy, crunchy, icy and hot, all in one dessert.
Besides these five, customers may choose the “DIY-create your own” option for $5.99 and build an original dessert to suit their tastes: first, the base, either vanilla or chocolate rolled ice cream; then, one “mixin,” either a fruit or a spread like Nutella or peanut butter; and last, three toppings from among the assortment of fruits, nuts, candies, and cookies. Additional toppings cost a small fee.
The shop now offers a seasonal menu as well. For summer, Ou has introduced five new fruit flavors — honeydew, apple, taro, passion fruit and mango — and six new ice cream selections. As always, these flavors may also be added to any beverage or ice cream on the menu or may be used in new, creative combinations. They “will remain as permanent additions to the menu,” says Ren, who also promises new selections with each new season.
In addition to expanding the menu, Ou is opening up new service options.
“We offer catering now,” Ren said. “We’ll bring the drink and ice cream machines to the party and prepare things to order there, just as we would here at the shop.”
Interested parties should call (706) 668-6227 to make reservations. Ou currently runs two promotions to incentivize guests and encourage repeat business. Those who “like” and follow Ice Queen’s Facebook page receive 10 percent off of their total order. Also, for every tenth drink or tenth ice cream purchased, customers get one free.
Ice Queen is located at 12 N Lafayette Square in LaGrange. Its hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.