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Clifton’s Secret Garden: Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot

by Jennie Tai on April 18, 2012

Clifton is the only town in Fairfax County with its’ very own railroad crossing, and is also home to Northern Virginia Magazine’s 2011 ‘Best In Frozen Treats’ Winner, Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot.

In the historic streets of Old Town Clifton is a curious, narrow path that leads to a little ice cream shop that only opens when the weather is above 55 degrees, and is closed on rainy days. Every year, after a four month hibernation, Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot opens in the early Spring to serve sundaes, milkshakes, malts, hot dogs, and more – but closes its’ doors in the cold months of Winter (starting in November). During the warm Spring and Summer, the Peterson Family serves their award winning ice cream (and much more) to locals, and passer-byers who can appreciate great comfort food in a beautiful, fun, kid-friendly environment.

As you walk down the path to Peterson’s, you’ll see colorful menus written on various blocks of chalkboard, including one giant board that you can write your own message on before you leave.

As you make your way down this stony path – large bushes of newly-bloomed flowers and shrubbery will greet you before you find the front register. After you’ve placed your order, you’ll find yourself under a canopy of even more greenery in the backyard seating area, full of wooden high tops, umbrellas to shade you from the bright sun; and even boxes of games (such as jenga, connect four, and checkers), a flat screen TV, and a small basketball hoop to keep you entertained while you wait.

{ Peanut Butter Malt | Clifton Red Shake }

Owner and Father of the Peterson Bunch, Tom recalls that in the process of creating Peterson’s, he wanted ‘to create a fun, entertaining environment for families, similar to Chuck E. Cheeses’, but with a menu of comfort foods made from wholesome family recipes, and fresh local ingredients.

Whether you’re craving something sweet, or savory – you can choose from over 30 different milkshakes and malts, over ten different hot dog combinations, and endless ice cream sundae creations (such as Jasien’s Almond Joy, and Barb’s Brownie Sundae).  One of my favorite shakes at Peterson’s is their ‘Clifton Red Shake’ – the strawberry soda float made with soft serve ice cream, and strawberry soda.

And since both times I’ve visited Peterson’s happened after my Saturday morning football games – I can definitely appreciate that, before and after your meal – there’s a little jug full of water where you can quickly wash your hands. As for another little surprise – (for all my fellow puppy lovers) they even have dog treats for puppies so our little fuzzy friends don’t have to feel left out in our inevitable, indulgent gorge. (See below.)

{ Pulled Pork Nachos | Bacon & Ranch Fries | Jay The Ripper | BarBQ Dog }

Not sure if I even need to provide a description here. The photos say it all. The first thing I need to emphasize is that these portions are (awesomely, and incredibly) generous. The crunchy tortillas in the nachos were topped with warm heaps of chili, cheese, and sliced jalapenos – all of which – I practically inhaled without saying a word, in fear of anyone  (particularly my super hungry teammates that were also waiting for their food to arrive) devouring any of it before I did. It’s one of those things that your server (in seemingly slow motion) brings to the table, and you know everyone watching had already been eating it with their eyes before it even made it’s way over to you.

Bacon and ranch seasoned fries – possibly the biggest reason why I couldn’t finish the rest of my meal. These fresh, thick-cut, highly addictive fries came from a recipe that Tom’s grandmother ‘perfected while growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania’. If you know me, you know that my taste buds get a little bored, and that I can never really finish a single plate of anything. So – saying that I finished each and every fry before I even got to the main event – should not be taken lightly.

Ordering Jay The Ripper was an easy decision. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hot dog fried in oil (until the skin of the hot dog literally ‘rips’) on a menu anywhere before. And since frying anything in oil generally makes (mostly) everything taste ten times better, and because I am a huge fan of hot dogs, I had to allow myself  a deep fried hot dog at least once in my life. At least while my body can handle it without suffering a massive heart attack shortly after.

Last but not least – yes. That is Carolina BBQ Pulled Pork, ON TOP of a hot dog, being drizzled in an unnecessary, yet very necessary addition of even more tangy barbecue sauce. *Applause*

Best. Creation. Ever.

{ Brian’s Banana Split | Randy’s Rave | Smore’s Sundae | ‘Squish’ Sandwich }

Cookie sandwiches, milkshakes, malts, floats, and gigantic kid-sized ice cream sundaes that could feed three girls at a time (true story) – like I said, there are endless possibilities when it comes to dessert at Peterson’s. And at the core – the secret recipe to their award-winning ice cream (which they stumbled upon during a family vacation) is what makes it all so wonderful.

Catch them on a sunny day, and bring your family along. This beautiful town is also home to an antique store, a quiet internet cafe, exotic florist, charming wine shop, and a sweet grocery store that sells fresh, local produce and pastries.  There’s much more to see in Old Town Clifton, and it’s all just waiting for you to discover.

Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot
7150 Main Street
Clifton, VA 20124
703.830.7898

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna A. April 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Great! Now I have two good reasons for making a trip to Clifton…dinner at Trummer’s on Main, and Peterson’s for dessert – yum! Thanks for spreading the word.

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Jennie April 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm

No problem! I’ll have to check out Trummer’s too. I’ve stopped by a few times, but never for dinner. Their Titanic is their signature drink, and their truffle popcorn is one of my favorite snacks. Enjoy! :)

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lala April 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm

so darn good omg!!!

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