To anyone with lactose or digestive issues, ice cream is a world of forbidden pleasures. Thankfully, vegan, plant-based ice creams have been getting a lot of attention lately, and the result is an ice cream alternative that can be just as enjoyable as the real thing.
At the new Barney’s Classic + Vegan Ice Cream shop on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, Chris and Katie Cardo offer both “classic” and vegan ice creams that are the result of years of development. The scoop shop is the second location for the business, and while the menu at the original location in Mayville offers more flavors of traditional ice cream, the Elmwood location has a 50-50 split of classic and vegan flavors.
In a recent phone interview, Chris Cardo told us the plan to open a shop that leaned into the plant-based side of the business dovetailed neatly with the location on Elmwood Avenue.
“I think we thought that an Elmwood location best represented the brand that we have,” he said. “It’s kind of young, trendy and hip and I guess that’s our brand. Especially serving plant-based ice cream, I think there’s a lot of vegans, or at least people that would eat vegan ice cream (in the area). We kind of always had our eye set on Elmwood.”
Without the essential mix of milkfat and calcium that makes ice cream, ice cream — vegan ice cream requires a bit more technique, especially if the goal is to resemble the OG. Cardo told us a lot of work went into woodshedding his vegan ice creams, with the strawberry version being the most daunting.
“It sounds so simple: You just put strawberries into ice cream and call it a day,” he laughed. “But, to get a really strong strawberry flavor and not have it be like sorbet, we really had to work on making it rich and creamy like traditional ice cream.
“Strawberries have a lot of hydration in them because they’re a fruit. So, you really have to compensate by taking a lot of liquids out of the ice cream. It’s been a challenge but we’re continuing to tweak it.”
On our mid-May visit, there were three vegan flavors and three classic flavors available: mint fudge crunch (v), salted dark chocolate brownie (v), strawberry (v), dark vanilla bean, chocolate fudge brownie and peanut butter cookie dough. The single scoop ($4) of “classic” chocolate fudge brownie we tried was as rich, creamy and decadent as any premium ice cream you might find at Wegmans or Whole Foods.
While Cardo suggested that it might be hard to tell the difference between vegan and traditional ice cream, we found a single scoop ($4.50) of vegan salted dark chocolate brownie ice cream a bit on the gritty side, but still quite delicious, with an upfront salty taste fading into smooth, reassuring cocoa flavors.
If you want a sundae, toppings ($.75 each) at Barney’s include natural-colored sprinkles, peanuts, walnuts, vegan hot fudge and vegan whipped cream. Other menu items include milkshakes, root beer floats and nitro cold brew coffee floats.
Cardo said there are plans to get into retail ice cream, but perhaps a bigger part of Barney’s mission is its dedication to giving back to the surrounding community. On the official website, the ice cream company has announced a formal partnership with Feed Buffalo to help provide good food to those in need.
“We like that they feed those in need, but they do it with quality stuff, and not just junk,” Cardo said about Feed Buffalo. “Because everybody should try to eat quality food to stay in good health. So, we reached out to them and told them we want to donate as much as we can to help out in any way that we can. It’ll probably be modest in the beginning, but as we grow, we want to scale up our donations.”
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.