Masquerading as a vintage gas station, Route 20 Ice Cream on Southwestern Boulevard in Orchard Park has one of the most extensive menus of frozen treats imaginable. There are traditional cones, sundaes and shakes along with whips and smoothies. For the health-conscious there are protein shakes. For the pups there is the popular “Doggie Dish” – vanilla ice cream with doggie treat sprinkles.
While cruising about in search of a little cooling sweetness, look for the red and white 1947 Studebaker tow truck parked out in front. There is a large lot near several picnic tables beyond it: Route 20 has more seating inside their onsite museum (not air-conditioned) and restored 1903 caboose (air-conditioned).
The caboose was the very one that once stood alongside Red Mill Inn on Main Street, purchased at auction and now looking very at-home and regal on its new base and faux railroad tracks. Inside there are a few cozy tables and a stack of Courier-Express Sunday magazines to peruse. Vintage photos round out the nostalgia express.
Route 20 has vegan ice cream that is soy-based and available in a handful of flavors: the salty caramel was divine. On the day that I visited, tiramisu and chocolate-Nutella were other options. Ask for “Temptation,” its brand name that is all about verified, non-GMO ingredients to boot. And the house-made gelato, which also comes in daily flavors, is fabulous.
Owner Illya Lasting explains that he got into gelato-making when he owned and operated another restaurant for five years, Palladino’s until he decided it was time to shift gears. He not only makes gelato for Route 20 (his “flagship business”) but for his other ice cream venture, Route 16 Ice Cream in West Seneca (on Seneca Street at Bellwood Avenue), and a few other local restaurant clients.
His love of nostalgia, he says, inspired the creation of the museum out back that opened in 2012. “I want to preserve some history because some of these things are falling by the wayside.” Inside the museum ice cream lovers can sit among a hodgepodge of vintage photographs, a classic television showing old movies, toys, and other whimsical objects.
Two former Route 20 employees arrive together; Amanda Lopez and Sam Macchioni, still drawn to the place and the Perry’s flavors. Amanda, who worked here for one summer, says the job was fun: “We got a lot of regulars, and we’d get a lot of baseball teams that would be celebrating a win.” Sam points out the small and sturdy wooden stool at one of the three ice cream windows, “It’s for little kids, though the dogs love it, too.”
Amanda and Sam share a hot tip: every Mother’s and Father’s Days Route 20 gives free ice cream cones (small size) to every parent on their respective holidays. Another fun feature of Route 20 is that a magician is the featured free entertainment every Friday evening from 7:30p-9:30p, usually strolling about the tables and sometimes inside the caboose.