Black and brown cows. Wet walnut sundaes. Black and white ice cream sodas. New York Egg creams.
These old-fashioned soda fountain favorites are among the menu offerings at Jerk’s Soda Fountain & Ice Cream, Buffalo’s first downtown ice cream parlor in decades.
The ice cream shop, which opened April 16 at 523 Main St., joins newcomers Raclette’s and D’Avolio on the revived 500 block of Main Street. Just Fries, which like Jerk’s is owned by John Volpe and Don Warfe, and Martin Cooks are also planning to open just around the corner on Genesee Street.
The shop, which is now on a block of Main Street that has been reopened for cars, will soon be able to seat 17, and a small patio out front will seat eight.
Last week, a classic stainless-steel soda fountain spigot was installed. The shop's name comes from an old term for a soda fountain employee, or "soda jerk," for jerking the handle back and forth when adding soda water.
Volpe and Warfe live on the block, which is where Volpe got the idea of opening an ice cream shop. “I miss having ice cream nearby, so I was walking my dog one night and thought this would be a really good spot to catch a cone,” Volpe said.
He didn’t want to do a high-end gelato shop, and eventually decided to make the kind of soda fountain concoctions and homemade sodas he grew up with in New York City. Volpe and Warfe then decided to reach back even further to ice cream treats from the 1940s and ‘50s. “That’s where we found the black cow and the brown cow. Then, we created the white cow using cream soda and vanilla syrup,” Volpe said.
Jerk’s, which uses Hershey’s ice cream and Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, offers traditional malts, shakes, floats and ice cream sodas. There are also a wide array of soda syrups to choose from, from cola, cream and root beer to vanilla, lemon-lime and loganberry.
Volpe plans to work at the shop full-time in three years, after retiring as a mail carrier. But he plans to help scoop a lot of ice cream before then.