On a steamy August evening in Stone Harbor, NJ, my family joins a long line of people outside Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream, despite the fact that there are three other ice cream parlors within a five-block radius.

“Is it really worth the wait?” a young woman asks several folks in front of us.

“Definitely,” they reply in unison.

The wait is, after all, as much about the history of the place as it is about the ice cream. Like many other storied ice cream parlors in New Jersey, Springer’s—which has been making its own ice cream since the days of Prohibition—commands a nostalgic loyalty among its patrons.

Ditto for Bischoff’s, in Teaneck, a neighborhood institution that opened in 1934. “Bischoff’s is part of classic Americana,” writes Hani of Teaneck in an online exchange with other ice cream enthusiasts. “It is your quintessential ice cream/soda shop that takes you back to a more wholesome time.”

Ye Olde Hot Fudge

Holsten’s, in Bloomfield, NJ, with its lunch counter and red vinyl swivel stools, is another favorite. Built in 1939, this vintage ice cream parlor was used in the final episode of the HBO series The Sopranos.

“My favorite is their coconut ice cream with hot fudge and maybe some walnuts . . . tastes like a Mounds [candy] bar,” writes Raya of Passaic, one of several people who quickly responded via Facebook to a New Jersey Family posting on the topic.

Andy of Westfield praised the original Applegate Farm, in Upper Montclair, NJ, as “a hopping place” with lots of windows and lines.

“OMG—Love Applegate’s,” wrote Kathleen. “Went there all the time when I was growing up in Clifton.”

Then there’s Taylor’s Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street in Chester, Little Scoops in downtown Cranford, and Van Dyke’s Ice Cream on a quiet residential street in Ridgewood. Or Cliff’s in Ledgewood, McCool’s in Madison, and Denville Dairy in Denville. And the Show Place Ice Cream Parlor in Beach Haven, with its singing wait staff, is one of many old-fashioned ice cream haunts on the Jersey Shore. The list goes on and each parlor has a place in the hearts of New Jersey ice-cream lovers.

Back at Springer’s, a patron says she and her family have been vacationing in Stone Harbor for years. The shop’s homemade ice cream is superb, she says, as her son licks a huge scoop of “Pumpkin Pie.” But her reasons for standing in a line that’s routinely several blocks long aren’t purely gastronomic.

“It’s tradition,” she says. “And it’s fun.”

We Asked, Facebook Fans Responded

What’s the most unusual ice cream flavor you’ve tasted?

New Jersey Family Facebook fans said:

  • Lavender
  • Basil
  • Birthday Cake
  • Carmelized Garlic
  • Cake Batter
  • Chocolate Rosemary
  • Earl Grey
  • Graham Cracker Smacker
  • Ooey Gooey Oreo
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly

Mary Ann McGann is a freelancer from New Jersey.