Dippin' Dots: Ice Cream as Melting Ball Bearings

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Dippin' Dots
1 Walden Galleria, First Floor, Cheektowaga, NY 14225
Web: Dippin' Dots
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"Soon after each cold, almost tasteless ball hits your mouth, it begins to melt, revealing its flavor. The magic starts to wear off as you realize that the ice cream isn't amazing..."

We are not going to attempt to glorify a twenty-year-old culinary invention that, when snarkily summarized, consists of turning big vats of cheap ice cream into small, expensive balls of ice cream. We can't even tell you that we prefer Dippin' Dots on taste alone to other ice creams we could buy at similarly inflated single-serving prices, complete with tons of creamy fat content and broken up pieces of our favorite candy bars mixed in. However, for reasons that could be summarized scientifically, we still find ourselves enjoying this novel form of ice cream anyway - the best local venues are kiosks at the Walden Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga and the Boulevard Mall in Amherst.

These Dippin' Dots shops are franchises and don't offer a huge array of different food; they are there to serve you their namesake treat in various forms. We generally order a simple mix of Chocolate and Mint Chocolate Dots, but have also tried other flavors such as the Strawberry version shown in pink here; Cookie 'n Cream, Java Delight, Root Beer Float, and Peanut Butter Chip are amongst a number of different options.

Several cup sizes are available, starting with a 4-ounce small ($3); we normally go for the 8-ounce large ($5) despite the added price since the cups always look tiny. Employing a common marketing trick, Dippin' Dots gives you a relatively small spoon, which extends the longevity of any sized cup by preventing you from shoveling the whole thing down your throat in seconds.

Unusually, this spoon turns out to be the key to Dippin' Dots' magic. The small servings force you to actually think about what's hitting your tongue, making you recognize not only the individual pieces of ice cream, but their unusual shapes, textures, and coolness. Each of the dots is the size of a small ball bearing, smooth to your tongue's touch, and initially feels surprisingly but not unpleasantly cold. Dippin' Dots are formed in a deep freeze at -320 degrees Fahrenheit, then maintained at -40 degrees; by the time they are served, they're at a still chilly -20 degrees, and you may still think you can vaguely taste the liquid nitrogen used to freeze them.

Soon after each cold, almost tasteless ball hits your mouth, it begins to melt, revealing its flavor, and though the magic starts to wear off at this point as you realize that the ice cream isn't amazing, there's still something interesting about the process. Many of the Dippin' Dots flavors are actually composed of multi-colored dots, and as it turns out, each color represents a flavor: Mint Chocolate contains small mint balls and small chocolate balls, while Banana Split mixes vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and banana ones. Take your time eating and you can actually taste the individual flavors, something that we don't do often enough when enjoying desserts - this may well explain the popularity of this form of ice cream in countries overseas where massive portion sizes aren't as common as they are here.

Ultimately, Dippin' Dots strike us as much a form of scientific entertainment as they are a culinary experience, and the crazy $125 online price of a single gallon of this ice cream plus some party favors is as much an acknowledgement of its novelty as its lack of viability as a mainstream dessert. Yet as an occasional indulgence, Dippin' Dots can be a lot of fun, and having tried them, we still find ourselves stopping by to enjoy them instead of other things we might be doing with our dollars.

Dippin' Dots on Urbanspoon

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