Credited to California, Frozen Bananas Could Thrill Buffalo

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Frosty's Ice Cream of Lancaster
5500 Broadway St., Lancaster, NY 14086
Phone: 716.681.5422
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"A place called Frosty's of Lancaster does a decent job: you'll get a chance to see how the pieces are assembled into a dessert, albeit without the strong flavors noted above."

Hot summers call for cold treats, and some of the best such things are found in places where summer-like weather lasts almost all year along - like Southern California. The concept of a frozen banana stand in California's perpetually 65 to 70-degree coastal city of Newport Beach was immortalized on film by the TV show Arrested Development, but it isn't fiction: the true story of this area's pioneering frozen banana stands is actually better. There are in fact two frozen banana places right across from Newport Beach on Balboa Island's Marine Avenue, one called Dad's Donut & Bakery Shop, the other called Sugar 'n Spice - both claim to be the "original frozen banana stand," dating back to the 1940's. We've visited both places multiple times, had great bananas at each one, and sometimes on a given visit felt that one was better than the other. Regardless of who actually invented or popularized this item, both places do a fantastic job of offering these semi-healthy, semi-naughty snacks - ones that could easily win fans in Western New York.

What each restaurant serves for around $3 - more or less depending on the banana's size - only starts with what the name suggests: a recently frozen banana with a popsicle stick through its bottom center is dipped into a vat of liquid chocolate before your eyes. The chocolate coating becomes so thick through the consistency of its ingredients and proper application that it forms a hard candy shell, binding your choice of toppings right outside the banana's surface. Rainbow sprinkles? Chocolate sprinkles? Sure. But ground peanuts? Toffee crunch? Toasted almonds? Ground Oreos? Now we're talking. Some people go for the works. We don't - it's too much of a mess of colors and flavors.

The core recipe sounds simple and obvious, but as with all foods, there are major differences between a frozen banana done right and versions that aren't quite as delicious. Frozen for too long or at the wrong point in its ripeness, the banana can easily lose its flavor and become little more than a hard block of vaguely fruity ice. With the wrong chocolate, or too little of it, the candy shell can be less than thrilling. And without the best toppings, even an otherwise tasty chocolate-covered banana can be a bit plain. For obvious reasons, we won't dwell on all the problems with the pre-assembled, "everything's sitting in the freezer indefinitely" version. Everything needs to be fresh, and freshly put together, or it isn't the real thing. Sound familiar, chicken wing fans?

If you're looking for a local frozen banana fix, we found a place called Frosty's Ice Cream (aka Frosty's of Lancaster) that does a decent job: at the very least, you'll get a chance to see how the pieces are assembled into a dessert, albeit without the strong flavors noted above. As you'll see from our photos, the texture of the Sugar 'n Spice banana center is decidedly different from the icy Frosty's one, a fact that made the latter banana less enjoyable, arguably forgettable. We'd understand if someone tried this version and never understood what the big deal was about, but we'd also expect professional and budding chefs alike to see through its failings and recognize the dessert's potential.

So if the concept of a chocolate-covered frozen banana sounds good to you, our advice for the time being is this: experiment with a recipe at home. The Food Network offers a recipe that recommends a one-hour freezing time for the banana, plus a sauce that mixes chocolate and butter. Another site suggests a four-hour freeze time, points out correctly that you need enough chocolate for a full submersion, and instructs you to apply the toppings quickly - roughly 20 seconds - after the chocolate dip, then quick serving thereafter. It also recommends trying different chocolate dipping sauces... if you have the time and a little extra cash on hand, why not?

There are reasons this dessert most easily tastes best when it's direct from a frozen banana stand, and then, from one that really knows what it's doing. But there's no need to leave home for something so simple: you can come up with a really excellent version on your own if you're willing to spend a little time and effort to perfect a recipe yourself. Alternately, if you've found a truly great place in Western New York that serves frozen bananas, we'd like to hear about it - Southern Californians shouldn't have all the fun.

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