Allison and I had just completed a 13-plate family-style Basque meal at Noriega Hotel, but we’d never been to Bakersfield before, and we didn’t know when we’d return, so we weren’t leaving town before stopping at 98-year-old Dewar’s Candy Shop.
James H. and Lena Dewar founded this ice cream parlor and candy shop in 1909. They passed the Bakersfield institution down to son James A. Dewar, who passed it down to son George C. Dewar. A fourth generation of Dewars – Mike G. and Heather J. – now owns and operates the establishment.
There’s not a more classic ice cream parlor to be found on the West Coast. The walls cast a green pallor over the room. The floors: black and white checkerboard tiles. The curtains: black and white stripes with pink polkadot trim. We took a number and waited to hear it to place our order.
Dewar’s offers 19 flavors of house-made ice cream, including strawberry, peach, English toffee, coffee, maple nut and peanut butter fudge. There are also two seasonal flavors: pumpkin and egg nog. I wanted a scoop of ice cream ($1.70). Before I settled on a flavor, I was handed such a large sample of Lemon Flake. It was sensational, but I was ready to sample another flavor.
There was an ice cream variant, “ice milk,” with a lower percentage of milk fat, plus a short list of sherbets, but I went all in on fat, ordering a mammoth scoop of peanut butter, made with flecks of peanut and butter, instead of pre-buttered.
Cameron, who we met at Noriega Hotel, ordered a scoop of peach ice cream topped with whipped marshmallow. He got the pretty glass dish because he ate at the counter. Allison and I expected to take our ice cream to go, so we got Styrofoam.
Patrick, another guy from the Noriega, subscribed to Grandpa George Dewar’s famous words of wisdom: “Today is a good day for a sundae!” He ordered his sundae with scoops of peppermint stick and chocolate ice cream, topping them with whipped marshmallow and ground walnuts. As you can tell from the gouge in the peppermint ice cream, he had already begun eating by the time I thought to take a photo. Patrick and Cameron, thanks for letting me take photos of your ice cream. Chet, the third buddy in their group, never offered. I won’t hold it against him.
Across the store, past all the kitschy stuffed bears and key chains for sale, we found the candy counter, the other component of what Dewar’s does best. The sign in the center of the display case put it best: “Chocolate: It Cures What Ails You!”
I tried one each of the candy shop’s five chews: peanut butter, almond, peppermint, caramel and chocolate caramel almond. Think Tootsie Rolls on ‘roids. The peanut butter and almond versions were stuffed with ground nuts, to good effect.
After sampling Dewar’s products, I’m not surprised the shop has lasted nearly a century. I could taste the high quality of the ingredients with each bite. The decor was classic. The service was friendly. And I’ll undoubtedly return the next time I’m in Bakersfield.