Not that kind of bar… The UConn Dairy Bar

Ah, the fall season has officially arrived. School is back in session, leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp, and pumpkin ice cream has finally returned!

Each autumn, my sisters and I coordinate our busy schedules to make room for one weekend dedicated to family fun. Somehow, my boyfriend has been deemed “family”-enough to take part in the last few weekends. This year’s travel plans coincided with “Family Weekend” at the University of Connecticut, where my youngest sister (Ava) is a sophomore. Located in the rural town of Storrs, Connecticut, UConn’s campus is scenic and rustic – the perfect setting for our fall weekend.

As Ava will tell you, UConn was founded in 1881 as the Storrs Agricultural School. And though it’s one of America’s best state universities, UConn still proudly holds onto its agricultural roots. Today, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources continues to teach agricultural students the business of farming, food science, nutrition, animal production, and veterinary sciences. To provide hands-on learning experiences, UConn is home to hundreds of farm animals – from cows to chickens – which add to the rustic charm of the campus.

We participated in several organized “Family Weekend” activities, but I was most excited about a trip to UConn’s favorite bar. And this was not the type of bar I usually associated with college campuses. In Storrs, the most famous “bar” is the UConn Dairy Bar. Since the 1950s, the Dairy Bar has been serving up homemade ice cream using milk from the campus cows. My ice cream-lovin’ family scheduled our trip to the Dairy Bar before we even set foot on campus. So after lunch, we climbed into my mom’s minivan and drove over to the infamous bar. Now, Ava had warned us that the line could be long, but no one was prepared for this sight:

On any other day, we probably would have turned around. But on this crisp fall afternoon, a long wait outside didn’t seem so daunting. So we gamely joined the other families and students in line. Watching folks emerge with generous ice cream cones and massive sundaes only strengthened our resolve. And low and behold, the time passed quickly. One of the benefits of having a chatty family is that we can entertain ourselves for hours. Or, according to my mom’s watch, for the 45 minutes it took us just to get inside.

Finally inside! Line is getting shorter…

Once you’re inside the Dairy Bar, there is plenty to keep you occupied while you wait. The décor is still reminiscent of the 1950s, with ice cream parlor bar stools and a red, white and black color scheme. But I was most excited to see the glassed-in observation area, where you can view the ice cream making process. UConn’s Department of Animal Science oversees all operations here, and students learn all aspects of food production and retail sales while staffing the Dairy Bar.

 I was interested to learn that the funds generated at the Dairy Bar are invested back into the Department of Animal Science and its programs. So when you purchase ice cream here, you’re actually supporting education at UConn. Unfortunately for me, I don’t think it’s tax deductible…

Perusing the menu, the Banana Chocolate Chip was calling my name. But then I saw Cinnamon Caramel Swirl – which sounded deliciously intriguing. To complicate matters, I overheard numerous customers raving about the Dairy Bar’s famous seasonal Pumpkin. I just couldn’t decide between the three, so I coordinated with my mother and Ava to ensure I could taste them all. A baby-scoop of Pumpkin for my mom, a single-scoop of Banana Chocolate Chip for me, and a double-scoop of Pumpkin and Cinnamon Caramel Swirl for Ava. 

It was a team effort.

The verdict? After 50 minutes of anticipation, the first bite of ice cream was incredibly satisfying. The Dairy Bar’s ice creams are thick and smooth, a testament to the high-quality, fresh dairy products they use. The Banana ice cream was not the most natural-tasting, but I actually enjoyed the slight artificiality of it. (Think banana-flavored Nesquik milk – not banana Runts.) The ‘chocolate chips’ were really chocolate chunks, adding a nice chocolaty crunch to the smooth ice cream. The Pumpkin ice cream was sweet and refreshing, but my mom and I thought it could use more cinnamon and nutmeg. Now, the Cinnamon Caramel Swirl? That was perfection. The warmth of the deep cinnamon flavor was offset by both the freezing temperature of the ice cream and the sticky and sweet caramel swirls. Being the generous sister she is, Ava let me have more than my fair share of her Cinnamon Caramel scoop. In terms of serving sizes, the single-scoop serving was actually quite filling – I wasn’t even hungry at dinnertime a couple hours later (not normal for me). I’ll definitely return to the Dairy Bar during my next trip to UConn. After all, it’s all in the name of education…

Our Huskies… Ava & Aamir

The Stats:
UConn Dairy Bar
3636 Horsebarn Hill Road Extension
Storrs, CT 06269
(860) 486-1021
http://www.dairybar.uconn.edu