Thursday, October 6, 2011

How will it end? The Trials of an Ice Cream Pioneer

When I heard the news that Friendly's filed for bankcrupcy earlier this week, a wave of sadness and nostalgia washed over me. This cannot happen. Where else can you get peanut butter sauce, cone head and happy endings but at this classic New England-based ice cream mecca

I first heard the news late last week when Gawker cheekily proclaimed Friendly's Faces an Unhappy Ending. For anyone who grew up on the casual dining ice cream mecca that is (soon-to-be was) Friendly's, you immediately understand the reference.  Like hundreds of thousands of others growing up in New England, for years I was blissfully ignorant of the other meaning of that term and instead, looked at a happy ending as something sweet and exciting; sort of like Friendly's itself.

Friendly's is an indelible part of so many childhood memories.  I longed for hot and humid summer evenings, a relative rarity in central Massachusetts.  But on such nights, my family often retreated to one of two local Friendly's to enjoy air conditioning, a kid's meal of of chicken fingers, and of course, a cone head sundae.  This was pure childhood bliss.

While I aged out of the kid's meal, the place remained a go-to middle and high school hangout after football games.  Full of teenage angst and mozzarella sticks, my friends and I would spend countless evenings and hours occupying the red and green pleather banquets.

Friendly's is trying to reinvent itself, but unlike the shudder-worthy TGI Friday's or Applebees, profit margins are low--Friendly's does not serve alcohol, only Fribbles and Coca Cola.   Friendly's recently unveiled an express option offering a limited menu and of course the ice cream they are known for in more urban settings like in Boston's Coolidge Corner.  While Friendly's Express has not yet ventured into DC, you can find (for now!) Friendly's restaurants dotted throughout the VA and MD suburbs.  If you have never experienced a Friendly's sundae, what are you waiting for?  Time may be running out.


  1. Peanut butter sauce is the best. Right now there are no MD locations on the list of closings. I hope it stays that way!

  2. I'm happy to report that the Friendly's in Silver Spring, MD is still open (phew!)...for now anyways!
    Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was up in MA (where several Friendly's have closed, boo!) and managed to frequent Friendly's 3 times. The mint chocolate chip ice cream smothered in peanut butter sauce is still a slam dunk!! Also had the amazing hunk chunka peanut butter fundge(!)
    Oh and forgot to mention that over the span of the 2+weeks I was there, we managed to kill 2 half gallons of (1/2 the fat, wohoo!) purely pistachio, 1 half gallon of vienna mocha chunk, and a jubilee roll.
    Now that I'm back in MD, I'm also thrilled to report that Giant grocery stores are now selling Friendly's half gallon ice cream...hooray!