Day 29 of our 31-day ice cream binge, Scoops' out for Summer, we get nostalgic at a newish Hawthorne cafe.
The Hazel Room
3279 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 756-7125, thehazelroom.com.
Price per scoop: $2
Most popular flavor: The cast rotates at whim. Flavors have included strawberry-balsamic and Mmtcha green tea.
The person in front of me: An oddly frantic, very bald man angrily shaking his phone as if it were a misbehaving newborn.
Best for: Provoking sudden flashbacks to afternoons spent at grandma’s house.
The Hazel Room is sweet. I don’t mean the food or liquor cloys. I don’t mean it’s gnar, dank or tight. I mean that everything about the place exudes an affectionate domesticity, from the people to the old tables and chairs to the mid-century wallpaper adorning its walls. It is a young person’s nostalgic vision of old comforts, an aestheticized museum of the staid domestic.
Well, it’s comfortable, and far more effective in drawing me back to lost times than I could have ever imagined.
When I was young, one of the best treats in my Oak Grove neighborhood was a trip to Lew’s Dairy Freeze (now a newly kitschified, remodeled “Lew’s Dari Freeze Drive-In”), a run-down, old-school, unrefurbished diner with dry, shit-shingled hamburgers, occasional old-car cruise-ins and terrific soft-serve ice cream, swirled onto a cone only in chocolate or vanilla.
That ice cream was, quite simply, the taste of summer. At under a dollar a cone, it was much more affordable on an itinerant eight-year-old’s budget than the distant, bougie Baskin Robbins; one could get to the diner by clambering up a grass offset, from an alleyway running behind the dumpsters, and when you ate the ice cream, the smell of the grass on your hands was part of the experience of the ice cream.
Lew’s is gone now, replaced by “Lew’s”, a bitterly self-conscious recreation of itself that has left no room for those old soft-serve cones.
But at the Hazel Room, when I went in at 10 am to order ice cream, the only flavor it had was vanilla. And thank goodness. With one spoonful of the Hazel Room’s soft, achingly creamy scoop of housemade vanilla, I was back to being an eight-year-old kid at Lew’s Dairy Freeze.
It was an intense enough memory that I greedily ate two-thirds of that vanilla cup before even remembering to take the picture you see here; rest assured that the perfectly spherical scoop, when it arrives, fills the majority of the cup.
There are much more earthy and by-the-wayside ice cream concoctions to be had at the Hazel Room—balsamic flavors, tea infusions and such—and I will someday try them. But for now, I just enjoyed being eight years old with the smell of grass in the air on their front porch, momentarily forgetting I was already late to work.
Day 27: Saint Cupcake
Day 26: Staccato Gelato
Day 25: Ice Cream Renaissance
Day 24: Two Tarts
Day 23: Organic Island Snow Shave Ice
Day 22: Via Delizia
Day 21: Cloud City Ice Cream
Day 20: Scoop
Day 19: Cool Moon Ice Cream
Day 18: Salt & Straw
Day 17: 50 Licks
Day 16: Pix Patisserie
Day 15: Caffe Pallino
Day 14: Alotto Gelato
Day 13: YoCream
Day 12: Ruby Jewel
Day 11: The Waffle Window
Day 10: Alma Chocolate
Day 9: j. Gelati
Day 6: Cool Harry's Yogurt
Day 5: Ohana Hawaiian Cafe
Day 4: Roses Ice Cream
Day 2: Oregon Ice Works
Day 1: What's the Scoop?