Save room for dessert

You’ve read the words here time and again: “We would have liked to have tried the desserts, but we were just too stuffed!”

Not this month. After more than a dozen columns, we were ready for a sugar blitz. So we were off to Midtown to the milky mecca that is The Fountain on Locust.

Walking in, it’s tough not to be drawn to immediate thoughts of dessert, no matter how intent you may be on a “real” meal. The soda fountain is front and center. Off to one side a glass case displays chocolates – Duncan found those right away. With not a little effort, we steered the kids into a booth.

The majority of the menu is given over to desserts – at least if you include the multitude of ice-cream laced cocktails. We summoned every bit of willpower, though, and managed to pick out some token entrées – cheese pizzas for the boys and sandwiches for Kathy and me.

When the food arrived, Duncan seemed to go into a zombie-like state. He slowly picked at his plate, while Brendan tore through his like a hungry teenager (with a 10-year head start). Both boys’ pizzas – more like generously topped focaccias – came with a substantial side salad. Brendan made a solid dent in his before finally saying he needed to save room for dessert. Kathy and I had different variations on roast beef sandwiches. Hers, the Blackhawk, included roasted red peppers and a garlic-goat cheese spread. Mine, the hot roast beef melt, was more traditional, with melted Cheddar, grilled onions and horseradish sauce. Both sandwiches were fair, though Kathy’s seemed more generous than mine, despite being the cheaper of the two. She also tried the orange-onion salad – segments of orange and red onion in a light citrus vinaigrette. The onion tended to overpower the oranges, she said.

Ah, but now it was dessert time. Duncan, with his barely-there appetite, settled for a dark chocolate coin and a piece of toffee from the case. Brendan, proving himself a true chocolate connoisseur, ordered a hot fudge sundae, using The Fountain’s dark Zanzibar Chocolate ice cream. Kathy and I, having frittered away our appetite on beef and oranges, chose to split a Nutty Irishman – Irish coffee ice cream, hot fudge, house-made whipped cream and nuts.

We demolished our sundaes in nothing flat, even resorting to passing the empty glasses around the table, to see who could scrape up any remaining bits of fudge or ice cream with a finger. It was just that good.

On our second trip, we ordered small to save room for dessert. Brendan and Duncan both got toasted peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches with a bit of fruit on the side. Kathy got another of the small pizzas – this one topped with caramelized onions – and I went truly minimal with half a Stutz Salad – baby spinach, walnuts and goat cheese – and a cup of The Fountain’s dill pickle soup. Kathy enjoyed her pizza, though she again thought the onions came on a bit strong.

My salad was nice and fresh, with tangy mandarin oranges offering a sprightly burst in each bite. There was supposed to be an orange marmalade dressing on the greens, but if it was there, it was too light to notice. The dill pickle soup, at its heart, is a creamy potato soup, but dill pickles are puréed and added to the simmering pot. The result is a thick porridge with little flecks of green and a lightly sour flavor. I think we’re all still trying to make up our minds about it.

Our server had told Brendan on our first visit that he was entitled to as many toppings on his sundae as he wanted, and he was intent on doing just that. Atop a base of old-fashioned vanilla, he piled everything but nuts. It was a formidable goblet that was placed in front of him. At the opposite extreme, Duncan got the World’s Smallest Ice Cream Cone, a petite little sugar cone about as long as your thumb, with a scoop of After Dinner Mint about the size of a melon ball resting on top. Kathy again went the sundae route, with a scoop of Coconut Almond Joy and Zanzibar Chocolate drenched in hot fudge – a scoopable candy bar. I ordered a Toblerone martini – a blend of coffee and hazelnut liqueurs, crème de cacao and Zanzibar Chocolate ice cream. Once again, we cleaned those bowls and glasses nearly spotless.

While Kathy went to scrub two sticky boys clean in the restroom, I settled up. A charge on the check caught my eye – turns out Brendan didn’t get unlimited toppings, at least not without a price: “We were told last time that he could have as many as he wanted,” I said.

“Well, really, there’s a limit of two,” explained our host. “In fact, I don’t know that anyone’s ever ordered more; two is usually enough for everyone.”

“Never underestimate a 6-year-old.”

And so, with two mostly sparkling boys in tow, we headed out, with smiles of sugary satiation … and four spoons way up.

ADVENTURES IN FAMILY DINING
Beyond Chicken Fingers: The kids’ menu includes several meatless options, like cheese pizza and grilled cheese with apple, that work well for a kid’s lighter appetite.
Extra Credit: Downsized desserts like the World’s Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae are perfect when your kid’s eyes are bigger than his stomach.
Recess: Sit in the west-side booths and listen to Soap Hospital, The Fountain’s over-the-top radio drama, while you dine.
Parent Pluses: Beyond all the clever ice cream-laced martinis, the bar highlights retro cocktails for a mere $5.
Where: The Fountain on Locust, 3037 Locust St., St. Louis, 314.535.7800
When: Tue. and Wed. – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thu. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11 a.m. to midnight, Sun. – noon to 8 p.m.