I was out in Norfolk with the family when we decided we were hungry. My wife wanted a burger, and I had been craving barbecue for a while, so I decided it was finally time to try Doumar’s.
I’ve been meaning to go to Doumar’s for quite some time now. As a resident of Hampton Roads for 25 years, it seemed almost heathenish that I hadn’t already. But I had never really spent much time in Norfolk until recently. I realize it’s a weak excuse.
A Norfolk establishment, Doumar’s has been in its current location since 1934. Before that, the business was ice cream stands at the Ocean View amusement park since 1904, when Abe Doumar invented the first waffle cone.
His waffle cones were such a huge success that in 1905 that he designed a cone-making machine in front of the shop, which is still used by his grandson, Albert Doumar. It looks like a museum piece with an information sign sign above it. I had no idea it was still in use until I saw Albert come outside and fire it up.
In 1933, the stands at the Ocean View amusement park were destroyed by a hurricane. Abe’s brother, George, rebuilt the business and moved it to its current location on Monticello.
Besides barbecue and waffle cones, Doumar’s is famous for its curb service. We pulled into the parking lot, and a waitress quickly came out to our vehicle. I didn’t know this at the time, but turn your lights on if you want quicker service.
If you don’t want to sit in your car, there’s an old-fashioned lunch counter within the dining area and you can order beer inside. I guess the city of Norfolk discourages people drinking in their cars, even if you’re parked outside a restaurant. Fascists.
After examining the menu for a few minutes, we turned on our lights, and the waitress was right back with us. For drinks, I ordered their homemade limeade. The fresh fruit made it delicious and refreshing. My wife got an ice cream soda, which is basically a root beer float, but with your choice of soda. She chose pineapple, which turned out to be pretty tasty.
I got the minced barbecue sandwich with cheese, lettuce and tomato (I know, it’s practically sacrilege, but I don’t do slaw, even on barbecue). It was decent, not the best barbecue I’ve had, but certainly not the worst. I recommend the hot sauce, a mustard-based sauce, reminiscent of Carolina Gold. I would have preferred Tabasco, but the variety was nice.
My wife ordered a cheeseburger (I stole a bite), which was pretty much on par with most fast food burgers, both in price and taste. It was better than McDonalds at least. The fries came a la carte.
Aside from what we ordered, the menu is pretty basic. Egg sandwiches with various meats for breakfast, hot dogs, BLTs, Tuna salad and a steak sandwich pretty much round it out. At least until you get to desert.
Aside from their waffle cones, they have a list of sundaes with various ingredients that all sounded fantastic. I ordered a basic, single scoop waffle cone, and my wife got the banana split.
When I got my waffle cone, I was a little disappointed. It was small… really small. I don’t know what I expected for $1.20, but it wasn’t this. I looked at the menu, and realized there was an option for a “big cone” with two scoops that I hadn’t seen.
To make matters worse, the people parked next to us had gotten the big cones. I looked at theirs, and then looked at mine. My head said I’d made the healthier decision; the last thing I need is more ice cream. My heart however, (or maybe my stomach) knew I’d made an unforgivable mistake.
In a matter of seconds, my ice cream was gone. I looked at the people next to us, enjoying their big cones, and my regret continued to grow. I grieved for the ice cream that could have been. I mourned the scoop that got away.
And then I saw the second spoon in my wife’s banana split, and forgot all about it.
The banana split, by the way, is awesome. One banana, split (duh); one scoop of vanilla, topped with strawberry goo; one scoop of strawberry, topped with pineapple goo; and one scoop of chocolate, topped with walnuts. A gigantic pile of whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry topped it off.
My wife protested vocally when I grabbed the other spoon and dug in, but I knew, in spirit, she was grateful for rescuing her from the giant pile of empty calories. They will sing songs of my gallantry.
I try to tip well, so I wound up spending $25 on the whole trip. That’s not bad, considering we ordered some of the most expensive items on the menu.
While it’s certainly not gourmet cuisine, it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area, and have the munchies. But please, learn from my mistakes. Order the big cone.
By David Thornton