Many students from Northern Virginia have Route 29 memorized like the back of their hand. The scenic Blue Ridge mountain skylines and open farmlands are a comforting reminder I am going home, whether it be to my family in Arlington or to my friends in Charlottesville. The real joy kicks in about midway through, and I am sure most “NoVa” kids already know what I’m talking about. It’s right when you see a little red barn-like building, typically followed by long lines of people and cars in the small town of Remington, Va. Why would they be standing outside on the side of a highway? Ice cream. And not just any ice cream — Moo Thru ice cream.
If you’ve driven down Route 29 and never stopped at Moo Thru, then you’re either crazy or just a stickler for no-stop road trips. If you’re not from Northern Virginia and have never had the opportunity to have Moo Thru, you’re in luck — Moo Thru is now available in Charlottesville at the new Dairy Market at the intersection of Grady Avenue and 10th Street NW. The Dairy Market officially opened on Dec. 15.
The Dairy Market is similar to a food hall and features various venders with a multitude of cuisines. It’s an ideal place for friend groups that include picky eaters and can never decide on one place to eat. There’s Thai food, sandwiches, drinks, soul food, pizza and much more coming. Moo Thru will always stand out to me, though, and no meal is complete without a sweet dessert. The stand is located near the front of the door, and though there were people in line when I visited, everyone was following appropriate social-distancing guidelines due to COVID-19. For example, there are markings on the floor to enforce spacing in lines. The venue also has high ceilings which made the space feel ventilated. The available seating right next to each of the stands honestly made me a bit nervous as they did not seem too distanced from visitors. However, there are separate rooms that offer additional seating — these rooms seemed safer in terms of distance from the employees at the stands and other customers. Parking was easy too, as there is a large lot to the side of the market. They also offer 15-minute spots right outside the front of the building, which would be ideal for a quick ice-cream run.
Moo Thru offers handmade, slow-churned, locally-sourced ice cream from fresh milk. The products come from Holstein cows at the owners’ family farm just two miles away from the Remington store. The shop offers classic flavors like chocolate, vanilla, mint chocolate chip and cookie dough as well as unique varieties like cinnamon, cotton candy, blackberry and Moundz.
The store rotates in seasonal specials too, like pumpkin and gingerbread in the fall and key lime in the summer. My personal seasonal favorites have been red velvet around Valentine’s Day and s’mores in the summer. The red velvet ice cream is a deep red color that tastes just what one would expect red velvet cake batter to taste like. I have found it pairs well with the sweet cream flavor to give the complete feeling of a red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting. The s'mores flavor is a marshmallow-like ice cream with chocolate chips and a graham cracker swirl — it will immediately take you back to the experience of sitting around a campfire.
My go-to is a scoop of its sweet cream flavor and another of its daily specials — a homemade waffle cone, which is an additional dollar. Sometimes the waffle cones are still warm, which adds the perfect contrast with the cold ice cream. The ice cream is always soft and is never icy or crystalized. The store also offers ridiculously good milkshakes topped with whipped cream — it might make your stomach squirm if you’re lactose intolerant, but it’s always worth it. The milkshakes come in sizes regular and large, which are 16 and 20 ounces, respectively. They are priced at $5.50 and $6.50.
Its Dairy Market stand resembles the original location that sits on the side of the highway. The stand is red with white panels, just like the little red barn off of Route 29. The same cute cow printed writing decorates the stand, and it brings me a similar nostalgia to the feeling I get when I see the original location on drives home.
The real test was a taste comparison. While the location’s appearance and convenience brought me extreme joy and I often crave that feeling of bliss and comfort that the simple sight of the shop gives me, I’m really there for the sweet taste of ice cream. I needed to know if this Charlottesville location would compare to the original location. I had to create an official taste test and try it out for myself — for science reasons, obviously.
I was upset to see the menu did not feature my favorite flavor, sweet cream. They also did not have any daily specials, and the menu board remained blank in that area. I suppose the smaller location makes it harder to provide everything from the original shop. I went before dinner, so I only ordered a single scoop, but immediately regretted not going for the double after I took my first bite. I chose the cake batter flavor, another personal favorite. It tasted just like the ice cream in Remington and passed my taste test with flying colors and flavors. The texture was just as soft and creamy as I remembered and had me contemplating if I should order more and have ice cream for dinner. Luckily for my stomach and my health, I decided against that, but I feel fortunate I can now feasibly return for more whenever the ice cream craving hits, which happens to be often.
The products are unfortunately a bit more expensive than the original location. In Remington, a single is $2.75, but in Charlottesville it is $3.25. A regular milkshake in Remington is also $4.50, in comparison to the $5.50 here. I guess the extra dollar or so is worth it, since you’re saving gas. Convenience really is key here. I still think $3.25 is fair for a scoop of ice cream because the portions tend to be generous, and I would probably pay anything just to eat Moo Thru’s ice cream.
There have been trying moments during finals where my friends and I have contemplated making the drive to Remington just for Moo Thru ice cream. This used to happen almost every semester in my past four years at the University. Luckily, we can now save some gas and stress and head to the Dairy Market during our last semester here. Part of me fears the drives home will feel less magical without the anticipation of the long awaited midway ice cream stop. Even though I now have Moo Thru so easily accessible here, I’ll probably still continue stopping at the Route 29 location because as my mother always says, “Ice cream is never a bad idea.”