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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Ice cream
Counter service

Mon–Sat 10:00am–midnight
Sun 10:00am–11:00pm

Features Kid-friendly, veg-friendly
Bar None
Credit cards None
Reservations Not accepted


3214 P St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 337-0616
Thomas Sweet
A sweetly deceitful Ivy League rivalry smooshed into a scoop of premium ice cream

According to the Thomas Sweet website, the “Blend-In®” was invented in 1980, in Princeton, New Jersey, when fudgemakers Tom Grim and Tom Block founded their first ice cream shop. Apparently, Harold, Tom Grim’s father, “found a mechanical contraption in upstate New York in someone’s barn.” Then, Tom “came back with it, fiddled with it, and the Blend-In® was born.”

At least, that’s what they’ve led generations of Princeton students to believe. The problem is, the concept was actually invented seven years earlier, in Somerville, MA, by a man named Steve Herrell, who named it the “smoosh-in.” He still runs a few modest Herrell’s ice cream shops around the state, including one in Northampton, where he now lives; and a shop in Harvard Square that has been fanatically patronized by generations of students. Some of Herrell’s many copycats have graciously acknowledged his influence, like Amy‘s Ice Cream of Austin, Texas (“Crush’ns,” 1984). Others have taken the Sweet route and trademarked their own names for the borrowed idea, including Dairy Queen (the “Blizzard®,” 1985) and Cold Stone Creamery (“Creations™,” 1988).

In 2002, the New York Times wrangled the real story from the Thomases: “Tom Block...can’t help reminiscing about the weeks in the winter of 1980 when he traveled to Massachusetts to learn the ice cream trade at the feet of one of its masters, Steve Herrell...who was then something of a cult figure among ice cream aficionados. ‘Everybody wanted to know Steve’s secret,’ Mr. Block said. ‘They all loved him up at Harvard.‘”

Fudgemakers, indeed.

The DC outpost of Thomas Sweet plays host to tired Georgetown shoppers, students, and people who have accidentally wandered too far and been lured in by the intoxicating smells. The space is a bit dumpy, but not necessarily in a bad way. Cases of fudge jockey for space with tubs of ice cream and piles of candy, and little troughs of toppings form a mosaic in the counter. In summer, the humming freezers, chalkboard-scrawled menus, and bare plastic furniture evoke a beachside town; in winter, all of this feels more bare and less charming.

Sweet’s ice cream isn’t bad; it’s frothier and lighter than some of the premium competition. In a way, it’s like soft serve without the beloved swirl. Flavors range from the traditional (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) to the mildly playful (cake batter, sweet cream, tiramisù). Cookies and cream is a lovely choice, with a texture that is integrated and luxuriant. And, of course, there’s the Blend-In® option. All rights reserved.

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