If you go anywhere upstate New Yorkish during the summer, and by “upstate” I mean within an hour’s driving distance of the “Tri-Lakes” area (Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Tupper Lake), you absolutely need to stop and partake of the heavenly delights at this little soft serve ice cream stand that has been in business for 61 years.
“Okay there are ice cream stands and then there is Donnelly’s…It was my first time there, after a 3 hour ride from Albany to have lunch in Lake Placid , you might as well go 45 mins more for this ice cream, it’s smooth, rich and creamy and nothing like you’ve tasted before.”
Kevin J., of Troy, N.Y., Yelp review, 7/9/14
Donnelly’s Corners is at the intersection of the Harrietstown Road and Route 186 (aka, Routes 86 and 186). The actual address is 1556 State Route 86, Saranac Lake, New York 12983.
I’m told they no longer make their own cream, but wherever they get it from, it continues to taste like I remember it. Outstanding. They also deliver “their” cream to at least one other ice cream soft serve stand, up in Brainardsville, called Harrigans, at the intersection of Brainardsville Road and Lake Street (aka, Routes 374 and 24/190). The actual address is RR 374, Brainardsville, NY 12915.
Donnelly’s is open 11 a.m. to 9 or 9:30 p.m., but only during the summer, so, sorry, you just missed ’em, having closed after Labor Day weekend (Harrigans also closes after Labor Day weekend; sorry, I tried to get these posts out quicker, but just didn’t happen…).
As to its history, here it is, from the yelp page:
“Established in 1953.
“Crystal Spring Dairy was purchased by Martin and Nora Donnelly in November 1920. The dairy farm grew and expanded over the years. In 1953, their daughters, Rita and Mary, went to a trade show and saw the unique machine that made the Ice Cream that we still make today. Their son, Francis, turned the warming hut that had been used on the ski hill just down the road into the stand we have today.
“We opened in August of 1953 and haven’t missed a season since. In the early years the stand operated 6 days and were closed on Mondays. It opened July 4th and closed before Labor Day. Family members worked the stand, and in the 1960’s, family friends were hired to help out.
“Peter (Francis’ oldest son) re-joined the dairy in 1968 and is still operating the stand today. In 1969 we started opening 7 days a week, and a year later pushed our opening date up to Memorial Day, and stayed open thru Labor Day. Over the years, the flavor offerings were expanded and hours have been extended.”
I went to school with one of the cousins (I believe the relation was) to that family. When we used to ride our bikes to high school (uphill both ways—if you don’t believe me, drive that route), we sometimes stopped at that house up on the rise to the stand’s left.
Donnelly’s does a twisted-with-vanilla, dual-flavored cone, the schedule of which is listed on their Facebook page. Vanilla is the constant flavor.
My favorite flavor?
Black raspberry. And, for once, the day we first went (we made two trips…), it was a Tuesday, so that was what we got!
Yes, we’d come here many times, when I was a kid, and even now, when I visit this stand, it’s never empty for very long.
But, there is one unknown lady I simply must call out: the second time we were there, this one lady and her family were walking back to their van (on the end of the parking lot), when she did a most heinous thing: without batting an eye, she took one more lick of her cone—then summarily dumped it all in the trash!
And…and…she never looked back!
Where were New York’s Finest when you really needed them, for cryin’ out loud?
The world wept that day.
Okay, don’t be like Unknown Donnelly’s Dumper…when you get your cone (sizes “small” and “large,” and by that I mean “large” and “HUGE“), relish it.
Revel in its flavor and texture.
But, not for too long, okay, ’cause, you know, it is soft ice cream, and it is summer.
Mark this as “Must See” for 2015…and the rest of your life.
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