The Sugar Bowl is located at 4005 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-946-0051 or visit sugarbowlscottsdale.com.
© Morey K. Milbradt
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How Sweet It IsIf fruitcake isn't your thing, grab a sundae at the Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Christmas Eve.
By Leah Duran
Scottsdale Fifty years ago this month, Jack Huntress and his family sat around the breakfast table and developed a menu for an ice cream parlor they planned to open in Old Town Scottsdale. They called it the Sugar Bowl, and on Christmas Eve 1958, it officially opened to the public.
A few things have changed since then. For example, you won't find penny candy or the restaurant's original spun-wire chairs, but you will find the same menu and the same overall feel — it's the kind of place where Richie, Potsie and Ralph Malph might have hung out. Caroll B. Huntress III,
who bought the restaurant from his uncle Jack in 1985, says people want connecting points to the past. Something recognizable. "We're part of the fabric of old Scottsdale, and everything is changing around us. All these new condos and fancy restaurants and expensive retail stores are going in, but we've been able to survive, and the community has certainly helped support us."
Huntress attributes part of the Sugar Bowl's success to its nostalgic atmosphere, which includes metal Coca-Cola signs, antique teacup displays and pastel pink walls.
Although the interior echoes a slower era, the service is fast and friendly. And even though a scoop of ice cream no longer costs 50 cents, almost every item is priced under $10. Among the favorites are tea sandwiches paired with homemade soup. There's also a meatloaf sandwich, a classic peanut butter and jelly, and — for those with a taste for adventure — a cream cheese sandwich with sliced green olives.
"That's an oldie," Huntress says. "We've kept it on there because that's part of our history."
In another effort to stick with tradition, the Sugar Bowl's original 13 ice cream flavors are the only options, with the exception of a rotating "Treat of the Month" flavor. It's popular, but the restaurant's signature dessert is the Top Hat Sundae, which consists of a fresh-baked cream puff filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge.
"I think people get a real kick out of our Gosh-Awful-Gooey Banana Split, too," Huntress says. Keep a napkin handy for this one — it combines Turkish coffee ice cream with caramel sauce and red raspberry sorbet with marshmallow sauce, all topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.
The menu isn't the only piece of history at the Sugar Bowl. In 1963, Bil Keane, the creator of The Family Circus, began featuring the restaurant in several of his comic strips. Like Keane, who usually orders vegetable soup with tea sandwiches, other longtime customers — even if they haven't visited in more than 20 years — still remember the menu.
"People come in and say, 'Thank goodness the Sugar Bowl hasn't changed; thank goodness you're still here,' " Huntress says. It's a link to the past and maybe the future.
With Huntress' son, Caroll B. Huntress IV, interested in managing the restaurant someday, the elder Huntress is optimistic the Sugar Bowl will stick around for "at least another 30 years."
"We plan on being here for a long time," he says.