Artisan ice cream tends to come with a hipster sheen these days, all thick-framed glasses and beards. But there were times that all ice cream was made in small batches. Hank's Ice Cream on South Main Street is a shadow of an era when your grandmother churned her own on Sunday. Having opened in 1985, the truth is, it's only old by Houston standards. But a visit makes it clear that this is Houston's ur-artisan ice cream spot. Just check out at what Destiny's Child looked like when they were visiting.
That said, not all of Hank's flavors smack of the natural and homemade. One labeled "Bubble Yum" is a highly synthetic blue-grey and tastes exactly as advertised. (This may or may not be a good thing depending on your predilections.) But I'm here to expound on the virtues of a very different breed. The container right next to the Bubble Yum in the case is Banana Pudding.
The soul food staple is often made with little evidence of actual bananas. But the ice cream version is different. There's just a hint of that woody, green flavor that disappears as soon as a banana is fully ripe. I was able to taste not just the banana, but its state of maturity! This was less important, though, than the Nilla Wafers. Fully submersed in the pudding, they take on a cake-like texture that blends with the ice cream far better than any ice cream cake ever could.
This is an ice cream with far more heart and soul than any Chunky Monkey. Every city has a Ben & Jerry's. But not every city has a Hank's.