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Brigham's Ice Cream is a Beloved, Traditional New England Institution (CLOSED
Brigham's Ice Cream photo, Arlington, MA

Article and photo by Eric H.

(ARLINGTON, MASS.) -- When I was growing up in Arlington in the 1970s, Brigham's Ice Cream was known

to Arlington High School students as the place to sneak out of school for a sundae, only to be caught by one of the crackerjack, fleet-footed housemasters. Today, thinking on slightly more mature, global terms, Brigham's is a New England landmark and institution, known for its superior vanilla ice cream and "Boston"-named flavors like "Wicked Chocolate" (chocolate ice cream laced with Brigham's fudge sauce and chunks of fudgy brownie pieces), "Curse Reversed!" (vanilla ice cream with chocolate covered peanuts, chocolate covered caramel cups and swirls of fudge sauce), and the "The Big Dig" (chewy brownie pieces, caramel swirls and chunks of chocolate).

The sundaes, frappes, raspberry lime rickeys and shakes (how about a "Black Cow Shake" with root beer and vanilla ice cream?) are also phenomenal, as it is apparent that Brigham's requires a lifetime worth ofvisits to sample the wonderland of sweet offerings.

With more than 20 restaurants and comprehensive distribution to markets across New England, Brigham's ice cream is always within reach of ice cream-needy New England. Using Vermont milk and natural flavors, the Arlington-based Brigham's appeals to the younger crowd in love with sugar, the middle-aged crowd with families looking for a good meal and dessert, and the older crowd in love with the Brigham's dining tradition, the specials, and the chance to talk over coffee, soup, sandwich and a gargantuan sundae in a welcoming restaurant.

The food is just fine, with tuna melts, turkey dinners, burgers, BLTs, mac and cheese and chicken pot pie holding its own against some of the better diners in the area. Brigham's also serves a respectable breakfast, with the usual suspects -- omelets, scrambled eggs, pancakes and waffles. The informal atmosphere is much like Friendly's, but the service is generally much better with employees of all ages acting pleasant and serving the food and ice cream efficiently. There always seems to be a restaurant manager on hand who actually acts like a manager -- many times wearing a tie, having a pencil thin mustache, and sporting a patient smile that can disappear quickly when an employee is functioning on a sub par basis. The latter is few and far between, but it is nice to know that Brigham's managers are as on the ball as the housemasters from the 1970s at Arlington High School.

Brigham's has been around since 1914, and will probably be around forever. Brigham's might come across as a basic, hometown business, but the reality is they have constantly evolved through innovative marketing (playing the Boston angle with its appropriately named flavors), corporate vision (they purchased Elan Frozen Yogurt in 1993), and social awareness (working with many non-profits, supporting the Hurricane Katrina victims).

The fact that Brigham's is a household name in New England speaks volumes to its hard-working staff -- from cleaning person to the upper management type -- that is only interested in turning out, or contributing to the best product possible. The result is every walk of New England life enjoying this bright, happy, long-time favorite business -- even housemasters from the 1970s at Arlington High School who might have taken some liberties of their own to enjoy a break at Brigham's at an opportune time.

Visit the Brigham's Web Site for more information on ice cream flavors, breakfast, lunch and dinner items, restaurant locations, markets that carry the Brigham's ice cream line, and more.

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