Ice cream is one of those things that I really enjoy but don’t eat very often. Other than the occasional pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia or rare trip to Coldstone Creamery, I don’t even think about ice cream when my sweet tooth gets hold of me. All that may be about to change, though, after tonight’s trip to Nom Noms Mexican Grill-n-Chill on Central Avenue in Hot Springs. Nom Noms boasts 42 different flavors of homemade ice cream, a wide variety to suit almost any taste. In addition to the ice cream, Nom Noms has popsicle bars available, too, as well as a full service grill. We came in after a large meal in search of dessert, so I can’t speak to the hot food except to say that it smelled quite good (and that we’ll be back to try it another day).
We had passed Nom Noms on several previous occasions, but it had remained one of those “oh, we’ve got to try that sometime” places. At the urging of a friend, we decided to try it when we were in Hot Springs for Jess’ mom’s birthday, and my only regret is that it took us this long to make our way in. The setup is typical of any ice cream shop: tubs of each flavor displayed under a covered counter, but closer inspection reveals some very interesting flavors like Rose Petal and Avocado Cream as well as more traditional flavors like Cookie Dough and Chocolate. Jess’ choice was the Key Lime, a sweet and tart mixture that tasted exactly like a frozen key lime pie, even down to the bits of graham cracker crust mixed throughout. Jess’ dad opted for the Raspberry Cream, and remarked that the flavor reminded him favorably of Jelly Belly jelly beans. I sampled both and was impressed by the smooth, rich texture of the ice cream as well as the flavor.
Jess’ mom went with the Almond Cappuccino, a creamy concoction of luscious coffee ice cream striped with ribbons of chocolate and crushed almond. I love coffee ice cream, and before now, my favorite was from Braum’s (Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk) – but this was easily its equal. My own selection was one of the more out-of-the-ordinary flavors, Strawberry Jalapeno. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but having never had ice cream made with hot peppers, I couldn’t pass it up. The texture was just as creamy and good as all the other flavors we tried, but the taste was quite surprising: cool, sweet strawberry at first with a shock of subtle heat on the back of the tongue that made everybody’s eyes go wide as they tried a bite. I’ve never had an ice cream that was cold in my mouth but also brought a little bit of pepper-heat sweat to my forehead as I finished the cup. I was delighted by the combination of flavors, and as strange as they might sound together, they worked together completely.
Although at this point we were far too full to keep going, we kept going anyway. We certainly didn’t want to leave without sampling a couple of Nom Bars, and these were even better than the ice cream. In keeping with my spicy/sweet theme, I got the Mango-Chili bar, a combination of sweet mangoes, tart lime juice, and a salty/spicy chili mixture that was an even better flavor profile than the Strawberry Jalapeno ice cream. Jess and I sometimes make a fresh mango and red pepper salad, and this was like that salad in a frozen popsicle form. The next time I make it back, it’s going to be really hard for me to try another flavor of Nom Bar because this one was so incredibly tasty. Jess’ selection, the Orange Juice Fruit Melody (below left), was just as good, though – a fresh fruit cocktail of kiwis, cherries, and strawberries frozen in tangy orange juice. There are almost as many flavors of Nom Bars as there are of ice cream, and I’m impressed at the quality and creativity that has gone into each selection.
What’s most pleasant and surprising about the frozen treats at Nom Noms is how fresh tasting they are. It’s easy to tell the difference in product that has been sitting in the back of a warehouse freezer for months and shipped halfway across creation and product that is made locally with craftsmanship and care. The service was excellent; I really felt like the staff working was excited for us to try their food – a feeling you definitely don’t get from the folks working the counter at Coldstone or Baskin Robbins. Nom Noms Mexican Grill-n-Chill is located 3371 Central Avenue in Hot Springs (in what used to be Taco Bell), and they’re open 11am-10pm Monday-Thursday, 11am-Midnight Friday, and Saturday they start at 11am and work the clock around until 10pm Sunday night. They’ve got free Wi-Fi available, and honestly, if you can’t find a flavor you like here – you’ve just got bad taste. Enjoy!