Most ice cream shops close their doors in the winter, assuming the cold will keep customers away.
This is the first year that the restaurant has remained open over the winter months, and its owner, Scott Burns, is planning to do the same thing for years to come.
“This is the first time we thought we’d try it, and it’s worked out really well,” Burns says. “Even though the winter’s been a little cold, people still like their ice cream and their sandwiches.”
Cabana originally opened in 1990, with Burns’ parents buying it in 1993 before moving it to its current location at 3002 S. Belt Highway. Burns opened Cabana Grill at 2131 St. Joseph Ave. in 2001 before buying the business from his parents in 2006. It was only recently, in 2016, that the Belt Highway Cabana began adding a number of food items to its menu.
“Originally, it was just ice cream and some snow flavors — a little bit more of a limited menu — but we added food items here a couple of years ago, like tenderloins, fries, cheeseballs, mushrooms and things like that.”
He is especially proud of the tenderloins, which have won numerous local awards.
“Every time people come in and order (the tenderloin), they say it’s one of their favorites, and then to actually be voted the favorite in town, that was really gratifying.”
But they still have those frozen classics, like cones, shakes, snow-cones, sundaes, yogurt and malts. They also offer Flavor Burst ice cream, which wraps different flavors around the swirls of the ice cream.
Cabana also boasts the largest cones in town, something that is displayed prominently on its sign.
“We have the tallest cones in town,” Burns says. “If you buy a large cone, it’s almost a meal for you. It’s big.”
And the reason those cones can get so big is because the ice cream is so rich, according to Burns.
“A lot of it is the mix we buy,” Burns says. “We buy a real good ice cream mix, and it’s a little richer than some of the other ice cream shops here in town, and I think that’s why we’ve been voted favorite ice cream. It’s just got a real good taste to it.”
But it was the addition of those food items, like chicken strips, french fries and onion rings, that led Burns to consider having his restaurant remain open during the winter, and he credits his loyal customers for helping him to make that decision more easily.
“I think St. Joe is a good fit for us,” he says. “And without our regulars, we would be lost.”