I had a post about my camera changes planned for today, but we lost a legend in our community yesterday. Abe Doumar, of Doumar's Ice Cream and BBQ died at the tremendous age of 92. He'd recently cut back from 60-70 hour weeks to 30-40 hour weeks and could be seen at the shop making his famous cones nearly every time we went in. I'm re-posting a post I wrote for Annie at Insideology to tell you a little about this amazing man and the legend his eatery has become in our town.
Doumar’s has a wonderful history. Abe Doumar, one of four brothers from Damascus, Syria, is credited with the invention of the ice cream cone. We love Abe Doumar! At the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, Abe Doumar purchased a waffle that he then rolled into a cone and topped with some ice cream to sell at the fair. Impressed with his brilliance (And who wouldn’t be?) and success, Abe brought his brothers to America where they sold ice cream cones at the Jamestown Exposition in 1907. For the Exposition Abe had a four-waffle machine made, and the brothers sold more than 23,000 cones.
After the Exposition, the brothers set up shop at the Ocean View Amusement Park, once considered the finest resort area south of Atlantic City, New Jersey. A 1933 hurricane devastated the Ocean View area, and afterwards, in 1934, George (brother to Abe, who had died in 1920) opened the drive-in soda fountain in its current location. George’s son Albert can still be found making cones on the original four-cone machine nearly everyday. As a side note, because I’m a bit of a hurricane buff, the Hurricane of 1933 made landfall on the Virginia/North Carolina border as a Category 1 hurricane. In Norfolk, a tidal surge of 7-9 feet flooded much of downtown and sank 10 ships. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the area until Hurricane Isabel in 2003, which struck four days after we moved here.
Today, Doumar’s looks much the same as it did when it opened in the 1930s. While I’m sure the orange vinyl seats on the booths and the stools at the counter have been replaced over the years, the sense you get is that they’ve been there since the beginning. The same goes for the faux wood laminate table tops. The bathrooms are outside. If you need to go, you grab the key on the hook to unlock the door. But really, I recommend waiting until you get home.
The drive-in is still operational, and this is a popular Norfolk eatery. When we were house hunting in Norfolk 12 years ago, this was one of our realtor’s first stops with us! People come for the ice cream and the food. The limeade is the most popular beverage, unless you opt for a milkshake. Those can be served regular or, for 10 cents more, “drugstore” thin. If you’re looking for a healthy meal, don’t come to Doumar’s! Folks, the bacon for the BLT is fried in the deep fryer. It’s awesome. The cheeseburger, one of my favorites, has cheese on both sides, but they’re best known for their pork BBQ. It’s served Southern style, with slaw, and you add your own hot sauce at the table.
No plates or utensils, just plastic-wrapped sandwiches and paper napkins. The food comes fast and is simple and delicious. You tend to eat it fast too, because generally there’s a standing-room-only line waiting for a table. And you usually see someone you know there too. Grandparents take their grandkids, families come for lunch or dinner, teens stop in for ice cream. We ran into our neighbors at lunch this day.
Doumar’s has been featured on Food Channel shows and has won James Beard awards. It’s not fancy, but it is special. And I love what they say on their web site, “Our favorite awards over the years have been the many smiles!”
I can't tell you how Abe Doumar's loss has left such a void in our community. It seriously was the talk of the town yesterday, and even the bright spring sunshine felt somber. Here's a news story about Abe showing just how beloved he was... it wasn't just the place; it was the man himself. He'll be missed, but the smiles he created will linger on. What a wonderful business to be in? Making people smile with ice cream!