The word “novel” means not only a book of fiction, but also innovative or new. Sometimes, that meaning can be negative, as with the novel coronavirus that has caused disease, death, and disruption, but more often it has a positive connotation. In downtown Mesa, Novel Ice Cream celebrates all that is good about being novel with its innovative approach to ice cream, sorbet, and creations made from those frozen treats. Novel began on Grand Avenue in Phoenix, where it still operates. The newer store in Mesa is just two blocks from the Center/Main light rail station.
Mesa’s Novel ice cream shop is hidden in a building known as the Greenbelt, a vintage low-rise across the street from the Arizona Museum of Natural History and around the corner from the i.d.e.a Museum. The location makes sense as a place to reward children after a successful museum visit, and it also complements the dramatic growth in downtown Mesa’s dining options. To reach Novel, head down a shaded outdoor corridor, passing other small businesses like Fritz’s Barbershop, the Organic Bean Cafe, and the Barrel + Bloom plant shop along the way.
Near the end of the walkway, look for Novel on the left. As with Grand Avenue, the Mesa location operates as a retail window rather than a walk-in shop. A daily dozen flavors are listed on a sign, and a small menu describes how the frozen desserts can be ordered in cups, in cones, and in combination with donuts, waffles, or a bottled beverage in a float. Customers order at the window and wait a few minutes while their indulgences are prepared. Small tables are available in the breezeway with a larger picnic table on the sidewalk along MacDonald.
Novel’s flavors include perennials like honey lavender and Madagascar vanilla, two smooth, gentle ways to start exploring the shop’s menu, and bourbon caramel toffee crunch, a richer mix with a bit of texture. Other flavors come and go, offering ever-changing seasonal bounty. Recent innovations have included London Fog Latte, seasoned with a bit of Earl Grey tea, and BeeNut Butter Biscuit, accentuated with honey and peanut butter. Refreshing, summery non-dairy sorbet flavors have included salty (but not excessively so) watermelon and cucumber lime.
Whether served in a cup or a waffle cone, any flavor can be topped with any number of sugary breakfast cereals or something as simple as rainbow sprinkles or chocolate sauce. For the next level of novelty at Novel, the signature dish is a dough melt, a scoop of ice cream inserted between two halves of a glazed donut. The sweet sandwich is gently pressed to yield a warm exterior and cool inner core. A companion offering is the Leslie Knope, named for the Parks and Recreation character’s affection for waffles. Both creations also involve a choice of topping.
One final option is to combine ice cream and soda to create a float. Novel has a refrigerator full of bottled boutique sodas that go beyond root beer to include more esoteric fruit flavors and a few vintage favorites. With a dozen flavors and five formats for their enjoyment, Novel doesn’t try to be the biggest ice cream shop in town, but it is one of the best. The semi-secret location makes it almost an ice cream speakeasy that may not be easy to find but is easy to like. As downtown Mesa’s assortment of food choices continues to grow, Novel fills a vital niche.
40 N. Macdonald #2, Mesa AZ 85201