The Great Food Search: That’s the Way the Banana Splits

Jul 29, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, The Great Food Search

by Terrance Mc Arthur

It happened in 1904: Latrobe, Pennsylvania. “Doc” Strickler, an optometrist, cut a banana lengthwise, added three different scoops of ice cream, topped it with strawberries, raspberries, crushed pineapple, marshmallow syrup, chopped nuts, and pitted black cherries. That was the first Banana Split. It was a hit, and Strickler eventually bought the pharmacy/soda fountain downstairs from his office.

The basic recipe starts with a peeled banana cut end to end. Three flavors of ice cream are nestled between the halves, in an elongated container of glass, plastic, or Styrofoam. Drizzled sauces come next, usually chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple covered by whipped cream instead of Strickler’s marshmallow syrup. Maraschino cherries top it, although crushed peanuts or walnuts are an option – if you don’t have a nut allergy.

That’s the history and recipe portions of this edition of The Great Food Search. Let’s get down to the eating!

Baskin Robbins–Classic flavors with almonds

Baskin-Robbins, 775 S. Bethel Ave., Ste. 104, Sanger. – Good old B-R has been scooping it since 1945, when Baskin and his brother-in-law Robbins merged their ice cream parlors in Glendale, CA. You can use any flavor combination you want on your Banana Split in the home of the 31 flavors, 34, if you count Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry, which aren’t on the main menu list. I’ve bought Splits at B-R using exciting flavors, but this time, we went traditional – strawberry, chocolate, vanilla. Strawberries dripped all over one end, the whipped cream was generously applied, chopped almonds replaced the traditional peanuts, and the crowning touch was not one, not two, but THREE maraschino cherries. The clear banana boat for serving is a nice touch. It was a tasty experience in a good-looking store with a Sanger-oriented mural on the wall by the seating area. The price – $9.99.

Big Mamas–a soft-melt Banana Split to melt your heart

Big Mama’s, 2431 Jensen Ave., Sanger. It’s a converted house east of the Bethel/Jensen shopping centers, but it is dear to the heart of “Sangerites.” The bananas were layered with soft-melt ice cream, real strawberries, pineapple, chocolate sauce, a generous amount of whipped cream, chopped peanuts, and a Maraschino Cherry. No indoor dining, but there is a covered area with bench booths. For takeaway purposes, the Split comes in an elongated Styrofoam clamshell.
The price – $5.99.

Triangle Burger–Lots of whipped cream and a drizzle fo’ shizzle!

Triangle Burgers, 4915 McKinley Ave., Fresno. The Valley-based chain has six locations from Tulare to Fresno-Clovis. This building used to be a Wendy’s. It had a major interior redecoration, and it looks like a malt shop out of the 1950s with black-and-white checkerboard flooring, red vinyl seating, ‘50s music playing, and 45rpm records on the walls. The ice cream has a home-churned quality to it, and after the chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple, the peanuts and mountains of whipped cream are drizzled in chocolate before the crowning Maraschino is added.
The price – $7.99.

The Verdict
You know, each place had reasons to choose them as the place to go. Baskin-Robbins has name recognition and a fantastic flavor variety. The chopped almonds on the Split are a pleasant surprise! Big Mama’s is the least expensive, and they are not “Scrooge-ish” with the whipped cream. Triangle Burgers has the old-time vibe going for it, and their burger-shop menu has many flavorful options. This month’s choice is Triangle Burger. The atmosphere is impressive, but the quality of the product is the deciding factor. You know, you really ought to try all three! Die happy!

Happy eating!

Check out more food articles and more of Terrance’s Great Food Search column in our Food Fun section. And check out a KRL staff profile this week on Terrance!

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.

1 Comment

  1. As always, Terrance, your review is very informative and diplomatic. I think trying all 3 is definitely the way to go!


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