MANAYUNK >> Tubby Robot Ice Cream Factory is a family friendly spot for homemade ice cream made for and by ice cream lovers.
The ice cream parlor, which offers a wide variety of flavors and sundae toppings, is located on Main Street in Manayunk. It was opened in March of this year by owners Chris Maguire and Steve Wright Jr.
Maguire and Wright have been friends since sixth grade, and two of their favorite things have always been ice cream and video games. Ice cream, especially, is something they both love and associate with growing up together.
“It’s something we always had around,” said Maguire.
Maguire and Wright, who are both from Philadelphia, used to have a tradition of attending the now defunct Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival. They made an event of attending the festival together and did so every year for more than a decade.
The friends previously had very different careers — Maguire was a programmer, and Wright was in social services — and they each found their chosen paths to be less than inspiring and uplifting. So, they each made the decision to shift away from their respective jobs to pursue their shared love for ice cream.
Tubby Robot is their first business venture together, and it blends the two things they love most into one experience. Customers can enjoy their ice cream while playing a classic video game in the shop.
Maguire and Wright love video games, and incorporating them into the business was important to them. It was a challenge, given the limited space in the ice cream parlor’s interior. Though they loved visiting arcades when they were kids, they knew full-sized arcade games would be out of the question.
They managed to come up with a system in which games can be projected through the window onto a weather-proof vinyl screen affixed to the adjacent alley wall, a system they call Wall-O-Vision. Customers can play games from inside the ice cream parlor using custom-made joysticks. There is a new game featured every week.
The ice cream is made in-house using dairy sourced from Longacres Modern Dairy, a farm located about an hour outside of Philadelphia. The quality ingredients are what sets their ice cream apart, Maguire said.
“It all starts with Longacres,” said Wright.
“It’s really high-quality, good cream,” Maguire said. “You can tell a lot of love goes into it.”
In addition, all of the fruit flavors are made with fresh fruit, and even the waffle cones, hot fudge and caramel are made in-house.
Tubby Robot is closed Monday through Wednesday so that the staff can make that week’s batch of ice cream. The schedule allows them time to make improvements and come up with new flavors.
“We’re obsessive about quality,” Maguire said.
Though a lot of attention goes into making the ice cream, Maguire said that “the ice cream is just the start.”
Maguire and Wright love sundaes, and they enjoy coming up with new combinations to add to the menu.
Right now, the menu features a hot fudge sundae, banana split, brownie sundae and the popular s’more sundae, which has a toasted marshmallow and graham cracker sandwich with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, topped with hot fudge.
Tubby Robot also offers traditional waffle cones, as well as actual Belgian waffles made fresh to order. And for the holiday season, Pizzelle cones are available.
For those who can’t choose from one of the 16 available flavors, ice cream flights with four or six mini-scoops are available.
Since the owners are always experimenting, the menu is ever changing, with items being added or removed every couple of weeks. And every now and then, a happy accident occurs, said Wright.
Once, a batch of ice cream that was supposed to be mint chocolate chip was mistakenly made with a chocolate base, yielding a new flavor: chocolate mint chocolate chip.
Creativity and an openness to trying new things has led to the production of almost 40 flavors.
Tubby Robot has already attracted a lot of regulars, and the owners hope to become a mainstay in the community.
“It’s amazing. The other business owners have been very nice,” said Maguire. “Being a part of Main Street is exciting.”
Tubby Robot has formed partnerships with other local businesses, creating ice cream flavors for nearby restaurants such as The Spicy Belly, The Goat’s Beard and Lucky’s Last Chance. The ice cream parlor has also become a stop on the Chew Philly Food Tour.
“We weren’t even open yet, but they took a chance on us,” Wright said about being included on the tour.
Tubby Robot also was given the opportunity to create a new custom ice cream flavor — lavender honey — for the North Light Community Center’s spring gala.
Tubby Robot Ice Cream Factory
4369 Main St., Manayunk
Hours: Thursday to Sunday: noon to 9 p.m.