Need a break from city-style dining’s complicated desserts, with their towers of flaming alcohol or ginger infused emulsions? Or, after the main course, want to add a little country feel to your meal? Sun Groves on State Road 580 in Safety Harbor can certainly help. They’ve been helping since 1933. This family owned locale loves to invite your family in for a visit and a taste of something only they can deliver.
Sun Groves is a carefree seller of Florida goods with a relaxed setting and pleasant staff. At first glance, it’s kind of like a tourist trap you find near the more rural interstate exits. And, well, it basically is, with its chocolate alligators, coconut patties, various taffy flavors, and the obligatory Florida themed knick knacks. But it is far less cluttered, much better organized, and loads cleaner than most of what you’ll run into off the interstate. It also offers more than just the usual tchotchke, including jars of magnificent local marmalades and fresh squeezed juices (orange, tangerine, and grapefruit.) From November to May, they have gift baskets available for shipping across the country (the oranges in particular make a great surprise for relatives nearly snowed in elsewhere!) You’ll even find an outdoor produce stand in the parking lot.
The star, in my mind at least, is their homemade soft serve! Summer is here, the heat is ratcheting up, and you need cooling down. Heck, it’s Florida, even in the winter you can pop in for a frozen treat. Sun Groves’ makes its own hard and soft serve ice creams, allowing you to sample before you pick one. Or two. (You’ll probably want two, but their sizes are fair so you’ll more than likely get one and nab a taste from your friend’s.) While we’ve enjoyed their hard ice creams, Laura and I have a soft spot for their soft serve. Their staple flavor is orange (or orange vanilla twist,) but they also offer an extra flavor here and there.
Today’s second flavor was pineapple. Laura’s eyes lit up as pineapples are one of her favorite things to nom. She ordered the pineapple vanilla twist in a cone. It was smooth and cold, everything a soft serve should be. The pineapple’s sweetness was front and center, but it wasn’t as sharp as fresh pineapple can sometimes be and didn’t overwhelm the vanilla. Instead, it meshed really well, almost creating a pineapple creamsicle flavor. Truly delicious! Laura doesn’t typically finish her ice creams. This time, however, there wasn’t a single lick left.
I had fully intended to get a hard ice cream when I walked through Sun Groves’ front door, but, as usual, my greed for the orange vanilla twist soft serve welled up in me and overrode my previous plans. With it being homemade, it’s not only a unique flavor (you’ve really got to try it, it’s like no other orange ice cream you’ll have,) but has an unusual consistency and texture. Most soft serve is just that, super soft. In the Florida heat, they become puddles running down your fist rather quickly. Sun Groves’ soft serve is denser, almost a sherbet. In my experience, this has the strange effect of making it stand up to heat a tad better. Oh, it will still melt, just not quite as fast as your average soft serve, or even your average ice cream. And you’re welcome to stay inside their A/C at one of the tables they’ve set up for just the occasion. Laura and I did just that, enjoying the bright flavors and the ability to eat without a race against the thaw. You can clearly tell the orange portion is made with fresh fruit juices; the tangy taste is so strong I prefer to cut it with the vanilla. Very few ice creams stay with you once you’re finished, but this one lingered on my tongue for about a half hour after I left. That’s potent stuff! But oh so delicious.
Sun Groves is totally worth the stop. You can do a little shopping, enjoy a sit down with the family, and have an icy treat. No airs, no pretentions, just old fashioned friendliness. Their soft serve is unique and is in itself enough to make this a local destination. Not all desserts have to be topped with 24K gold shavings. Sometimes, simple is golden enough.
3393 SR 580
Safety Harbor, FL 34695