There’s a place where the ice cream trucks go to stock up on snacks, chips, candy and — of course — ice cream. And it’s in the last location you would ever imagine: National City.
During a trip back north from my old haunting grounds in the South Bay, I saw from the freeway a sign for Circus Man Ice Cream. Most of National City visible from Interstate 5 is pretty industrial, strewn with military buildings, warehouses and a few homes. It’s really not a destination for me until I saw the sign promising frosty treats.
What I imagined was a warehouse full of ice cream and other confections from my youth: Push-Up Pops, Firecrackers, Dipping Sticks, the list goes on. Yeah, I was the chubby kid that got her exercise by running after the ice cream truck. In reality, what I found was much different.
Circus Man Ice Cream is housed in what can be described as a small open warehouse. Behind the counter are a few people ready to take orders. Past the storefront and around the yard are several parked ice cream trucks – some barely qualifying for the name. If Sanford and Son had an ice cream side business, this place would be it. (The requisite junkyard dog greets you at the entrance.)
No order is too large. Taking the Costco mentality, the larger the order, the bigger the discount. A box of 48 popsicles will set you back a cool $8 for the cheapest variety. But even then pricing is confusing. Prices change regularly according to the staff.
While a bulk pack of one flavor (24 count) is daunting for a household of two people, they also sell individual bars in a separate bin. But quality tends to be an issue. A Big Dipper (a Drumstick equivalent) felt flat when I picked it up, obviously crushed by outside forces. It’s buyer beware in the single serve bin, but it’s a chance to try the Dora the Explorer pop with bubble gum eyes or Blue Bunny ice cream. And again, pricing is random. A box of 13 mixed bars came up to $11.75 with some sort of undefined discount.
There are more treats found in an adjacent shed, loaded with discounted chips and candies. My advice: don’t be afraid to ask if you’re looking for something in particular. They might just have it.
Circus Man Ice Cream is open 7 days a week (call for operating hours). It can found at the west end of Harding Avenue where it dead ends with signs directing you to the store.
Circus Man Ice Cream
1037 Harding Avenue
National City, CA 91950