What does a cute white seal with a little brown cap have to do with ice cream? Sure, the mascot for Brown Cap, an organic soft serve truck that serves ice cream fans in Albany, Rockridge, Berkeley and beyond, is adorable and sweet, but what’s the relevance? As it turns out, the answer was right under our noses all along.
“The little seal character with our logo, he’s wearing a little cap. So, he’s like the vanilla ice cream with the chocolate on top,” artist and Brown Cap co-owner Jessica Olip Booth told Nosh.
“We were trying to think about what was going to be different about us,” co-owner Dara Pond said, thinking back on Brown Cap’s origins, “and we wanted to have a really good quality, dark chocolate sauce.” In other words, a delicious brown cap.
Brown Cap’s story began in 2017 when Booth and Pond (who manages her husband’s architecture and contracting business), bought a vintage 1961 International Harvester Metro truck in San Luis Obispo.
The pair hauled the former coffee truck to the East Bay, where, initially, the duo thought they would use it to sell coffee to tired moms.
“We met when our kids were really tiny and, when we were at playgrounds, we always wished someone would deliver coffee to us in the park,” said Booth. “But then we wanted something where we could sell at parties. So, we thought ice cream would be fun.”
“It makes little kids happy,” added Pond, who said the pair also had another motive for choosing cold treat over hot coffee: “By that point, our kids were teenagers and we thought it would be fun for them to work in the truck.”
After months of retrofitting the truck to bring it up to tough city of Berkeley standards, Brown Cap launched in 2018, featuring Straus ice cream, a homemade and high-quality chocolate shell, and toppings like rainbow sprinkles and Oreo cookie crumbles. They also serve specialties like root beer floats and “happy affogatos,” made with Jittery John’s cold brew concentrate on top of vanilla soft serve. Anything with rainbow sprinkles is Brown Cap’s biggest hit with the kids, while the coffee drink is their bestseller with the adult crowd.
They even have teeny, $1 cones for tots, and free ice cream for dogs. “There are dogs who pull on the leash trying to get across the street” when they see the truck, Pond said.
Though things ground to a halt for Brown Cap during the pandemic, it’s slowly returned to the party and sidewalk circuit at locations in Albany, Rockridge, Berkeley and elsewhere in the East Bay. You’ll also see their truck at private events like birthday parties, weddings and corporate get togethers.
One thing you won’t see is Brown Cap roaming the streets playing “The Entertainer” to attract neighborhood children. “It’s not toodling in the old-fashioned ice cream truck kind of way,” Pond said. “But sometimes if we don’t have an event or if we have time, we’ll go to a park and see what the crowds are like.”
Folks on the lookout for Brown Cap should stick to the region’s flatter areas, though. Their generator and their high-end, European ice cream machine — imperative for their thicker-than-usual Straus soft serve — as well as the water needed to run it put a lot of pressure on their tiny truck even in the best of conditions. Hauling all that up a steep slope might be too much for their 61-year-old conveyance. In addition, there are logistical concerns that would plague even the newest ice cream truck, Booth said, and “if there’s ice cream in the machine, it’ll spill on a hill.”
If you want to try to catch Brown Cap out and about, its favorite spots are in front of Flowerland (1330 Solano Ave., near Pomona Avenue, in Albany) or Terrace Park (1548 Terrace St., Albany). If you want to keep track of when and where the Brown Cap truck will be serving up their delicious soft serve, keep track via Instagram, where they’ll post their location if they plan to be parked for more than an hour. You can also follow their calendar on their website to find them at their scheduled stops.
Featured image: The Brown Cap truck during one of its East Bay stops. Credit: Brown Cap/Instagram