In the 1970s, a small series of old-fashioned ice cream and burger joints – all called Big Scoop Sundae Palace – dotted the United States and Canada. Noteworthy for its two dozen varieties of ice cream sundaes, Big Scoop had locations in seemingly odd places: North Delta, British Columbia; London, Ontario; Port Angeles, Washington. A corporate office, which solicited prospective franchisees through newspaper ads, was based in Seattle. A Mount Vernon franchise opened in 1973, some 30 years after the first Big Scoop opened in a location unknown, at least to this author.

Big Scoop inside
A visit to Big Scoop Ice Cream in Mount Vernon is an ice cream-fueled nostalgia trip. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

Each franchise had some version of a red and white-striped color scheme. A mascot character (best described as a human-like being, bedecked in a Big Scoop apron and holding three scoops of ice cream in one hand and a scooper in the other) was also a consistent feature. 

But despite its bright, welcoming atmosphere and a penchant for inexpensive hot food and premium ice cream, each Big Scoop eventually closed its doors. Even the Port Angeles location, beloved by its community and owned for 15 years by the late Del Thompson, succumbed to the ceaseless tide of shifting business trends.  

For whatever reason, though, Mount Vernon’s Big Scoop Sundae Palace has endured. Family-owned since 2002, it is the last known Big Scoop Sundae Palace in existence.

Ice Cream in Mount Vernon Sprinkled With Nostalgic Vibes

Owned and managed today by Clara and Jim Kyle, Big Scoop has no shortage of admirers when it comes to the classic and friendly ice cream parlor vibes of yesteryear.

With red vinyl seating booths and stained-glass pendant lighting, the Mount Vernon Big Scoop is a place that seems frozen in time, and in the best possible way. On the wall next to the modern cash register, 24 “exotic” sundae options are presented in dimly backlit vintage photographs and descriptions.

rainbow-colored sherbert in a glass bowl
With more than 30 flavors of Cascade Glacier ice cream and sorbet, there’s something for every palate. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

They range from the traditional Big Scoop Supreme – a large scoop of vanilla topped with whipped cream, chopped nuts, a cherry and your choice of topping – to the old-fashioned banana split.

The latter is a favorite of Ixshel Garcia, a 17-year-old Big Scoop employee who’s been working here since June. Having grown up in the Skagit Valley, Garcia remembers attending childhood birthday parties at the beloved ice cream parlor. As an employee, she now sees plenty of adults come in to reconnect with their own childhood memories of Big Scoop.

“It’s really sweet to hear about it,” she says.

Not far from where Garcia stand, Gary and Riki Woodrell, along with their son and two grandsons – Quin, 4, and Kellan, 5 – sit waiting in a corner booth for their food on a recent Thursday night.

“There aren’t that many places like this around anymore,” says Riki.

While everyone at the table has their own reasons for enjoying a Big Scoop visit, Kellan is most succinct about what he loves.

“Everything,” he says with glee.

Mount Vernon Burgers and Desserts Galore

Big Scoop’s menu is fairly extensive on both sides. Its food half consists of nearly a dozen juicy burger options, including a grilled oyster burger featuring locally-harvested shellfish. There are also garden burgers for those with vegetarian needs, and entrée-size salads.

Each burger entrée comes with choice of chips, French or waffle fries, soup, side salad or onion rings. Hot dogs, corn dogs and chili dogs are also on the menu, along with hot and cold sandwich options, fish and chips, and a shrimp basket.

Its menagerie of over 30 ice cream and sorbet flavors comes from Eugene, Oregon’s Cascade Glacier brand. From “Maui Waui” and “Death by Chocolate” to huckleberry and cotton candy, there is undoubtedly a flavor for every person and occasion.

Big Scoop Sundae Palace & Restaurant
Big Scoop made its name on having 24 “exotic” sundae options, from traditional sundae and banana splits to more unique offerings. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

Ice cream scoops can be served by cone or cup, and covered with nearly a dozen different toppings ranging from hot fudge to pineapple. If drinking your ice cream is preferred, there are made-to-order ice cream sodas (including the Boston Cooler, a lemon-lime soda whipped with vanilla ice cream), floats, milkshakes and malts.

Several of the sundae options are best reserved for gluttons and/or large groups of people. The Mount Everest contains five scoops of vanilla and strawberry ice cream topped with hot fudge, marshmallow and strawberry toppings, plus “glaciers” of whipped cream and nuts atop a split banana; the photo on the wall shows a tiny American flag perched atop its summit.

The Banana Bonanza, meanwhile, features two sliced bananas and eight scoops of various flavors, plus mixed toppings, mini marshmallows, whipped cream, chopped nuts and a maraschino cherry.

Finally, for $45.99, one can purchase “Gourmet’s Extravaganza,” capable of feeding eight people “or four pigs,” as the menu states. The giant dessert is comprised of 16 ice cream scoops and four bananas, plus toppings, mini marshmallows, whipped cream and nuts.

Visit Big Scoop Sundae in Mount Vernon

Located just off Interstate 5 at 327 East College Way in Mount Vernon, Big Scoop Sundae Palace continues to draw both locals and visitors as it marks half a century of operation.

Through economic downturns and pandemics, it has persisted as a place of fun and joy, and a testament to the timelessness of a good scoop of ice cream.  

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