backroads tip top

The locally-owned Tip Top Dairy Bar in Osakis, Minn. has been serving soft serve ice cream made from real cream since it opened in 1955. Not long ago, Twin Cities-based WCCO television came to central Minnesota to taste the cool summer treat. Their ice cream experts rated Tip Top ice cream as the best in Minnesota.

Kristie Kirckof, who took over ownership of the Tip Top with her husband Brad in 2018, says it’s not only the real milk that makes Tip Top ice cream special.

“It’s got a five-percent milk fat content so that gives it a lot of flavor,” she said. “Also, we take our machines completely apart every week and thoroughly clean them. Most places that serve soft serve ice cream don’t do that.”

Kristie say her favorite flavor is Peanut Butter Cup but the best seller is Cookie Dough. A family of three, who make regular pilgrimages to Tip Top from a nearby town, have all gotten the coffee flavor cups and cones.

“We really like this ice cream because it tastes great and it actually melts,” they say. Apparently some large competitors’ products don’t melt naturally, they say. “Tip Top has great hamburgers, too.”

The burgers come in a variety of styles from Western to Zesty to Cowboy Up and the hot dogs come as a straight-up hickory smoked frank, chili cheese dogs, or honey battered corn dogs.

But on a warm July afternoon, it’s the ice cream that’s causing Kristie’s efficient staff of high school students to keep dishing out cones, shakes, malts, polar bars, cyclones, ice cream sandwiches and more in flavors from German Chocolate, Turtlette, Hawaiian, Creme de Mint, Red Raspberry, etc.

Customers can choose inside seating in the small dining room, outside seating, or they can drive to the nearby park on the lake to enjoy their treat — if it doesn’t melt.

Tip Top, which was so named for the very ultimate tip of the top on a soft serve cone by it's founding owner Norman Hansen, employs more than 20 local workers and is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., April through September. Kristie is there every day.

“I feel like we had big shoes to fill when we took Tip Top over,” she said. “It’s a community institution and we have three, sometimes four generations of people returning here regularly. We need to live up to the good reputation started by Mr. Hansen all those years ago.”  

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