Just when you thought the New Normal had taken over every nook and cranny of your life, Rhino’s comes charging out of the world we knew before COVID-19 with a healthy serving of “Old” Normal. Amazing as it may seem in today’s masked and distanced environment, Rhino’s kosher frozen yogurt operation still—yes, still—is offering self-serve soft-serve with those “gazillion” toppings we mentioned in this column back in February—in what seems a different era here and now in August, 2020. That is right: self-serve! And the serve-yourself protocols are pretty much just as was offered before the pandemic seemingly complicated every move we make.
Not only have the rabbis given their kosher seal of approval to Rhino’s, so too have Hamilton County’s health inspectors given a thumbs-up! This according to Josh Miller, who watches over the self-serve operation inside his dad’s Blue Ash Shell gas station. Hamilton County’s health inspectors have been by and validated the safety of the self-serve operation, allowing it to proceed in much the fashion it had before the coronavirus began sweeping the land.
To refresh, Blue Ash Shell is located on Kenwood Road at Glendale-Milford Road (Rt. 126 / Pfeiffer Road). When you stop by for some kosher frozen yogurt, ice cream or gelato, very likely you will see one of the staff, spray bottle in hand, wiping down “touchable” surfaces in the self-serve area of the store.
“In this climate, we’re doing everything we can to keep everything as clean and sanitized as possible,” Miller said. “We wipe down all the touchable surfaces throughout the day—as often as we can. We’re open 24 hours, and we have all of our staff trained. Whenever you get a free second (you) go over there and clean the surfaces.”
One reason Rhino’s self-serve offering may be safer than similar approaches is that the frozen yogurt dispensers are lever operated, and the cups or cones are carry-away items, while spoons are available from the cashier upon request. Also, there are 15 flavors available daily. Add that number to the number of times touchable surfaces are cleaned and sanitized daily, and the safety picture comes into focus.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has said that in dealing with the coronavirus, we want to put the odds in our favor that we will not spread disease as we open the economy. Rhino’s pattern of service to diners-out, coupled with its cleaning and sanitizing protocols have satisfied health professionals that they are able to do all that.
Jewish diners-out will find a new flavor when they stop in for a serving of Rhino’s frozen yogurt. “It’s called brownie batter, and it’s done very well for us,” Miller said. “When you put it in your cup—or in a cone—it looks just like the batter when you make brownies.” Even better, it tastes like brownie batter, with the same distinctive brownie flavor of the batter or the fully baked, but chewy, brownie. I tried the new flavor and it proved to be all that Miller said it would be. The afternoon I stopped by Rhino’s, temps were in the 90s. My selection I carried outside to the open-air picnic tables, found a patch of shade, and enjoyed my cup of frozen yogurt. The yogurt was good, refreshing and cooling, and every spoonful was just like the good old days.
Miller said that for those patrons who may want to enjoy Rhino’s frozen yogurt at home, there are pints of every flavor being offered at the self-serve dispensers. The pints are available through Uber Eats, or as carryout from the store. In these uncertain times, the frozen pints are doing very well from a sales standpoint.
Dining-Out readers may remember the quality story behind Rhino’s frozen products. Many “yogurt” and soft-serve shops, including some big-name national chains, use a powder mix to make what comes from their serving machines. That leads to inconsistency of product and flavors that do not “pop,” according to Miller.
“Ours (yogurt and other soft serve items) comes straight from a dairy farm, and they make it on the spot, with all real products. For instance, our strawberry is made with real strawberry puree in it, so you have strawberry seeds” and flecks of berry, Miller said. “So, it’s just much better, and if you put them side by side (with Brand X), you can tell the difference.”
Ok. Quality soft serve yogurt and ice cream and gelato; check. But there is more. Over 100 more, in the category of toppings. The array is impressive. There are toppings that turn your cup of vanilla ice cream or yogurt into a hot fudge treat. Or how about caramel? Chocolate? Sprinkles, anyone? Nuts and crushed Oreo™ cookies and M&M™ type candies and, well, we could go on and on, over 100 times, according to Miller. Frankly, I did not count them, but I would have guessed significantly more than 100, and the challenge for me would be picking, since there are so many fun ones showcased there.
“We wanted to make Rhino’s a dessert destination, people come here and the picnic tables on the side (outside) are full of people,” he said. On the hot day in July I visited, that is just how it was. Sort of like the “old” normal, and very refreshing.
See you at Rhino’s Frozen Yogurt & Soft Serve!
Rhino's Frozen Yogurt & Soft Serve
10415 Kenwood Road
Cincinnati, OH 45242