Thom Carter | Staff Writer
From a New Jersey-style pizza joint to a downtown ice cream parlor, there are a number of locally-owned eateries around Mason that manage to preserve the local flavor.
Tucker’s Whippy Dip
Located at 127 East Main Street in the middle of downtown Mason, Spaeth, the daughter of owner Glinda Spaeth, said that the location was an ice cream parlor before it became Whippy Dip in 1999.
“My mom and her sister decided one day that they wanted to buy this old ice cream place that had always been in Mason but went out of business,” Spaeth said. “They decided to rejuvenate and revamp it.”
Spaeth said that what sets Whippy Dip apart from other parlors in the area are the array of decorative kids’ cones that it has become known for.
“We focus a lot on [the kids’ cones], because [they’re] something different and something unique to us,” Spaeth said.
According to Spaeth, Whippy Dip has been a small landmark in the downtown area for years, thanks to its location and the number of customers who continue to return time and time again.
“It’s always been a staple in downtown Mason and it’s right next to Heritage Oak Park, so after softball, baseball and soccer games, teams always come down,” Spaeth said. “Friends [of our employees] always visit. It’s just like a web of people that keep coming.”
Aponte’s Pizzeria & Family Restaurant
Owner Tony Aponte said the most important aspect of his restaurant is the food and New Jerseystyle pizza that he and his family have been dishing out since 2005.
“It’s fresh — the best quality you can buy — and it’s good,” Aponte said.
A New Jersey native, Aponte said he moved to the Eastgate area and decided on Mason as the location for the restaurant in order to be closer to his three daughters.
“[My mother] helped me, and I was looking for a location in Mason to be closer to my daughters,” Aponte said.
According to Aponte, his most popular pizzas include the Spinach Feta that Aponte said has recently been a favorite amongst his customers.
“Right now, [the Spinach Fetas have] been [selling] like hot cakes,” Aponte said. “[The pizza has] spinach, tomato, onions, provolone, feta [and] a garlic and olive oil base.”
Aponte said the key to staying open and finding success is the consistency he presents with each and every customer that walks through his doors.
“[The key is] making sure you give the people what they want, and making sure when they walk in the door you treat them like family,” Aponte said.
The Wildflower Café & Coffee House
When he was 25, chef and owner Todd Hudson bought the century-old house on East Main Street that now houses his restaurant, The Wild- Flower Café.
“When I was a freshman in high school, I decided I wanted to open this place, and basically everything I did prior to this was in working towards getting this [restaurant],” Hudson said.
After his graduation from Fairfield High School, Hudson worked in a number of kitchens where he said he established his philosophy behind food that is embraced at the Wildflower.
“[At least] 95 percent of the [food on my] menu is produced, harvested [or] grown within half an hour of this restaurant,” Hudson said.
Hudson said he purchases all his own cattle that he uses for beef in many of the dishes,including the award-winning burger.
“We see [our] cows from beginning to end,” Hudson said. “Right now, we’ve got about 15 cows floating around in this pasture [on Webb Valley Farm] up in Wilmington having a good time with their lives.”
The taste produced by this traditional method that Hudson employs is found in one of the dishes that he said is currently one of his most popular.
“Lately, [our most popular dish has] been a barbecue sauce where we [use] Zinfandel wine and bacon and onions. …It’s probably 98 percent wine and bacon, …which pairs really well with smoked ribs,” Hudson said.
After remaining open for almost three years, Hudson said that it’s his job to prepare the food in the most delicious and traditional way possible.
“I can make money doing lots of things,” Hudson said. “I’d prefer to think of my job as a chef or restaurant owner as being part of the food cycle [and] that I’m not just here to make money.”