When you're on vacation, you need to cut loose and pamper yourself from time to time. One morning after we did a "his and hers" pedicure session at a salon in Milford called "Just Teaz'n", we decided to head back into Arnolds Park and look up a little coffee shop which, we were told by our friend Kathy Evert, has gourmet cupcakes to die for. The name of the place - Arnolds Perk - is a cute play on the nearby Arnolds Park amusement park name. It was about 11:45 when we walked into Arnolds Perk to get a gourmet cupcake.
Established in 2000, Arnolds Perk is owned by Shannon Dunham, who, along with Darcy Rossow, also owns Dukes Burgers - a hamburger stand right next to Arnolds Perk on West Broadway Street in Arnolds Park (see map). Arnolds Perk is a seasonal business - as are many other businesses in the Lake Okoboji region. They open on Memorial Day weekend and close after Labor Day. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday thru Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
After looking through a couple art galleries close by on Broadway, we went into Arnolds Perk. The smell of the fresh coffee was almost intoxicating. I love the smell of a rich, robust coffee, but I don't like what it does to me. It makes me jittery and anxious. Oh, I'll occasionally have a cappuccino or an espresso after a nice meal - as long as its earlier in the evening. Too many times I've enjoyed an espresso with my colleagues after a nice meal that finished at 10:30 at night and I had trouble getting to sleep. I said, "That smells great!" I turned to Cindy and I said, "If I get a cappuccino, will you help me drink it?"
She looked at me like, "Who is this man standing next to me and what have you done to my husband?"
Arnolds Perk is a small, narrow establishment with a tin roof ceiling. There is a long front counter full of cupcake and pastries with a small kitchen toward the back corner. Because they offer free wi-fi at Arnolds Perk, there were three people in the place - all working on their computers while enjoying a coffee. '
In addition to coffee, espresso and cappuccino, Arnolds Perk also features cold coffee frappes, fruit smoothie drinks, tea and Italian soda drinks. They have a light breakfast menu that features their famous cinnamon rolls (you get your choice of caramel or cream cheese frosting - can I have both?), muffins and pastries, scones and croissants, a granola parfait, and something called the "Power Breakfast Sandwich" - two eggs with bacon or ham, with your choice of cheese and bread. Something told me that we should have tried Arnolds Perk for breakfast. Well, we can the next time we come up for vacation.
They also have a lunch menu that features a couple of salad items, and a number of sandwiches including pressed paninis. They have five different types of bread to choose from, along with four different types of cheese to go with either ham or turkey. They also have a Caprese Melt - sliced fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil pesto and olive oil toasted on sourdough bread. That all sounded good, but we were there for the cupcakes.
The cupcakes come in three sizes - Babycakes, Mamacakes, and Papacakes (cute, huh?) priced respectively at $1.00, $2.00, and $3.00 each. They had 10 different types of cupcakes to choose from - The White Out was a vanilla cake cupcake topped with a vanilla butter cream frosting and glitter; The Black Out was a chocolate cake cupcake topped with chocolate butter cream frosting and mini chocolate chips. They had the Red Velvet that consisted of a mild chocolate red cupcake with cream cheese frosting and mini white chocolate chips. Oooo.... That one just about got me.
That is until I saw the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough cupcake - a vanilla cake cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting which is mixed with chocolate chip cookie dough and Chocolate chip cookie chunks, and drizzled with chocolate frosting. Oh man! That was too much! Then the Cookie 'n Cream cupcake jumped out at me - a chocolate cake cupcake topped with Oreo cookie cream cheese frosting, then topped with Oreo chunks drizzled with white frosting. My head was spinning.
The one I ended up getting was the Lemon cupcake - vanilla cake cupcake topped with lemon cream cheese frosting and powdered sugar. It didn't quite sound as exciting as the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Cookie 'n Cream cupcakes, but I'm a sucker when it comes to anything lemon. Cindy, too, was having a difficult time figuring out what she wanted until she finally decided on the Coconut cupcake - a vanilla cake cupcake topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting, white chocolate mini chips and shredded coconut. I don't care for coconut at all, so I'm sure she got that so I wouldn't hound her for a bite. She got the Babycakes size, while I got the Papacakes size. I also ordered a large cappuccino. The lady behind the counter said, "I think he's just finishing up working on the espresso machine." She pointed to a guy down the way who was servicing the machine. He said he would make my cappuccino to make sure the machine was working properly.
My lemon cupcake was everything Kathy told us it would be. It was fabulous. The cake was light, moist and had a great vanilla flavor. But the lemon cream cheese frosting was to die for. It had a great citrus taste and didn't taste like it was made with a lemon juice substitute. Yeah, this was the ultimate in guilty pleasures for me.
Cindy said her coconut cupcake was "wonderful", but she was upset that she didn't get the $2.00 Mamacake size. "That went kind of fast," she said. I'll say. I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of it.
The cappuccino was also very good. It took about three or four minutes for him to get it to me - our cupcakes were long gone by the time I walked up to the counter to get the cappuccino. I took a couple sips and I thought it was pretty darn good. Cindy took a sip and she said, "Oh, yeah." She's somewhat of a coffee snob and she knows what's good and what isn't. "This is very good. They use very good coffee beans."
I didn't expect to write this much about Arnolds Perk, but it was one of those fun experiences that sort of snowballed as it went on. We really would like to get back to Lake Okoboji for another week next year and I can see us having a couple visits to Arnolds Perk possibly for breakfast and for another cupcake. (I also need to get back and try a Dukes burger, too!)