On the busy block of the Capital One Arena, a casual yet lively restaurant named Little Sesame is packed into a small storefront at the corner, with big bold cursive letters marking an enticing dining destination.
We found ourselves in Chinatown, but Little Sesame’s L Street location makes for an even shorter walk from campus for GW students looking for a quick bite in between classes. While it may be known for its trademark hummus sold at local grocery stores, Little Sesame – which specializes in fresh Mediterranean dishes with a vegan twist – also offers some refreshing vegan ice cream that the restaurant’s founders created to help more people enjoy an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
The restaurant sports a simplistic style furnished with booths, round tables and wooden chairs that are complemented by plants over a tiled floor.
Along with its salad and hummus bowl options, Little Sesame offers three oat milk soft serve ice cream choices – vanilla tahini, chocolate Turkish coffee and a swirl with the two combined (each $4.95). For some extra flair, you can add one of three toppings for one dollar – cocoa nibs, or broken cocoa beans; halva, a Middle Eastern confectionery; or Soomsoom crumble, a sesame cookie crumbled into small pieces.
The three of us chose to divide the ice cream flavors one by one. Isha decided to try the tahini vanilla and chocolate Turkish coffee swirl, and Nuria went for the chocolate Turkish coffee, leaving Zach with the vanilla tahini.
If you’re looking for a tasty, dairy-free alternative to vanilla bean ice cream, Little Sesame’s Vanilla Tahini oat soft serve delivers the goods. The ice cream comes served on the top of a small cup, a perfectly creamy afternoon snack on a hot day.
I ordered my vanilla cream with the cocoa nibs, which gave the dish a crunchy, contrasting sweetness compared to the vanilla.
The tahini, a sesame paste with a distinct nutty flavor that’s usually added to hummus, didn’t overpower the vanilla. Texture-wise, the oat milk made the ice cream about as creamy as normal ice cream.
While the taste of the oat milk soft serve doesn’t quite stack up to its dairy adversaries, the vanilla tahini ice cream is still a great option for any hot D.C. afternoon.
Chocolate Turkish coffee
Served as a creamy chocolatey swirl, my first bite refreshed the palate after a hot afternoon in the DMV. The dessert filled up its plastic container with just the right amount, about the size of a single scoop of ice cream that leaves you full with a fair price.
The chocolate flavor overpowers the bitter taste of Turkish coffee due to its unfiltered coffee beans – a disappointing loss to the mix. Compared to other DMV ice cream options, this flavor falls short of encapsulating the extravagance it promises. Instead of creating a new fresh original flavor, it emulates a typical ice cream serving that you could expect from a soft serve machine.
But there is nothing wrong with classic soft serve. The consistency is so cooling that you will not be able to stop taking bites until the ice cream is gone due to the richness of the oat milk.
Tahini vanilla and chocolate Turkish coffee swirl
If you’re struggling to pick between the two, the swirl with both flavors is the way to go. The light sweetness of the Tahini vanilla cuts the somewhat bitter flavor from the chocolate Turkish coffee, serving as an extra refreshing reprieve from the hot D.C. weather.
Both flavors weren’t overwhelmingly sweet, and the two paired well in the cup. I didn’t opt for a topping, but any of the options would have made for a pleasant textural contrast with the soft ice cream.
The swirl is also a great option if you want something more exciting than just plain vanilla but are hoping to avoid a potential caffeine boost late in the day. And even with both flavors combined, this plant-based treat tastes close enough to the real thing!