Before the coronavirus pandemic rocked the local restaurant industry, Tom Von Den Benken and his family toyed with the idea of opening a traditional café. In June, they switched gears, opting to open a walk-up coffee shop instead, and by September 10 they opened Eishaus on Covington’s Court Street, serving coffee drinks, light bites, and their specialty, spaghetti eis—ice cream that’s squeezed through an extrusion device to resemble spaghetti noodles.
“[Germany has] very different styles of ice cream and dessert shops,” says Von Den Benken’s oldest daughter, Addie Von Den Benken-Punch, who runs the shop’s social media and helped refine the menu. “When you go to a local ice cream shop in Cincinnati, it’s very much about efficiency and getting in and out, but in Germany it’s really about having this nice crafted dessert that’s really beautiful and Instagrammable, and it just feels so special.”
The idea to bring spaghetti eis to the Queen City was inspired by the Von Den Benken family’s many trips visiting relatives in northwestern Germany. Von Den Benken’s parents both emigrated from Germany in the early 1950s. After meeting in the U.S., they married and raised a family in the tri-state, where Von Den Benken and his wife and their two daughters have lived since. Whenever the Von Den Benken family travels back to their homeland, getting spaghetti eis is always a priority.
In Germany, dessert parlors squeeze gelato through a potato ricer to give spaghetti eis its noodle-like form. To “Americanize” their offerings, the Von Den Benken family’s spaghetti eis features both dairy and vegan vanilla ice cream that’s smothered in special sauces and toppings. We especially loved the spaghetti frikadelle, which is vanilla spaghetti eis topped with strawberry sauce (resembling marinara), white chocolate shavings (parmesan cheese), two brownies (meatballs), and sugar wafers (breadsticks).
Eishaus even offers a special take on the Cincinnati chili 3-way with a base of vanilla spaghetti eis layered with chocolate sauce, Rice Krispies, yellow chocolate shavings, and mini Nilla Wafers. Eventually, the menu will feature specialty eis flavors, as well.
In addition to eis, the Covington walk-up window serves La Terza coffee drinks with barista-grade almond, soy, and oat milk options, plus teas. In the coming weeks, the menu will expand to offer late-night snacks like walking tacos and specialty hot dogs, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and locally made pastries. As new menu items are introduced, Von Den Benken-Punch says they’ll focus on incorporating locally sourced ingredients and will always offer vegan options as well.
Eishaus is a team effort for the Von Den Benken family. “We all bring something different to the table,” says Von Den Benken, who oversees the business side of things. His wife, Luann, brings her professional graphic art expertise, while their younger daughter Grace assists in day-to-day operational aspects. Both daughters are also experienced baristas, so they know a thing or two about customer service.
“I’ve spent most of my career in corporate America, and I’ve loved it,” says Von Den Benken, an engineer by trade. “I’m almost 58 and I’m choosing to reinvent my life, and I feel confident that [Eishaus] has a real chance to be successful.”
Part of their success, they say, will be thanks to the heartwarming support they’ve already received from the Covington community. Neighboring businesses like Molly Malone’s, Smoke Justis, Keystone Bar & Grill, Lil’s Bagels, and others, make the Von Den Benken family excited to be a part of the Court Street “family.”
“I really feel like we’re in such good company,” Von Den Benken-Punch says. “We just couldn’t have found a better spot for something like this.”