It’s called the Grills. Then, below that highly nondescript moniker on The White Spot’s menu, it says “with ice cream.” It’s not clear whether you have a choice between with or without.
Regardless, you want it with. I’ve only been to The White Spot a couple of times, and I know that. For fans, it’s a foregone conclusion. They simply call the infamous dessert the “Grillswith.” And if you’re to believe The White Spot owner Dmitri Tevampis and a handful of online reviewers, there are plenty of devoted Grillswith fans.
“A lot of people, as soon as they come to the airport, they come straight here,” Tevampis said. “People will call, say, ‘You have the Grills? O.K., I’ll come over.’”
The “Grills” part is two Krispy Kreme donuts seared in butter on a medium-high flattop. The pastries are then nestled side-by-side on a plate and topped with a small carton of vanilla ice cream, a slightly larger version of the cups you got with the little wooden spoon at birthday parties and in cafeterias as a kid—nothing fancy, no little specks of vanilla bean or ribbons of chocolate.
And that’s it. That’s the Grillswith. Maybe some chocolate sauce would spruce it up? Or a handful of nuts might be fun? Not gonna happen, according to Tevampis.
“I try to keep it always the same. I don’t want to change,” he said. “People like this. If you start putting things on it, toppings, it’s no good.”
Tevampis bought The White Spot 14 years ago and inherited the menu, along with its Grillswith glory. He also inherited the rights to the renowned Gus, a fried egg-topped diner burger that typically catches the headlines associated with the restaurant.
It’s appropriate that I was in The White Spot to try the Grillswith on the eve of the annual Gus Burger eating contest, a day when UVA students sit elbow to elbow in the Madison Bowl and consume as many Gus Burgers as possible in a short six-minute span. The Gus could have its day in the sun later. For me, it was all about the Grills.
Before I went to visit him on the Corner, I asked Tevampis over the phone if I could come into his kitchen to watch him make a Grillswith. He laughed at me. Once I got to the restaurant, it was clear why—I took a seat at the bar and was close enough to reach out and help him make the Grillswith if I wanted.
I decided to keep my hands to myself and let the Grillswith master do his thing. He put a ladle of drawn butter on the griddle, pulled out a box of Krispy Kremes, and slapped them down to sear. He turned his back, chatted, seemed to ignore the fact that two freaking donuts were grilling away behind him. You can’t extinguish a grease fire with water; what about a sugar fire?
After a few minutes, Tevampis turned the fried dough and deliberately retrieved the requisite carton of ice cream from the back. When the Krispy Kremes were indeed crisp, he put them side-by-side on a plate and upturned the ice cream. The vanilla came to rest roughly between the ’nuts, still holding the shape of the cup.
Voila. The Grillswith.
“People love it any time, but you can’t find better at three in the morning after the bar,” Tevampis said. “You have the Gus and the Grills, you’re done. It’s perfect.”
Perfect? I don’t know. A tasty indulgence? For sure. The crisp on the donuts gives the dessert a pleasing bit of crunch, but the Grillswith is sweet almost to a fault, as grilling the donuts seems to only intensify their sugary glaze. The ice cream actually serves as a nice counterpoint, somehow cutting the sweetness.
While I’m whipping through my Grillswith, taking care to have a bit of ice cream and donut in each bite, I ask the guys seated around me at The White Spot counter if they’re into the dessert. Neither has ever had one. One of them’s a diabetic, and I tell him I think the Grillswith would indeed do him in.
What about Tevampis? Does he like the Grillswith?
“Yes, I do, believe it or not,” he said, seeming almost apologetic. “When you want something a little sweet, it’s perfect.”
Watching me eat the concoction, he didn’t seem to be able to read my reaction, so he pushed for more.
“Tell the truth, it’s not bad right?”
No. It’s not bad. But it’s a good thing I’m not diabetic.