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Quick Bites

You know how some restaurants give you a little lagniappe at the end of the meal, perhaps a gratis chocolate truffle to put the finishing touches on your experience? In that spirit, I offer this Quick Bites column as a lagniappe for today's review of Backfins Crabhouse. If you read that review, you know that I consider the restaurant well worth a drive to Wake Forest on its own merit. But I'll confess that I can't imagine dinner at Backfins without strolling around the corner afterward for dessert at A La Mode Ice Cream Café (143 Wait Ave.; no phone; alamodeicecreamcafe.com).

Owner Shelle McCollum freely offers samples of her shop's frozen confections, which include 14 flavors of Henry's Gelato ( www.henrysgelato.com) and 18 flavors of Maple View Ice Cream ( www.mapleviewfarm.com). Pies -- peach, apple or pecan, depending on the season - are baked at Pies & More, a pastry shop just a waffle cone's throw down the street. Naturally, you'll want your pie à la mode. Affogato, an Italian twist on an ice cream sundae featuring gelato topped with hot espresso, is also popular.

True to Italian custom, McCollum encourages ordering multiple gelato flavors in one cup (even the small size!), and insists there are no rules about which flavors "go together." Last time I was there, I took her advice and ordered a cup with blood orange, coconut and burnt sugar caramel. She's absolutely right.

But A La Mode's sweet wares are only part of the attraction for kids of all ages. You can strum a tune on one of the guitars leaning against the wall (including a miniature one for little hands), play a game of checkers, or enjoy your cup or cone on counter stools fashioned from saddles (cowboy hats encouraged). If the weather is nice, adjourn to one of the outdoor tables. And if a train comes rumbling by on the tracks that run behind the shop before you leave, well, you can just consider it a lagniappe.

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