“Instead of the phrase, ‘American as apple pie,’ we should be saying, ‘American as ice cream.’ It’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t like it,” says Laura B. Weiss, author of Ice Cream: A Global History. Mind-boggling statistics support her case, too: The average American consumes almost 36 pints per year, with annual sales reaching the 10 billion range.
Even so, it was the Italians and French, says Weiss, who originally developed modern-day ice cream. It started out as a treat for the nobility, with chefs importing exotic ingredients like vanilla beans from South and Central America in the 17th and 18th centuries. “These items were expensive. Chefs used to keep sugar under lock and key.” Despite its strong European roots, the sweet treat really came into its own in the land of stars and stripes.
While production remained an artisanal craft abroad, Americans realized they could mass produce the small-batch product into a universally loved dessert. This epiphany ushered in thousands of ice-cream parlors and soda fountains, which anchored communities with sundaes and banana splits. “These places served ice cream, but they were also important gathering centers. That idea gradually vanished, however, with the advent of fast food,” says Weiss.
Still, its popularity surged. In post-war era, Howard Johnson broke the chocolate-strawberry-vanilla mold by offering 28 flavors, including pistachio and maple-walnut, setting the bar for other modern chains like Baskin-Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s. “They’re marketing wizards,” says Weiss of the Vermont-based company. “They deserve a huge amount of credit for the way people think about ice cream now.”
As frozen yogurt has made a strong push in recent years, the concurrent rise of small-production facilities interested in owning their own dairy companies—as well as moving away from stabilizers and additives—has introduced a new crop of talented ice-cream visionaries from New York (Morgenstern’s), to L.A. (McConnell’s), and everywhere in between.
To help you navigate the vast frozen-treats landscape, we called upon a panel of dessert connoisseurs to lead the way to ice-cream glory:
- Dan Saltzstein, assistant editor at The New York Times Travel section (@dansaltzstein)
- Matthew Jennings, chef at Townsman (@matthewjennings)
- Sam Mason, ice-cream maker at OddFellows Ice Cream Co. (@sammasonnyc)
- Corey Cova, chef at Lord Hamm’s and New Leaf (@coreycova)
- Nick Schonberger, founder of First We Feast (@nschon)
- Laura B. Weiss, author of Ice Cream: A Global History (@foodandthings)
- Jenn Louis, chef and co-owner of Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern (@jennlouispdx)
- Naomi Tomky, food writer and founder of GastroGnome (@gastrognome)
- Kathy Y.L. Chan, food and travel writer (@kathyylchan)
- Dominique Ansel, chef/owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery (@DominiqueAnsel)
- Gabriella Gershenson, food features editor of Every Day with Rachel Ray (@gabiwrites)
- Malcolm Stogo, founder of Ice Cream University
- Amy Cavanaugh, restaurant editor and critic at Time Out Chicago (@amycavanaugh)
- Sarah Bennett, food writer and editor at LA Weekly (@thesarahbennett)
- Jessica Koslow, founder and chef at SQIRL (@sqirlla)
- Besha Rodell, restaurant critic for LA Weekly (@BeshaRodell)
- Nick Morgenstern, founder of Morgenstern’s Ice Cream
- Rebecca Flint Marx, senior editor at San Francisco Magazine, James Beard Award-winning food writer (@EdibleComplex)
- Daniel Gritzer, culinary director at Serious Eats and a former professional cook (@dgritzer)
- Katy Peetz, former pastry chef currently recipe developing, testing, food styling, and consulting, mostly at Tasting Table
- Joseph “JJ” Johnson, chef de cuisine at The Cecil and Minton’s (@chefjoejohnson)
- Dieselboy, veteran DJ and seasoned world traveler (@DJDieselboy)
- Sarah Baird, food writer and First We Feast contributor (@scbaird)
- Joel Hough, executive chef at Il Buco and Il Buco Alimentari
- Gia Giasullo, co-founder and creative director at Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain
- Jonathon Sawyer, chef and owner of Noodlecat
Let the feasting begin…
Ample Hills Creamery
Address and phone: Brooklyn & Manhattan
Gershenson says: “For a while I ignored Ample Hills because the name sounded like boobs, and I thought that was annoying. I’m not sure what broke me down in the end, but it took me a couple of years after it opened to even try the place. I waited in line (the inevitable line) with a friend and the guy she was dating. As we got closer, I saw chewy gobs of golden ice cream overflowing out of biodegradable cups—the flavor everyone seemed to be getting, it turned out, was Salted Crack Caramel, and it is indeed the color of burnt sugar, cut with just a little bit of cream. I tasted it when my turn came—impressive, true to its name, but too intense. Instinctively, I chose the two flavors that would turn out to be among my all-time favorites. Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, which I later learned is named after a St. Louis specialty that I had never heard of, and Coconut Fudge, which is fruity and chocolaty and leaves a clean, dark-cocoa taste on your palate. It just happens to be vegan, but it might be even better, more pure, than chocolate ice cream. And the mix-ins, like my treacly butter cake and the peppermint patties in the Peppermint Pattie ice cream, are made from scratch. These people are HARDCORE. It really makes a difference, and this is how I know: A strange thing happened when I started eating Ample Hills. I started looking for that same richness, that resilient creaminess, the purity of flavor, and ultimately, true satisfaction in every other ice cream I ate, and they just weren’t cutting it. I needed to have Ample Hills in my freezer at all times. No other ice cream would do.” (Photo: Facebook/Ample Hills)
Address and phone: 1328 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA (781-648-9892)
Jennings says: “Brigham’s is always the first ice cream shop I think of in Boston. There is one shop left in Arlington, where I’ll still take my sons sometimes for a real throwback sundae with butterscotch sauce and chocolate sprinkles (or “Jimmies,” as we used to call them). I grew up on that ice cream and it brings back tons of memories. Their vanilla is the best on the planet (it’s a well known fact for Boston natives), and I love their peppermint and coffee—all the classics with no frills and no complications.” (Photo: Yelp/Ron C.)
Otto Enoteca Pizzeria
Address and phone: 1 5th Ave, New York, NY (212-995-9559)
Ansel says: “It’s not an ice cream shop at all, but it’s where I go for ice cream. Otto was one of the first places in New York to serve really good gelato—the kind that is extra smooth and almost has an al dente bounce to it. What really made me stop and pay attention was, and still is, the olive oil gelato, sprinkled with just the tiniest bit of sea salt. When it first came out, it was revolutionary. Back then, there weren’t too many people bridging the gap between sweet and savory ice-cream flavors and this was an instance that was executed perfectly. To this day, I still go to Otto for dessert.” (Photo courtesy Serious Eats)
Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream & Desserts
Address and phone: 1220 Caroline St, Atlanta, GA (404-584-2500)
Rodell says: “You think you’ve had salted-caramel ice cream, but you probably haven’t really experienced the heights to which salted-caramel ice cream can rise if you’ve never had it at Morelli’s in Atlanta. Morelli’s just goes balls-out with the intensity of their salted caramel—it is SO salty and SO rich with caramel. Everyone else’s just seems weak in comparison. They also have more creative flavors like ginger-lavender and strawberry-rosewater, and all of them are really intense and really creamy. I feel as though some places sacrifice texture when they go a little odder on flavors, but Morelli’s is always densely creamy. They originally opened this little window in 2008 in Ormewood Park in Atlanta, and it was a block from my house, which was awesome and also terrible, diet-wise. I haven’t lived in Atlanta for more than three years now, but I think about Morelli’s a lot. Seriously, I miss that salted caramel ice cream so goddamned much.” (Photo: Yelp/Ken L.)
Address and phone: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA (415-550-6971)
Mason says: “Humphry Slocombe is, and has always been, a stop for when we visit San Francisco multiple times a year. My favorite flavor is their Harvey Milk and Graham Crackers, but I could probably name a bunch more. Every time I go there are always people there waitingeagerly in line. It reminds me a lot of what we have here in NYC with people expecting to taste something new and unique. They are innovators and they do things that make sense (not just throwing weird things together for the sake of being weird); all their combinations have some justification behind them. They’re consistent and on-point with the texture as well. Don’t expect to find any plain-jane flavors here. They usually add something (like salt to chocolate) to set it apart. To sweeten the deal even more, they have a great sense of humor and apply that to their business with their decor and flavor names. The place is just odd—and we like that.” (Photo: Facebook/Humphry Slocombe)
Salt & Straw
Address and phone: 2035 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR (503-208-3867)
Louis says: “One of the best parts of Salt & Straw ice cream, aside from its total deliciousness, is the cousin ownership duo: Kim Malek (biz wonderwoman) and Tyler Malek (creative genius). They have built their business based on community, care and positivity. It is so easy to find joy in the simplicity of a Salt & Straw ice-cream cone. I’m old-school, so I love all their chocolate flavors, and anything with peanut butter or peanut brittle. They make one flavor with marshmallow fluff and gooey fudge brownies that I crave all the time. And the olive-oil flavor really speaks to me as a chef and lover of all things Italian.” (Photo: Facebook/Salt & Straw)
Eddie’s Sweet Shop
Address and phone: 105-29 Metropolitan Ave #1, Forest Hills, NY (718-520-8514)
Saltzstein says; “Generally speaking, I’m easy when it comes to ice cream. I like to keep things simple: vanilla, strawberry, chocolate-chip. And frankly, I’m fine eating out of a tub of Edy’s or Häagen-Dazs on my couch. But sofa-snacking will never capture the experience at Eddie’s Sweet Shop, one of the last remaining old-school ice-cream shops in New York City. Eddie’s has been occupying a corner in Forest Hill, Queens, for almost 100 years, and it’s barely changed. Stepping into it feels a bit like time travel: marble counters, gleaming milkshake holders, an antique ice box. (Ask the counterperson to show you the giant mound of freshly whipped cream within.) The list of ice creams, hand-written above the counter, is dizzying, and all are housemade. When I visited Eddie’s for an article I wrote on malts, I asked the owner, Giuseppe Citrano, what his favorite flavor was. His answer, coffee, would not have been mine—I often find it overwhelming as an ice cream flavor—but it turned out to go perfectly with the savory quality of the malt powder. Eddie’s offers three types of milkshakes: with one scoop (regular), two (a frosted), or three (a thickshake). Frosted is the sweet spot. It arrives in an old-fashioned malt glass, encased in one of those metallic holders; the presentation is both innocent and sexy. And the flavors—deep, rich, nutty, almost buttery—are unparalleled, much like the surroundings.” (Photo: Dan Saltzstein)
Address and phone: 602 S Ashley St, Ann Arbor, MI (734-662-3244)
Marx says: “I live in San Francisco, a city synonymous with ice cream of great ambition. But while I appreciate a scoop of grass-fed organic lavender honey cardamom as much as the next person, the only ice cream to regularly star in my fever dreams is the ice cream found at Washtenaw Dairy.
Since 1934, Washtenaw Dairy has sat at the corner of South Ashley and West Madison streets in Ann Arbor, MI, the town where I grew up. It’s an unremarkable building the color of an Ace bandage, low to the ground and fringed with long benches that in the summer are always filled to capacity. The interior décor is reminiscent of an Elks Lodge, with wood-paneled walls and an American flag that stands behind a gumball machine. There are tables where men of a certain age often congregate, and refrigerated cases full of milk and ice cream and beer.
You don’t come here for a bespoke dairy experience; you come here for pure, visceral pleasure. Some of the flavors sport colors found only in food science; some are just vehicles for cramming as much candy or fudge or raw dough into your mouth as possible. This is not subtle ice cream; a small scoop is the size of an infant’s skull. The teenagers who serve it are pleasant but ruthlessly efficient.
I always end up getting Moose Tracks, which translates to vanilla ice cream swirled with mini-peanut butter cups and chocolate fudge. I order a kiddie scoop in a waffle cone and eat it slowly, unearthing its sweet shrapnel with my tongue. It’s family tradition to take our cones and walk around the block with them, and every time we do, there is no other place on earth that I’d rather be.” (Photo: Yelp/Regis W.)
Kurt Farm Shop
Address and phone: 1424 11th Ave, Ste C2, Seattle, WA
Tomky says: “Kurt Farm Shop is just a tiny nook, down the alley of Chophouse Row in Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It would barely fit one of the Jersey cows owner Kurt Timmermeister raises on his Vashon Island farm, a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle. But he manages to fit both an ice-cream case and a few shelves of impeccably-curated dairy products (including his own cheeses) into the minuscule storefront. Though, if you want to sit down after ordering ice cream, your only option is a row of small stools along the alley in front of the shop.
But this is ice cream worth squeezing in for. Until recently, the stars of Seattle’s ice-cream scene were nearly all shops that were doctoring up pre-made bases purchased from a large local dairy. Not here. Instead, the ice cream is made with the high-butterfat (read: extra-creamy) milk from Timmermeister’s herd, milked on-site daily at his Vashon farm, and nearly all of the flavors come from there as well. Which means alongside classic options like chocolate, you’ll see lemon verbena, salted plum, and Flora’s cheese. Instead of using vanilla as the base, most of the ice creams start from the “Jersey Cream” flavor, which is anything but plain, letting the natural richness of thick, fresh dairy shine through.”
Address and phone: Global
Schonberger says: “Ice cream, nachos, and pizza share a commonality: Bad varieties of each are more pleasurable than the good in many other things. Ice cream, like the other foodstuffs, has the most distinct gradients. Basement brands lack definition of flavor and offer a grainy mouthful, failing to articulate tone like the top-shelf competition. One also contends with the quandary of hard versus soft. It’s sort of like choosing between the strip club that serves lemon-pepper wings and the one that dry ages its own beef—both have a time and place.
Soft serve’s place is McDonald’s. Its time is all the time. There’s an undeniable glory in the marriage of industrial tasting vanilla and cemented fudge. The sundae is a $1 time machine. It reminds of one’s first experience with ice cream. The sundae is not exhilarating or transformative. It reminds only of an essential truth: Ice cream rules. If so basic, why is the McDonald’s sundae worthy of this list? It is because of ubiquity; and because across the globe (conceivably) it is the one sundae that rings true to millions. And, ultimately, there is no sweeter joy than sneaking one after a more refined meal elsewhere.” (Photo: Yelp/A.H.)
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Address and phone: 65 Bayard St, New York, NY (212-608-4170)
Cova says: “The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is not only a timeless beacon of dependability and consistency in the ever-changing ice-cream landscape of New York, but with over 30 years in the business, it also combines what are possibly my two favorite things: ice cream and Chinatown.
What elevates the experience of this shop is both the “somehow it works” factor of many of their seemingly odd flavors, and the “where the shit am I?” attribute of being in the middle of Chinatown. Easy to miss, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is crammed right next door to Xi’an Famous Foods on the always bustling, and frequently mysterious, Bayard Street. This ice-cream dojo has got everything—a logo that looks like King Koopa and Barney had a love child, no seats (so there’s no bozos on laptops and silly summer scarves), and a durian-flavored ice cream that matches the savory and musky odors of Bayard Street on a warm July afternoon.
Of course, what’s most important here is how their ice cream stands out in a town ripe with poseurs. These guys always deliver on their expert execution. Plus, you’ll find the regular flavors and exotic flavors sorted through the lens of the Far East—regular flavors are things like wasabi, lychee, pandan, and black sesame, and examples of exotic flavors here are vanilla, rocky road, and chocolate.
You’ve got your street creams (Mister Softee), your hard creams (bodega freezer fare), and even your nut creams (vegan nut-based ice creams…gross), but Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is bucket cream—ice cream both for bucket lists, but also ice cream I could eat a moderate-to-large bucket of.” (Photo: Facebook/Chinatown Ice Cream Factory)
Toscanini’s Ice Cream
Address and phone: 899 Main St, Cambridge, MA (617-491-5877)
Gritzer says: “I was just in Boston last month with a colleague searching for, among other things, the best ice cream in the city. It might sound strange, going to New England, with its long, brutal winters, to seek out a frozen dessert, but it’s actually one of the greatest ice-cream regions in the country, and Boston just happens to be chock-full of great examples. More often than not, the style ’round those parts is dense and chewy with very little overrun (air whipped into the base during churning). One of the most celebrated spots is Toscanini’s in Cambridge, hailed by many press outlets as one of the best ice-cream shops in the world.
It’s easy to understand why it’s so highly lauded: Toscanini’s scoops are rich and dense to the point of stretchiness, in flavors that are some of the best I’ve ever had. I fell so hard for a sorghum-walnut creation—its malted nutty flavor reminding me of the smell of simmering wort when making beer—that I returned a second time to eat it for breakfast before hopping the bus back to New York (this, after having spent the entire previous day driving all over Boston eating nothing but ice cream). But Toscanini’s isn’t always perfection—it’s not impossible to come across a flavor with icy crystals, presumably because it sat in the freezer a little too long. I still think Toscanini’s is worth the visit (they also have the best soft-serve I’ve ever eaten), but if you have the time, I’d encourage a quick visit to a smaller Cambridge shop called Lizzy’s, where we’ve yet to encounter an icy scoop. The ginger ice cream there—clean, spicy, and full of juicy candied ginger chunks—is a must-try and refreshing enough to make you not mind eating more ice cream than any person reasonably should.” (Photo courtesy Serious Eats)
Address and phone: San Francisco
Morgenstern says: “Anyone who grew up in the Bay Area knows what this is. For me, this is the first and last ice-cream sandwich—the platonic ideal. It’s the perfect ratio of ice cream to semi-soft oatmeal cookies, coated in chocolate. Every time I eat one, time stands still for a few minutes. To this day there are few ice-cream experiences better than an It’s-It for me. (Photo: It’s-It)
Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.
Address and phone: 175 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY (347-599-0556)
Dieselboy says: “Forget chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla—nowadays, I like my ice cream flavors to push boundaries. OddFellows, an NYC ice-cream shop helmed by former wd~50 pastry wizard Sam Mason, hits that perfect Venn diagram segment between delicious, creative, and fun. He digs deep for interesting flavor mashups like miso-butterscotch-cherry, caramelized-pineapple with manchego and thyme, ants-on-a-log sorbet, and beet-pistachio-honey-goat-cheese. If you order a cone you can have it swathed in a cloud of cotton candy (he’s done a smoked flavor before). They’ve had foie-gras ice-cream “drumsticks” on the menu. Their banana split features the traditional three scoops of ice cream with banana but takes it up a notch with brown-butter bits, chocolate pearls, bacon caramel, and whiskey whipped cream. Beyond the playful menu options, the OddFellows space is a throwback to the old-school ice-cream parlor with bar seating, red circus striped walls, and employees sporting paper hats. The perfect place to feel like a kid again.” (Photo: Facebook/Oddfellows)
Address and phone: 1010 University Ave, Honolulu, HI (808-949-8984)
Chan says: “There are three important things to know about Bubbies Ice Cream in Honolulu. First, mochi ice cream. These are tiny three-bite creations consisting of ice cream wrapped in housemade mochi. They come in nearly two dozen flavors ranging from blueberry, to guava, to pistachio. The best flavors are green tea and and lychee. Let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes before devouring—you want to get it right when the mochi starts to soften, but before the ice cream melts.
Second, ice cream by the scoop. Some scoop flavors make it into the mochi ice cream, but many don’t. You want a scoop of the Oreo in a waffle cone—the Oreos are smashed and swirled into the ice-cream base—so creamy, so rich. And if you’re going with friends, there’s also an option to order “Eat My Balls,” which is a tiny scoop of every single flavor on the menu. Worth getting at least once.
Third, ice-cream pies and cakes. Get these whole or by the slice. The names of each pie/cake are perverted (e.g., More Than A Mouthful, Smud, and Multiple Orgasm), but what can you do? Multiple Orgasm is the most popular, layering chocolate and espresso ice cream high on an Oreo crust. It comes topped with housemade fudge.” (Photo: Yelp/Michelle R.)
Address and phone: 112 S Clematis St, West Palm Beach, FL (561-833-3335)
Stogo: “Sloan’s of West Palm Beach is all about magic—an ice-cream utopia not only for the young, but the young at heart. The interior of Sloan’s is like Disneyland. Even more exciting, they have the best bathroom in America, and a train running across its front counters. But Sloan’s ice cream also separates itself from the pack by focusing on the ice-cream details—using Oreos, chocolate-chip cookies, and a swirl of fudge in their Cookie Monster riff of cookies n’ creme.” (Photo: Yelp/Emily R.)
Original Rainbow Cone
Address and phone: 9233 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL (773-238-7075)
Cavanaugh says: “To Chicagoans, Original Rainbow Cone, a brightly colored stack of five ice-cream flavors, is as Chicago as Italian beef. But unless-out-of-towners tried one at the Taste of Chicago, where the cone had been served for the past few decades (they didn’t participate this year), it’s unlikely that they’ve heard of the treat. Served seasonally from March to November from a pink-stuccoed ice-cream shop in Beverly, on the south side of the city, Original Rainbow Cone consists of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange-sherbet flavors, added in that precise order to a wafer cone. It’s a perfectly engineered feat, with nuts and fruit for texture, a balance between sweet and not-so-sweet flavors, and a stacking system of slices (not scoops) that keeps them firmly in place. Joseph Sapp came up with the idea and founded the ice-cream shop in 1926, and it’s now owned by his granddaughter, Lynn Sapp. She added a few things, like an ice-cream cake, but there’s nothing quite like the original rainbow cone. It’s not a Chicago summer without one.” (Photo: Facebook/Original Rainbow Cone)
Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
Address and phone: 2 Rivington St, New York, NY (212-209-7684)
Koslow says: Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll tell you: Jessica Koslow’s des(s)ert-island food can only be ice cream.
I was born in Long Beach, CA, where I grew up sucking in my fair share of macro-churned ice creams: a square scoop of Thrifty’s Chocolate Malted Crunch, electric green Mint Chocolate Chip from 31 Flavors, Oreo-filled Blizzards from Dairy Queen, and the frozen thing within an A&W’s Root Beer Float.
I found my way to San Jose in high school and, like Dionne Warwick, I found some peace of mind—at the Fairmont Hotel’s former ice-cream parlor. With its gilded bar service, candy-shop vibe, and large-format, whatever-you-want-on-it servings, it was the first time I experienced everything an awkward teen with many sweet teeth attached to braces could ask for. The conviviality of frozen decadence.
Stepping into Morgenstern’s in New York City as a braces-free adult filled me with the same awe. An ice-cream parlor that nods at the tradition of ‘parloring’ (yes, there are bar seats, and white hats, and grand sundaes), yet feels less hokey and more transcendent of any specific time period.
Beyond the façade, where most classic parlors may scoop Dreyer’s (or Breyers—whichever side of the country you are on), technique prevails. Morgenstern’s micro-churned basics (vanillas), surprising specialty flavors (S&P Pinenut or Black Ass Licorice), and homemade toppings speak to the skilled hands and palates that toil behind the swinging kitchen door.” (Photo: Liz Barclay)
Address and phone: 9825 Main Rd. Mattituck, NY (631-298-4908)
Weiss says: “A long line snakes out of the Magic Fountain ice-cream stand in Mattituck, on Long Island’s bucolic North Fork. This family-owned, old-school ice-cream shop—with its smiling cones painted on the side and former Dairy Queen digs—has been in operation since 2007. There’s both soft serve and hard-packed ice cream, along with dozens of flavors to choose from, including old-time standards like maple-walnut, and inventive new varieties like cucumber. Then there are two seasonal favorites I look forward to every year—the luscious peach and the pumpkin, my choice over the pie any day of the week. But what keeps me coming back apart from the ice cream is the clamor of adults and kids congregating at this community gathering place, enjoying an old-fashioned summertime experience: a night at the local ice-cream spot.” (Photo: Yelp)
Address and phone: 1704 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC (202-299-9116)
Hough says: “My bucket-list ice cream is Dolcezza in Washington D.C. I first met the owners, Robb & Violeta, at the DC Cochon 555 event in 2009. I was blown away by their product. The texture and flavors were spot on, and, most importantly for me, not too sweet!” (Photo: Yelp/Usagi T.)
Address and phone: 701 P St #101, Lincoln, NE (402-477-7473)
Peetz says: “It was the signature cinnamon ice cream that had me under a spell. Thick, velvety frozen cream infused with toasted cinnamon took me down hard as an 11-year-old small-town girl hitting the big city ice-cream shop. From day one, Ivanna Cone has been churning its flavors, notwithstanding sorbets and sherbets, with 14% butterfat sweet cream to create relatively small three-gallon batches. This means every scoop is perfectly tempered with a flawless milky texture that coats the tongue for the most pure and satisfying finish.
Beyond incredible ice cream, Ivanna encompasses a genuine originality that ice cream shops everywhere try to emulate: a historical building flooded with natural light; bright, multicolored walls featuring a life-size chalkboard showcasing daily flavors; the nostalgic aroma of homemade waffle cones; huge 20-quart old-fashioned ice-and-salt churners for superior ice-cream texture; and quirky employees who are quick to let you sample more flavors than appropriate.
Though I rarely cheat on cinnamon, interesting new flavors constantly appear. Really, there is no shame in ordering multiple scoops at an institution like this—grape-soda, mocha-rose, honey-avocado, walnut-butter…I’m teasing myself to tears being almost 1,500 miles away in Brooklyn. It’s a Midwest stop that should never be missed.” (Photo: Yelp/Alana W.)
Address and phone: 110 Pocono Blvd, Mt Pocono, PA (570-839-7831)
Johnson says: “I grew up in a small town called Tobyhanna, PA, and there was a movie theater called the Casino. It only had one movie theater, but it also had a diner and their malts were as amazing as I can remember—local milk, the creaminess, the authentic vanilla flavor. I could drink cups of this!” (Photo: Casino Theatre)
Address and phone: 4924 Prytania St, New Orleans, LA (504-894-8680)
Baird says: “Once, in a frantic search for housing in a city where rent is forever cartwheeling upward, I almost decided to live in a tiny, not-quite-air-conditioned apartment above an ice-cream shop.
Not just any scoop spot, though: Creole Creamery, the city’s most beloved outpost for all things sundaes, shakes, and quirky (occasionally Saints-themed, often boozy) flavors. The building is a sherbet-colored jewel box, with antique neon, black-and-white checkered floors, and walls pinned with photos of kids and adults alike happily shoveling spoonfuls of sweet, frozen nectar into their mouths. Still cash only after decades in operation, it is, without a doubt, a space that celebrates simple joys.
It seemed like a perfect fit to be my downstairs neighbor.
Besides, I thought at the time, who needs cool indoor air in the sweltering New Orleans summer when you can just skip down and buy a cone of blueberry Danish ice cream for breakfast, or sassafras chicory when the noonday sun is pounding? If I needed a cocktail, I’d just eat a sundae made with two orbs of apricot-Grand Marnier. I would—essentially—become a walking, talking pint of ice cream and feel good about it.
Unfortunately, my tubular dreams were cut short when someone else (I can only imagine) had the same notion, beating me to renting the apartment. Every time I visit to this day, I look up longingly, remembering the brief time when I could’ve lived like a true ice (cream) queen.” (Photo: Facebook/Creole Creamery)
Address and phone: 1525 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA (323-874-6168)
Bennett says: “In a city so full of obnoxious, schticky, new-school, Roy Choi-flavor-inspired ice-cream shops, Mashti Malone’s is the forgotten original of exotic flavors. Tucked into the corner unit of a two-story strip mall behind the bustle of Hollywood Boulevard’s tourist vortex, this ice-cream parlor is so bare bones, it could easily get away with serving up the same boring stuff as Baskin-Robbins. But no. This is not the place to order vanilla or chocolate-chip ice cream (though you can get those, you know, if you’re boring). This is a Persian ice-cream parlor, possibly the oldest one in the U.S., where you get rocked with ice cream made from Middle Eastern ingredients like rosewater, saffron, lavender, pistachios, and a proprietary spice mix called sahlab, which none of my actual Persian friends can seem to explain. Bastani is the most popular flavor, and it’s the one most common in Iran. It’s a rosewater ice cream that’s yellow, thanks to a major dose of saffron, and flecked with crunchy pistachios—take that Rocky Road! I always make sure to stop by and get a scoop of whatever new bizarro flavor the family has in the case: cucumber ice cream, rosewater sorbet with rice starch noodles, or the potpourri-like Herbal Snow, which has poppyseeds, basil, cardamom and a dozen other spices. Grab a pint to go and savor the only L.A. ice cream that was out of place long before being weird was cool.” (Photo: Sarah Bennett)
Address and phone: 116 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA (215-627-1899)
Giasullo says: “Being a sibling soda-fountain duo ourselves, when we first met Ryan and Eric—the brothers behind the Franklin Fountain—it was the sweetest (pun intended) of meetings. Like experienced fathers dishing out advice, they generously provided encouragement and acknowledged the growing pains that only two seasoned (soda) jerks running a contemporary soda fountain could. We ate that up, because in our opinion, they are the grandaddies of the contemporary soda-fountain revival.
From their homemade ice cream, to the restoration and preservation of their building’s historic details, the Franklin Fountain brothers have succeeded in keeping the American soda-fountain tradition alive and well in downtown Philly. They source the finest ingredients—from cream to blueberries (blueberry ice-cream soda speaks to us!)—to create delicious and beautiful sundaes and ice-cream floats. Walk in the door (standing-room only on busy days) to catch a whiff of their fresh waffle cones. Order from a range of homemade ice cream flavors made in small batches. We’re a sucker for their old-fashioned ice-cream sodas, but we’re also happy stuffing our faces with their massive brownie sundae.
Worth a trip to Philly, for sure. Franklin Fountain brothers, you guys are our heroes.” (Photo: Facebook/Franklin Fountain)
Address and phone: 2555 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH (614-442-7622)
Sawyer says: “If you’re talking ice cream in Ohio, then you have to mention Graeter’s, especially their classic chocolate-chip flavor. I think that their story of choosing quality over quantity, small batch as opposed to large batch, was so endearing to me it forever won me. And I think those big and little chunks of chocolate embedded in each scoop—and how they pour hot gourmet chocolate into the ice cream to achieve that perfect texture—is really exciting. It’s like the American version of Stracciatella: The imperfection makes it so perfect. Every bite is slightly different than the bite before, which is so compelling.” (Photo: Facebook/Graeter’s)