Food & Drink

The 13 best ice cream treats in Boston

Published On 07/30/2014 Published On 07/30/2014

Did you know John Mellencamp wrote "Hurts So Good" about brain freeze? Probably not, because he didn't; but if he HAD, it would have made sense. Massachusetts is one of the top ice cream-consuming states in the nation, and you need to maintain its status (and keep the heat at bay) with as many delicious, frozen, creamy concoctions as possible. Here are 13 of the best, just to get you started:

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage


Mr. Bartley's (address and info)
Harvard Square
When you think of Bartley’s, two things come to mind: burgers and frappes. Thick, creamy frappes (remember... they are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from milkshakes). Naturally, they have the basics covered, but the Harvard Square institution also likes to explore a little with concoctions like the Cherry Bomb (vanilla with chocolate chip cookies, cherries, whipped cream), The Elvis Frappe (chocolate with Reese’s Cup and banana "all shook up"), and the Strawberry Shortcake Frappe (vanilla with strawberries, shortbread, and whipped cream). Combine one with a burger and you will not move for four weeks.

Cabot's Ice Cream

The Dentist Disaster

Cabot's Ice Cream & Restaurant (address and info)
For over 35 years, Cabot’s has satisfied many a sweet tooth and... frightened many dentists. For real, they have a sundae called The Dentist Disaster, made with all kinds of candy-infused ice creams (think Heath, Snickers, Milky Way, and Reese's) doused with hot fudge, caramel, and a bunch of other sundae toppings, plus MORE candy in the form of Reese's Pieces. We'd call them anti-dentites if they weren't giving the dentistry community such robust business.

J.P. Licks


J.P. Licks (address and info)
Multiple locations
Folks have a lot of love for J.P. Licks, and for many good reasons. Like their rotating monthly flavors (Fresh Peach, Cake Batter, Rocky-er Road). And their brownie sundae. But the pro move here is the Chipwich. So pure. So good. They bake their own cookies in house and then stuff them with some of the aforementioned ice cream (chocolate chip/vanilla is the standard combo). Oh, and they're even better rolled in jimmies. They're sold individually or in four-packs. So... four-packs.

Erik Christensen

Large Banana Split

Christina's (address and info)
Inman Square
Local mega-favorite Christina’s crams their freezers with an abundance of homemade ice creams and sorbets, including not-your-average choices such as adzuki bean, coconut Butterfinger, green tea, and banana cinnamon. They are, of course, equally adept with the tried-and-trues (malted vanilla, cookie dough) that keep everybody coming back. All the time. Even though the line will be out the door on any Summer night. If you’re indecisive (and you are) you should get the large banana split: your choice of any three scoops, three toppings, and whipped cream or marshmallow.

Emack & Bolio's

Ice Cream Pizza

Emack & Bolio's (address and info)
Multiple locations
Before there was the Cronut, there was the ice cream pizza. Pretty much the only thing you need to serve at a child's birthday party (or any party for that matter), a rich brownie crust base supports vanilla bean speck ice cream, E&B's famous hot fudge and marsh "mellow", a chocolate peace sign, cosmic moons and stars (no clovers, diamonds, or horseshoes), and chocolate raspberry "bleeding" hearts. Bonus: this beauty serves 12-15 adults, 15-18 children… or maybe just one you.


Frozen Chocolate & Licorice Truffle

Rialto (address and info)
Harvard Square
Rialto has kept it real, Italian-style, in Harvard Square since 1994. While you’re basking in the afterglow of bucatini with lobster, savor the frozen chocolate and licorice truffle. You’ll be glad you did. Dark chocolate gelato and Calabrian black licorice gelato are dusted with hazelnuts, ringed with blackberries, and drizzled with blackberry sauce. So yeah, maybe order two.


Baked Alaska

Oleana (address and info)
Inman Square
Chef/owner Ana Sortun and her crew make some serious magic happen at their Mediterranean hideaway on Hampshire St. Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick takes it all to the next level with the legendary tower-like Baked Alaska. A chewy coconut graham cracker crust provides the foundation for coconut ice cream crowned with a sculpted and torched meringue and passion fruit caramel sauce.


Adult Ice Cream Soda

Picco (address and info)
South End
This cozy gem in the South End is known for its artisanal pizzas (go for the fig, bacon & Gorgonzola) and other Italian specialties, but it’s also dishing out house-made ice creams and sorbets. Sure, you can go with a dish, a cone, or a frappe, but wouldn't you rather go with the "Adult" Ice Cream Soda: raspberry Belgian Lambic with vanilla ice cream. Yes, yes you would.

Russell House Tavern

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Russell House Tavern (address and info)
Harvard Square
Executive Chef Thomas Borgia rocks New American comfort food, and he ends on a high note with the Sticky Toffee Pudding. This gooey goodie comes complete with toffee pudding topped by burnt sugar ice cream and a toffee sauce/whipped cream sidecar. It’s the perfect richer-than-rich finish after you’ve gobbled up a crispy pork belly sandwich. Healthy choices!

The Ice Creamsmith

Belt Buster Sundae

The Ice Creamsmith (address and info)
Lower Mills, Dorchester
The Ice Creamsmith takes hospitality and ice cream very seriously with 15 (+/-) flavors of 14% butterfat ice cream (three are seasonal) made on the premises. Just for you. If you want to be king for a day, take your whole crew there for the Belt Buster Sundae: 12 scoops of ice cream, 10 mixin’s, six sauces, a banana, marshmallow, whipped cream, jimmies, nuts, and a cherry. Good luck.


Liège Waffle Sundae

Saus (address and info)
Faneuil Hall
Kick back at the super-casual Saus and enjoy scratch-made goodness with Franco-Belgian flair. Chow down on some pommes frites (with more than 13 different sauces), then get to work on your Liége waffle sundae. It’s constructed from a Belgian street-style waffle, one scoop of Christina’s ice cream (your choice), and speculoos cookie crumbles. Then you can "saus" it with salted caramel, dark chocolate hazelnut, lemon cream, berry berry, or Biscoff cookie spread. Or all of them, because you've gone this far... what, are you just going to stop now?

T.W. Food

T.W. Sundae

T.W. Food (address and info)
Huron Village, Cambridge
Owners Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann honor the purity of the ingredients in every bite of their nightly French-inspired three- or six-course tasting menus. Especially dessert. A real standout is the diabolically simple T.W. Sundae. It has vanilla ice cream and hazelnut praline covered in a comfy blanket of Valrhona ganache. It's luxurious excess in a glass.


Just About Anything

Toscanini’s Ice Cream (address and info)
Central Square
Of course, this list would not be complete without Toscanini’s, at least as long as this author values his safety (he does). Critics and regular Joes agree that Tosci’s wares are some of the best in the biz, so stop in for a scoop or carry out a pint of any flavor. And there are many. They have 40 in regular rotation, but it’s those chocolaty chocolate ones that will get you every time. Or, rather, you will get them. There’s Belgian Chocolate, Cocoa Pudding, Black Bottom, Rather Dark Chocolate, Mexican Chocolate, Aztec Chocolate, Orange Chocolate, Chocolate Sluggo (bam!), and Butter Chip. And then there’s the Burnt Caramel. And Ginger Snap Molasses. We could go on, but we know you’re already on your way there.

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1. Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers 1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138 (Harvard Square)

A Harvard Square mainstay since 1960, Mr. Bartley's slings greasy, 7oz patties in this always-busy American diner. There are tons of photos cluttering the walls that boast celebrity visits, the tables are so close you’re practically sharing them, and you can’t go a minute without hearing a thick Boston accent yelling out burger orders. The highest-stacked and most popular burger with locals and Guy Fieri alike is the Harvard Double: two fat beef patties with molten cheese, crispy bacon, and thick barbecue sauce are piled with a mountain of grilled red peppers and onions. Soak up the juice with a mound of Mr. Bartley’s signature extra-crispy, extra-thin deep-fried onion rings.

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2. Cabot's Ice Cream & Restaurant 743 Washington St, Newton, MA 02460 (Newton)

Cabot's has been operating for over 35 years, serving delicious ice cream concoctions to Newtonville residents. Try The Dentist Disaster, made with all kinds of candy-infused ice creams (think Heath, Snickers, Milky Way, and Reese's) doused with hot fudge, caramel, and a bunch of other sundae toppings, plus MORE candy in the form of Reese's Pieces.

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3. Christina's Homemade Ice Cream 1255 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (Inman Square)

Christina's is a local darling with unusual flavor choices (adzuki bean, coconut Butterfinger) in addition to favorites like cookie dough and vanilla. The best move the undecided ice cream connoisseur can make? Get the large banana split: your choice of any three scoops, three toppings, and whipped cream or marshmallow.

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4. Rialto 1 Bennett St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (Harvard Square)

Rialto is known for classy Italian fare, like bucatini with lobster, but you can also indulge your sweet tooth with items like their frozen chocolate and licorice truffle.

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5. Oleana 134 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (East Cambridge)

At Oleana, Chef Ana Sortun celebrates Eastern Mediterranean cuisine through her exploration of the regional spice pantry. The mezze-style menu pulls inspiration from Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Israel, Lebanon, and the restaurant's own New England locale with dishes like butternut squash borek pastries and Vermont quail kebab. Enjoy your meal Ă  la carte, or leave your dinner in the hands of the chef with the vegetable tasting menu.

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6. Picco 513 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116 (Back Bay)

Picco's is a casual Italian-fusion spot that slings tasty appetizers and mains -- from tomato bruschetta to fish tacos with creme fraiche -- but the real star here is the charred pizzas. The crust finds a happy medium between not too thick and not too thin, slightly bubbly, airy, and crispy. It also offers craft beer and homemade ice cream which go perfectly with any meal.

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7. Russell House Tavern 14 JFK St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (Harvard Square)

Named for the 19th century Harvard furniture dealer that first occupied the building, RHT is a two-floored pub/resto in bustling Harvard Square, brought to you from the owners of Grafton Street/Temple Bar. RHT's slinging a New England-heavy menu of modern American "artisanal fare" and craft beers. Their craft cocktail is also definitely worth checking out.

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8. The Ice Creamsmith 2295 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, MA 02124 (Dorchester)

The Ice Creamsmith does not mess around -- their 14% butterfat ice cream is there to taste amazing and bust your belt wide open -- enter the Belt Buster Sundae: 12 scoops of ice cream, 10 mixin’s, six sauces, a banana, marshmallow, whipped cream, jimmies, nuts, and a cherry. Good luck.

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9. Saus 33 Union St, Boston, MA 02108 (Govt Center)

Come to Saus to get the best of all things Belgian -- that means you're chomping down on pommes frites (with over 13 different sauce/saus options) and Liége waffle sundaes.

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10. T.W. Food 377 Walden St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (West Cambridge)

Chef-owner Tim Wiechmann brings local, seasonal deliciousness to Cambridge, with a series of tasting menus that allow you to savor a range of his inventive cuisine. Stop by on Wednesdays to experience Kitchen Improv -- a five-course, impromptu menu created on the spot.

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11. Toscanini's 899 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (East Cambridge)

Tosci, as it's known to its Cambridge fans, is world-famous for its simple, yet delicious vanilla ice cream, as well as its burnt caramel.