Food & Drink

The Best Ice Cream Shops in the Midwest

Published On 07/14/2016 Published On 07/14/2016
Whitey's Ice Cream

Whitey's Ice Cream

Davenport, IA

When you're in the Quad Cities region, anyone will tell you to go to this family-owned establishment for extra-thick ice cream shakes and malts you can turn upside-down without fear that even a drop will get away. Specialty sundaes, old-fashioned sodas and floats, and super-thick candy bar shakes with Oreos or Butterfingers keep people coming back for more.

jeremy hayes photography/George's Ice Cream & Sweets

George's Ice Cream & Sweets

Chicago, IL

This sweets shop dishes up over-the-top goodies starting with decadent ice cream flavors like Horchata and Zoreo -- that's Zanzibar chocolate + Oreos. The neighborhood mainstay (which hit our best ice cream in Chicago roundup) transcends the renowned ice cream imported from Chocolate Shoppe in Madison, WI with crazy indulgent offerings like the stand-out Hocus Pocus shake with rainbow sherbet, blended with Sprite then mixed with Pop Rocks.

Graeter's Ice Cream


Cincinnati, OH

Oprah deemed it the best ice cream she's ever tasted back in 2002, so you know it's some real good sh*t. Since 1870, the mom-and-pop operation has been churning out ice cream in small batches using a unique French pot process: a fancy way of saying they freeze signature flavors like black raspberry chip and bourbon pecan chocolate chip in an old-timey machine (the world's only French Pot Freezer actually) before coating it with chocolate and hand-mixing it together to form a rich, creamy treat.


The Chief

Goshen, IN

If you prefer eating your German chocolate cake and Key lime pie in ice cream form, look no further than the hand-painted sign that says "The Chief." The small town Indiana joint uses a 54-year-old, electric-powered ice cream machine to push out regulars like Blue Moon (tastes like cake frosting) and two surprise flavors of the week, fresh daily.

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream | Flickr/Innisfree Hotels

Moomers Homemade Ice Cream

Traverse City, MI

It's not often you'll find ice cream freshly churned from the cows in the yard, which makes the journey to this quaint Northern Michigan parlor seriously worth it. The family-run shop/dairy farm scales it back to 160 flavors (20 of which are offered daily). Among them: Cherries Moobilee, a black cherry-flavored ice cream with fresh cherries, chocolate fudge swirl, and brownies. Be sure to thank the cows next door.

Pumphouse Creamery | FLICKR/JPELLGEN

Pumphouse Creamery

Minneapolis, MN

With a focus on local, organic ingredients -- think fresh waffle cones and homemade sauces to top your sundaes -- this shop's ice cream comes in 20 seasonally rotating flavors like Rum Raisin, Passionfruit Mango Vanilla, Sea Salt Caramel Pecan, and Mint Chocolate Chip. They've even got special scoops made with just two ingredients, milk and peanut butter, for your pooch. And remember, five scoops are always better than one.

Glacé Artisan Ice Cream | SHANLEY COX/THRILLIST

Glacé Artisan Ice Cream

Kansas City, MO and Leawood, KS

While the plain old Madagascar vanilla ice cream is delicious here (because it's made with hormone-free milk and cream from Missouri cows), you're coming for Chocolatier and Pastry Chef Christopher Elbow's experimental roster of combinations like Indonesian Cinnamon, Raspberry Cassis Sorbet, Coffee Almond Flake, Pistachio Cherry, and Boulevard Dark Truth Stout, plus other goodies like salted pretzel root beer floats.


Ted & Wally's

Omaha, NE

Vegan apple Oreo pie, butter pecan brownie, jalapeño cream cheese, ginger sake, peanut butter cheddar cheese, limoncello, and bean pie are just a few of the unusual, yet surprisingly delicious handcrafted flavors found at this old-school Omaha parlor (hint: the secret is somewhere in the 18% butterfat).


The Silver Lining Creamery

Rapid City, SD

This shop's signature Mason jar sundaes and ice creams like an "Idaho Sundae" with vanilla ice cream loaded with caramel, whipped cream, and potato chips or the "Space Hippie" with fresh blackberries blended in sweet cream with brownies and marshmallows are out of this world.


Kopp's Frozen Custard

Greenfield, Brookfield, and Glendale, WI

When in Wisconsin, you're clearly getting custard, specifically the best damn stuff in the Midwest from this custard institution. Their comprehensive lineup of daily rotating custard flavors includes everything from rum to Coca-Cola to red velvet cake. But you can't go wrong with a thick and creamy vanilla topped with salty dark chocolate hot fudge... just leave room after your burger.


Pride Dairy

Bottineau, ND

North Dakota's last small-town creamery has rightfully garnered its solid reputation for seriously delicious silky-smooth ice cream. Locals continue to line up for house-made frozen treats like scoops of cookies 'n' cream, caramel cluster, juneberry, maple nut, and strawberry cheesecake -- all of which are made using the creamery's original recipe from the 1940s.


Izzy's Ice Cream

Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN

In addition to traditional flavors, this upbeat ice cream cafe embraces its Scandinavian heritage with signature flavors like "Swedish Garden Party," an elderflower-based ice cream with raspberry swirl and crumbled gingersnap cookies, and "Norwegian Chai," a addictively perfect blend of spiced sweetness.


Ted Drewes

St. Louis, MO

Rumor has it Shake Shack based its concretes recipe on Ted Drewes' famous staple. For more than 80 years, the family has been selling frozen custard (and, apparently, Christmas trees for 50+ years). In addition to supremely thick concretes like the "Twisted Caramel" with crumbled pretzels and caramel, all your ice cream cravings will be satisfied with malts, shakes, sundaes, and floats with a wide range of toppings and mix-ins on the menu.


Champaign and Danville, IL

George and Helen Potter opened the original Custard Cup shop in Danville in 1949; passing it on to the Jarling family paved the way for another location in Champaign to open in 1983. The popular full-service soda fountain and fresh-made desserts destinations sling old-fashioned sodas and traditional-flavored custards like vanilla, chocolate, lemon, strawberry, and orange.


Margie's Candies

Chicago, IL

"Sugar overload" is an understatement when you visit this near-century-old Chicago institution known for its hand-dipped candies, indulgent sundaes, and hand-spun malts. The old-school parlor and candy shop's fully loaded banana splits and signature turtle sundaes come with rivers of hot fudge that anyone -- including The Beatles and Al Capone -- would dive into, but only if there's a floating cherry on top.

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1. Whitey's Ice Cream 1230 W Locust St, Davenport, IA 52804

If you've ever flipped an ice cream shake over to test it thickness and was severely disappointed to find it splattered onto the floor, you'll be happy to know these Whitey's Ice Cream's shakes and malts are so thick you can confidently turn them over -- and leave it there -- they don't budge. That's because this Midwestern staple has been perfecting its ice cream concoctions since the 1930s with flavors like black raspberry, coconut joy, and moose tracks.

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2. George's Ice Cream & Sweets 5306 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

From old-school malts and floats to new-school scoops like Horchata and Fat Elvis (banana ice cream with peanut butter ripple and liquid chocolate chips) served in pretzel-encrusted cones, George’s is Andersonville’s go-to ice creamery and home to maybe the most intense milkshake in Chicago. If you're feeling adventurous, order the the Hocus Pocus shake, made with rainbow sherbet, Sprite, and POP-ROCKS.

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3. Graeter's 511 Walnut St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

The secret behind this Ohio hero (that began as a single man slinging ice cream on the streets on Cincinnatti in 1868) is its mastering of the traditional French Pot process -- that is, using two-and-a-half-gallon pots to make its flavors in tiny batches, that way you know it's fresh. Year-round flavors like cheese crown and dutch milk chocolate never fail, but the seasonal offerings are what really make this place shine. Watching what you eat? Graeter's has a line of low glycemic ice creams, too (so it's impossible to deny now, but don't worry, you'll thank us later).

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4. The Chief 502 W Lincoln Ave, Goshen, IN 46526

Maybe it’s the hand painted sign that simply says “The Chief" or its simple 50s' red and white decor. Maybe it’s their fantastic version of that weird Midwest flavor “Blue Moon” (a delicious blue raspberry and vanilla mash-up). This Goshen, Indiana hometown favorite makes its ice cream using a 54 year old electric churner to crank out a selection of seasonal flavors.

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5. Moomers Ice Cream 7263 N Long Lake Rd, Traverse City, MI 49685

Ice cream doesn't get any fresher than this -- the cows that supply the milk are right next door to the creamery -- and every day they offer 20 flavors from the extended roster of 120 brain-freezers ranging from Amaretto Cherry to White Chocolate Oreo.

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6. Pumphouse Creamery 4754 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407

Pumphouse goes local in a big way, using grains from Welcome, MN in their waffle cones and dairy sourced from a farm 50 miles north and local butter from the Rochdale Farms Co-op in their ice cream. This shop's ice cream comes in 20 seasonally rotating flavors like Rum Raisin, Passionfruit Mango Vanilla, Sea Salt Caramel Pecan, and Mint Chocolate Chip.

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7. Glacé Artisan Ice Cream 4960 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64112

The founder of this spot has also worked for Emeril Lagasse and in the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, and that experience combined with unadulterated creativity bring his churned creams wicked flavors like spiced dark chocolate, goat cheese with wildflower honey, and Thai basil. New flavors come through the door every week and, sometimes, you can find a handful of baked treats, too. It's just down the road from The Plaza -- a tempting treat on your way home from a day of shopping, perhaps?

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8. Ted & Wally's 1120 Jackson St, Omaha, NE 68102

When it comes to technique, you can't get any more old-fashioned (or better) than Ted and Wally's rock-salt-and-ice, 18 percent butterfat creations. The spot in Omaha's Old Market is constantly experimenting with flavors, so much so that you never really know what to expect when you pop by -- there could be anything from cilantro lime and salted caramel bourbon to lavender gin & tonic. They've even got a vast variety of vegan ice cream for a creamy, lactose-free treat.

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9. Silver Lining Creamery 512 Main St, Rapid City, SD 57701

Tucked away in Rapid City's Main Street Square, this small-town creamery offers thousands of ice cream combinations for seemingly endless opportunities from sorbet, to soft serve, to chocolate-dipped waffle cones, floats, to shakes, to sundaes in cute little mason jars -- if those options don't sell you on this place alone then nothing will. Take your pick of their distinct flavors like huckleberry or root beer or candy corn and take them over to the quaint park just across the street.

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10. Kopp's Frozen Custard 5373 N Port Washington Rd, Glendale, WI 53217

Known for its butter-burgers and frozen custard, Kopp's is so Midwestern it hurts. The Milwaukee chain serves wide, jumbo burgers that range from a single-patty hamburger to a double cheeseburger -- and it goes without saying that the double cheeseburger is the way to go. Two thin patties are covered with thick layers of Wisco-made American cheese, topped with relish in lieu of pickles, and sandwiched between a well-toasted bun. The custard is as creamy as the burgers are juicy, doled out fountain-style in flavors like banana, hot fudge, marshmallow, and butterscotch.

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11. Pride Dairies 517 Thompson St, Bottineau, ND 58318

The last standing dairy in the small town of Bottineau, Pride Dairy started out in the 1920s as a simple butter producer, and over the decades it expanded its craft to cheese, ice cream, and all sorts of other sweet treats like shakes, malts, caramels, syrup, and cakes. These days its a hometown hero where families gather to enjoy both classic and new ice cream flavors like black licorice, juneberry, pumpkin pie, and bubble gum, the recipes for which have barely changed since day one.

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12. Izzy's Ice Cream 2034 Marshall Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104

It’s rare that you see anyone described as an “upbeat ice cream specialists” on a Google description, but that is pretty apt for Lara Hammel and Jeff Sommers, both Minnesota natives, and owners of Izzy’s. They make ice creams for both the traditional and experimental eaters with flavors ranging from mild classics like butter pecan and salted caramel to daring signatures like black licorice and Guinness. Get a cone to enjoy on the front patio or take a pint home to keep as a guilty pleasure.

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13. Ted Drewes 4224 S Grand Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63111

Before Shake Shack came along and made the whole “concrete” thing popular nationwide, there was Ted Drewes (it's said that Shake Shack's recipe is a straight knock-off). The family-owned joint has been slinging thick, frozen-custard delights out of a little white shack in St. Louis Heights since 1930, like cherry-topped, hot-fudge-drizzled Cardinal Sin and the Terramizzou with pistachios and an ultra-secret blend of chocolates. Ted's the no-brainer destination after Cards games, so the line is always packed -- but don't be intimidated, it never takes more than a few minutes to get through.

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14. Jarling’s 309 W Kirby Ave, Champaign, IL 61820

In the heart of Champaign, Jarling's Custard Shop opened in 1949, and both its style and recipe has since withstood the test of time -- and how could it not, when its original three flavors (Vanilla, Chocolate, and Lemon) expanded to include every flavor imaginable from coconut to Georgia peach to cherry jubilee to creme de menthe? Jarling's is an easy drove from both Indianapolis and Chicago, so there's no excuse for you to be missing out on this piece of history.

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15. Margie's Candies 1960 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

To put it in blunt terms, you simply haven't lived the true Chicago life until you've been to the legendary Margie's Candies. Serving Bucktown since 1921, this generations-old candy shop offers every confection imaginable, all made by hand every day. The ice cream, scooped into homemade waffle cones and delicately dipped in a rich chocolate sauce, is so decadent that both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles have ventured here after shows to satisfy their (brown) sugar cravings.