The 40 Best Ice Cream Shops in the U.S.
In the land of milk and honey scoops—and mint chocolate chip and salty caramel—treat yourself.
It’s quite possible that we are living in the golden age of ice cream innovation. Old-school creameries are churning out vanilla bean masterpieces honed over generations while new shops are tossing the term “chef” into the mix to challenge the very notion of what ice cream is. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially when temps outside aren’t letting up.
These ice cream shops represent everything that is well and good: new-wave artisan shops challenging the very notion of what should be placed on a cone (or stick, or between cookies), old-school parlors learning new tricks, boozed-up scoops, plant-based creameries, and much more. So grab a napkin. It’s going to be a glorious mess.
San Diego, California
No, they can’t help you with your laundry, but An’s Dry Cleaning will satisfy your cravings for a smooth gelato treat that’s not your typical scoop shop offering. Quirky names and inventive combos like Lingerie (with strawberry gelato and shredded chocolate) are a nod to the ever-popular chocolate-covered strawberry, while Cypress, an intense chocolate, is like eating a gelato brownie. Burlap is a Reeses Pieces-inspired vegan option with coconut milk base, peanut butter, and chocolate bits. New menus come out every two to four weeks on Instagram.
Los Angeles, California
The brainchild of Indonesian-Australian chef Zen Ong, Awan—which means “cloud” in Bahasa—is an homage to his Indonesian roots. After years of recipe experimentation and testing, Ong nailed the formula for a non-dairy ice cream. The secret? A combination of Indonesian coconut cream and coconut water, which produces a rich, creamy mouthfeel and gelato-like texture. Made with specially imported Balinese vanilla beans, the original vanilla flavor is a beloved standby, but Ong drops new flavors often. Some of his latest releases include aromatic lemongrass (a customer favorite) and caramelly gula jawa, named for the unrefined sugar that’s made by collecting the sap from the flowers of a coconut palm tree.
Nothing cools you off faster on a hot afternoon like stopping into this Little Havana ice cream shop, easily spotted by the giant ice cream cone sculpture above the door. The flavors are all tributes to the Magic City, with names like café con leche, platano maduro, and Willy Chirino–a mix of bourbon ice cream with black cherries. There’s also a perpetual rotation of seasonal flavors in case you run out of the originals. And Azucar has proven so popular it’s spawned locations in Downtown Dadeland and Dallas, Texas.
Princeton, New Jersey
The idyllic college town takes its ice cream very seriously. And valedictorian of the scene is The Bent Spoon, which has garnered a loyal cult following based on a whopping 550 flavors, which rotate in and out of the little shop 24 at a time. This is a place where seasonality is king, and while you can always get a top-notch traditional flavor or a modified classic (think Habanero Chocolate), the place is also doing the kind of flavor experimentation normally reserved for the chemistry lab. Think Sun Gold tomato sorbet made with the Garden State's treasured fruit, or Blueberry Mascarpone, or chocolate with ramps, or pumpkin with shiitake mushrooms. None of those things sound like they belong together. But they’re almost always fantastic—especially when paired with one of the Spoon’s legendary cookies.
San Francisco, California
This scoop shop always has a line of people out the door eager to satisfy their craving for housemade, small-batch, organic ice cream. Even when it’s 55 degrees and the piercing onshore wind makes it feel like it’s 35 degrees. Fans grin and bear it for the salted caramel. (In the summer, the balsamic strawberry made with organic strawberries roasted with balsamic vinegar is worth the wait, too.) There are also dairy-free options, as well as soft serve. And if waiting in lines isn’t your thing, you can order ahead for pre-packed pints, popsicles, bars, sandwiches, and ice cream cakes.
Trained by gelato masters in Italy, Carlo “Botolo” Gattini’s masterful touch brings deeply rooted traditions to every small batch of decadent bliss. Each ingredient must be perfect to make it into one of his creations, whether that means procuring items from local Texas farms or flying something in from across the world. You won’t find any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives here (which is why his pistachio isn’t neon green, for instance). Top choices include berries and lavender, mascarpone and figs, and white coffee (now that’s some wizardry). Consider taking home a cake, as they’re among the most gorgeous anywhere in the world.
David and Laura Alima opened their dream ice cream shop The Charmery in 2013 and have since grown it to include a factory and event space, as well as more locations in the suburbs. Flavors here are incredibly creative, socially conscious, and rotate often. Some mainstays include the locally inspired and fudgey Maryland Mud and salty-sweet Old Bay Caramel, and one-offs have been an ice cream to celebrate Pride, the savory Baked Ricotta Orange, and Fear Factory flavors every Halloween (Pickled Onion Sorbet, anyone?) Needless to say, the Alimas churn humor and whimsy into everything they do.
St. Louis, Missouri
Clementine’s is in the rare position of nailing both nostalgia and novelty, born out of founder Tamara Keefe’s childhood tradition of churning homemade ice cream to fulfill a sweet tooth her family couldn’t afford to buy from their local parlor. Her 25 years of experience in the cooking world show in her attention to detail in flavors like decadent Tommy’s Toffee Butter Brickle, but she's also managed to create a line of “naughty” ice creams that pack a boozy punch, including the super popular Maple Bourbon or the Manhattan (complete with maraschino cherries). But incorporating liquor into ice cream seems like nothing when you consider how inventive flavors like asparagus and quinoa bring frozen desserts into a whole new delicious territory.
It sounds like the name of an ’80s buddy cop duo—Crank’s the level-headed one, Boom’s the wildcard with nothing to lose! But this “ice cream lounge” brings a different kind of unorthodox practice to the force. While flavors like Blueberry Lime Cheesecake and Dark Chocolate Truffle are great alone, they’re even better covered in local strawberries and house-made marshmallows. And lest you think the lounge part is just cutespeak, C&B makes good on its Bourbon Country roots with a roster of boozy floats and scoop-topped cocktails. A prosecco float? Dammit, Crank & Boom, you’re loose cannons...but you get the job done.
New Orleans, Louisiana
NOLA’s undisputed go-to for dairy-related indulgences sets a somewhat old-timey tone with the vintage neon bakery sign adorning the exterior and the parlor pink adorning the inside. But it’s certainly not shy about innovation (think flavors like Goat Cheese & Mission Fig and Lavender Honey). For something seriously, albeit subtly, different, try the signature Creole Cream Cheese, which employs a slightly sweet farmhouse cheese to achieve a level of creaminess that might almost seem a little too indulgent, until you remember what city you’re in again.
Before moving next door for a much-deserved facelift, Elliston Place Soda Shop reigned as the oldest Nashville restaurant still serving in its original location. While the place is a little shinier and the kitchen is much larger and modernized, the soda shop still maintains all the charm that has made it a Music City favorite since 1939. Each milkshake is made using local ice cream and spun by hand in a mixer until ultimately creamy and delicious. In addition to those outrageous shakes, Elliston Place also serves a legit meat-and-three menu of Southern classics, including a cheeseburger so good that a young singer-songwriter named Jimmy Buffet lived off of them when he was first trying to make it big in town during the early 1970s.
Here, local and extra special ingredients are the name of the very tasty game. Fat Cat uses pure Mexican vanilla for the signature Cat’s Meow, Independence Brewery’s Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout beer is deployed for the Milk Chocolate Stout, and local strawberries and Texas Gin dwell in the Waterloo Strawberry Buttermilk. On top of that, you can add in things like Salted Almond Brittle and Marshmallow Sauce.
Three generations of the Ferris family are involved in one capacity or another in the vitally important work of delivering flavors like the S’mores-Style Campfire and PB-Banana Elvis’ Dream to an increasingly ice cream-hungry following. And for any Connecticut residents clamoring about the omission of Oxford’s Rich Farm, there’s nothing wrong with the ice cream, but its franchise opening in SoCal means you’re now sharing them with the West Coast, which just isn’t the same.
Like so many things in Portland—including hugely popular multi-city powerhouse Salt & Straw—Fifty Licks started as a food truck, but quickly gained enough notoriety to open its cozy brick and mortar shop in the city’s bustling Clinton neighborhood. Now there’s a second location in the never-hotter Kerns neighborhood, drawing deserving lines for flavors ranging from a simple-yet-incredible Tahitian Vanilla and more complex fare like a Thai Rice scoop loaded with jasmine rice pudding, a mango flavor infused with spicy ancho chiles, a pink scoop with local strawberries, and an adults-only butterscotch infused with actual Scotch.
Ice cream may never actually be a health food, but you can easily pretend it is at Frankie & Jo’s. The entirely plant-based scoop shop also uses buzzy wellness-world ingredients like chaga mushroom powder, turmeric, activated charcoal, and ashwagandha. But the result is less Goop and more great. The texture is so creamy—thanks to bases made with cashew and coconut milks—that you don’t miss the dairy. The flavors are clever, too. The Chocolate Tahini Supercookie is studded with dark chocolate and cookie dough made from almond flour while Frankie’s Brown Sugar Vanilla features vanilla bean and vanilla extract, as well as nutritional yeast to round out the flavor. And if you can’t make it into the shop, Frankie & Jo’s will ship you their plant-powered pints if you join their monthly club.
The Franklin Ice Cream Bar is the latest vintage ice cream shop to open in the Franklin Fountain family. Specializing in hand-dipped chocolate roasted at nearby Shane Confectionery and sprinkled with a ton of while toppings, the shop also features ice cream, frozen custard, vegan options, and take-home pints. This bespoke parlor does serious things with ice cream, churning its own concoctions that include a stunner of a Honeycomb ice cream, a Cookies and Cream that ditches Oreos for Hydrox (the original sandwich cookie), and a nod to local favorite teaberry gum. They’re all but screaming to be tossed in a sundae or split and covered in homemade hot fudge or piled on the iconic Mt. Vesuvius sundae, which rises high from a base of brownies.
The former pop-up is based around the supreme joy of dipping fast food fries into the frozen chocolate concrete that passes for a milkshake. Fryce Cream elevates the concept by offering gourmet soft serve flavors served with crispy fries that you can order dusted with heady spice blends like “Nashville hot” or shawarma seasoning. Dip them in your ice cream or in available dipping sauces such as wasabi aioli or “magic sauce.” Add on a drizzle of honey peach syrup for a complete treat.
Jam Sanitchat is revolutionizing the way Austinites eat. The Thai Fresh owner’s coconut milk–based vegan ice cream entices dairy-loving Texans to welcome the cream-free life in droves. (Sanichat’s no-tipping business model whereby staff are paid a fair wage with benefits is likewise earning praise from the community.) You just have to try her desserts at the stand-alone cafe, Gati, to become a superfan, whether gluten-free coffee cake or homemade ice cream. Our fave is the smooth and refreshing Thai Tea, which is the only way you’ll want tea this summer. There are around 40 rotating flavors, most of which contain four ingredients or less. All are vegan and gluten-free.
It used to be pretty difficult to track down this roving custard truck. Now that Goodies has settled into a 90-year-old renovated ice house in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, you always know where to find Wisconsin-style custard in the DMV area. The shop will sell you its rich custard on its own in a dish or on a cone, but Goodies is best known for its over-the-top sundaes. The “donutwich” is just what it sounds like: A scoop of vanilla bean custard sandwiched between two donuts of your choosing, and the shop offers other sundaes, shakes, and floats as well.
Inside Underground Atlanta, the historic train station and redeveloped entertainment district, IScream offers a place where you can “get your roll on,” as the shop’s neon sign implores. Build your waffle taco shell creations showered in drizzles and sprinkles or an over-the-top signature bowl of ice cream—but don’t expect the usual scoops. Here, the four-year-old dessert spot takes an ice cream base onto a freezing cold surface and curls each order of ice cream base into spirals of frozen delight and nestles each coil of Peppermint or Cotton Candy or Peppermint into a cup. Customize to your heart’s content.
Dania Beach, Florida
Under the red and white striped awning of a nondescript Ft. Lauderdale strip mall is a place where roadside bar meets old-school ice cream shop. Jaxson’s is an oddball South Florida institution that’s maintained its historic charm since 1956, cooling off overheated beach-goers for over 65 years. Kids ride coin-operated pony and buggy rides while adults indulge in towers of fried food. Every once in a while you’ll spot someone daring enough to order the notorious Kitchen Sink: a sundae served with 36 scoops of ice cream in an actual kitchen sink. But even if you don't have an appetite that big, you can still appreciate the oversized scoops topped with American flags, or lollipops the size of your head.
Completely independent of the same-named company on the mainland, Lappert's has been scooping outstanding, hand-packed ice cream since 1983, with oh-so-Hawaiian flavors like Kauai Pie, Kona Lava Java, and Banana Fudge. Spring for a Brownie Pa’Ina if you're feeling extra frisky—you can always counter housing a brownie topped with any two ice cream scoops and housemade hot fudge with an espresso…or an affogato, if you’re really going for it.
Lick has been an Austinite obsession since 2011, now with three area locations peddling pure, fresh ingredients sourced responsibly from local farmers and partners. Lineups include Texas Sheet Cake (injected with yummy homegrown chocolate-pecan icing) and the ultra-refreshing Roasted Beets and Fresh Mint. This summer’s special is a must, a delightful Peach Leaf Graham Crunch—almond-flavored ice cream folded with homemade cinnamon crumble. Equally loved vegan alternatives, ice cream sandwiches, and diverse toppings seal the deal.
This shop quickly became a Denver icon after it first opened in 2008 thanks in large part to its unique architecture—the 28-foot-tall, 14,000-pound cream can from which scoops are served. Lines will almost inevitably get long, but it’s well worth the wait for the most famous flavor: Salted Oreo. But you can’t go wrong whether you opt for a banana pudding float, seasonal honey almond in a waffle cone that’s made on site, or one of their sorbets or vegan options. It also gives back through the Scoop to Scoop initiative which donates a scoop of rice, beans, or other essentials to those in need for every scoop of ice cream sold.
Founded in 1921, the original Margie’s Candies comes with tales of visitors like the Beatles and Al Capone. This Bucktown staple has maintained the old-fashioned decor and vibes, as well as a knack for serving handmade confectionery candy, chocolate, and fudge. On the ice cream side, you can go for classic scoops or make room for any of the shop’s famous banana splits. Bring a group for “the world’s largest terrapin,” a gargantuan indulgence featuring 15 scoops of French Vanilla topped with a deluge of hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, nuts, and banana before being crowned with a cookie.
The geniuses at the centrally located Minneapolis ice cream shop really blew our minds with Jam Buns. Basically, a warm donut is split in two like a hamburger bun and then stuffed with ice cream and toppings (think Thai Tea with caramelized Rice Krispies). The creativity doesn’t stop there, as the shop is always showcasing inventive flavors, which you can get in the form of shakes, malts, sundaes, or to-go pints. Current offerings include Cereal Killers with orange coriander milk and candied Fruity Pebbles, Uma with greek yogurt and a passion fruit-lychee swirl, and Ridin’ Duuurty with Oreo milk, Oreo chunks, and salted peanut butter.
Traverse City, Michigan
Seldom do you get to eat something delicious while looking out the window at the animals that provided the ingredients, largely because there’s no quicker way to ruin a burger. But this little country creamery in gorgeous upper Michigan lets you gaze upon cows while getting down on your choice of 160 (!) amazing handmade ice creams ranging from a take on regional fave Superman called SuperMoo to cupcake and Chocolate Monster. Get your scoops in sandwich form, or buddy up on the Wholey Cow—10 scoops with every single topping—then plop down and say thanks to Bessie before you drift off into a blissful diabetic coma.
New York, New York
With its flagship location on Houston Street plus an LES storefront, the menu at this “new American ice cream parlor” offers up to 55 flavors, with some favorites being Burnt Honey Vanilla, Olive Oil Chocolate Eggplant, Green Tea Pistachio, and Crème Brûlée. In addition to cold treats, Morgenstern’s also launched a special burger program last summer with a lineup of specialty burgers that founder Nick Morgenstern spent two years developing. But when it comes to their renowned ice cream, hop on this summer’s hottest new flavor: Pineapple Salted Egg Yolk.
Bar Harbor, Maine
This funky little shop on an island in Frenchman Bay is old school. Not just because it’s an adorable little storefront in a tiny town, but because everything here is done by hand the slow way, from the squeezing of the juices to dipping pretzels in chocolate. This is a place that churns things five gallons at a time, but the things they churn are absolutely remarkable—ranging from a fantastic Blueberry Sour Cream Crumble to Cinnamon Cardamom and a White Russian-inspired concoction called The Dude, which anyone would abide by. The place has since expanded to the mainland, with both Portland and DC getting outposts. But it’s on Desert Island that you can get it at its purest form, with a chaser of ocean air.
Durham, North Carolina
Here’s a Durham success story that in no way involves basketball. A married couple uproots from Philly so one of them can attend grad school at Duke, finds the homemade ice cream scene not quite up to snuff, takes matters into their own hands, and takes ice cream making from a hobby to a thriving business not even the most ardent Blue Devil adversary could root against. Seriously, the biggest Tar Heel fan ever could take one bite of Salted Butter Caramel, Summer Corn With NC Blueberry Jam, or Vietnamese Coffee and maybe think Coach K isn’t so bad after all. Fine, that’s a stretch, but there’s no way they’d hate on the ice cream.
Founded by pastry chef Dana Salls Cree and Bang Bang Pie and Biscuits’ Michael Ciapciak, Pretty Cool Ice Cream serves an array of frozen novelties, including ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, and ice pops (vegan ones, too!). The clever flavor combinations throughout the menu make this spot a standout, with fruit-flavored “truck pops” like Passion Fruit Hibiscus and custard bars like Peanut Butter Potato Chip, Coffee Pretzel Toffee, and Caramel Horchata Crunch. It’s a funky (handheld) take on the straight-up scoop shop, and between the operators’ backgrounds and its stellar selections, Pretty Cool won’t be melting away anytime soon.
Owned and operated by Rabia Kamara, ice cream parlor Ruby Scoops recently moved from Washington, DC to Richmond. Her shop opened late last year in the North Side neighborhood, and you’ll find flavors like Mango Sorbet, Cookie Butter, and Dulce de Leche.
Unless America somehow breeds a cow that dispenses ice cream from her udders, the ice cream does not get any fresher than it is at Sassy Cow. That’s a result of a dairy farm located a half-mile north of the creamery, owned by the same family. And in the summer, you can get ice cream two to three days after the cow’s been milked. That delicious ice cream comes in 30 flavors, including 10-15 new flavors each season. Don’t pass up on the Caramel Overload, which takes the uber-popular Salted Caramel ice cream with pecans, and adds caramel pretzels, whipped cream, and cherries to the mix.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Sorry, Not Sorry hasn’t been open long, but the scoop shop already has a rabid following thanks to small-batch ice creams made with milk from the century-old Scott Brothers Dairy farm in California. Ingredients from cookies to caramels are all made from scratch in house. Don’t miss out on the Ube Honeycomb made with honeycomb candy pieces from Blooming Buns, or the Whiskey Bananas Foster that tastes like it’s straight from Brennan’s in New Orleans. Maybe you like the contrast of sweet and savory, in which case you should opt for something like the Strawberry Balsamic with Black Pepper.
New York, New York
As longtime Harlem residents, the husband-and-wife team behind Sugar Hill Creamery opened their popular shop in 2017 to be a place for the neighborhood to enjoy artisanal ice cream made from scratch. In addition to offering an array of flavors like the Chairperson of the Board (blueberry cheesecake), Nunu’s Peach Cobbler (peach with cobbler crumbles), and First Day Out (corn jalapeño with hibiscus blackberry), they also regularly host community-based programs meant to empower the Black experience. A second storefront in Hamilton Heights opened last year and products are also available for nationwide shipping.
The Scottsdale favorite—known for using recycled materials—has expanded to Phoenix, Tempe, and various Whole Foods throughout the state. But the funky, inventive creamery has remained committed to its high-quality, impeccably crafted offerings, among them a Belgian Chocolate masterpiece that would stand out in Brussels just as much as it does in the desert and a horchata number that you might be tempted to let melt and drink in a cup. And though we’re usually partial to pure ice cream, we recommend you mix it up and opt for one of the Brown Cows, which use delicious Madagascar Vanilla ice cream and Mexican Coke.
Tosci’s is pushing through its fourth decade of supplying the smart (ahem, smaht) kids of Cambridge with their daily intake of dairy fat. Their burnt caramel is the stuff of dessert legend. Try delectable flavors like The Vienna Finger Cookie, Peanut Butter Fluff, Goat Cheese Brownie, and Belgian Chocolate. Not far from the Kendall T Stop, this is a great spot to take a break—whether you’re studying, commuting, or sightseeing.
It hasn’t even been a handful of years since owner Josh DeLeon began making ice cream in his apartment, but today he owns and operates one of the most sought-after pop-ups in the city. Think of him like the Willy Wonka of ice cream: elusive, unconventional, and dreaming up whimsical flavors from Salted Bruleed Banana Ice Cream with Miso Caramel and Brownies to Salted Peppermint Oreo Ice Cream with Oreo Toffee Crunch. The cult favorite recently snagged a storefront and that’s where you can pick up the pints (if you’re lucky).
Los Angeles, California
What started off as a small shop in Tarzana quickly turned into a household name after husband-and-wife team Jon-Patrick Lopez and Adrienne Borlongan opened a booth at Smorgasburg LA, among others. If you couldn’t guess, the flavors here are inspired by far-flung destinations: Thailand’s famous Mango Sticky Rice dessert is channeled into a rice milk with coconut cream and swirls of Alphonso mango, the Philippines are embodied by an Ube Malted Crunch influenced by Adrienne’s Filipino-American upbringing, and a confection from Montélimar, France, is turned into a nutty, mouthwatering treat with Provençal lavender honey and crunchy almond nougatine.
The Mitchell family established a farmstead here in 1796, and for some 160-plus years, it operated mostly as a dairy farm until the herd was sold in 1961 as the farm shifted its focus to other livestock and produce. Luckily, some wise family members maintained that dairy fat is incredible, got back to milking cows, and the creamery was born in 1998. Now they’re packing in an entire apple pie for Cinnamon Apple Pie ice cream, and dumping gummy worms and Oreo bits into chocolate ice cream to make the kid-friendly Dirt that adults should in no way feel shy about ordering.
Writers: Mary Beth Abate, Emma Banks, Daisy Barringer, Erica Buehler, Chris Chamberlain, Tim Ebner, Okla Jones, Steven Craig Lindsey, Matthew Meltzer, Marielle Mondon, Nicole Rupersburg, Tiffany Tse, Brooke Viggiano, and James Wong.