The U.S. is a nation of voracious ice cream eaters – second only to New Zealand in per capita consumption, according to the trade publication Frozen Dessert Supplies – and July is the month in which we eat the most of it. That’s probably why President Ronald Reagan officially declared July to be National Ice Cream Month, back in 1984. (Incidentally, ice cream is one of those “junk foods” that aren’t so bad for you.)
Ice cream is sold almost everywhere around the country – from ice cream trucks of course and at supermarkets and drugstores, highway rest stops, ballparks, restaurants both plain and fancy – and independent ice cream shops or parlors, which are consistently some of the best places to buy everybody’s favorite frozen dessert. That’s because they’re typically small in scale – hand-crafting their wares, eschewing additives and preservatives, and offering innovative flavors. Many are also environmentally conscious and active in their communities.
To compile a list of the best ice cream shops in America, 24/7 Tempo considered ratings and reviews on a variety of food and general interest websites, including The Daily Meal, Eater, Today, PBS, Spoon University, Thrillist, and Yelp, as well as numerous local and regional sites.
Many of the places on our list are family-owned, started by individuals who had a vision for producing the finest possible examples of everybody’s favorite frozen dessert. Some were launched by pastry chefs or other food-business veterans, while others are change-of-profession (and change-of-lifestyle) endeavors from those who had previously been successful in other fields.
The majority of these ice cream shops are stand-alone operations, though some have spawned offshoots, usually in the same town as the original. Some sell ice cream and sorbet and nothing else, while others may offer pies, macarons, or other confections. At least one is also known for its burgers and fries. (If pie’s your thing, with or without ice cream on the side, these are the best pie shops in America.)
One thing is sure, though: Whatever the particulars, these places all scoop up some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste.
> Location: Little Rock, Akansas
Loblolly Creamery boasts of its connections with the community and notes that it is inspired by the Arkansas seasons and the local food scene – and it has named flavors after local orchards and distilleries. The Creamery also makes its own s’mores and macarons. Reviewers have liked the ice cream flight of various flavors, with Arkansas Mud and honey green tea among their favorites.
The Ice Cream Bar
> Location: San Francisco, California
Step back into the 1930s with this ice cream parlor, complete with a working soda fountain. Among its ice cream offerings are caramelized honey, morello cherry, salted caramel turtle pecan, and blood orange passionfruit sorbet. Chocolate chip cookies (and a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich) are some of the additional offerings – and there are “boozy drinks” to boot (like a float made with that caramelized honey ice cream and Guinness stout).
Mother Moo Creamery
> Location: Sierra Madre, California
Mother Moo Creamery, which opened in this L.A. County community near Pasadena in 2011, says its offerings are “sweets for your soul.” The shop uses dairy products from the organic Straus Family Creamery in Petaluma. One reviewer enthused, “I’m totally hooked on the [organic] triple milk.” Among the other flavors that have drawn raves include apricot crumble and corn flake.
Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream
> Location: Salem, Connecticut
Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream, established in 1984 near Old Saybrook, operates under this credo: “To offer a premium product and superior service. It’s really that simple.” Besides telling its story and advertising its ice cream flavors, the shop’s website emphasizes the hiking and campsite opportunities in the region. Among its top 10 flavors are cherry vanilla, double chocolate fudge, and Purple Sable (black raspberry with large chocolate chips).
The Ice Cream Store
> Location: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
A seasonal ice cream shop (spring to autumn only) in this popular resort community, the Ice Cream Store proudly uses milk from Jersey cows raised at Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin, upstate, for its custom-made ice creams. These include such flavors as Delaware peach, pumpkin pecan, and only-if-you-dare Devil’s Breath Carolina Reaper Pepper. In addition, the store sells a wide range of flavors from commercial producers (Turkey Hill, Hershey Creamery) and smaller independents, like Bassetts from Philadelphia – America’s oldest ice cream maker, established in 1851.
Ice Dreammm Shop
> Location: Lutz, Florida
This locally owned and operated ice cream producer in an off-the-beaten-path strip mall in an unincorporated community just north of Tampa draws fans from all over the state for its modestly sized menu of finely crafted ice cream. Popular flavors include strawberry shortcake and chocolate bacon toffee. But, says proprietor Joe Schembri, “My inspiration comes from stuff I’ve always wanted to make as well as stuff customers want me to make. Give me an ingredient, and I can make it – from carrot cake to sweet potato casserole.” (Schembri also produces highly regarded ice cream pies in flavors such as hot fudge sundae and, for those over 21, Rum Haven.)
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant
> Location: Dania Beach, Florida
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant was founded by Monroe Udell in 1956 and is now owned by his daughter, Linda Udell Zakheim. The creamery’s ambience evokes an earlier time in America, with walls lined with license plates, typewriters, and vintage record players. There are more than 50 flavors available, from the standard chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, to mocha caramel coconut crackle, piña colada, and Gator Trax (peanuts, chocolate-peanut-butter swirl, and peanut-butter-filled chocolate candies).
Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream
> Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Morelli’s was opened by former pharmaceutical salesman Donald Sargent and his wife, Clarissa Morelli, in 2008. Since then, it has gained notice on many “best of” ice cream shop lists in Georgia and nationwide. The shop cites its salted caramel ice cream as Atlanta’s best. Other flavors include Krispy Kreamier, with chunks of Krispy Kreme donuts; strawberry rosewater; and dark chocolate chili. Morelli’s emphasizes its commitment to the community by supporting fundraisers for community schools, playgrounds, and childhood development centers
Butter and Cream
> Location: Decatur and Atlanta, Georgia
Stacy Wisniewski opened her original shop in Decatur in 2014, making her own ice cream, sorbet, sauces, toppings, and cookies and cakes. A second location, in Roswell, closed down in 2018 when its building was slated for demolition, but the same year, Wisniewski launched another one in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Flavors include honeycomb forest, marmalade pine nut cookie, cherry pie, and two vanillas using beans sourced from Brazil and Papua New Guinea, respectively.
Black Sheep Cream Co.
> Location: Waipi’o and four other Oahu locations, Hawaii
Tasi Reid opened her first Black Sheep in 2017, when she was 21, on the site in Waipi’o where her mother had once run a smoothie shop. Flavors include banana crème brûlée, honeydew melon cream, Buttah Cakes (chunks of butter cake in a cream cheese base), and Brown and Browner (milk chocolate with brownie pieces).
> Location: Boise (3 locations) and Caldwell, Idaho
The STIL (the letters stand for Sweetest Things in Life) was opened in 2017 by a couple of tech bros – Cleveland-born Dan Sell and Boise’s own Kasey Allen – and quickly became a go-to creamery in Idaho, adding three more locations nearby. “We set out to create unique flavors made from real ingredients,” they say. These include gluten-free and coconut-based vegan options and liquor-infused ice cream. Reviewers have approvingly cited such flavors as Easy Like Sunday Morning (espresso and caramel), Le Bloob (lemon blueberry pie), and carrot cake.
> Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville Cream is a small-batch ice cream company in downtown Louisville, locally owned since 2014 and using local milk. The creamery, founded by Darryl Goodner, Lynette Ruby, and Zach Hardin, turns out such flavors as pistachio honeycomb, bourbon baklava (this is Louisville, after all), mascarpone and strawberry, and salted butter caramel. “We make the kind of ice cream we want to eat,” they say.
Ice Cream 504
> Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Self-styled “High Priest of Ice Cream” Michael Southall founded this Crescent City essential in 2011, but, he says, “its beginnings can be traced back to a simpler time of hot summer Sundays on Aunt Ruby’s porch in Napoleonville, Louisiana,” where Ruby “taught the children to make the icy treat with fresh milk and sugar and fruits from her own backyard.” That kind of small-batch, handmade, preservative-free ice cream is what Southall makes today at 504, with such flavors as King cake with cream cheese, blueberry basil, and white chocolate mint. Sometimes, he says, he even uses fruit from Aunt Ruby’s place.
Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream
> Location: Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine, plus Washington D.C. and Matsumoto and Azumino, Japan
Software developer Linda Marie Parker opened her first location, in Bar Harbor, in 2005, “with not much of a vision except to make my favorite dessert the best way I knew how,” she says. She started out wanting to produce flavors you couldn’t find elsewhere – leading to experiments like chocolate wasabi. She still creates such uncommon flavors as Bay of Figs and coriander lemon curd, but has also gone on to perfect standards like chocolate and vanilla – and of course blueberry, based on Maine’s most famous fruit.
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream
> Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream has been a Cambridge mainstay since 1983, winning kudos from publications such as Bon Appétit and Travel & Leisure. Customers indulge in about 50 flavors that include exotic offerings such as adzuki bean, ginger molasses, honey lavender, and crème fraîche – and an annual summer special of rose ice cream, made with fresh rose petals from an organic farm in Westport, Massachusetts. (Proprietor Raymond Ford also runs Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods just next door.)
> Location: Nashville, Ionia, Zeeland, and Eaton Rapids, Michigan
Longtime dairy farmers Doug and Louisa Westendorp expanded into producing their own dairy products in 2005, opening their first outlet in Nashville. Today, the family-owned operation continues to use milk exclusively from their own Westvale-View Dairy, packaging it in both homogenized and non-homogenized form and also turning it into cheese – and ice cream. Popular flavors include peanut butter cookie dough, Almond Joy, Mackinac Island fudge, and, well, Unicorn Poo (grape ice cream with Pop Rocks and a sour swirl).
> Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Coneflower Creamery was founded by Brian Langbehn, a self-described “scoopologist,” and co-owned by him and Katie Arant – both of whom have backgrounds as pastry chefs. Coneflower was chosen as the name because the wildflower of that name, native to Nebraska, is bright and cheery and believed to have healing properties. Classic flavors at Coneflower include vanilla bean, cookies and cream, dark chocolate, and salted caramel. Other flavors that have drawn raves from customers include brown butter almond brittle, Grandma Minnie’s lemon bar, and tart cherry crumble.
Torico Ice Cream
> Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
In 1968, Pete and Pura Berrios bought Jim’s Deli on Erie Street in Jersey City. Because Pura missed the piraguas (shaved ice treats) of her native Puerto Rico, Pete started making them from tropical fruits. Soon he rebranded the deli to Tropical Delight – and then, after he had success with ice creams and sorbets made with a hand-cranked machine, he gave the place its current name. (Torico is a contraction of the Spanish “todo rico” – “all rich” or “all good.”) Today, the Berrios’ grandchildren run the operation, making flavors ranging from chocolate and vanilla to jackfruit, lychee, and avocado.
> Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Joel Coleman, a Santa Fe native and the former chef-owner of the city’s Fire & Hops gastropub, left the kitchen to become an “ice creamologist,” opening this ice cream destination – where the recipe, Coleman says, is “no stabilizers, no artificial flavoring, no preservatives.” Drawing inspiration from the weekly local farmers market, he produces such flavors as butterscotch miso, green chile, red chile honey, habanero vanilla, and prickly pear margarita sorbet.
Sugar Hill Creamery
> Location: New York City, NY
Husband-and-wife owners Nick and Petrushka Bazin Larsen did not start in the food business. He had hoped to be a comedian and she was an executive at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Their love of community, and food, propelled them to open an ice creamery in 2017 in Harlem, however, and another in 2020 (the year they began shipping their products nationwide), and then an outpost at Brooklyn’s Time Out Market in 2021. Some of their ice cream flavor names are an homage to pop culture, for instance Andy Griffith (pure vanilla, what else?) and Neneh Cherry (nuts and cherries), named after the Scandinavian pop singer and stepdaughter of jazz trumpeter Don Cherry.
Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
> Location: New York City, New York
Pastry chef Nicholas Morgenstern opened this soda-fountainish establishment in 2014 (while ice cream is the focus, he also offers smashburgers, fries, and pies, ice cream-based and otherwise). Morgenstern’s professed mission is “serving texture-driven small-batch ice creams with a renewed attention to flavor and palate.” Among the more unusual flavors are durian banana, chai lemon caramel, coconut cold brew, and strawberry pink peppercorn. (There’s also a spinoff location, dubbed Morgenstern’s Bananas, featuring soft serve ice cream with assorted toppings and dips.)
> Location: Portland, Oregon (3 locations)
Fifty Licks owner Chad Draizin was a brewer who transitioned to running an ice cream truck – which then spawned three brick-and-mortar locations around town. Fashioning his frozen desserts with local ingredients and cage-free egg yolks, Draizin produces such flavors as Oregon strawberry, black sesame (“kinda peanut butter-y [without the peanuts]”), cornbread honey butter, meadowfoam honey (which comes from the wildflower of the same name), and several vegan choices, including coconut lemon saffron and mango sticky rice.
Amy’s Ice Creams
> Location: Austin (13 locations), San Antonio, and Houston, Texas
Amy’s Ice Creams originated in Austin in 1984, and today has spread throughout the city and established outposts in San Antonio and Houston. Its website touts its celebrated Mexican vanilla ice cream – its best-seller – as well as dairy-free fruit ices and frozen yogurt. The company says it has more than 350 flavors in its rotation, though. Among them are standards like coffee, strawberry, and Belgian chocolate. Specialty flavors include white coffee crunch, roasted cherry, Rice Krispie treat, German chocolate cake, and key lime pie.
Kelley Country Creamery
> Location: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Kelley Country Creamery claims it has the “best ice cream in the middle of nowhere.” For the Kelley family, Fond du Lac is more than nowhere: It’s home. Kelleys have been part of the Irish population of the Fond du Lac region for 150 years. Today, Karen and Tim Kelley and their five children operate a 200-acre farmstead dairy here and tend to the 65 Holstein cows that provide the milk for their creamery. Among the flavors that can be found are apple raisin strudel, banana cream pie, Mexican hot chocolate, coffee toffee, and jalapeño.
Purple Door Ice Cream
> Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Lauren and Steve Schultz, a husband-and-wife team, launched Purple Door in 2011 (owning an ice cream business had been a childhood dream of Lauren’s), initially selling wholesale only to local grocers and restaurants. They later opened a retail shop in Walker’s Point – Milwaukee’s oldest neighborhood – where they offer flavors such as strawberry sour cream, brandy old fashioned, honey and black pepper, and malted chocolate chocolate chunk. They are, they say, “passionate about creating a quality, delicious product while supporting the community and respecting the earth.”
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