It should come as no surprise that July is National Ice Cream Month – so designated in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. We’re a nation of voracious ice cream consumers – second only to China – and July is our busiest month for both ice cream production and consumption, from sea to shining sea.
Even though you can get ice cream at any supermarket, independent ice cream parlors in downtowns, on highways, and in strip malls endure because they are as much a part of the summer ritual as going to the beach. For many of them, community building, protecting the environment, and food security are passionate issues. Besides expanding physically and online, many have built a wholesale business and distribute their products in retail outlets. (Check out the best ice cream shop in every state.)
There are plenty of ice cream shops across the country to slake the appetite of ice cream aficionados and picking the best is a mouth-watering task indeed. To compile a list of the best ice cream parlors 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.
Most of the parlors on our list make their own ice cream on a small-batch scale. Many have created unusual flavors like rhubarb crumble, chocolate bacon toffee, Vietnamese coffee, Iowa sweet corn, or rye whiskey eggnog sugar cookie. (These are among the delicious ice cream flavors we wish would come back.)
None of those crack the most popular flavors list, at least yet. International Dairy Foods Association and Research America in 2022 conducted a study of U.S. ice cream data and trends (well, somebody had to do it) and found that Americans rank chocolate as their favorite ice cream flavor, followed in this order by cookies n’ cream, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate chip, cookie dough, buttered pecan, French vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough, and caramel/salted caramel.
Big Spoon Creamery
> Location: Birmingham and Homewood, AL
Big Spoon Creamery is the realization of a dream of co-founders Geri-Martha and Ryan O’Hara, who worked as chefs before opening their ice cream parlor. On their website, they say they focus on seasonal flavors using local ingredients. Yelp reviewers give a thumbs-up to honeysuckle blackberry and goat cheese strawberry hibiscus ice creams and strawberry elderberry sorbet.
> Location: Little Rock, AR
Loblolly Creamery boasts of its connections with the community and has named flavors after local orchards and distilleries. The Arkansas store also makes its own s’mores and macarons. Reviewers liked the ice cream flight of various flavors. Arkansas Mud and honey green tea were among the favorites.
> Location: Phoenix, AZ
Churn says it makes its ice cream with “lots of love and zero phony stuff.” Among the flavors on hand are Madagascar vanilla, toasted coconut, and on a rotational basis, oatmeal cookie Dough. If you want a sundae, you might be inclined to try the Fat Elvis – peanut butter ice cream, salted caramel, banana, whip, and chocolate rocks. Churn also sells pastries, nostalgic candy like sour balls and old fashioned taffy, and throwback toys such as yo-yos, jax, and dominos.
> Location: Arcata, CA
Arcata Scoop offers all organic ice cream and sorbets using Straus Family Creamery dairy and local fruits, and the ice cream is made in small batches. Reviewers on Yelp approved of the combination of flavors and cited the lemon lavender ice cream, honey lavender vanilla, and olive oil ice cream.
The Ice Cream Bar
> Location: San Francisco, CA
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, Irish coffee Bailey swirl, and bourbon peanut butter cookie ice creams, ice cream sandwiches with chocolate chip cookies, and vegan chocolate sorbet..
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams
> Location: Santa Barbara & four other locations, CA
McConnell’s has been scooping ice cream since 1949 when it was founded by Gordon “Mac” and Ernesteen McConnell. (Its was bought by Michael Palmer and Eva Ein in 2012.) The shop calls itself “California’s original and finest” and touts its local, sustainable, and organic credentials. Among the flavors Yelp reviewers cited were Earl Grey, Eureka lemon and marionberry, churro, and Avaline rosé & boysenberry milk jam.
Mother Moo Creamery
> Location: Sierra Madre, CA
Mother Moo Creamery, which opened in 2011, says its offerings are “sweets for your soul.” The Los Angeles-area shop uses dairy from the organic Straus Family Creamery in Petaluma. One reviewer enthused, “I’m totally hooked on the triple milk.” Among the other flavors drawing raves were salty chocolate, orange blossom, cornflake (yes, cornflake), and rocky road.
Ferris Acres Creamery
> Location: Newtown, CT
The creamery was established in 2003, but the Ferris family’s roots in Newtown go back to 1703. In 1864, a descendant of the original Ferrises, William David Baldwin Ferris, purchased the farm that eventually became the creamery. There are three generations of the Ferris family involved in the creamery today. Charles D. Ferris IV and brother Brendan make the ice cream when they aren’t tending to farm responsibilities. The family gets the cream for its ice cream from Guida’s Dairy. Regular flavors include Bada Bing (chocolate almond ice cream with dark chocolate chunks and Bing cherries), Bad Habit (dark chocolate), and Parent Trap (vanilla ice cream with peanut butter swirls and peanut butter Oreos).
Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream
> Location: Salem, CT
Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream, established in 1988, 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 the flavors Yelp reviewers cited were Almond Joy, black cherry chip, and salted caramel chip.
Woodside Farm Creamery
> Location: Hockessin, DE
The Mitchell family established this property as a dairy farm in 1796. It eventually became a creamery in 1998. What’s on the ice cream menu? How about butter brickle, bacon, cappuccino crunch, cotton candy, and turtle (toasted pecan pieces and caramel blended in chocolate ice cream).
> Location: Cape Coral, FL
At Cape Creamery, founded in 2016, the owners want you to know “We’re here to serve you, body and soul, and we just love doing so.” Among its 35 ice cream flavor offerings are: cherry amaretto, Nutella chip, Mama G’s Banana Puddin’, and Cape Coral Gold.
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant
> Location: Dania Beach, FL
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant was founded by Monroe Udell in 1956 and is now owned by his daughter Linda. The creamery’s ambience evokes an earlier time in America, with walls lined with license plates, typewriters, and record players. There are more than 50 flavors to choose from, including mocha caramel coconut crackle, praline pecan, eggnog, and Gator Trax (peanuts, chocolate-peanut-butter swirl, and peanut-butter-filled chocolate candies).
> Location: Atlanta, GA
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. The shop’s flavors include Krispy Kreamier, with chunks of Krispy Kreme donuts; strawberry rosewater; and dark chocolate chilli. Morelli’s stresses its commitment to the community by supporting fundraisers for community schools, playgrounds, and childhood development centers
> Location: Boise, ID
The STIL (the letters stand for Sweetest Things in Life), opened in 2017 and quickly became a go-to creamery in Idaho, adding three more locations. The shop features creations that include vegan options and liquor-infused ice cream. Reviewers liked the Easy Like Sunday Morning (espresso and caramel), Le Bloob (lemon blueberry pie), and carrot cake ice creams. Many of The STIL’s flavors are gluten-free.
> Location: Columbus, IN
Founded by Greek immigrants at the turn of the last century, the shop was almost closed in 2006 until Columbus businessman Tony Moravec bought it. Included in his overhaul of the confectionery was restoration of its tin ceiling. It is not only an ice cream shop, it’s also a museum. Zaharakos stays with traditional flavors – butter pecan, chocolate, strawberry, mint chocolate chip, and cookies ‘n cream. A featured treat is “The Big Z” – a stomach-stretching five scoops of ice cream and choice of three sauces, with whipped cream and cherries.
Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge
> Location: Lexington, KY
Founded by Mike and Toa Green in 2011, Crank & Boom originated as a dessert adjunct to the family’s restaurant, Thai Orchid Café. They used a two-quart Cuisinart home ice cream machine at first. There are now two scoop shops and the company says its mission is to bring joy to the lives of others. A source of that joy might be its flavors. Customers can partake of Kentucky blueberry and buttermilk, maple bacon, and blueberry balsamic, among others.
> Location: Louisville, KY
Louisville Cream is a small-batch ice cream company in downtown Louisville, locally owned since 2014 and using local milk from JD Country Milk. The creamery boasts such flavors as pistachio honeycomb, bourbon baklava (it is Louisville, after all), mascarpone and strawberry, and salted butter caramel. The shop also has a robust pastry business. Yelp reviewers applauded the generous portions, with one calling Louisville Cream a “next-level” ice cream shop.
> Location: New Orleans, LA
Creole Creamery has three locations in the New Orleans area and one in Bay St. Louis, on the Mississippi coast. It offers such specialty sundaes as the Sky Scraper (cookies & cream, chocolate and vanilla ice cream, with caramel, hot fudge, crushed Oreos whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry) and the I Scream Fudge! (I Scream Fudge! ice cream in a fudge-coated glass with chocolate chips, whipped cream, cocoa powder, and a cherry).
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream
> Location: Cambridge, MA
Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream has been a Cambridge mainstay since 1983, winning kudos from publications such as Bon Appétit and Travel and Leisure. Customers indulge in about 50 flavors that include exotic offerings such as adzuki bean, ginger molasses, honey lavender, and crème fraîche. A Yelp reviewer called the chocolate banana and the Mocha Explosion “amazing.” The cash-only business is mostly takeout.
> Location: Minneapolis, MN
Gabriella Grant and Ben Spangler co-own Bebe Zito. When the two went to the opening of their second store, Ben popped the question to Gabriella, who said yes. The shop has been seen on the Food Network and is on the short list of “best of” ice creameries in Minnesota. Getting approval from reviewers are: Romeo and Juliet (cream cheese custard and fresh guava ripple with a Ritz cracker and guava sauce) and Strawberry Fields 4 Ever (strawberry rhubarb raspberry jam with cream cheese).
> Location: St. Louis, MO
Clementine’s Creamery says “We deliver the goods” on its website, and that might be a reason why the establishment’s products made Oprah Magazine’s “O” list for sexiest ice cream in 2019. The shop, which considers itself a microcreamery, teamed with talk-show host and fellow St. Louis native Andy Cohen to create a flavor – Peppermint Andy – for a local cause. Other flavors include seasonal choices such as Italian butter cookie and fig and bourbon. Other liquor-infused options are boozy banana rum, Cadillac margarita sorbet, and chocolate cabernet.
> Location: Omaha, NE
Coneflower Creamery was founded by Brian Langbehn, a self-described “scoopologist,” and is co-owned by Katie Arant. Both have backgrounds in the pastry side of the food business. Coneflower was chosen as the name of the creamery because the flower of that name, native to Nebraska, is believed to have healing properties. Classic flavors at Coneflower include vanilla bean, cookies and cream, dark chocolate, and salted caramel. Other flavors, drawing raves from reviewers, are brown butter almond brittle, Grandma Minnie’s lemon bar, and tart cherry crumble.
Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream
> Location: Portsmouth, NH
Founded by Lewis E. Palosky in 1982, Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream quickly became a New England hit. The ice cream dubbed My Yellow Brick Road – a blend of golden vanilla ice cream with roasted pecans, praline pecans, and caramel swirls – has drawn plaudits in local media. Yelp reviewers laud the black raspberry and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Monster flavors.
The Bent Spoon
> Location: Princeton, NJ
The Bent Spoon, which takes its name from an object in the film “The Matrix,” shows up frequently in statewide and national “best of” lists for ice cream parlors. Among the recommended flavors from reviewers on Yelp are the lavender mascarpone, coconut sorbet, and rosemary and tea-infused ice creams.
Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream
> Location: Rochester, NY
Hedonist Artisan Chocolates was launched in 2007 by Jennifer Posey, who wanted to create small batch confections using old world techniques. She subsequently opened an ice cream shop next door. Among the shop’s current flavors are chocolate and dairy-free lemon sorbets and candy cane and Almost Chocolate Chip ice creams.
Il Laboratorio del Gelato
> Location: New York City, NY
lI Laboratorio del Gelato was founded in 2002 with the idea of creating a “laboratory” where flavor creation and recipe development were the focus, classic flavors could be perfected, and chefs would be encouraged to develop unique flavors for their menus. Since then, lI Laboratorio del Gelato has become a major New York City restaurant wholesaler and retailer for handcrafted gelato, with a flavor list of about 300 flavors, among them cheddar cheese, chocolate Thai chili, black currant, rice, and hazelnut amaretto crunch.
OddFellows Ice Cream Co
> Location: Brooklyn, NY
OddFellows Ice Cream Co., founded in Brooklyn in 2013, started because of a pregnancy craving. Two years earlier, Mohan Kumar’s pregnant wife, Holiday, found herself longing for savory instead of sweet ice cream, but it could not be found. Kumar mentioned this to a friend, pastry chef Sam Mason, who concocted pretzel ice cream for her. She loved the confection and the three decided to open a shop. Since it opened, they have created more than 500 new flavors as well as reimaging old favorites. Their Bodega Capsule collection includes flavors like Baconeggncheese and Host of Cupcakes.
Sugar Hill Creamery
> Location: New York City, NY
Husband-and-wifeife 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. Some of their ice cream flavors are an homage to pop culture, for instance Neneh Cherry (nuts and cherries), named after the Scandinavian singer, and Mrs. Robinson’s Neighborhood (yellow squash and homemade zucchini bread with pickled ginger), a reference to an Eddie Murphy skit on “Saturday Night Live.”
Squigley’s Ice Cream & Treats
> Location: Carolina Beach, NC
Squigley’s Ice Cream & Treats is a southeastern North Carolina institution, serving ice cream aficionados for 26 years. Its website encourages you to “come get squiggled.” The building dates from the 1930s and served as a boarding house for tourists, a rest stop for GIs in WWII, and a donut shop before Ann and Joe Coen bought it and converted it into an ice cream destination. Its trademark sweet is the Squigley, a corkscrew-like confection created by the shop’s patented machine. From a base of vanilla ice cream, customers can embellish the treat with various fruits, candies, and baked goods that can be “squiggled” into a custom flavor of ice cream.
Roxy’s Ice Cream Social
> Location: Oklahoma City, OK
Proprietors Shane and Raena Mutz named Roxy’s after their dog. The Mutzes first put their stamp on the Oklahoma City ice cream scene in 2012 with a food truck that dispensed float confections such as Dreamsicle, classic root beer, cherry lemonade, coffee root beer, and chocolate. Vegans on Yelp rejoiced at the choices of vegan ice creams and vegan whipped cream and cookies. A double dip of salted caramel and coffee and cream won over another reviewer.
> Location: Philadelphia, PA
Bassett’s is one of the oldest ice creameries in the U.S., started by Quaker school teacher and farmer Lewis Dubois Bassett in 1861 in Salem, New Jersey. Ice cream was churned by mules at that time. He began selling his wares in Philadelphia in 1885. Barack Obama dropped in when he was president and ordered mint chocolate chip. As for other flavors, Bassett’s offers such as butterscotch vanilla, coffee fudge truffle, raspberry truffle, and peanut butter swirl.
Amy’s Ice Creams
> Location: Austin, TX
Amy’s Ice Creams originated in Austin in 1984, and today has outposts in San Antonio and Houston. Its website touts its celebrated Mexican vanilla ice cream as well as dairy-free fruit ices and frozen yogurt. The company says it has more than 350 flavors in its rotation. Among them are standards like coffee, strawberry, and Belgian chocolate. Specialty flavors include Bahama Mama (sweet cream ice cream with rum, coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, and grenadine), blueberry cheesecake (cheesecake ice cream base with freshly roasted blueberries), and Emerald Serpent (peppermint ice cream blended with crème de menthe, with Andes Mints mixed in).
Austin’s Homemade Ice Cream
> Location: Ceredo & Huntington, WV
Austin’s Homemade Ice Cream opened in 1947 and has been a regional stalwart ever since. After passing through several owners, it was taken over by Joyce Snyder in 1983. Over the next 35 years, she built the business into a local icon and made ice cream until she was 80. She passed the business on to her children and her grandchildren. Austin’s, which sells about 40 flavors of ice cream, has won awards for its chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry offerings as well as its grape pineapple, which one Yelp reviewer said “tastes amazing (although I know it doesn’t sound appetizing).” Austin’s was cited for best new flavor for its S’more Than a Feeling ice cream.
Kelley Country Creamery
> Location: Fond du Lac, WI
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: Amie’s Amaretto, Baby Sunny Apple, Black Forest, caramel cookie crunch, and Christmas pudding.
Purple Door Ice Cream
> Location: Milwaukee, WI
Lauren and Steve Schultz are the husband and wife team who own Purple Door. On their first date in 2006, Lauren told Steve that it had been her dream to open an ice cream parlor. In 2011, a year after they had their first son, Lauren’s dream was realized. Purple Door started solely as a wholesale business, selling ice cream to local grocers and restaurants. They later opened their retail shop in Milwaukee, where they offer flavors such as absinthe, Arnie Palmer, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon graham crackers and milk, Dinner in Belgium, garlic, and Oatmeal Scotchie.