America's Best Ice Cream

By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterApril 8, 2014
By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterApril 8, 2014, at 2:07 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

America's Best Ice Cream

On a warm summer day, nothing's more enticing than a creamy scoop of America's most delectable frozen treat. Whether they are artisan creations or from a homemade batch, these tantalizing swirls delight sweet-toothed enthusiasts of all ages. And as the warm air wafts through our windows, we can almost taste the melted deliciousness dripping from a sugary waffle cone…

That brings us to another subject. Few topics are as controversial among dessert-lovers as ice cream. Taking parlor reputation, flavor diversity, and online reviews into consideration, U.S. News Travel has compiled a list of America's best ice cream spots to indulge in this summertime delight.

Favorite Flavor: Chocolate Peanut Butter (Cost: $2.99)

In 2004, Connie and Matt Brown decided to open an old-fashioned soda shop, where Windy City residents could savor original homemade delights like banana splits and "The Trough" (a 21 scoop sundae). Since the store's debut, Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor has lured sweet-toothed admirers with signature creations like "Ellie's Turtle Temptation" (vanilla ice cream covered with smooth whipped cream, caramel, hot fudge, pecans, and, of course, a cherry on top) and the classic Brown Cow (an old-fashioned root beer float with vanilla ice cream). You'll find Brown Cow on West Madison Street in Chicago.

Favorite Flavor: Cow-a-bunga (Cost: $7.99)

With more than 120 homemade flavors, this family-owned shop appeals to a variety of ice cream lovers. Moomers' myriad of treats range from old-fashioned sodas to banana splits. For a unique twist on this chilly treat, order the "Cow-a-bunga" (two scoops of ice cream layered with Oreos, hot fudge, a brownie, and a cherry on top) or design your own signature sundae. You can pick up a cone on North Long Lake Road in Traverse City, located on the northwest side of Lower Michigan.

Favorite Flavor: Mint Chocolate Chip (Cost: $3.75)

Run by Peter Freeman and Gia Giasullo, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain adds an inventive twist to classic flavors with ingredients like toffee and maple egg cream. Inside the Farmacy (or "The Farm" for those in the know), you'll find an eclectic mix of creamy malts, floats, shakes, and egg creams. Standouts include the "Rocket Shake" (a milkshake laced with fresh coffee and scoops of coffee ice cream) and the "Flatbush Ave. Float" (a blend of your choice of ice cream layered with chocolate or vanilla egg cream). Should you prefer a decadent sundae rather than a float, try the "Sundae of Broken Dreams." This frosted dessert (vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce, whipped cream, and crispy pretzels) keeps customers smiling.

Favorite Flavor: Beet (Cost: $3)

As its name suggests, Roots Ice Cream is all about showcasing Charleston flavors by sourcing fresh ingredients from local farmers. And with its versatile array of seasonal specialties, including Cucumber-Mint, Bourbon-Peach, Beet, and Sweet Tea, Roots Ice Cream has become a local favorite. Although Roots has no official parlor, you can find its artisan blends at farmers markets throughout the Lowcountry, including in Marion, Kiawah Island, and Mt. Pleasant.

Favorite Flavor: Cioccolato Scuro "Bitter Chocolate" (Cost: $4.50)

If you're craving a spoonful of pure bliss, it's hard to match Capogiro's artisan gelato. Owner Stephanie Reitano has mastered the art of flavor, infusing her signature sorbets and gelato with seasonal ingredients. Capogiro's offerings vary from tried-and-true Nocciola Piemontese (hazelnut gelato made with nuts from Italy's Piedmont region) to bold flavors like peppery Basil. For a rich treat, try Cioccolato Scuro (Bitter Chocolate), a favorite among loyal fans. You can order a cup or cone at 13th Street in Philadelphia or at one of the other three locations in Pennsylvania.

Favorite Flavor: Strawberry Balsamic (Cost: $2.75)

With 24 delectable flavors enriched with local ingredients, this trendy shop values quality as much as inventiveness. Its eclectic blends were not under the radar for long. Food & Wine labeled Sweet Action "One of the best ice cream spots in the U.S." and USA Today praised the parlor as the best ice cream shop in Colorado. From Salted Butterscotch to Lemon Ricotta, Sweet Action Ice Cream crafts each variety with care. For pure sweetness, give the Strawberry Balsamic or Pistachio flavors a whirl.

Favorite Flavor: Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip (Cost: $2.75)

This fourth-generation landmark creamery dates back to 1870 when Louis C. Graeter crafted the original confection in Cincinnati. The secret behind Graeter's recipes is the elaborate French Pot swirling process. Fresh cream and egg custard are gradually folded together until they reach a thick texture and one-of-a-kind rich taste. Then, fresh ingredients are sprinkled in, like liquid gourmet chocolate and Madagascar vanilla beans. Signature flavors include Butter Pecan (endorsed by Oprah Winfrey), Cinnamon, and Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. Other Graeter's branches can be found in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and Lexington and Louisville, Ky.

Favorite Flavor: Salted Butter Caramel (Cost: $2.95)

Since 2008, Sweet Republic owners Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung have attracted ice cream connoisseurs with their homemade batches. The milk and creams used are provided by local dairy farms, while tasty toppings, including marshmallows, brownies, and waffles, are all made by hand. And that's not all: From its birchwood ice cream sticks to its recycled glass bottles, this shop prides itself on its eco-friendliness. To indulge your taste buds with an extra burst of flavor, try the zesty Honey Blue Cheese or decadent Mayan Chocolate flavors. You'll find Sweet Republic headquartered on Scottsdale's Shea Boulevard. Sweet Republic products are also sold at select grocery stores throughout the state.

Favorite Flavor: Salted Caramel (Cost: $3.45)

Since opening in spring 2008, this beloved Seattle ice creamery draws dessert fanatics far and wide. In fact, Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream's handheld delights have become so popular that customers are willing to brave long lines for a single scoop. Fans go wild for the Salted Caramel and "Theo Chocolate" (fudgy chocolate ice cream drizzled with fair-trade Theo chocolate bars) flavors. Another favorite: Balsamic Strawberry (made with locally grown strawberries and a honey balsamic reduction). The original Molly Moon's is located on North 45th Street, though the company also operates four other stores in the Seattle area.

Favorite Flavor: Salted Caramel Ice Cream (Cost: $3.50)

For a cool, creamy batch crafted from scratch, look no further than Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop, a San Francisco landmark set in the heart of the Mission District. Aside from its signature creamy scoops, Bi-Rite boasts a versatile selection of delicacies, ranging from ice cream sandwiches to popsicles to fully-loaded sundaes. To top it off, owners Anne Walker and Kris Hoogerhyde pride themselves on making all the toppings—including marshmallows, peanut brittle, and hot fudge—at their adjoining bakery. For intense flavor, try their "dainty gentleman" signature sundae (honey-lavender ice cream lathered in hot fudge, sea salt, and blood orange olive oil).

Favorite Flavor: Burnt Caramel (Cost: $4.25)

With brag-worthy accolades from the New York Times, People magazine, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet magazine (to name a few), it would seem misleading not to include this Boston-area gelato shop on our list. With its setting in the heart of intellectual academia, Toscanini's draws a cerebral clientele that sparks fresh ideas for bold flavors. Kulfi, an intense blend with pistachios and cardamom, was inspired by a Harvard professor from India. Other notable gelato flavors include Grape-Nut, Pear Chardonnay sorbet, and the beloved Burnt Caramel. The secret behind owner Gus Rancatore's much-admired caramel concoction: Heating the sugar until the crème caramel—the golden delicious crust—appears on the surface (much like a crème brulee) and then off-setting the prominent sugary taste with cold cream and milk. You'll find Toscanini's on Main Street in Cambridge, just a short stroll from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Favorite Flavor: Brambleberry Crisp (Cost: $4.50)

With its broad selection of creative flavors—ranging from Wildberry Lavender to Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet to Brambleberry Crisp—it's no wonder Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams has foodies swooning across the nation. Jeni Britton Bauer's handmade sorbet, frozen yogurt, and ice cream push the boundaries of dessert artisanship. What makes her batches so delicious? Key ingredients, like grass-grazed cream, whole fruits, and fair-trade vanilla. You'll find Jeni's original shop in the North Market of Columbus. There are currently eight other stores spread across the state and two additional locations in Nashville.

Liz Weiss, Staff Writer

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of ...  Read more

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