Shops specializing in frozen treats can be found in a wide variety of forms these days. There's the resurgent fro-yo trend that's spreading through major American cities. Then there are the shops that specialize in truly kooky and bizarre ice cream flavors, like the venerable Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco and Max & Mina's in Queens, N.Y. Ice cream holds a special place in the hearts of Americans, perhaps no better demonstrated than with its nostalgia for its classic ice cream parlors.
What defines a classic ice cream parlor? These authentic shops feature a combination of distinct atmospheric and culinary qualities. With regards to furnishings, classic ice cream parlors have both booths and a bar area where customers can watch treats being made. Decor is typically reminiscent of the bygone era in which the parlor was founded (with most parlors on this list that means the early-to-mid 20th century), which often includes anything from jukeboxes to Tiffany-style lamps.
From a food perspective, ice cream parlors specialize in offering homemade ice cream in a variety of ways, including but not limited to malts, ice cream sodas, sundaes, and milkshakes. And usually, they make everything exactly the same way they have been for decades, right down to the made-to-order fountain sodas.
One of the most distinguishing qualities of classic ice cream parlors is that they tend to be family-owned and run. In fact, every parlor on this list is a multi-generational operation. So, let nostalgia take hold of your taste buds as you're guided through the country's best retro ice cream parlors.