The 12 Best Ice Cream Parlors In America

The 12 Best Ice Cream Parlors in America

Many of us have been chasing down the ice cream truck since we were kids. Why do we love ice cream — and its counterparts gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, frozen custard, and ices — so much? Perhaps because nothing captures pure joy and innocence like a dripping ice cream cone on a summer day. And at these 12 legendary ice cream parlors, the ice cream is the best you'll find, anywhere in America.

#12 Taos Cow, Arroyo Seco, N.M.

Specializing in all-natural, rGBH-free ice cream since 1993, Taos Cow mixes traditional flavors with local ingredients, creating Southwestern-inspired varieties like Buffalo Chip (vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate-covered coffee beans), Maple Walnut (made with real maple extract and walnuts), Cherry Ristra (cherry ice cream with dark chocolate chunks and piñon nuts), and Holstein Sunset (strawberry ice cream with white, dark, and milk chocolate chunks).

#11 The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, New York City

Historians tell us that the Chinese invented ice cream, and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory makes a good case for a long expertise (30 years!) in the craft, with delicious handmade flavors like pineapple, black sesame, red bean, and lychee — and those are just the "regular" flavors! The "exotic" include pumpkin pie and vanilla fudge, with occasional special appearances by green tea Oreo, maple bacon, jelly doughnut, and NYC cupcake.

#10 Sebastian Joe’s, Minneapolis

Sebastian Joe's — founded in 1984 by three brothers and named after their grandfather — aims to surprise. Their flavors change daily and the ice cream is packed into a homemade waffle cone dipped in Swiss chocolate and sprinkled with almond, coconut, Butterfinger, or Heath Bar.

#9 Salt & Straw, Portland, Ore.

Made with little added sweetener in order to let the natural flavors shine through, the ice cream at Salt & Straw boasts strong, unforgettable flavors. Sample the wildflower honey with ricotta and dandelion sorbet made with actual dandelions and elderflowers.

#8 Max & Mina’s, Flushing, N.Y.

Inspired by the recipes of their grandpa Max, an organic chemist, Bruce and Mark Becker of Max & Mina's made it their mission to create interesting ice cream flavors. You won't find their bold and avant-garde combinations, like corn on the cob and cabernet Oreo, anywhere else.

#7 Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream, Atlanta

From the caramelized peach ice cream made with real peaches to the cinnamon toast sundae, the treats at Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream are extravagant and one-of-a-kind. When opening in 2008, shop founders Donald and Clarissa Morelli's goal was to create the best and most unique ice cream in Atlanta.

#6 Eddie’s Sweet Shop, Forest Hills, N.Y.

For old-fashioned ice cream, Eddie's Sweet Shop is the place to go. This shop will take you back to the good old days when whipped cream was made by hand, banana splits were served in metal bowls, and soda jerks could charm the girls right off their bar stools.

#5 Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Multiple Locations

James Beard Award-winning chef Jeni Britton Bauer and her crew, who call themselves ice cream explorers, began their search 13 years ago for the "best ice cream imaginable." Their product, Jeni's Spendid Ice Creams, serves ice creams, frozen yogurts, and sorbets, made from the ground up. Flavors like cedarwood vanilla and hot toddy sorbet are inspired by the seasons, pop culture, culinary history, and world trends. While Jeni's has been having a rough year so far, with two listeria outbreaks in their facilities, they are up and running again. We called Jeni's to confirm and, yes, all their scoop shops are indeed open.

#4 Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco

Whether it's brownies, peanut brittle, marshmallows, or snickerdoodles, Bi-Rite Creamery makes everything that goes in its handmade ice cream. At this San Francisco staple, ice cream comes in ice cream sandwiches, cakes, pies, and sundaes, and flavors like honey lavender with Sonoma honey, vanilla with Madecasse vanilla, and brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl are unlike anything you've tasted before.

#3 CoolHaus, Multiple Locations

"Architecturally-inspired," Coolhaus lets customers design their own gourmet ice cream "sammies" —one-layer, two-layer, or three-layer — by mixing and matching cookie and ice cream flavors for crazy-good combinations like chocolate molten lava cake ice cream sandwiched between two carrot cake cookies. They have one permanent location in Culver City, California, and mobile locations in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas. 

#1 Big Gay Ice Cream, New York City

With names like "Salty Pimp" (vanilla soft-serve, dulce de leche, and sea salt dipped in chocolate) and "Mexican Affo'gay'to" (spicy hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, cayenne, and shaved chocolate), Big Gay Ice Cream serves up colorful soft-serve ice cream concoctions that almost always incorporate the same main ingredients: sea salt, Nutella, and dulce de leche. That expert balance of creativity and simplicity, playfulness without messing around when it comes to the taste of good ice cream, is what lands this parlor at the top of our list.

#2 Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, Seattle

At Molly Moon's, ice cream flavors rotate with the seasons and ingredients are locally sourced, introducing unusual, sweet-and-savory concoctions like Stumptown coffee, kombucha sorbet, strawberry balsamic, and cherry goat cheese.