Although the flavor selection has been trimmed from 300 to a more manageable 50, this didn’t affect the sometimes shocking uniqueness of Ice Cream City in Tokyo one bit. Seriously, these are the weirdest varieties we’ve ever seen. You’ll have to visit the shop for the current selection, but past ones include soy sauce, miso ramen, grilled eggplant, eel, viper, fried oysters, squid ink, shark fin, cow tongue, and horse meat. Surprisingly, the ice cream here is quite tasty — assuming you like the flavor to begin with. The shop is actually located inside Namco’s Namja Town amusement park, but admission only costs about $5.
Located in Kingston in the nineteenth-century former home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, the Devon House I Scream stand serves 27 flavors, from the traditional like pistachio, to some island-inspired varieties like coconut and mango, to unique flavors Grape Nuts and Devon Stout, flavored with a local island beer.
Yelp/ Kimberly K.
Unless a local shows you where to go, it’s tricky to find Il Gelato di San Crispino, one of Rome’s oldest gelatarias, hidden down a narrow side lane just a short walk from the Trevi fountain. But the search is worth the whisky-flavored gelato and other exceptional choices you’ll find there. Although this is the original location, there are thankfully now a couple in Rome, as well as branches in Milan and Bologna.
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“Mac” McConnell’s legendary spot is where the “universe’s finest ice cream,” according to McConnell's, was born back in 1949. In addition to creating classic flavors like vanilla bean and mint chip, McConnell’s also offers unexpected ones like the tart-and-tangy Eureka lemon and marionberries (made with Oregon marionberries and infused with Eureka lemon) and the sea salt cream & cookies for those with a big sweet tooth. Peppermint stick, made with organic peppermint and peppermint candy, is a customer favorite. Then again, you could say the same about almost all 20 of the flavors on tap at McConnell’s — all of which use local, sustainable, and organic raw ingredients.
Yelp/ Kimberley K.
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).
Yelp/ Jonathan E.
Sebastian Joe’s — founded in 1984 by three brothers: Tim, Todd, and Michael, and named after their grandfather — aims to surprise. Their two locations’ 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. There are a ton of flavors — most of which are kosher — and include oatmeal raisin cookie, peanut butter chunk, chocolate banana chocolate chip, Bailey’s raspberry truffle, and green tea.
Yelp/ Caio R.
Vipiteno Gelateria is known for “The Demoiselle Cup,” a gelato sundae made of dulce de leche gelato topped with pear and ginger syrup, whipped cream, and crunchy burnt sugar. One scoop costs $10, so make it last. Vipiteno routinely wins contests for having the best ice cream in Brazil, so the extra price is understandable — and, according to most patrons, totally worth it.
For old-fashioned ice cream, Eddie’s Sweet Shop is the place — after all, it first opened way back in 1909. Needless to say, this sweets 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. Although we love experimental and innovative flavors, you gotta respect Eddie’s for keeping its varieties in the classic realm, with 20 in total that include vanilla, chocolate, and rum raisin. It’s also worth noting that not only is all the ice cream handmade on premise, but so are the toppings and syrups.
The ice cream sandwich takes an unusual form in Sicily, as you'll learn at Antico Caffè Spinnato, where gelato (in one of about two-dozen flavors) is served on fresh-baked brioche bread. Sound weird? Just trust them, they’ve been in business for over 150 years.
Tucked away in the northwestern English countryside, in Cheshire, Snugburys could easily be called a hidden gem. The shop has been around for 30 years, and it currently serves about 40 flavors, all made with fresh cream, like honeycomb, crème brûlée, Turkish delight, damson and sloe gin, and seasonal varieties like “Christmas Pudding” (made with Guinness and brandy). The overall experience is part of the package too; guests can go for a scenic walk around the beautiful property, check out the mind-blowing giant hay sculptures onsite, or attend one of the regular events held on the shop grounds.
18 Smaker founders Danne and Karin Falkenberg serve 18 ice cream flavors (the name translates to “18 Tastes”) that rotate with the seasons and their cravings of the moment. All flavors are organic. “Mini balls,” which are golf ball-sized samplings of ice cream (smaller than a scoop, and priced by the ball), are available for those who can’t decide on a flavor and want to try a few.
Yelp/ Christina S.
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.
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 more interesting (and sometimes shocking) ice cream flavors. They succeeded, and you won’t find their bold and avant-garde combinations like corn on the cob, beer, babka, merlot, and cabernet Oreo anywhere else. Just ask some of the famous names who have praised Max & Mina’s, like Charlie Gibson, Arthur Schwartz, Al Roker, and Kevin James.
Yelp/ Paula M.
Whether you ask for one cup, two cups, or three cups, Emporio La Rosa is loved for its creative ice cream sundaes. Its signature sundae, Emporio’s Cup, is made with ulmo honey-infused ice cream, Araucanian chocolate, and toasted almonds. Other flavors (many of which utilize local ingredients) include salted caramel, passion fruit, raspberry mint, and dulce de leche.
Yelp/ Miguel C.
Specializing in excess, the most popular item at Vaffelbageriet (located inside the Tivoli amusement park) is the "Amerikaner," which packs up to four scoops of ice cream in a cone and tops it all with syrup, whipped cream, and a chocolate-covered meringue puff. The 110-year-old ice cream shop makes ice creams from age-old recipes, with classic flavors in addition to unique offerings like tiramisù and Irish coffee.
Yelp/ Jam Y.
Made with little butterfat and sweetener, the ice cream at Salt & Straw boasts strong, natural flavors — and the varieties are sure to blow your mind. You’re familiar with chocolate and vanilla, but how about sourdough with chocolate and strawberries? Cinnamon snickerdoodle? Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon? And do you dare sample the dill pickle sorbet or fish sauce caramel with palm sugar ice cream? We might stick to the chocolate gooey brownie, but that’s coming from a bunch of certified chocoholics.
Maria Rocio A./Yelp
Serving more than 50 flavors of Italian gelato (including lemon champagne, caipirinha, and five dulce de leche varieties) and old-fashioned ice cream sodas since 1938, A.M. Scannapieco is still run by direct descendants of the original founders, Andres and Josefina Scannapieco, and is still one of the best ice cream parlors around.
Gelato Messina (founded in 2002) and its 11 Australia outlets are routinely named as having the best gelato in the country by various publications. Its philosophy? Asking, “How would they have made gelato 100 years ago?” With that, all-natural ingredients go into the made-from-scratch gelato every day, and the recipes involve no ready-made colorings, flavorings, preservatives, or pastes. The chain bakes its own cakes, brownies, cookies, and pies to use as ingredients, and — surprisingly — the product is generally healthier than the competition due to less use of cream. Some 40 flavors are available every day, including bananas foster, coconut and lychee, Italian nougat, poached figs in marsala, and pannacotta with amaretti biscuits. Looking for a combo? Don’t worry, the staff has suggestions.
Yelp/ Flow V.
In addition to organic ice creams and sorbets, Caramello is also known for its soy-based, dairy-free, and vegan options served daily. If you’re an old-school ice cream purist, don’t worry: It offers a total of 50 flavors in total, with 25 available in the shop at all times. These obviously include the classics, but others are so unique they even include a story. The 1001 Nights, for instance, includes grapes and sesame, and was inspired by a love story with a Persian girl.
Yelp/ Ken L.
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 shop founders Donald and Clarissa Morelli opened in 2008, their goal was to create the best and most unique ice cream in Atlanta, and the results are to die for — and we’re not just talking about the Death by Chocolate. There’s also blueberry corncake, dark chocolate chile, “Krispy Kreamier,” strawberry rosewater, “Elvis Lives” (with peanut butter and banana), and cream cheese and guava. Although you may only have a couple-dozen options to choose from in the store each time, Morelli’s rotates over 200 flavors in total — which is the perfect reason to keep coming back again and again.
Yelp/ Christie A.
The fruity ice cream flavors at Tepoznieves — like cactus, pineapple-chili, and passion fruit — are inspired by ingredients specific to their region in Mexico. For a bit of booziness in your ice cream, there are flavors like tequila and piña colada, which are actually made with alcohol. None of these pique your interest? Don’t worry, there are about 95 other varieties from which to choose.
Yelp/ Kathleen K.
In addition to award-winning ice cream flavors, this Canadian creamery offers a behind-the-scenes tour of its step-by-step ice cream making process and a visit to the sample room to taste the newest creations. In all, the 33-year-old company produces over 32 varieties of “super premium” ice cream with names like Freckle Frenzy, Gooey Mooey, Wowie Cowie, and Moo Crunch. As good as COWS Creamery ice cream may be (numerous publications have called it the best-tasting in the world), the company often receives even more attention for its cheese.
Simmo’s Ice Creamery went from a tiny father-and-son creamery, founded in 1993 with just an old Irish recipe and an ice cream machine, to an award-winning shop (named one of the top 15 in the world by USA Today) with over 60 traditional and unique ice cream flavors like apple pie, mango macadamia, rum and raisin, strawberry Cointreau cheesecake, and orange chocolate chip. Looking for a way to burn off a few calories post-meal? There’s an 18-hole mini golf course on-site.
Yelp/ Blanca E.
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 shop, Jeni’s Spendid Ice Creams, serves ice creams, buttermilk frozen yogurts, sorbets, ice cream sandwiches, and sundaes made from the ground up. The flavors are influenced by everything from the season to pop culture, and include churro, brambleberry crisp, sweet cream biscuits & peach jam, bourbon salted pecan, and wildberry lavender. Looking for simple ingredients? Jeni’s doesn’t use any stabilizers, emulsifiers, synthetic flavorings, dyes, or off-the-shelf mixes. It also buys direct whenever possible.
We should note that Jeni’s had two listeria outbreaks in 2015, but the company has gone without incident in the last 12 months.
Yelp/ Michelle S.
Perché No! has been mixing a fresh batch of gelato every morning since it opened in 1939, and today it features fruit flavors like raspberry, persimmon, and Sicilian cassata; chocolate delights like rum chocolate, white chocolate, and Sacher cake; and creamy concoctions like “panna” with black cherries, mint cream, and milk with honey and sesame seeds — with every variety using all-natural ingredients. For some street cred, the gelato shop is rumored to be Nigella Lawson’s favorite spot.
Murphy’s crafts simple artisanal flavors that are designed to go together. The modest number of options might leave something to be desired (compared to the rest of this list, at least), but there’s still no shortage of imagination at work here. Ice cream addicts can get their fix from flavors like caramel honeycomb, Dingle sea salt, Dingle gin, caramelized brown bread, and “Kieran’s Cookies.” If the ingredients are of the utmost importance, you’ll be pleased to know Murphy’s doesn’t use colorings, flavorings, or powdered milk, in favor of farm-fresh milk, local cream, free-range eggs, and organic sugar. It even makes its own sea salt and distills its own rainwater to make the sorbets.
Yelp/ Tiffany N.
Molly Moon’s all-natural, local, and sustainable (right down to the spoons, straws, and cups) ice cream comes in 10 “always” flavors that stay constant, and four seasonal options that change based on what’s fresh in the Northwest. Examples? There are plenty. Try strawberry, maple walnut, Stumptown Coffee, or Earl Grey to start, or go with a seasonal like (for Summer ‘16) cherry chunk (in vegan and regular), strawberry sorbet, and “Spring Berry Goat Fro-Yo.” As you might expect, that last one contains goat milk, which comes fresh from Grace Harbor Farms in Custer, Washington.
Yelp/ Grace C.
If you only try one ice cream shop in Paris, make it Berthillon — which is easy for us to say, as it’s the only Parisian place on our list. Additionally, the store has been an institution in town for 62 years (and is still run by the same family that founded it), and currently offers 70 all-natural, chemical-free flavors of ice cream and sorbet such as the popular wild strawberry, spiced bread, and numerous varieties of both chocolate and caramel. Need help finding Berthillon? Head for the picturesque Île St-Louis and look for the big crowd or the lines that extend out the door.
Yelp/ Kristen Y.
Since 1900, Giolitti has been serving gelato to Roman dessert-lovers. The batches are always made fresh, the portions are plentiful, and a couple-dozen flavors are available every day in varieties like chocolate coconut, Nutella, limoncello, and marron glacé. Claims to fame? Giolitti has a lot. The shop was visited by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, Pope John Paul II used to get special delivery orders, and first lady Michelle Obama made and enjoyed gelato there with daughters Malia and Sasha in 2009.
“Honest-to-goodness, made-from-scratch, not-your-average ice cream” is what you’ll find at The Creamery, where all the ingredients in the ice cream come from local farms. For adventurous ice cream connoisseurs, every month The Creamery makes three limited-edition flavors for its “Ice Cream Club” members. These flavors are special because they’re hard to make, they use ingredients that are only available in small amounts, and they haven’t been introduced in the shop yet. Everyone else will just have to settle for one of the other 75 flavors, which include nectarine, cream cheese, ginger and roast apple, black tea and candied kumquat, goat cheese and candied cherry, sweet potato and toasted marshmallow, and Genoa fig. Seen these varieties anywhere else? We haven’t either.
When it comes to ice cream shops, Big Gay broke onto the scene in a big way. It started showing up all over New York City in a seasonal food truck in 2009, but the demand was so high that it had to open up a storefront in 2011, and then another in 2012, and then a Philly shop in 2015. Still only seven years old, Big Gay Ice Cream is acting like a veteran in the industry, swirling a limited number of flavors like coffee, peppermint, and brownie batter, but dressing them up in sundae masterpieces like the “Bea Arthur” (vanilla and dulce de leche ice cream with crushed Nilla Wafers) and the “Mermaid” (vanilla with key lime curd, crushed graham crackers, and whipped cream). In addition to countless accolades, food expert Andrew Zimmern once referred to the “Salty Pimp” sundae as a “cone you want to be alone with.”
Yelp/ Sharr K.
Probably the only ice cream company that advertises itself as “architecturally-inspired,” Coolhaus lets its customers design their own ice cream sandwich “houses” with fresh-baked cookies and handmade ice cream. Flavors of the former include black and white, Cocoa Pebbles (gluten-free!), maple flapjack, red velvet, and about 20 others. As for the latter, expect to see some of 50+ mind-blowing ice cream varieties like avocado sea salt, beer and pretzels, buttered French toast, gin and tonic, Peking duck, and pizza. The company now has a dozen trucks and carts in California, New York City, and Dallas, with storefronts in Culver City and Pasadena. Expect to see at least six of the cookie options at each, and about a dozen of the ice creams. You probably don’t need any more convincing, but just FYI: Coolhaus treats are all-natural, handmade, and organic whenever possible, using fresh, local, sustainable, and hormone-free ingredients.
Yelp/ Tawnie G.
This family-owned French parlor has been scooping up sweet treats since 1966. Serving some 59 ice cream flavors and 35 sorbets, Fenocchio caters to the ice cream connoisseur with all the classics, a bunch of expected inclusions (Nutella, M&M’s, coffee, caramel, chocolate coconut), and then some truly adventurous flavors like tomato-basil, beer, rice pudding, spice bread, cactus, and avocado. Fenocchio is so popular in France and with tourists, that it now operates two successful stores in Nice’s old town.
Nowhere else can you find tartufo made like it is at Bar Gelateria Ercole — arguably the best ice cream parlor in this Calabrian town famous for its ice cream) If you’ve never experienced this delightful dessert before, it’s a spoonful of fudge (or other filling, like fruit) wrapped in ice cream or gelato, rolled in cocoa powder and sugar, and battered to create a gooey, chocolaty treat. It’s kind of like those Ben & Jerry’s core flavors, except fresher, more authentic, and more Italian-y. Plus it has a much longer history, having been invented around 1952. Ercole? It’s been in business since 1965, which means 51 solid years of practice.
Yelp/ Trinh T.
Whether it’s brownies, peanut brittle, marshmallows, or snickerdoodles, Bi-Rite Creamery makes everything that goes into its ice cream — which is handmade onsite in small batches using organic, local ingredients. At this San Francisco staple, ice cream comes in sandwiches, cakes, pies, and sundae form, with flavors like that change with the seasons and by the day. Notable varieties include black sesame with Sonoma honey, cheesecake with blueberry swirl, vegan strawberry coconut, roasted banana, and spicy hot chocolate with fudge and marshmallow. Be sure to decide before you get up to the counter; the line behind you is probably stretching around the block.