When I was a kid, my dad had a philosophy: How could anyone be unhappy if ice cream exists? To him, it was a quick fix on a bad day, and I’ve since grown up with a warm appreciation of the cold creamy art – and it is an art.
While it is difficult to mess up ice cream, there are wild, handcrafted creameries out there that’ll make your heart explode with delight. These chosen few will have you adding an ice cream category to your monthly budget.
Here are the ten best ice cream shops in the U.S. that are bringing it to you best!
1. Bi-Rite Creamery // San Francisco, California
Given that they “support local farms and respect the seasons,” you can expect fresh ingredients and contemporary tastes from an enthusiastic crew. We’re talking about flavors like peppermint stick (with organic mint oil) in the winter and orange cardamom during the citrus harvest.
Otherwise, notable flavors like salted caramel, roasted banana, and honey lavender kick lines down the block (no, seriously).
2. Izzy’s Ice Cream // Minneapolis & Saint Paul, Minnesota
Family-owned by a husband-and-wife team, this passionate duo are dedicated to the old-school craft of rich, delicious ice cream. The flavors aren’t flashy because there’s no need to be. There’s no gimmick. It’s just flavors done better than you’ve ever had before, like butter pecan and cherries jubilee to maple nut and blueberry cheesecake.
3. Margie’s Candies // Chicago, Illinois
Originally a colorful destination on the North Side in the 1920s, this Windy City mainstay, which now has a second location, holds dear the timeless tradition of raucous sundaes. It’s the American Dream of cream made from all-natural and kosher ingredients, with family recipes handed down from generation to generation.
4. Ample Hills Creamery // New York, New York
Celebrating the once-pastoral small town spirit of old Brooklyn has never been tastier (even with one of their locations in bustling Manhattan). Flavors get introduced as wild takes on classics with offerings like sweet honey and Mexican hot chocolate.
But then there are their more bizarre concoctions such as The Raw Deal (vanilla with chocolate flakes and brown butter chocolate cookie dough) or The Munchies (pretzel ice cream with Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels and mini M&Ms) that make your head race with just what to try.
5. Ice Cream Jubilee // Washington, D.C.
While the flavors change seasonally, the super-premium quality sure doesn’t. All natural from the get-go, these tastes are inspired by everything from the owner’s international travels to her childhood as a Chinese girl in Texas.
Flavors bounce from Thai iced tea to candy cane pretzel to chocolate matzo crack to coconut lychee lime. Plus, if you need a stiff drink by way of creamy delivery, this joint serves up naughtier flavors like boozy eggnog and banana bourbon caramel.
6. Salt & Straw // Portland, Oregon & Los Angeles, California
A West Coast love affair with dessert, this string of brick-and-mortars started as a pushcart. Bouncing between classic and new wave when it comes to flavors, this creative crew has a full spread of tastes, so there’s something for everyone.
You can even go a little wild with unique local flavors like Portland’s Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon and Los Angeles’s black olive brittle & goat cheese.
7. Island Creamery // Chincoteague Island, Virginia
For more than 40 years, this East Coast joint has been known for its lighthouse and out-of-this-world creaminess – periodically known as the most beloved ice cream shop in the nation.
With bouncier classics like cake batter rum raisin, it’s time to go one step beyond with options like pony tracks (vanilla with peanut butter cups and a fudge peanut butter swirl) and Java Jolt (coffee ice cream with brownie chunks and chocolate-covered espresso beans).
8. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams // Various U.S. Cities
Working with local communities of growers, producers, suppliers, and makers, ensures high-quality ingredients are the basis of each bite. No synthetic flavorings, dyes, or off-the-shelf mixes touch any part of this chain. And they do ice cream right, from brown butter almond brittle to wildberry lavender.
Plus, to prove they’re not slowing down, new flavors have popped up on their menu: churro, sweet potato pecan praline, sweet corn spoon bread, and whiskey & pecans
9. Carmela Ice Cream // Pasadena & Los Angeles, California
With flavors like brown butter sage, lavender honey, and Meyer lemon olive oil, this ice cream menu screams Southern California. Made with organic dairy and farmer’s market produce, these gourmet offerings approach the (only slightly) changing seasons with proper ingredients—though their salted caramel remains the all-time favorite menu mainstay. The best part is that ice cream is practically year-round in the City of Angels.
10. Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts // Honolulu, Hawaii
Gourmet mochi ice cream has been churning out of this celebrated Creamery for more than 30 years. Twenty flavors—such as azuki bean, green tea, guava, passion fruit, raspberry white chocolate, and tiramisu—await you as the perfect bite-sized treats of high-quality ice cream harmoniously wrapped in a sweetened rice confection.