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Food + Drink

The Best Scoops Across the U.S.

School’s out for summer! We're dreaming of endless sunshine, beach time and ice cream, of course. Chelsea Bengier gets the lowdown on the best cones around. Photo by Leela Cyd Ross

See recent posts by April Ellis

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Photos by Leela Cyd Ross


Salt & Straw, Portland, OR

At the forefront of Portland’s artisanal dessert wave is Salt & Straw, which churns out innovative flavors using locally-sourced ingredients (this is Portland, after all). The seasonal crowd favorites: Mt. Hood Strawberry Sorbet, NW Wild Berry Pie and Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero (who knew ice cream could be sweet, tart AND spicy?).

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Morgenstern's, New York City

This retro parlor has all the flavors of the Lower East Side’s cheeky-cool attitude. Take the Chill Out Dude, It’s Just Avocado Toast (avocado ice cream and Spanish olive oil on a slice of toasted Japanese white bread), or the Yeezus-themed desserts like the Kim Kardashian Thirst Trap Sunday, with sesame-caramel ice cream, champagne-caramel sauce and whipped cream. But the line really spills onto the sidewalk for the epic five-scoop King Kong Banana Split.

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Coolhaus, Los Angeles, New York City and Dallas

We thought we'd seen it all, until we stumbled upon an ice cream truck specializing in… architecture? Here, punny cookie sandwiches include the Frank Gehry-inspired Frank Berry, which is a mix of snickerdoodle and strawberry. Or take a chance on weirdly delicious flavors like Fast Food (salted Tahitian vanilla bean, chocolate malt balls and french fry crisps) and Netflix — white cheddar popcorn-infused ice cream with Doritos chips.

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Moomers, Traverse City, MI

Here it’s all about the farm. With 160 flavors of homemade ice cream, the family-run Moomers serves crowds right on its dairy pasture in Traverse City. Best bets: Blue Moon, Cinnamon Pumpkin Crisp and Egg Nog. Get yours to go and hop on a wagon ride to visit the creamery.

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The Comfy Cow, Louisville, KY

After dropping $2 million on a 6,500-square-foot ice cream palace, this once mom-and-pop parlor is poised to take on the nation. But its roots remain in the Bluegrass State. You can’t go wrong with the Bourbon Ball, made with Old Forester bourbon-based ice cream and homemade Kentucky Bourbon Balls.

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Photo by Beau Eaton


Churro Borough, Los Angeles

This is how you do an ice cream sandwich, churro-style. These Wonka-like wizards craft the fried-dough pastry into a round cookie then stack wacky ice cream flavors like horchata sherbert, spanish latte and tangelo kumquat sorbet in between. If that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, try the guava lime, spicy mango or watermelon lemongrass paleta (Latin American ice pop).

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Photo by April Ellis


Dominique Ansel Kitchen, New York City

The masterminds behind the Cronut craze have invented the next big thing in desserts. In June, Dominique Ansel Kitchen unleashed an out-of-this-world soft-serve menu that's got us weak in the knees — think Burrata with strawberry confit crumbles drizzled in balsamic caramel, and Gianduja, a salted-hazelnut brittle, spritzed in orange mist and topped with sea salt. Caveat: the ice cream window is only open on the weekends.

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Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco, CA

This Mission District haunt is classic SF — organic, local and sustainable. And it's damn good. Dig your spoon into the Balsamic Strawberry, which uses fruit from Swanton Berry Farm, or suck on a Concord Grape popsicle, made from produce grown on the Bi-Rite farm in Sonoma.

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Bubbies, Honolulu, HI

Hawaii’s version of the classic summer staple? Candy-colored mochi, made from the finest gelato wrapped in a sweetened rice confection. They come small, so you might want to top it off with a Multiple Orgasm — seven inches (hah) of ice cream cake, with Oreo, espresso and chocolate layers covered in fudge.

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The Juice Bar, Nantucket, MA

There’s no more quintessential place for devouring summer scoops than the island of Nantucket. The Juice Bar turns out the best around — we're hankering for a taste of the Crantucket (vanilla ice cream with mashed chocolate-covered cranberries), served in a homemade waffle cone. Eat up.

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Island Creamery, Chincoteague Island, VA

We'll keep this one short and sweet, just like a cone from Island Creamery. Housed in a red-and-white brick lighthouse, this 40-year-old spot is a local favorite. Goodies include Whiskey Brickle (chocolate ice cream with Copper Fox Rye and toffee) and Wallops Rocket Fuel, a combination of chocolate, cinnamon and chili pepper.

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Photo by Donny Tsang


Big Gay Ice Cream, New York City

Unicorns, rainbows and Big Gay Ice Cream, Oh my! There’s no time for samples at this packed NYC institution, where drag queens dish out pride-inspired treats like The Salty Pimp (vanilla, dulce de leche and sea salt), and radical toppings like Wasabi Pea Dust spruce up the menu.

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J.P. Licks, Boston, MA

Boston is bringing some serious heat this summer thanks to J.P. Licks' new Sriracha-based flavors. This spicy-sweet combo packs a punch that kicks up and cools down your tastebuds. We suggest the PB & Chili (peanut butter ice cream with Sriracha). Bring it on, Beantown.

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The House, San Antonio, TX

Boozy ice cream. Need we say more? Opened in June, this dive bar/ice cream parlor in Southtown serves alcohol-infused treats using only top-shelf liquor, naturally. Order the Blue Hawaiian with coconut, pineapple, Bacardi white rum and Blue Curaçao, or the French Toast, which uses Cinnamon Toast Crunch-flavored cereal milk and a dash of Fireball whiskey. Serious drinkers (ahem, Texans) can have theirs with an extra shot on the side.



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