Everything is easier when you’re a kid. Your responsibilities are limited to making the bed and giving Cheeks the cat a bath, you automatically get summers off, you don’t have to file an extension for your allowance, and best of all–the ice cream man comes to you in his lovely jingly truck, bearing Astropops and Drumsticks and Creamsicles galore. Then, before you know it, you’re all grown up. You have to buy your own bed and they’re expensive. You toil away in the cube farm all summer, and your boss just laughs when you ask for a raise and points in the general direction of the unemployment office. And, you’ve got to go out and get your own ice cream. But there is one advantage–you’re older and wiser now, and you realize life is so much more than Astropops and Drumsticks. There’s a whole brave new world of gelatos, sorbets, sherbets, shakes, smoothies, paletas, and artisan ice cream sandwiches. Growing up is great! Here are some of the best spots in town to exercise your adult right to eat ice cream whenever and wherever you want, even in bed. And for a quick and easy scoop shop cheat sheet and map, click here.
I love cake, no doubt about it. So much so that when I was 8 years old, I stole a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix from the pantry and hid it in my closet, and every day after school I’d come home and sit in my closet and eat the dry cake mix with a spoon. What does this weird blast into my past have to do with gelato? Try this sweet, cozy Alphabet District shop’s Chocolate Frosted Yellow Cake gelato and you’ll understand. It tastes just like that sweet stolen cake mix of my childhood. If eating gelato that tastes like cake mix isn’t your bag, then choose the flavor that transports you to your own most appalling childhood food memory, or suits your current whim. Need a bit of luxury? Chocolate Orange Truffle. Feeling Italian? Gianduia and Limoncello. Wish you were in Hawaii? Coconut, Mango and Pineapple. There’s something cool and sweet for everyone and their inner kid-eating-cake-mix-in-a-closet.
Blueplate Soda Fountain
When I was little, I loved Wendy’s Frosties. Pondering this now, I realize how foolish I was, thinking a fast food frosty was the epitome of a blended ice cream treat. But way back then, how was I to know about Blueplate, and their dense, creamy three-scoop shakes made with impossibly rich super-premium Cascade Glacier ice cream, like the butterscotch milkshake with toffee-covered cashews, honey roasted peanuts and vanilla crunch, or the chocolate and filbert butter shake, or the Cowboy Coffee shake made with Stumptown beans? Then there are the floats–the Black Cow, the ATL Frosted Orange, and of course, the classic Chocolate Malted. Sitting there at the old wood bar, sipping my gorgeous shake or float just leisurely enough to avoid brain freeze, I think the Older But Wiser adage has never rung so true.
This North Mississippi favorite has all the food groups necessary for a well-rounded diet: wood-fired pizza, seasonal salads and small plates, very good wine, and creamy housemade ice cream. Relentlessly seasonal, the day’s flavors are crafted from whatever owner Sarah Minnick happened to find at the farmers’ market or get straight from a farm delivery that morning, hence an always-rotating lineup that might include apricot with candied almonds, Viridian Farms raspberry, sour cherry, tarragon vanilla bean and plum sorbet one day, and quince buttermilk, mint stracciatella, salted caramel, Varlhona milk chocolate, and peach prosecco sorbet the next.
If you’re having one of those days where delight seems in short supply, get thee to Mojo Crepes, a hotspot of cheer gilding a rather uncharismatic stretch of post-82nd Southeast Division. The squat, smiling mascot painted on the front window, the rows of empty Nutella jars plastered to the back wall, the trashy tabloids and tattoo mags in the rack on the wall, the game of Jenga shelved on a brightly painted wall…it’s all very delightful, and I haven’t even yet mentioned the ICE CREAM CREPES. Yes, Mojo’s Japanese twist on the famed French skinny pancake is filling a warm, just made crepe cone with Cascade Glacier ice cream and a mix and match melange of fresh fruit, crushed cookies, marshmallows, and syrups and blanketing it all in whipped cream, and quite honestly, nothing turns your frown upside down faster…except maybe this.
I never expected to find the blended and basil-blessed shakelove of my summer at a crepe-making food cart on SE Hawthorne, but I guess love’s funny that way. Truth be told, I’d been to Perierra Creperie three times before I even read the neatly lettered midsection of the menu. My eyes had always just shifted from the sweet crepes list listed on the left side straight over to the savories on the right, not even noticing the critical second column–smoothies and shakes. Where else can you find a Golden Graham milkshake? Basil and coconut milk? Avocado and sea salt? Fresh mint and Oreo? Even the classics, like lavender and honey, or peanut butter and banana, or fresh strawberry, are something special. Vegans, swallow that lump in your throat–the dairy-free limeade and berry shake is so compelling you’ll brave brain freeze and practically swallow your straw trying to slurp it down.
Ruby Jewel Scoop Shop
Brutally blindsided by a fierce ice cream craving? Follow the scent of fresh waffle cones to this cheery, Neopolitan-hued North Portland scoop shop for creamy, handmade small batch artisan ice creams like the classic Honey Lavender and sultry Chocolate with Salted Caramel, swoony sundaes like the candied coconut and Marcona-almond topped Ahhh Joy, and of course, the signature ice cream sandwiches, all made with the finest locally-sourced ingredients and hormone-free dairy products. Forget about gummy bears and Oreo crumbles—artisan toppings include handmade marshmallow, anise sprinkles, rosemary pecans, peanut brittle, and three kinds of exotic sea salt neighboring The Meadow. Vegans rejoice—two “cow-free” selections grace the menu at all times. Don’t leave without a DIY “Make Your Own Sandwich” kit, just in case a craving sneaks up on you outside of normal business hours.
Staccato Gelato is a childhood fantasy come to life–a gelato and doughnut shop that looks like a Nickelodeon set, with bright orange and blue walls festooned with cheerful bubbles, a massive mural of a Bernstein Bears-esque treehouse, lemon yellow plastic couch (great for spills), a kids play area with tiny purple plastic chairs and toys, and a fat striped neighborhood cat who strolls in now and then and lays in the afternoon sunbeams that cross the wood floors. Eighteen flavors of homemade gelato fill the cases daily, ranging from classics like peach, lemon, and coconut to more experimental blends like raspberry pomegranate lime and The Pope Says Hi (meringue & chocolate). There are also several sundaes, and if you feel like drowning your peanut butter fudge gelato in coffee, you can opt for gelato affogato.
It’s no big deal to have a tree outside your restaurant in Portland. Maybe this is a claim to fame in Phoenix, but around here, urban shade is nothing new. Having a tree inside your restaurant, however, is interesting. This Pearl District cafe does happen to have a large (faux) tree in their little L-shaped dining room, as part of the Italian villa ambiance, complete with stone walls, low hanging lanterns, green-shuttered windows, and a case of deliciously cold and creamy gelato, which the staff is happy to serve plain, drowned in espresso or syrah port, drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce, or accompanied by brownies or cookies, almond florentine and a chocolate wedge.
Hawthorne mainstay Bread and Ink’s darling little ‘round the corner Waffle Window, located on SE 36th Avenue, is making the world a better place one chocolate-dipped waffle at a time. You could order just that–a pearl sugar waffle dipped in Guittard, but why stop there, when you could get two chocolate-dipped waffles hugging a truly staggering amount of vanilla ice cream, aka the Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich. Or go all out and get the Hot Fudge Sundae Waffle–topped with vanilla ice cream and lavished with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and fresh juicy strawberries. Take your treat to one of Bread and Ink’s nearby sidewalk tables, in fair weather, it’s one of the best spots in town for people-watching and waffle-gobbling. And if you’re roaming the Northeast and are seized by a waffle and people-watching craving, patronize their Alberta Street shop.