Best Ice Cream 2022 | Sweet Republic | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Evie Carpenter

Owners Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung of Sweet Republic are always pushing limits when it comes to ice cream. And it is this reason why Sweet Republic has become a local favorite, as well as a nationally recognized bucket list item for tourists who visit the Valley. The peppermint ice cream has hints of real mint that taste natural and not manufactured. If you're looking for an ice cream adventure, order the s'mores sundae — a scoop of vanilla and chocolate in a homemade waffle bowl, topped with the softest marshmallow. Kids will get a treat as the cashiers will torch the marshmallow right in front of them. The ice cream isn't made with any preservatives, sweeteners or additives — there's a deliberate choice to make everything taste natural. In the summertime, there's a guaranteed line out the door and while patrons wait, they can play any number of games, like Jenga or tic-tac-toe. Locals may want to make it a goal to try as many flavors as they can. There's a decidedly friendly vibe at Sweet Republic, and along with the rotating flavors on the menu, it'll keep you coming back for more.

Driving through central Phoenix's Melrose District, you can't miss LIX Uptown Ice Cream — the colorful shop, which is a recent addition to the neighborhood, has a giant inflatable unicorn on the roof. LIX makes ice cream with the lactose removed, meaning it still includes dairy, but is friendly to those who are lactose intolerant. The result creates creamy, silky flavors such as rosemary butter pecan, mint chip, s'mores, and Gansito, a Mexican snack cake with strawberry jam and cream. The mango sticky rice flavor combines rich ice cream with a tart mango sorbet for the perfect refreshing treat. We love to make LIX the culmination of an afternoon spent hitting the Melrose District's many fascinating vintage shops.

Some people turned to Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy TV show as an escape this year, but we found a far simpler way to beat the doldrums and bring a little bit of Italy into our lives. We just slipped inside Cool Gelato Italiano, where friendly faces and fabulous flavors make you forget all about the heat and the hustle. Whether we're craving something light and fruity like a sorbetto or something richer, like Italian custard or hazelnut, we always discover way too many tempting options. It's all about the taste here, rather than fancy decor or upscale presentation, yet everything about the shop is clean, bright, and beautiful. Best of all, we can sit indoors and enjoy small paintings by local artists, or head outside to sit under cafe tables shaded by umbrellas to watch people and their pets parade by.

Wildlings Photo Co.

When you wake up in the morning craving bacon, don't bother to whip out your frying pan. Just cross your fingers and hope the daily rotation at Chin Up Donuts includes their savory Whiskey Pigness doughnut with bacon and maple goodness. The shop offers tasty options you won't find elsewhere, such as the Sriracha-Cha doughnut and other savory options. We love their scratch-made brioche-style doughnuts, and the fact that they have gluten-free options. Plus, the shop is full of surprises. Sometimes they have free film merch on the weekends or do creative collaborations with local chefs. And just walking into the store can enhance your mood, thanks to the playful decor that includes macrame and disco balls. It's the only doughnut shop where we can't resist taking at least one selfie every time we pop in, and there's even a small wall of merch so you can get a fun souvenir of your time there — without spending a lot of dough.

Nami is an extension of Green New American Vegetarian — the longtime Valley eatery with two locations that introduced metro Phoenix to vegan dining. An array of puffy, yummy doughnuts is among their breakfast items and sweet eats. They're lightly crispy on the outside while fluffy and airy on the inside; diverse flavor components match those textures. Oh, they're also huge. Downing one is plenty satisfying, but with so many delicious choices, it's hard to stop there. You'll eagerly await their return when you find the ones you like. In the meantime, there's plenty to tempt you. The French toast varietal is an airy version of the popular breakfast dish in doughnut form. Chocolate pistachio is another must-have — the lip-smacking pastry is a velvety chocolate affair topped with a nut crumble that perfectly merges the flavors. Raspberry lemon is a divine combination of sweet and sour. Flavors can change daily, so check back often.

Are you creeped out by bees but love the taste of smooth, rich honey? AZ Queen Bee, aptly located in Queen Creek, is the place for you. These little insect whisperers concoct delectable whipped honeys and honey straws, plus adorable gift baskets, soaps, decorative honeypots, and plenty more accessories you're sure to be abuzz over. Owner Audra Waddle ditched her dull day job and devoted her life to these fuzzy creatures. When she's not collecting honey, Audra uses a specially designed bee vacuum to remove pesky bees and then transports them to one of her many apiaries, where they are given a second chance at life.

There's a big, wide world out there beyond the borders of the United States, and people who live there have some pretty interesting snack food. The place to find it and take it home is Pop's Exotic Sodas & Snacks. They've got Chinese Oreo cookies in flavors like rose flower and peach with grape; Calbee Japanese steak-flavored potato chips; and varieties of Fanta you can't usually find stateside (think Fanta Banana from Trinidad and Fanta Berries from Egypt). Of course, not all the offerings hail from another part of the world. Some are just hard to find, including Arizona Green Tea fruit snacks or Creme Savers candy (remember those?). Sure, you'll pay a little more for some Polish Ham & Cheese Toast Cheetos than you would for a bag of Ruffles at Circle K, but a few more dollars is a small price to pay for experiencing a new world of global flavors.

Developments have significantly changed the face of Roosevelt Row in recent years, causing some to lament the loss of small creative spaces. But Songbird has been going strong since 2012, serving house-made pastries along with Arizona-sourced coffees and teas. Located in a house built in 1904, it's got a cozy atmosphere where you can unwind or gather to catch up with friends, plus friendly staff who always make you feel welcome. Menu offerings include matcha, kombucha, espresso drinks, lemonade, seltzer, and more. They'll even add CBD/hemp extract by the drop. The walls are lined with a changing selection of works by local artists, making this one of our favorite places to discover pieces we might not see in other settings. When local artists present live music or poetry, we love taking it all in from the casual seating in the front yard or by gathering in the side courtyard. Whether you're into people-watching, checking out local art, or just sitting to sip a latte and do a bit of reading, Songbird never disappoints.

Lauren Cusimano

Thanks to Melrose District favorite Copper Star Coffee, the convenience of a drive-thru is not relegated to national chains. Find the little coffee shop on Seventh Avenue by its larger-than-life neon sign that points down to the dark red painted building that resembles an old-school gas pump. But here, they serve a different kind of fuel. Pull up to the front of the line and a friendly server will come to your window and take your order. Fresh bagels come smeared with cream cheese, dripping with Nutella, or stuffed with bacon, cheese, and eggs for a hearty start to the day. Lattes come hot, iced, or frozen with flavors ranging from pumpkin to lavender and fruit-flavored lemonades are sweet and refreshing. Make sure to take a look at the collage of colorful stickers decorating the doors and pumps while you wait in your car for your coffee fix.

Patricia Escarcega

There are a host of reasons to stop by Cha Cha's Tea Lounge on Grand Avenue. The long menu is packed with sweet and herbaceous teas served by the cup. It's the perfect place to get cozy with a book. And poetry and live music nights often pack the house. But a small shelf in the back of the cafe holds wonders. We love to sip on a cup of tea and get a nosh like a hummus plate or avocado toast, then go shopping. Little brown paper bags of loose-leaf teas range from $5 to $10 and allow customers to bring the tea shop experience home. Try some matcha, a smokey oolong, or a classic, bergamot-tinged Earl Grey.

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