After a week of 100-degree days, there is no doubt that summer is here. That means it is time for the deliciously cold consolation of seriously good ice cream. Lucky for us, Phoenix has no shortage of unique places churning out both classic and unusual frozen treats. Here, we rounded up a dozen of the best places in the Valley to get your ice cream fix.
Made-from-scratch liquid nitrogen ice cream may not immediately sound delicious, but it is this unusual ice cream-making method, which flash-freezes the cream, that is responsible for the dense, ultra-creamy frozen treats at Creamistry. To get things started at the custom ice cream shop, choose a size and a base: signature "premium" milk base, organic milk base, a water-based sorbet, or nondairy coconut base. Then, select an ice cream flavor, toppings, and mix-ins ranging from cereal-inspired ice cream flavors like Cocoa Puffs to birthday cake to Thai coffee. Our restaurant critic loved her premium cream-based taro ice cream with mochi marshmallows, a chocolate drizzle, and mini-brownies.The best part about Creamistry, aside from the fully customized ice cream options? Watching through a fog of liquid nitrogen as your frozen creation is made.
Located on North 19th Avenue, inside Om Bistro, Below Freezing offers delicate rolled Thai ice cream to order. Select a flavor and watch as the cream or nondairy liquid is poured onto a cold metal pan where it freezes. Your selected sauces and sprinkles are added and then a small metal spatula is used to peel the freshly frozen cream off the pan in small, tight rolls. Your bouquet of ice cream rolls are topped with add-ons like cookies, whipped cream, or graham cracker crumbs. The rolls, which are lighter and more subtle in flavor than regular ice cream or gelato, can also be ordered plain.
This adorable ice cream shop and creamery in Gilbert sells everything from made-in-house ice cream to shakes, Italian sodas, and flavored butters. If you’re there for something sweet, go for the shop’s original flavors which include Superstition Farm, a rich blend of chocolate and hazelnut, and seasonal offerings such as peach, watermelon, and avocado. The shop is owned by the folks behind the nearby Superstition Farm, so you can bet that the milk used to make all the products — ice cream included — is fresh as can be. You can also get your Udder fix from the Udder Delights ice cream truck, which makes appearances all over town.
Remember the days when Sweet Republic used to cruise around town in an awesome orange-and-white converted 1959 ice cream automobile? It retired a few years ago, but in the meantime the well-loved ice creamery opened a second location in Phoenix — which we figure is almost as good. Known for sweet-savory flavor combos such as Habanero Bacon Avocado, Strawberry Balsamic Pepper, and the spicy Sichuan Chocolate, Sweet Republic has earned recognition from pretty much every national food publication you can think of. The seasonal and special flavors are always a treat, but some of our go-tos include the Salted Butter Caramel and Basil Lime Sorbet.
Established in 1928, MacAlpine's Soda Fountain in Central Phoenix is nothing short of legendary. It’s seen more history go by than nearly any place in town, and keeps tradition alive with a menu that includes shakes, malts, and classic ice cream sodas. Using Thrifty brand ice cream, MacAlpine’s lets customers choose from a list of flavored sodas (everything from almond and Amaretto to watermelon and wild cherry) and then plunks a scoop of ice cream right in the middle. If you’ve never experienced this soda fountain classic, prepare to be impressed. You could start with the chocolate soda and vanilla ice cream combo, or go crazy with the Nutty Professor, made with Amaretto soda and pistachio ice cream.
Ice cream snobs are probably thinking, “Really? Flash frozen ice cream? It can’t be good.” But the reality is that SubZero's completely customizable ice cream, dramatically frozen right before your eyes using a cloud liquid nitrogen, is not only super cool to see made, but also quite good. There’s science behind the reason why — basically, the faster you freeze the liquid the smaller the ice crystals and the smoother it tastes — but a big part of the appeal is that you can select everything including the base (ice cream, low fat ice cream, yogurt, even custard), flavor, and mix-ins. And don’t worry, if you don’t know where to start there’s also a menu of pre-designed creations, too.
With bright, white design, an adorable argyle-painted hallway, and shelves stocked with old school toys and candy, Churn in Central Phoenix mixes modern style with a classic ice cream shop feel, bringing out the inner child in kids and adults. We have to resist the urge to press our nose up against the glass while we agonize over flavor options such as Madagascar Vanilla, Cookies and Mint, and Vietnamese Coffee. And once we’ve settled on a flavor there are still plenty of choices to be made: Do you want your ice cream in a cup or a cone? A waffle cone, cake cone, sugar cone, or pretzel cone? You can always have the friendly scoopers build you an ice cream sandwich; you get to choose the ice cream flavor and pick your own cookies.
We believe in ice cream for all, which includes those who can’t or don’t eat dairy products. At Nami, vegans and the lactose-intolerant can order tSoft tServe, a soy-based, organic ice cream-like treat created by Damon Brasch, who’s also the man behind Green New American Vegetarian. The Central Phoenix shop serves a long menu of tSoynamis, treats that blend the tSoft tServe with everything from organic graham crackers, organic chocolate, and Ricemellow fluff to vegan Cap’n Crunch and fresh strawberries. The simpler Fruity tSoynamis mix the tSoft tServe with mango, berries, banana, and more.
Laveen’s best-kept secret might just be Scooptacular, a small but cheery ice cream shop featuring fun and interesting flavors. At this suburban strip mall ice cream destination, you’ll find made-in-house ice cream including citrus cream cheese, green apple, taro, red velvet cake, and more. Our favorite might be Scooptacular’s Playdough, a simple but fun-looking flavor made with three different colors of sweet cream-flavored ice cream. The shop also serves shave ice, ice cream cakes, sundaes, and milkshakes.
Located on Roosevelt Row in Central Phoenix, this tiny ice cream shop sources its offerings from local producers including Karen's Creamery & Udder Delights. As such you can expect a pretty diverse selection that can include anything from Fruity Pebbles and lemongrass poppyseed to beer and pretzels and chocolate rose pistachio. What might be an even bigger draw is Melt's unexpected ice cream presentation: your scoop will come in a tiny Chinese to-go container with a fortune cookie perched on top. Unconventional and inherently cool, it’s exactly what we’d expect from owner Jobot and Melt owner John Sagasta.
This small-batch ice creamery isn’t really an ice cream shop — it’s more of a tiny commercial ice cream factory that also sells freshly made pints of ice cream and sorbet on the side. But that doesn’t mean a trip to Doc's isn’t worth your while. Most of the time, Doc himself will be there to help you make a selection and to tell you all about the process of making ice cream on a large scale. The giant machinery is pretty cool to check out, and there’s no way you’ll leave without something sweet. The flavors are made with local or freshly-made ingredients — think, seasonal peaches, house-made caramel, and real champagne.
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Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale is one of the few old-school ice cream parlors left in town. There’s even a counter with swiveling stools where you can belly up and order a classic ice cream sundae. The Old Town destination has been open since 1958 and is mostly known for being the featured in the Family Circus cartoons, which were drawn by Valley resident Bill Keane. The ice cream menu includes all the classic flavors, which can also be served in just about any way you can imagine — two scoops over a brownie, three scoops in a banana split, even stuffed between two halves of a fluffy cream puff. The shakes and malts are also worthwhile, as is the Camelback Soda, which features old-fashioned soda with vanilla ice cream and a side of soda water.