Ever since Italy and France began making iced and flavored confections made from milk or cream in the 17th century, ice cream has become one of the most successfully cool, dairy-based treats on the planet. Not sorbet, ices, or gelato (we promise those lists will come later), here are 11 of our favorite places to score a scoop or two of the frozen dessert in greater Phoenix . . . and beyond.
11.) Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream Parlor Owner Mike Stoffey made several changes to this Phoenix lunch and dessert institution of over 60 years after buying it before it nearly went out of business in the spring of 2011. But there was one thing he left alone: the ice cream. With more than 33 flavors hand-made on site, parlor patrons can enjoy specialty flavors like black licorice, gigantic sundaes like The Suicide, and seasonal creations -- all in a retro-style scene.
10.) MacAlpine's Soda Fountain This family-friendly nostalgia trip in Phoenix, established in 1928, is a mixture of cool treats, for-sale antiques, and old-school style. Sit at the counter while enjoying a massive banana split or hot fudge sundae (bring a friend to share), seasonal scoops like pumpkin ice cream or, for those who like a little soda with their ice cream, an immense selection of customizable and flavorful floats -- all while listening to oldies on the jukebox, of course.
9.) Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor This Old Town Scottsdale tradition and a onetime favorite hangout of the late Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane (who mentioned the shop in several of his works) has been serving up fountain treats since 1958. Featuring flavors like Old Dutch Chocolate and Turkish Coffee, scoop lovers can also enjoy floats, Pinnacle Peak sundaes with a variety of toppings, banana splits, and Sugar Bowl parfaits like the Baseball Winner ("the clean-up hitter is you!").
8.) The Sweetness This new ice cream shop, which opened last November, is inside Fair Trade Cafe's First Avenue and Roosevelt location. Featuring ice cream by local frozen-treat queen Karen Gagne of Karen's Kreamery, scoop lovers can enjoy a revolving variety of flavors (including coffee ice cream made with Fair Trade's coffee) served up in homemade waffle cone or atop a Belgium waffle. And it's open until 2 a.m. on weekends -- making it a cool solution to a late-night frozen-treat attack.
7.) The Pink Spot Coffee and Ice Cream Established in 2008, this funky locally owned ice cream shop in Midtown Phoenix got the scoop on Karen's Kreamery long before The Sweetness did. With many of Gagne's unique flavors made exclusively for the restaurant (think habanero peach sorbet, lemon meringue pie, and chocolate raspberry zinfandel), patrons can choose from 16 rotating flavors served up in housemade waffle cones or in sundaes like the Hunky Monkey Split.
6.) Lee's Cream Liqueur Booze-infused ice cream treats? Yes, please. Thanks to adult ice cream maven Lee Turner's alcohol-infused ice cream parlor, which opened in 2010 in Old Town Scottsdale, those wishing for spirit (literally) in their scoop can indulge. Chose from made-from-scratch creations like The Godfather, made with Jameson's Irish Whiskey; the Silk Stocking with Jose Cuervo Gold tequila; or the Dutch Chocolate Swirl made with Jack Daniel's. Down the hatch!
5.) Churn This super-cute ice cream and sweet shop opened last year in Central Phoenix courtesy of restaurateurs Craig DeMarco and Lauren Bailey, who own Windsor, the hip restaurant and pub right next door. Churn features a tight selection of homemade flavors like Belgian Chocolate, Vietnamese coffee, and fresh strawberry, and those in the know order their sweet (especially the peanut butter) with the salty: the pretzel cone. Ice cream sandwiches, made with chunky cookies, also are available.
4.) Chaparral Homemade Ice Cream This 30-plus-year-old family-owned ice cream parlor may be in Wickenburg, but its frozen goodness is worth the trip. With a "dessert first" mentality, traditional and classic homemade flavors like coconut cream, boysenberry, and even one called Hassayampa Mud (named after the Arizona's Hassayampa River) can be had by the scoop, in a float, or in a variety of sundaes topped with signature sauces of chocolate, caramel, hot fudge, or spicy cocoa.
3.) Udder Delights Walk through the doors of this farm-owned micro-creamery and flavor lab in Gilbert and score a premium frozen treat (or two) as farm fresh and luscious as they come. Using local ingredients from Superstition Farm, an assortment of familiar and (very) funky flavors are ever-changing and can include such creations as Blue Berry Moofin, red velvet cheesecake, raspberry and pineapple, vanilla or chocolate birthday cake -- even potato chip.
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2.) Scooptacular Does milk from Illinois cows make the best ice cream? Nindi and Carrissa Wadhwa, owners of this cheery must-stop ice cream shop in Laveen, think so. Featuring homemade classic, signature, and seasonal creations (the vanilla is made with a special blend of Madagascar beans), guests can choose from flavors like German chocolate cake, salted caramel, and orange creamsicle in scoops, sundaes, or waffle cones with a marshmallow surprise at the bottom.
1.) Sweet Republic With ice cream this good, it's no wonder Helen Yung and Jan Wichayanuparp's citrus-hued shop in Scottsdale has received the attention of magazines like Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. Made in small batches that start with milk and cream from independent Arizona dairy farms, indulgences made with all-natural ingredients abound in twenty-four daily, rotating flavors like Real Mint Chip, Banana Foster, and the must-order I Heart Bacon. Can't make it to the location? Look for the shop's food truck peddling its premium frozen wares at various locations throughout the city.
All our favorites lists are also available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here.