Ice cream has ventured far past the simple flavors of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Ice-cream shops across the country are taking the creamy frozen dessert to new heights with funky flavors and creative concoctions. These days just about anything goes: from Grape Nuts to gorgonzola.
We’ve scoured the country for some of the most unique shops from coast-to-coast.
Gracie’s Ice Cream, Somerville (Boston Area)
This super-small-batch ice-cream made on Gracie’s premises is whimsical, with flavors like “800 Hearts of Fury,” made with 800 cinnamon red hots in cinnamon ice cream, and the “Gronk Smash” (in honor of Patriot’s tight end, Rob Gronkowski), a mix of peanut-butter ice cream stuffed with potato chips, pretzels, Kit Kats, peanuts and chocolate chips.
Perhaps the most creative addition here is the cones, lined with marshmallow fluff that’s been toasted with a blowtorch. You can also add bacon bits or Fruity Pebbles to the fluff, which Gracie’s has coined a “cone crown.”
Original Rainbow Cone, Chicago
There are plenty of trendy ice-cream shops in the Windy City, but visitors and locals alike are still drawn to the historic Original Rainbow Cone. Founder Joseph Sapp wanted to whip up more than your average chocolate and vanilla ice cream; he wanted multiple flavors together, as one. So he opened Original Rainbow in 1926.
Over the years he perfected the rainbow cone, a layered mix of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with walnuts and maraschino cherries), pistachio and orange sherbet. The layered flavors have become so popular that Original Rainbow started to serve ice-cream cakes with the same combination.
The original Beverly location on the south side of the city is still standing, and they’ve since added a smaller outpost on Navy Pier to give even more fans the rainbow cone experience.
What started as a delivery-only ice-cream service in New York City turned into that plus a tasting room where people could try the ice cream and chat with the people who made it. Everything about MilkMade’s ice cream screams “responsibly sourced”; when they can, they incorporate ingredients from local artisans.
The shop’s Jamocha Almond Fudge features cold-brew coffee from Grady’s Cold Brew in the Bronx, and Gotham Basil Chip is made with Gotham Greens basil. Can’t decide which flavor to order? Try an ice-cream flight, a sampling of mini cones from the local Konery with small scoops of 5 to 6 flavors, so you can try them all.
Humphry Slocombe, San Francisco
Named loosely after two characters in the British comedy series “Are You Being Served?” this Bay Area ice-cream shop has created some of the country’s wildest ice cream flavors and sundaes. It’s not unexpected to see everything from foie gras to prosciutto, candy cap mushrooms to curry, show up in their scoops.
Of course, they have plenty of flavors on the sweeter side, like Malted Milk Chocolate (which tastes like a malted milkshake) or Honey Graham, made with blackberry honey ice cream and homemade graham crackers.
Heifer and the Hen, Boulder
It’s hard to go wrong with flavors like papaya and lime sorbet, or caramelized pear and brown sugar, but the real creativity at Heifer and the Hen lies in the shop’s innovation beyond ice cream. To start, the toppings aren’t your typical sprinkles and candy, but instead, chocolate espresso beans or goat milk cajeta, a syrupy-sweet Mexican topping.
The options for ice-cream floats include Sour Cherry Cola, Orange Blossom, Vanilla Cream or Root Beer. Affogatos are made with nitro cold brew. The shop even boasts a few “epic” selections, like The Waffle, made with a part of a Belgian waffle, pumpkin and brown sugar ice cream, warm maple syrup, candied pecans and bacon, sprinkled with powdered sugar.