There’s nothing like cool, creamy, refreshing ice cream on a hot day…or pretty much any day. Though the Chinese probably invented America’s most popular dessert, a number of Philadelphia vendors have perfected it. Cool down and fill up on our picks for the best ice cream in the city. –Chelsea Karnash
Bassett’s Ice Cream
Bassett’s Ice Cream opened in Philly’s famous Reading Terminal in 1893, and it’s still there to this day…with both the original marble counters and family in charge! Though the company’s ice cream is sold in various area locations and in several outposts across the nation, there’s nothing like an egg cream or root beer float eaten at the counter, with the hubbub of Reading Terminal fading into the background.
Gasp — a New York creation on a Philly list? Well, believe it. This recently opened Big Apple import offers wild and wacky treats with naughty names like the Salty Pimp (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt and a chocolate dip) and American Globs (vanilla ice cream, pretzels, sea salt and a chocolate dip). Insider tip: The entrance is actually on South Street, not Broad…which is pretty fitting for this sassy spot, dontcha think?
Capogiro Gelato Artisans
119 S 13th St, 117 S 20th St, 1625 E Passyunk Ave, 3925 Walnut St
Okay, so it’s technically gelato–not ice cream–but it’s also AH-mazing. So amazing, in fact, that National Geographic named Capogiro their #1 pick for coolest ice cream shops in the world! With 27 flavors of deliciousness made each morning that range from standard (chocolate, vanilla, banana) to wonderfully out there (Avocado! Honeysuckle! Sea salt!) and four locations, there’s always a unique and tasty combo of flavors to try, and the Capogiro crew will let you taste-test spoonfuls of whatever you like in advance of buying. And PS – With half the fat and calories of ice cream, this is one sweet treat you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying.
Chloe’s Corner gives off a relaxed, boardwalk vibe with its cute outdoor seating area and tiny shack of a shop. In addition to delish ice cream (the peanut butter swirl comes highly recommended), they also sell water ice and soda. Don’t forget to hit the ATM—Chloe’s Corner only accepts cash.
Custard & Cakes Creamery
You haven’t experienced true happiness until you’ve had your (homemade!) ice cream neatly placed atop a Snyder’s pretzel cone at this beloved (and well-weathered) ice cream stand. Not only does C&C have oodles of both traditional and unique items on the menu, they also hand-make a number of delicious ice cream treats, like cupcakes, pies and sandwiches. And they all come cheap, which only makes your dessert sweeter. Just be careful to bring cash, since that’s all that’s accepted for purchases under $10.
Old-school, expensive and amazing, Franklin Fountain is the place to go for massive sundaes and a classic vibe. Though it opened in 2003, the place feels like it’s been there forever, and the soda fountain décor is nostalgic, not kitschy. Try the chocolate-y Lighting Rod sundae—garnished with a pretzel rod—for a truly decadent dessert, or the Peach Melba Parfait for something (only slightly) lighter.
Little Baby's Ice Cream
Operating in the other half of the storefront that houses Philly’s only pizza museum and pizzeria, Pizza Brain, comes the equally out there Little Baby’s Ice Cream. Super-premium flavors include go-tos like Bourbon Bourbon Vanilla and Chipotle Chocolate as well as wacky (yet delicious!) limited-time creations such as Everything Bagel and Banana Balsamic. Whether this ice cream factory of your dreams is (literally) peddling its super-premium goodies from a super-cool trike or you catch a cone inside the Fishtown store, expect to be wow-ed.
2004 Fairmount Ave., 44 S 19th St. and 343 S 13th St.
With a vast menu and your choice of gelato, ice cream, soft-serve or water ice, Philly Flavors keeps the crowds coming back again and again. Their homemade flavors—like Strawberry Shortcake and Birthday Cake—are huge hits, and the summer lines can get so long that patrons are forced to double-park. But with three locations in the city, those lines are sure to move fast.
“Exotic ice cream parlour” Scoop DeVille continues to whip up wild “mix-in” creations. With its boutique-y décor, higher-than-average prices and overwhelmingly huge menu, this ice cream shop can seem mildly intimidating and even slightly off-putting, but don’t let appearances turn you away: their ice cream is delicious!
Furthermore, the options truly are endless. Check out their list of “Scoop’s Suggestions,” or create your own with a combo of their aforementioned mix-ins (fruit, candy, cereal, sauces, etc.). Or, for “breakfast,” try a Coffee Freeze—think a coffee milkshake/smoothie hybrid, with most of the same mix-in options as their sundaes.
Full disclosure: I once spent $8 on a medium sundae from Scoop DeVille, and it was worth every penny. Hey, you have to treat yourself every once in awhile…