I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Particularly when you live in a place where temperatures can start hitting 100 in April (truth, it happened this year!)! Luckily the desert-dwelling residents of the Valley of the Sun seemed to be a little obsessed with all things ice cream and there is no shortage of ice cream shops to get their ice-cold groove on. Today I’m sharing my top picks for the best ice cream (and all its varieties) in the Phoenix area.
By the way, if you love ice cream and are interested in the origins of various varieties, regional variances, and any other ice cream history, I highly recommend The Sweet Spot from Amy Ettinger. I read it last summer and included it in my summertime reading list and absolutely loved it!
The Best of the Best
Anything food related is always going to be subjective, so while the Sweet Republic may be my pick for my all-time favorite, you may just as easily find another shop on this list that you prefer. Variety is definitely the spice of life!
This award-winning shop is known for its unique sweet-savory flavor combos. Like many other shops, they use fresh local ingredients and make their ice cream from scratch. But I think that their Asian heritage and culinary backgrounds (Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney) plus time spent at Eccolo in Berkeley, makes for very distinct recipes that they bring to the table, and to your bowl!
Location: Sweet Republic has a location in Scottsdale (9160 E Shea Blvd) and Phoenix (6054 N 16th St)
Oldies Are Goodies
Everybody loves a classic. I’d say even more so when it comes to ice cream. For generations people have been going to ice cream parlors for shakes and sodas on date night, for a family treat, to celebrate a special event, or to drown our sorrows. The Phoenix area has no shortage of nostalgia served up with one scoop or two.
MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain
Established in 1928, MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain is a local legend and serves up Thrifty brand ice cream in a vintage retro environment.
Location: MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain is located in Phoenix (2303 N 7th St)
An old-school ice cream parlor with sundaes, shakes, and floats. They master anything with nuts, so try out one of their nut-forward flavors like pecan praline, rocky road, coffee Heath Bar crunch or penuche nut.
Location: Mary Coyle is located in Phoenix (5823 N 7th St)
If Sugar Bowl was on Instagram they would definitely be using a pink filter! This old-fashioned soda shop serves ice cream, shakes, and malts along with their famous Camelback Soda: an old-fashioned soda with vanilla ice cream with a side of soda water.
Location: Sugar Bowl is located in Scottsdale (4005 N Scottsdale Rd)
All the dairy for their ice cream products comes from Superstition Farm dairy farm (you can even tour the farm!). Their head chef creates fresh flavors with local ingredients without artificial colors or preservatives.
Location: Udder Delights is located in Gilbert (1385 E Warner Rd)
This is a classic yet artisan ice cream shop. They serve hand-crafted ice cream amongst with classic candy and toys that make everyone feel like a kid!
Location: Churn is located in Phoenix (5223 N. Central Ave)
For the Science Geeks
They’ve been doing this in San Francisco for a while now (Smitten Ice Cream was one of the first), so it makes sense that made-from-scratch liquid nitrogen hand-crafted-to-order premium ice cream has come to Phoenix, where the desert-loving crowd can really appreciate the cold factor!
Nitro Live Icecreamery
This very blogger-friendly locale has it all and everything is customizable here, including your base. So whether you want ice cream, low-fat ice cream, yogurt, or custard, you are going to get it ice cold with whatever flavor or mix-in you want.
Location: Nitro Live Icecreamery is located in Gilbert (884 W. Warner Rd)
This is actually a franchise ice cream store with a single Arizona location in Gilbert. They instantly freeze each ice cream order, making sure each item is rich, creamy and cold!
Location: Creamistry is located in Gilbert (335 North Gilbert Road)
On a Roll
I had never seen or heard of ice cream rolls until I moved to Phoenix. But it turns out they have been doing this in Asia (right under my nose too) for quite awhile. I’m glad I finally got to experience it!
Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls
Created by a charismatic gentleman who turned tragedy to triumph, this used to be a food truck that is now a shop in Glendale. “The dude” starts with liquid ice cream that is poured onto a freezing cold slabbed and then scraped into delicious rolls. He has some very original flavors, but let me tell you, it is not the easiest thing to eat!
Location: Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls is located in Glendale (5750 W Glendale Ave)
Maya Ice-Cream Rolls
Thai-style ice cream rolls made by an Indian family! The only downside (in my opinion) is it inside in a mall. But the upside is that it is really interesting to watch them make them!
Location: Maya Ice-Cream Roll is located in Phoenix (4604 E Cactus Rd inside Paradise Valley Mall)
Raise your hand if you grew up eating Otter Pops or anything from the Popsicle brand? Yep. Been there. Definitely done that. Well, popsicles have gotten a lot more sophisticated and I like it!
Pop ‘N Tea Bar
This is the spot all the grammers love to go to! Their pops are known as “diamond bars” because of their shape which they dip or drizzle into toppings. They have dairy and non-dairy all fruit options. Go for a popsicle but don’t forget their amazing teas too!
Location: Pop ‘N Tea Bar is located in Phoenix (550 West McDowell Road)
Paletas are Mexican popsicles. At Paletas the pops are handmade in small batches with fresh fruit, fresh-ground spices, and homemade flavorings. They are delicious but don’t take my word for it, they are constantly being awarded best this and that by many of the Phoenix area residents!
Location: Paletas Betty is located in Chandler (96 W. Boston St.)
All natural, local ingredients even when they may not make any sense, like their sesame cucumber pop! They are also nut-free, gluten-free, and have no artificial coloring and flavoring.
Location: AZ Pops has 2 locations in Phoenix (5050 N 7th St. and 3632 E Indian School Rd)
For Vegetarians and Vegans
Something for everyone right? It’s nice to see that in that those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet can still partake in frozen treats!
Nami is a vegan pastry shop that serves soy-based, organic ice cream-like desserts (think Blizzards) with things like organic chocolate, organic, graham crackers, Ricemellow fluff and vegan Cap’n Crunch. Or fresh fruits.
Location: Nami is located in Phoenix (2014 N 7th Street)
People are constantly arguing about whether gelato is ice cream. It’s practically the same in every way except gelato has no eggs. But I say, who cares, it’s a delicious frozen treat and it doesn’t matter what you call it!
Run by an Italian family originally from Milan, That’s Amore is making artisan-crafted batches on a daily basis in nearly 40 flavors, all with love!
Location: That’s Amore is located in Scottsdale (7605 E. Pinnacle Peak Road)
Cool Gelato Italiano
Run by trained Italian gelato-makers who like to give their flavors fun names, the Italian-born and gelato-master trained husband and wife team behind Cool Gelato Italiano know what they are doing! Their background in food consulting also means they are constantly on top of food trends as well.
Location: Cool Gelato Italiano is located in Scottsdale (7373 E. Scottsdale Mall)
I love Frost Gelatos story. Two tourists in Rome looking for something cool to drink stumble into a gelateria, try gelato for the first time and fall in love. Returning to Arizona, they hired a full-time Italian chef from Bologna with 30+ years of experience and training from another master gelato chef – smart boys!
Location: Frost Gelato has 2 locations in Phoenix (2502 E. Camelback Rd.) and Gilbert (San Tan Village, 2150 E. Williams Field Rd.)
How about you? Have you tried an amazing ice cream treat in the Phoenix area? Have I tempted you to hop on a plane, train or automobile to try one of these out? Do tell! How about your favorite spot for ice cream in your own hometown? Share!