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Emack & Bolio's
Photograph: Courtesy Emack & Bolio's Emack & Bolio's

The best ice cream shops in Boston

Here’s the scoop on the city’s superior ice cream shops, where the flavors go far beyond chocolate and vanilla

By Eric Grossman and Time Out Boston Staff
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Boston loves ice cream so much that it's still a popular treat in the middle of winter. The city has been a hotbed of ice cream innovation since the ’70s, when Steve Herrell began mixing Oreo shards into freshly churned batches in his (now-defunct) Somerville shop, Steve’s Ice Cream. Today, the best ice cream shops in Boston churn out classic flavors as well as innovative ones with unique ingredients like bay leaf, pumpkin, or whiskey. Take a night off from your diet by pairing one of the best burgers in Boston or best pizzas in Boston with a sweet treat from these exceptional ice cream shops.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best restaurants in Boston

A gelato maker we love so much that we welcomed him into Time Out Market

Gelato & Chill, Time Out Market Boston
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Gelato & Chill

Restaurants Fenway/Kenmore

When someone’s an artisanal gelato master, or gelatiere, you know your sweet tooth is in good hands. At Gelato & Chill, Vincent Turco uses traditional Italian recipes to create small-batch, handmade gelato made from local, organic and additive-free ingredients. At Time Out Market Boston, must-try items include ricotta fig, stracciatella made with 70 percent Valrhona Guanaja chocolate bits, and creamy Sicilian pistachio. For those seeking dairy-free treats, a range of refreshing, water-based fruit sorbets are also available.

Best ice cream shops in Boston

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Toscanini's
Photograph: Courtesy Toscanini’s

Toscanini’s

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Central Sq

The New York Times once called it the best ice cream in the world—just one of the many accolades this Cambridge shop/café has collected since it was co-founded by Steves Ice Cream alum Gus Rancatore in 1981. Toscanini’s continues to push the flavor boundaries with such intriguing and satisfying combinations as B3 (brownies, brown sugar, brown butter) and the amazing burnt caramel, which was actually created by accident. But if you insist on gilding the lily, order a “micro sundae,” a small scoop topped with house-made hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and sprinkles.

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Christina's Homemade Ice Cream
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Robyn Lee

Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Inman Sq

Whether or not they advertise the fact, many local restaurants scream for ice cream from this Inman Square shop to supplement their dessert menus. Among the beautifully realized seasonal flavors such as pumpkin and eggnog, keep your eyes peeled—and your mouth primed—for fresh rose, burnt sugar and ginger molasses.

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Honeycomb Creamery
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kristen R.

Honeycomb Creamery

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Porter Sq

Tired of typical vanilla ice cream? Craving unique and innovative flavors? Porter Square‘s Honeycomb Creamery delivers delicious and inventive alternatives. Their craft ice cream is perfect for those who seek out-of-the-box creations. With options like malted vanilla, bay leaf & lemon curd, or gin & tonic sorbet, you may just find a new go-to summer flavor.

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Gracie's Ice Cream
Photograph: Courtesy Gracie's Ice Cream

Gracie’s Ice Cream

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Somerville

This outré ice cream post in Union Square further cements the Somerville neighborhood as the place for all things artisanal. The shop makes small batches of creative flavors like Salty Whiskey, Guinness, and Black Raspberry Chip, with new flavors rotating in regularly. Top your scoop with the house-made version of Magic Shell, and definitely forgo the cup for a toasted Fluff cone. 

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5
Picco
Photograph: Courtesy Picco

Picco

Restaurants Pizza South End

While this South End haunt is primarily thought of as a pizza spot, the kitchen impresses with its assortment of homemade ice creams. A steady stream of local families stop by for a sweet treat to go. In addition to cups and cones, options include boozy concoctions such as an “adult ice cream soda” featuring raspberry Belgian lambic, and a stout-blended frappe.

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J.P. Licks, Shopping, Boston
Photograph: © J.P. Licks

J.P. Licks

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Jamaica Plain

The Jamaica Plain–born ice cream institution, which has since spread to Beacon Hill and Harvard Square, among other locations, is known for its funky cow motif, lively atmosphere, hip scoopers and exciting flavors. You can expect a wait on hot days, but that just gives you more time to decide between old faithful faves like Brownie Batter and seasonal dazzlers such as PB & Chili, made with sriracha. The place also roasts its own coffee in case you want to supplement your sugar rush with a caffeine fix.

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Cabot’s Ice Cream
Photograph: Courtesy Cabot’s Ice Cream

Cabot’s Ice Cream

Restaurants Ice cream parlors

This old-fashioned Newton ice cream parlor, established in 1969, hits all the right nostalgia buttons with retro red vinyl booths, a tiled floor and old school creamery classics like chocolate malts and root beer floats. The sundae section of the menu runneth over with indulgent treats; typical is the enormous Brazilian Combo, featuring coffee, maple nut, butter pecan and vanilla ice creams, topped with fudge, toffee crumble and maple nuts.

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Emack & Bolio's
Photograph: Courtesy Emack & Bolio’s

Emack & Bolio’s

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Back Bay

This Back Bay locale is as famous for its ice cream as its award-winning smoothies, which the staff will whip up in front of you using fresh seasonal ingredients. Emack & Bolios also pioneered the flavored cone—including varieties covered in marshmallow or chocolate-dipped with shaved coconut.

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9
Chill on Park
Photograph: Courtesy Chill on Park

Chill on Park

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Dorchester

Chill on Park doles out dozens of house-made flavors (salted caramel truffle, cookie dough) in Dorchester’s Fields Corner neighborhood. The cheery, congenial space doubles as a full-service coffeehouse, filling the neighborhood’s latte void, and pastry treats come from the South End’s Haley House, a multi-purpose non-profit. 

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FoMu
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Molly Des Jardin

FoMu

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Allston/Brighton

Vegans, rejoice: This ice cream’s for you. The folks at FoMu whip up whip up gelato-like, creamy treats with a coconut milk base and flavors like avocado, bourbon maple walnut, mango habanero, and the summer-only almond raspberry crumble. The Allston shop (there are outposts in Jamaica Plain and the South End) also concocts ice cream cakes for the celebratory herbivore.

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