Before the best coffee shops in Miami courted us with a cold brew and rooftop bars tempted us with the promise of a cool breeze, a visit to a Miami ice cream shop was the only choice for locals looking to satisfy their sweet tooth and cool off after a day of sunbathing at one of the Miami beaches. So even when the temperature doesn’t call for a chill treat (which, granted, is rare), Miamians can’t help but scream for the organic gelato, Cuban ice cream sandwiches and old-fashioned sundaes served at the city’s best ice cream shops, from Little Havana to Midtown Miami.
Best ice cream shops in Miami
Azucar owner Suzy Batlle takes the best flavor combinations from her childhood and churns them into delicious “Cuban” ice cream, including the wildly popular Abuela Maria—vanilla ice cream, Maria crackers, guava and cream cheese. The dairy queen can often be found concocting new flavors from local ingredients, such as her recent creation with Knaus Berry Farm cinnamon buns soaked in bourbon.
Simple is often better when it comes to ice cream. Case in point: Bianco Gelato’s traditional and vegan varieties made with just a few organic ingredients and milk that’s free of GMOs and hormones. It’s the Italian tradition, says co-owner Federico Di Franco, whose shop produces fresh new flavors daily—salted caramel, Madagascar vanilla and vegan chocolate (made with almond milk) being among the most popular. The pistachio flavor, which is actually white, is known to go the fastest, in part for its use of Sicilian pistachios that give it a sweet and nutty without any added coloring.
Remember marveling at the idea of ice cream of the future when you were a kid? Frozen colored pebbles that would melt the moment they’d hit your tongue. Nostaglia notwithstanding, that stuff seems pretty ordinary compared to Lulu’s liquid nitrogen ice cream of varieties like goat-cheese-and-guava and salted caramel, whose flavors are amped up thanks to the colder-than-usual temperatures. But even with all its high-tech ice cream making, Lulu’s keeps the rest of its operation pretty basic. Materials used in spoons, cups and napkins are all recycled, and every ingredient is fresh and without any preservatives.
Coppelia is Miami’s answer to Havana’s famous ice cream parlor by the same name, carrying all of the flavors (mantecado and mamey are favorites) and a variety of dishes you’d find at the original—including ice cream “salads” (5 scoops of ice cream), la Copa Lolita (a caramel flan sundae) and a suero (a super thick ice cream shake). The space is small but service is friendly; just make sure you brush up on your Spanish before paying a visit.
This retro gelato shop is a throwback to mid-century Italian latterias, where kids enjoyed freshly made frozen treats while their parents relaxed with an espresso and a bite of something sweet. All of the flavors—which run the gamut from hazelnut to watermelon to salt and pepper pistachio—are all-natural and gluten-free. Toppings are also fresh and made in-house.
Argentine ice cream shop Freddo’s US flagship has an impressive selection of dulce de leche options (swirled, with nuts, speckled with golden raisins) as well as six different types of chocolate—all of which can be served alongside a decadent lava cake. You’ll also find more South Beach-friendly sorbets and guilt-free flavors, such as a light chocolate and orange and peach creation, for under 200 calories. To preserve authenticity, the helado (a gelato/ice cream hybrid) is made in Argentina, free of artificial ingredients and additives, and shipped stateside under very strict guidelines. Once here, it’s generously scooped into cups and cones or sandwiched inside a Hawaiian roll for the out-of-this-world panini.
Part ice-cream palor, part ode to American childhood, Jaxon’s has a 50-year-long-established reputation as a specialist in kids’ dessert wish-fulfillment. A fabled collection of Americana, focusing on license plates, adorns the ice-cream parlor and restaurant—oh yes, they do non-frozen, non-dairy dishes too—to give the place an appealing vaudeville charm.
Wall’s is as old timey as Miami gets: modest outdoor seating, an assortment of homemade fudge and the typical variety of flavors and creations you’d expect from a 1950s parlor—from banana splits and hot fudge sundaes to classic waffle cones. Want to get your picture on Wall’s wall? Take the Great Wall of Ice Cream challenge: Finish a whopping 12 scoops plus two wet toppings, two dry toppings, bananas and brownies, all generously topped with whipped cream.
This Sunset Harbour parlor (the only Florida outpost of the northeastern chain) is where you go to indulge. Pay the going neighborhood rate (think $7 for an ice cream creation) to fill your cookie cone with crazy combinations of sweet and savory mix-ins, like chocolate-covered pretzels and salted-caramel swirls, or go big with the famous ice cream pizza. Seating is nonexistent but the abundant selection and display case filled with funky handmade chocolates more than makes up for it.
Locals flock to this South Miami mainstay for traditional, no-fuss ice cream (cookies and cream is a solid choice). Flavors are rich and creamy, and you can pair them with fresh-baked cookies or choose from an assortment of cakes and cupcakes. On Sunday nights, families spill out onto the sidewalk enjoying their scoops (many of the young workers manning the counter came to this family-owned shop as kids).