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ice cream

The Inside Scoop

Soft serve’s easy, but finding legit ice cream in Seoul requires a little digging

Written by
Sonja Swanson
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This summer, you can find soft serve on just about every corner, but what about the real old-fashioned stuff? Churned, scoopable, rich with butter fat, comes in a dozen or two flavors?

Fortunately for you, we’ve done some sleuthing and the results—all small batch and handmade—are oh-so-worth it. On the list that follows, you’ll find both American-style ice cream and gelato (which, hardliners be damned, is really just Italian for “ice cream”). Yes, there are differences. American ice cream is served colder and harder, has more air, more butter fat, more star-spangled Coney Island street cred. Gelato, served warmer and softer, has less air and a higher milk to cream ratio and takes longer to churn (how very Italian). But as with many food categories, there are cross-overs all along the spectrum. What’s most important is that you can scoop it, savor it and take the edge off summer’s sizzle.

  • Shopping
  • Bakeries
  • Banpo-dong
Alaska Lab is a stand-out dessert shop known for cream, which they make to order. The soft nitrogen ice-cream is accentuated with an organic condensed milk. The interesting laboratory-feel of the shop and the different toppings to choose from add to the fun.
Gelati Gelati
  • Restaurants
  • Mapo-gu
There’s rarely open seating at Gelati Gelati, for good reason—their gelato is the best you’ll find in Hongdae (the owner here also studied gelato-making in Italy). They display more flavors than most and you can pick two flavors for a single (downside: no free samples). We’ll just have to come back to try them all. Pictured: Green tea and mango.
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Il Gelato
  • Restaurants
  • Apgujeong-dong
Business partners Baik & Cavallaro opened Il Gelato earlier this year after meeting at gelato school in Italy. You’ll find classics like stracciatella and bacio (pictured here) as well as new flavors like Icheon rice (lightly accented with lemon) and wasabi (careful, it has a kick).
Cacao Boom
  • Restaurants
  • Itaewon
Cacao Boom mostly sells gourmet chocolates (the owner studied chocolate in Belgium) but their Samcheong-dong venue also sells gelato. They use the same chocolate made in-house from cacao beans in their gelato—if you like it dark, get the “strong chocolate” flavor. Also pictured: green tea.
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