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The Inside Scoop

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

Summer 2014 was the summer of soft serve: we had cereal flavors, corn cane tubes and an epidemic of honeycomb toppings. 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.

Gelati Gelati

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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Mapo-gu

Il Gelato

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).

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Apgujeong-dong

Cacao Boom

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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Itaewon
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Cold Recipe

Cold Recipe moved to Yeonnam-dong from Geondae earlier this year. The interior is minimalistic but the ice cream is bursting with flavor. We’re especially fans of the grapefruit Campari and the basil, pictured here, both made with fresh ingredients, like all their flavors.

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Ellay's

Ellay's is a bare-bones, one-woman operation. The space is tiny (no seating) and the flavors are few, but the ice cream she serves up is worth the wait (did we mention the lines?). Fruit flavors here are made Philadelphia-style with no egg yolks, but non-fruit flavors are full-on French with a rich, yolky base. As for the shop's name, here's a hint: Owner Jen hails from L.A.

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Jongno-gu

Ice Girl Cream Boy

The owner of Ice Girl Cream Boy also studied gelato-making abroad, but puts her own healthy twist on it. This “mama-made ice cream” (the kids in her logo are her own children) is slightly less buttery, so fruity flavors come out a little better than creamy ones. Pictured: red grape, tomato and strawberry.

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Apgujeong-dong
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Fell + Cole

Fell + Cole is the darling of the Korean food media, and with good reason—its high-quality, additive-free ice cream and inventive flavors were unprecedented when owner Tristan Choi opened his first location on a Hongdae back alley four years ago. Things weren't always so easy. Fell + Cole changed locations twice before settling in its sunny Sangsu space. They've since expanded to three venues across Seoul. Inspired by the San Francisco food scene (F + C is named after the intersection where he used to live), Tristan whips up a rotating menu in small batches, featuring seasonal ingredients and local influences. Our favorites include makgeolli (Korean rice ale), perilla leaf (a minty herb) and the darkly-addictive agave chocolate.

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Mapo-gu

Danseokga Jongno

Danseokga is actually known for its barley cakes (chal-boribbang), but their ice cream is just as good. There’s only one flavor (barley), a mild and nutty treat that leaves a pleasantly grainy taste behind.

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Jongno-gu

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