When the weather gets warm, there’s one comfort food that dessert-lovers everywhere go in search for: ice cream. And while a plain ol’ scoop normally does the trick, there are some days when a shower of sprinkles just isn’t enough, and we want to pile on the hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top, too. Whether you seek them out at the best ice cream shops in America, the best San Francisco restaurants or the 20 spots serving the best desserts in America, ice cream sundaes are an over-the-top treat well worth calorie-loading. From a funky olive oil sundae in San Francisco to a classic banana split in New York City, these are the best ice cream sundaes in America.
Best ice cream sundaes in America
Plain-Jane flavors get their due at this soda-shop throwback from pastry-bag-wielding restaurateur Nicholas Morgenstern (Goat Town, El Rey): Scoop purists have four creamy, extremely vanilla-y vanillas (bourbon, Madagascar, burnt honey, French and rum raisin) to choose from. Succumb to the gluttony and get them all in the colossal King Kong Banana Split.
This perennially packed Mission ice cream shop is a master at combining sweet and savory: its salted caramel ice cream is one of the OGs and helped launch the city- (and nation-) wide craze for the addictive flavor. That skill is on full display in one of our favorite creations, Sam’s Sundae, a wacky combo that somehow works: creamy chocolate ice cream is drizzled with fruity blood orange olive oil, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and topped off with an airy cap of sweet whipped cream.
Founded in 2002, this scoops shops with eight locations nationwide is distinguished by the creative vision of owner Jeni Britton Bauer, whose light ice creams boldly flavored with fruits and herbs inspired a nationwide trend of artisanal frozen desserts. The LA shop’s Gooey Butter Sundae is over the top in the best of ways: constructed on a base of brown butter almond brittle ice cream, it adds honey-based butterscotch, salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and a folded-up waffle cone as garnish.
Ice cream truckers Doug Quint and Bryan Petroff offer their quirky soft-serve creations in a small East Village shop, emblazoned with a giant rainbow-swirled cone. We love their Monday Sundae, served in an over-the-top-delicious edible vessel: a Nutella-lined sugar cone. Inside, find a generous twist of choco-vanilla soft serve, plus creamy dulce de leche, flakes of sea salt and plenty of homemade whipped cream.
Tim and Corey Sorenson have developed a huge fan base since they started slinging soft serve in 2012. And it’s no wonder they’ve caused heads to turn, because this is no ordinary ice cream. Two flavors are featured daily, made by infusing a non-GMO milk base with the best quality ingredients around, from fair trade coffee to matcha green tea. Choose from a menu of house-made toppings and syrups or let these smooth operators build one of their insanely creative offerings, like Going Nutz—a layered sundae made with white chocolate soft serve, brittle blonde chunks, caramelized white chocolate sauce and candied peanuts—or Margaritaville, made with strawberry margarita soft serve, key lime bar chunks, molasses graham crumb and macerated strawberries.
This lovingly renovated and decorated turn-of-the-century-style ice cream parlor is a visual feast, boasting a handsome tin ceiling, marble countertops and a mosaic tile floor. Luckily, the menu offers its fare share of feasting: beyond simple scoops and cones, its over-the-top sundaes beckon as well. The Lightning Rod is the fanciest brownie sundae we know about: crumbled dark chocolate brownies topped with scoops of coffee ice cream, plus a shot of espresso, a sprinkling of chocolate-covered espresso beans, a mountain of whipped cream and a salty pretzel rod to complement all that sweetness.
This stylish ice creamery is a Seattle favorite, dishing up smooth, creamy scoops with strong, true flavors such as Earl Grey, strawberry, coffee and salted caramel. Ingredients are sourced locally and, in true Pacific Northwest style, all the shop’s cups and utensils are 100% compostable. The cup will be the only thing left behind after you devour the delicious house sundae, Molly’s Favorite, with scoops of the shop’s intense melted chocolate and salted caramel ice creams, plus hot fudge, candied hazelnuts, whipped cream and a cherry.
Humphry Slocombe caters to a decidedly grown-up crowd of ice cream aficionados, with intriguing sweet-savory flavor combos that occasionally sound dubious… but always taste delicious. The creamery’s rotating list of decadent sundaes never fails to please; when we see the Hot Mess, we spring for the combo of vanilla ice cream with butterscotch, bananas and homemade marshmallow fluff.
This old-fashion 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, but we tend to dig into the enormous Brazilian Combo, featuring coffee, maple nut, butter pecan and vanilla ice creams, topped with fudge, toffee crumble and maple nuts.
Sweet Rose’s executive chef Shiho Yoshikawa is known for her compelling signature seasonal flavors inspired by local farmers’ markets: think ginger, licorice and cognac prune. All of the shop’s perfectly balanced sundaes are delicious, but we’re partial to a classic banana split, with scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream plus decadent hot fudge, whipped cream and crispy almonds.