Have you heard the news? It’s hot out. In summer our sugar cravings turn from chocolate and baked goods to the cold stuff. That’s why we put together this list of the best ice cream shops, gelaterias and ice pop joints from Navy Yard to Dupont Circle.
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Best ice cream shops in Washington, DC
This pint-size ice cream parlor comes courtesy of Victoria Lai, a former lawyer who churned her love of sweets into a full-time vocation. The shop, which overlooks the Anacostia River, turns traditional flavors on their head with creative concoctions like caramel popcorn and cardamom with black pepper. Lai also makes a mean Thai ice tea, which is a vibrant orange and goes down easy. You can also pick up pints of her ice cream sold at select specialty markets throughout the city.
What began as an unassuming gelateria in Georgetown in 2004 has grown into an eight-store empire. The sweet fleet includes a Willy Wonka–like gelato factory, where guests can see how the all-natural varieties are made while sipping Hair Bender espresso from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The owners, an adorable husband-and-wife duo, dream up rotating flavors like black sesame, orange honey and cardamom. Dolcezza recently started shipping pints nationwide.
Based in Chambersburg, PA, Trickling Springs works with local farmers to source milk from hormone-free, grass-fed cows, which it uses to produce butter, raw milk cheeses and—best of all—more than 25 flavors of ice cream. The beyond-rich offerings are prepared in micro-batches and sold locally at a stall in Union Market. Trickling Springs primarily sticks to the usual suspects, like cookies ’n’ cream, rocky road and butter pecan. Just don’t overlook the vanilla, which is made with Indonesian vanilla beans and is anything but basic.
The only DC location of this retro New Jersey–born ice cream and fudge shop is situated on a busy corner in Georgetown that’s buzzing with ice-cream aficionados in all seasons—including Barack Obama, who has visited the shop with his daughters. Try a “blend-in,” which allows you to mix different toppings (Oreo’s, Gummi Bears, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) into the ice cream of your choice.
Launched by Gianluigi Dellaccio in 2006, this artisanal gelato company has been expanding ever since. The Naples-born pastry chef works from a recipe that’s been in his family for generations. Pure gelati and sorbetti are made daily in small batches in flavors like chai tea, cheesecake, crème brûlée and ginger vanilla. The newest location at the City Market at O offers Dolci Pops—gelato on a stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in toppings of your choice such as chopped nuts or crushed Oreos.
This upstart ice cream biz is powered by two buddies, one motorcycle (which they use to transport their their treats to farmers’ markets) and an irreverent attitude toward traditional ice cream flavors. The result is such oddball combos such as avocado and chocolate, salted butter and caramel popcorn and chocolate topped with breadcrumbs. The duo also sells sandwich treats, including lemon buttermilk ice cream between ginger molasses cookies and honey ice cream smushed between cornflake cookies.
Co-owners and friends Brian Sykora and Roger Horowitz started Pleasant Pops out of a pushcart they brought to local farmers’ markets in 2010. Their empire has since expanded to an ice-pop café and market, with a second location now open downtown. Whole-fruit pops are made with all-natural ingredients you can see in the product, like chunks of strawberry or clusters of blueberries. Our favorite flavors include Mexican sweet cream with cinnamon and New Orleans iced coffee.
Don’t go calling the fire department: That cloud of smoke coming from Love N’ Faith Community Café is just a byproduct of the liquid nitrogen it uses to flash-freeze its ice creams. The ultra-cold chemical takes liquid ice cream and sorbets to solid within a matter of seconds, mesmerizing guests in the process. The homey spot serves flavors like vanilla bean and cookies and cream straight up, or uses them to make affogatos and milkshakes.
Some of the “rules” at Mr. Yogato are as follows: Sing “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred while you order your frozen yogurt and get 50 percent off, stump the owner on Seinfeld trivia or recite the battlefield speech from Braveheart in a Scottish accent to get 10 percent off. This zany shop also has an old-school Nintendo Entertainment system and oodles of board games. Oh, and frozen yogurt. But you’ll probably be so distracted by everything going on around you that you’ve forgotten why you came.
This ice-cream parlor has been in operation since 1985, and it shows. The straightforward design of the Dupont Circle institution has few frills, allowing the inventive flavors like salted caramel, crème de menthe and strawberry cheesecake to shine. The fan favorite is the oatmeal cookie dough mixed with cinnamon, which is basically heaven on a cone.