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Best Ice Cream Spots Around Denver

By Ruth Tobias
July 28, 2014

Your surefire guide to the city’s sweetest frozen treats has arrived: on cones and sticks in cakes and sandwiches, from  beloved longtimers and snazzy upstarts alike. All are locally, independently owned, of course. But we can't help but give a timely bonus shout-out to Ben & Jerry's, which is giving away free scoops today and tomorrow in the Downtown area to support The Climate Reality Project. Those details are here. Now, without further ado, the 14 best spots for ice cream and other frozen treats around Denver. 

  • Aiko Pops

    If Christopher Mosera could bottle his enthusiasm for the treats he turns out at this charming Old South Pearl storefront, he’d make a mint. Lucky for us, he makes mint-orange popsicles instead — and countless other flavors too, with 12 on the board daily. Think strawberry-rose, coconut-anise and carrot-apple.
    Must-Order: About a month ago, Mosera began making popsicles within popsicles: one-oz. minis inside three-oz. shells. He’s still exploring the possibilities of the technique he hopes will be “game-changing,” but imagine Vietnamese coffee pops with a sweet condensed-milk center or peanut butter around a raspberry-jalapeño jelly core. How cool is that?
    Cool Twist: Why stop at pops? The shop takes equal care with its sandwiches, so come for lunch and dig into a baguette stuffed with, say, pistachio mortadella, almond pesto and peppadews.

    1284 S. Pearl St.; 303-996-6400

  • Bonnie Brae Ice Cream

    If all you want is quality homemade ice cream, you’ve obviously got lots of choices around here. If you want the old-school soda-fountain ambiance to go with it, however, this adorable decades-old parlor is the place for you.
    Must-Order: Perhaps it’s the red-striped nostalgia that sways us, but we’re partial to the scoops inspired by classic desserts, like banana cream pie and blueberry cheesecake.
    Cool Twist: The trip back in time doesn’t end here. Make an evening of it with dinner at Bonnie Brae Tavern, the 80-year-old pizza joint across the street.

    799 S. University Blvd.; 303-777-0808

  • Cloud 9 Frozen Custard

    This Congress Park hideaway makes only two custard flavors: classic vanilla and chocolate. But they do it right, and dozens upon dozens of toppings keep things interesting — cashews, cinnamon, chia seeds, Pop Rocks, you name it.
    Must-Order: Of six sundaes, the Yertle’s Delight is a must thanks to fat, crunchy butter-toffee pecans as well as hot fudge and caramel sauces. 
    Cool Twist: We love that the owners keep a jar of Tajín — a Mexican seasoning blend of chile powder, lime and salt — on hand for sprinkling on top of their sorbet. It may sound odd, but adding spice to fresh fruit is traditional across both Latin America and tropical Asia for a reason: the combination is exhilarating.

    4300A E. Eighth Ave.; 303-322-4116

  • Photo by: Christopher Cina

    Eis Gelato

    The creative force behind this low-key Park Hill storefront, Paige Scherbl, is as sweet as her gelati, 24 tubs of which regularly line the display case. And she takes as much gentle care with her ingredients as she does with her customers — in fact, some of them come from her own backyard garden.
    Must-Order: On that note, keep your eyes peeled for dips infused with flowers and herbs, be it mint, lavender or hibiscus sorbet.
    Cool Twist: If you’ve never tried affogato, or gelato “drowned” in a shot of espresso, here’s your chance; the cinnamon-stick version would go especially well with coffee.

    2895 Fairfax St.; 303-859-7156 

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Fior di Latte

    It’s sleek, it’s chic, it’s run by a Venetian native and her husband. This new gelateria on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall has street cred to spare and traditional pastries like cornetti to boot.
    Must-Order: The eponymous flavor, whose name translates as “milk flower,” is prized in Italy for its delicacy; crema is its richer cousin. Consider the difference between vanilla and French vanilla and you’ll get the picture. Better yet, try them side by side for yourself.
    Cool Twist: True to Italian style, even the more-experimental flavors here smack of sophistication. Take saffron or cantaloupe, for example. 

    1433 Pearl St., Boulder; 720-269-4117

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobia

    High Point Creamery

    Since opening back in May, Erika Thomas and Chad Stutz’s cheery little scoop shop in Hilltop/Crestmoor has upped its production from 13 to about 20 flavors a day, each more stylish than the last. We’re talking basil with blackberry swirl and gin-spiked cucumber-pear granita.
    Must-Order: That said, our favorite is still the banana with honey, nearly as intense as pudding.
    Cool Twist: The Not Your Average Fruit Cake Bombe made our summer bucket list, but Thomas also makes an all-chocolate version of the ice cream- and meringue-based party centerpiece that arguably takes the cake. 

    215 S. Holly St.; 720-420-9137

  • Photo by: Christopher Cina

    Ice Cream Riot

    As the owner and sole employee, Jim McNutt “practically lives” at this few-month-old City Park creamery. So, increasingly, do his neighbors, whom he’s won over not only with his ice cream — about a dozen flavors laden with Whoppers, cherry Pop Tarts, cheesecake, Nutella and more — but also his Philly-style water ices, from orange cream and banana to root beer and margarita.
    Must-Order: The signature dirty cookies-and-cream, whose dark color comes not from a chocolate base but purely from what McNutt calls its “abundance” of Oreos.
    Cool Twist: When it comes to wacky flavors, it's hard to top the Cheddar Goldfish we already told you about. But McNutt also has a ball with breakfast cereals: "They're my thing,” he laughs. Sure enough, on any given day you might score a scoop loaded with Apple Jacks, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Reese’s Puffs or Fruity Pebbles — or two, adjoined in a single cone! Too bad it doesn't come with a couch and a TV tuned into the cartoon channel.

    1238 E. Colfax Ave.; 720-475-1853

  • Photo by: Christopher Cina

    Liks

    This Capitol Hill mainstay has built up a mind-boggling roster of ice creams, yogurts and sorbet over the years. The website menu goes on for 20 pages. On a daily basis, though, 32 ever-changing choices are plenty.
    Must-Order: Grown-up palates will appreciate the wonderfully subtle rose sorbet or the kicky, pecan-studded cayenne-caramel fudge. 
    Cool Twist: But if your inner child demands something zanier, owner Jay Thompson votes for the Green Nerds, named for the sour candies that further tart up its Froot Loops-like base. Prepare to pucker.​​

    2039 E. 13th Ave.; 303-321-2370

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Little Man Ice Cream

    Paul Tamburello’s giant milk-jug-shaped stand, which served up its one-millionth scoop last week, isn’t merely an ice-cream landmark. Its LoHi courtyard is basically an outdoor community center, earning oodles of local goodwill by hosting concerts, movie screenings, fitness classes and kids' activities. See the calendar here. And speaking of landmarks, you can now find Little Man ice cream at the just-reopened Union Station, where quaint parlor Milkbox carries the brand. 
    Must-Order: When available, salted maple-pecan (pictured) is our go-to, being more refined than its caramel cousin. 
    Cool Twist: The shop celebrated Christmas in July this past Friday, July 25, featuring toasty flavors like pumpkin chip and hot cocoa — and there are still a few scoops left, if you hurry.

    2620 16th St.; 303-455-3811

  • Milk & Cake

    If there’s a soft-serve frozen-yogurt shop in Denver that doesn’t purchase its mix wholesale, we’re not aware of it. But this Southeast cutie does source its products from an all-natural dairy in Boulder, and that alone makes a big difference. So does the variety, with 16 regularly rotating flavors and about 30 toppings, from gummi worms to brownie chunks.
    Must-Order: The nondairy almond vanilla is a house favorite, while the chai is made with Boulder’s own Bhakti.
    Cool Twist: Here’s what Milk & Cake, as the name suggests, does make in-house: cupcakes, in frothy flavors like pink champagne, Dr Pepper with spiced-rum buttercream and almond-poppyseed with lavender frosting.

    6345 E. Hampden Ave., Ste. 103; 303-757-2007

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Nuggs Ice Cream

    Roll up to this vintage-themed creamery in Park Hill for an array of about 26 picks that cheerfully hearken back to movie-theater snack bars, stuffed with gumballs, candy bars and so on.
    Must-Order: The Strawberry Blonde, chock-full of Golden Oreos in a smooth-as-silk play on strawberries and cream.
    Cool Twist: It’s still in the works, but eventually the owners, who also run Brothers BBQ, will be unleashing a gargantuan sundae called the Nuggleberry Split for the competitive eaters among you.

    5135 E. Colfax Ave.; 720-465-9473

  • peteybird

    Peteybird’s adorable, bike-driven pink carts are constantly on the go, popping up at breweries, farmer’s markets and festivals. Finding one means hitting the jackpot of handmade ice cream sandwiches, featuring rich, chewy cookies and charmingly eclectic flavor combinations like the Key lime and graham cracker in the lead image. Better still, you don't have to leave an encounter to chance; along certain routes, you can text the team or send a Tweet to @enjoypeteybird with delivery orders.
    Must-Order: Of eight to 10 rotating varieties, you really can’t go wrong, but the intriguing zing of avocado-mint ice cream between lemon cookies with a shortbreadlike texture may be the hit of the season. Check out the strawberry-jalapeño on sugar cookies (pictured above) too.​
    Cool Twist: Owner Peter Bredemann recently held a social-media contest to yield a new concoction, and will soon unveil the winning entry: peach-ginger with macadamia. “Peaches are sooo delicious right now, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to incorporate them,” he explains

    720-432-2430

  • Photo by: Christopher Cina

    Sweet Action

    Not a week goes by that this Baker institution doesn’t appear on the Best Of list of some national publication or other. Those kudos are hard-earned through limitless creativity, yielding outrageous flavors you won’t find anywhere else: over the years we’ve spotted everything from dark chocolate-edamame to sweet-potato casserole to tomato, green chile and sour cream-chive.
    Must-Order: We’ve long sung the praises of the baklava — and it appears we’re not alone: It just got a nod in Men’s Journal
    Cool Twist: Booze-infused scoops like black licorice-Sambuca or Bénédictine and brandy may be Sweet Action’s strongest claim to fame, however, with local brews from Strange Craft, Renegade, Breckenridge and others popping up in batches on the regular. In fact, owners Sam Kopicko and Chia Basinger host an annual Beer Ice Cream Fest each fall. We’ll be sure to give you the scoop (no pun intended) when it rolls around this year.

    52 Broadway; 303-282-4645

  • Photo by: Christopher Cina

    Sweet Cow

    Each of Drew Honness’s three distinctively blue-accented outlets sport 22 kinds of ice cream and sorbet, running the daily gamut from the traditional to the cheeky. But only the Louisville flagship boasts a full-fledged lawn area, inspiring impromptu neighborhood get-togethers over some of the city’s most ridiculously craveable milkshakes.
    Must-Order: Like Sweet Action, Sweet Cow raises our spirits with such spirits-laced stuff as bourbon-cornflake and Beam and Coke. But we also get a kick out of sorbet spiked with energy drinks (Gatorade, Red Bull).
    Cool Twist: Two words — pretzel cones! 

    3475 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-3269; 2628 Broadway, Boulder, 303-447-3269; 637 Front St., Louisville, 303-666-4269

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