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10 Best Ice Cream Shops Around Philadelphia

By Danya Henninger
July 28, 2014
Photo by: Danya Henninger

When it’s hot out, great ice cream is like a little spoonful of heaven, and the cold, sweet treat has a long history in Philadelphia. The best of the city’s scoop shops carry on that tradition — if not with actual ties to the past, then by using local ingredients and providing family-friendly neighborhood gathering spots. Where will you find these oases of good taste and times? Flip through to find out, along with recommendations on what you’ve gotta try at each one.

  • The Franklin Fountain

    It’s been a full decade since brothers Eric and Ryan Berley first opened the doors to this Colonial throwback dessert and soda parlor, and the regular lines out the door prove it’s become a true Philadelphia icon. These tourists aren’t falling for any trap, because the 20-plus flavors of house-churned cream are as authentic as the tin ceiling and antique cash register.

    Must-Order: Whirly Berley: chocolate ice cream with nougat, housemade salted caramel and cocoa nibs.
    Go Crazy!: The mountainous hot fudge Mt. Vesuvius is probably the best-selling sundae, but we’re suckers for the Lightning Rod, which soups up brownie crumbles with coffee ice cream, a shot of espresso, chocolate-covered beans and a salty pretzel rod beneath swirls of whipped cream.

    116 Market St.; 215-627-1899

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Little Baby’s 

    This zany creamery has come a long way since its 2011 start as a lone tricycle cart roaming the city. Enticed in part by ultraviral YouTube promos, fans come from across the Internet to the Fishtown and West Philly storefronts in search of the dozens upon dozens of flavors of Philadelphia-style (egg yolk-free) creams and bounty of dairy-free vegan alternatives. 

    Must-Order: Cardamom caramel, one of the original three flavors and still going strong.
    Go Crazy!: Pizza ice cream — it’s a thing, and you can get it here. For an even wackier taste experience, get your scoops folded into a slice of a Pizza Brain pie, aka a Frankford Avenue Taco.

    2311 Frankford Ave., 267-687-8567; 4903 Catherine St., 215-291-2100

  • Custard, Cakes & Creamery

    Three generations have guided this roadside institution since its launch in 1955, where candy-dipped soft-serve twists vie with two dozen flavors of housemade hard scoops, all available via drive-thru. Frozen yogurt and water ice round out the menu of cool sweets, joined by savory snacks like hot dogs and soft pretzels.

    Must-Order: Vanilla-orange soft-serve twist.
    Go Crazy!: In late August, before the shop closes for the season, special fall flavors come out, including pumpkin spice cookie and eggnog. Cover scoops of both with butterscotch syrup and whipped cream for a sundae worth a special trip up Ridge Avenue.

    5461 Ridge Ave., Roxborough; 215-487-1920

  • Zwahlen’s

    Named after her Swiss great-grandfather (a dairy farmer), Melanie Low’s dessert shop has been serving house-churned scoops and confections out of its rustic ski lodge-style home since 2004. Along with husband Marty Low, Melanie makes just three main flavors, but the mix-in “Avalanches” let customers blend dozens more to their liking.

    Must-Order: Check the “flavor calendar” and get the specialty of the day (recent options: vanilla with marshmallow and Krispie treats, maple walnut, pineapple upside-down cake).
    Go Crazy!: Bring a friend to help you devour the Tubby Turtle, a pumped-up sundae with caramel and pecans joining the whipped cream and hot fudge.

    670 Shannondell Blvd., Audubon; 610-635-0115

  • Bassetts 

    Was a Philadelphia-area Quaker the first person to start selling scoops of ice cream? That’s the likely story, and Lewis Dubois Bassett's 1860s brainstorm has held up well over the centuries. Even while the 40-plus flavors of the brand are distributed to stores up and down the East Coast (and to China!), the family's fifth-generation descendants still oversee the stand that’s anchored Reading Terminal Market since 1892.

    Must-Order: A scoop of cinnamon ice cream — unexpectedly spicy.
    Go Crazy!: Developed in partnership with WMMR’s Preston & Steve, Guatemalan Ripple mixes Central American coffee-flavored ice cream with a mocha fudge swirl and miniature coffee-filled chocolates. First introduced in 2010, it’s still just as decadent.

    45 N. 12th St.; 215-925-4315

  • Bredenbeck’s

    This Chestnut Hill mainstay has offered baked goods and cold treats from its Victorian storefront since 1889 (it was revamped in 1983), so it’s only appropriate that the couple dozen ice cream flavors are all from another Philadelphia classic: Bassetts. Leave time to ogle the bakers’ specialty wedding cakes when you stop in.

    Must-Order: Ice cream sandwiches with house-baked cookies.
    Go Crazy!: Bakery and creamery in one place = baked goods and ice cream in one cup. Choose a cupcake and have it split in half and divided by a scoop of your choice, all topped off with fresh whipped cream.

    8126 Germantown Ave.; 215-247-7374

  • Weckerly’s

    Rich custard from local eggs forms the base for all 10 or so flavors of Jennifer Satinsky’s French-style ice cream, which she vends with husband Andrew out of West Philly’s Green Line Cafe as well as at area farmer’s markets. Tip: door-to-door pint delivery by bicycle is also available.

    Must-Order: Summer-only Blueberry the Pirate, with Jersey blues, rum and lime.
    Go Crazy!: Swing by the United by Blue coffee-shop-slash-boutique in Old City to try donut ice cream sandwiches — a cool block of Weckerly’s between two sugary rectangular fritters.

    4239 Baltimore Ave.; 215-882-9958

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Capogiro

    With a stock of gelato and sorbetto, do Stephanie and John Reitano’s gelaterias count under the moniker “ice cream shop”? National Geographic thinks so — having named them the No. 1 ice cream spot in the entire world in 2011 — and we certainly have no argument. The array of ever-changing, rich and creamy flavors also helps make the case.

    Must-Order: Dulce de Leche next to ultradark Cioccolato Scuro.
    Go Crazy!: In the summer, avocado is one of the gelato flavors, and its extra-smooth texture is set off perfectly by pairing it with tangy-sweet cilantro sorbetto.

    Multiple locations

  • Avenue Scoop

    Carmen LaRosa opened the doors to her Bella Vista scoop shop in the dead of winter last year, but the chill couldn’t dampen the success of her neighborhood creamery, which serves Breyers ice cream and custard alongside breakfast sandwiches from morning till late night.

    Must-Order: The “Little C Special,” an ice cream-filled cannoli shell.
    Go Crazy!: Did we mention the shop also sells Belgian waffles? It’s important, because they form the base for a super-sundae special, layered with slices of banana, Nutella, two scoops and whipped cream.

    932 E. Passyunk ​Ave.; 267-319-1808

  • Chester Springs Creamery

    It’s worth the 45-minute drive out to this fourth-generation family dairy farm, where you can take a tour and see the cows that made the very ice cream on the cone you’re licking. The Matthews family opened the ice cream stand back in 2001, and its 35 flavors are each named after a member of the herd. 

    Must-Order: Bessie’s Black Raspberry.
    Go Crazy!: You’ll have to wait until fall for this, but when the leaves begin to change, head out to get a scoop of pumpkin ice cream paired with a fresh-baked apple cider donut. Everything, from milk to apples to pumpkins, comes from that very site.

    521 East Uwchlan Ave., Chester Springs; 610-827-1484

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Places Mentioned

Capogiro

Ice Cream Shop • East Passyunk Crossing

Food26 Decor16 Service21 Cost$8
 
 
 
Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Ice Cream Shop • Washington Square West

Food26 Decor16 Service21 Cost$8
 
 
 
Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Ice Cream Shop • Rittenhouse Square

Food26 Decor16 Service21 Cost$8
 
 
 
Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Ice Cream Shop • Spruce Hill

Food26 Decor16 Service21 Cost$8
 
 
 
The Franklin Fountain

Ice Cream Shop • Old City

Food25 Decor23 Service22 Cost$11
 
 
 
 
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