U-Scream Ice Cream & Treatery
Located in the U Street corridor, U-Scream offers a refreshingly no fuss option. The space is uncluttered and filled with bright, primary colors (check out the ceiling, it's Mondrian-esque). U-Scream's ice cream is smooth and creamy, without added bits or texture. Offerings include cheesecake and carrot cake, but red velvet cake is the popular choice.
Max's Best Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop
At this charming shop located in Glover Park, you'll usually find Max himself behind the counter. Owned and operated by Max (and until her passing earlier this year, his wife, making it a true mom and pop shop), Max's offers a daily selection of around 30 flavors from a rotating list of 200. Favorites include the orange chocolate chip and graham cracker honey. Whereas other restaurants plaster their walls with celebrity patrons, Max's takes the infinitely more endearing route of adorning its walls with pictures of all the children that have visited. If you visit Max's, you'll find it's impossible not to have your pants charmed right off by both Max and his confections.
Max's Best Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop 2416 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 (map 202-333-3111
Thomas Sweet in Georgetown has a very old fashioned, hometown feel. It's one of the oldest and most well regarded ice cream shops in town (with a few Obama visits to its name), and it should definitely be on your list. There are over 40 flavors on hand on any given day, including interesting choices like "coffee heath bar" and "heavenly hash." The "cookie monster" (pictured) has bits of snicker doodle, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin cookies. If you still need some help achieving a diabetic coma after the ice cream, Thomas Sweet is also a fudge shop.
Cone E Island
Located in a small shopping mall in Foggy Bottom near the GW campus, Cone E Island endeavors to recreate the boardwalk feel of a Coney Island ice cream shop. It's largely accomplished with garish neon lights and a table top Metal Slug (!) arcade machine. Offering the usual assortment of flavors (and myriad toppings), the eponymous Cone E Island ice cream (pictured) is a throwback to the original Coney Island flavor. A blend of vanilla and butterscotch with brownie and peanut butter cup bits, it's the closest thing to being by the beach in the middle of DC this side of the NY Avenue Beach Bar.
We gave you a first look into Sugar Magnolia a couple of weeks ago, but this list wouldn't be complete without it. Offering inventive takes on the ice cream sandwich, including one with maple bacon ice cream and waffles, Sugar Magnolia is a great place to grab a cold treat in Cleveland Park.
Larry's Ice Cream
Located just north of Dupont Circle in a basement space, Larry's offers a wide array of eclectic, homemade flavors. The "Jack on the Rocks" (pictured) is a popular choice that mixes Jack Daniels and chocolate. Larry's detractors usually decry the occasionally poor service, but that doesn't take away from the quality of the ice cream. The best part of Larry's is how thick the ice cream is, almost to the point of being able to chew it.
Forgetting, for a moment, the absurdity of the $1,000 "Golden Opulence" sundae and the fever pitch of hype surrounding the Serendipity restaurants, Serendipity 3 in Georgetown offers some excellent ice cream sundaes in an old fashioned parlor setting. It's great if you're in the mood for something a little (or a lot) more elaborate and constructed. While a bit pricier than the other shops, you do get what you pay for. The "Can't Say No" sundae (pictured) contains a slice of the "humble pie" (which may or may not actually contain an entire jar of peanut butter per slice) and vanilla and coffee ice cream. It's a behemoth and extremely decadent (not $1,000 decadent though), but definitely satisfies the itch if you've got it.