Marionberry and Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream at Bluebird
Bluebird is the ultimate ice cream hangout in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. There are board games to play and books and magazines to read. You can plop down on comfy couches and chairs, or try the less comfy church pew leftover from the previous tenant: the Church of the Undignified. And, oh, the ice cream! Snickerdoodle and Peanut Butter are two favorites, but I like the combination of Olympia Marionberry, local and tart, with Chocolate Pudding, incredibly rich and fudgy ($5.50 for two scoops in a waffle cone). It’s like eating chocolate covered berries.
Bananza and Red Velvet Ice Cream at Cupcake Royale
The new kid on the ice cream block (and sure to draw in kids of all ages) is Cupcake Royale, which just opened a bakeshop and ice creamery close to Pike Place Market. Capitalizing on the cupcake craze, and with a little consulting from Salt & Straw of Portland, Royale has created a few ice cream flavors containing ice cream, as well as some they call “bakeshop inspired.” I recommend trying one of each. Pictured is Bananza, with bursts of roasted banana flavor, caramel, rum, and chewy chunks of chocolate brownie. Along with this is Red Velvet ice cream, with cream cheese in the base and then whole cupcakes, frosting and all, added during extraction. My scoops come in—what else?—a red velvet cone ($6.75 for a double-scoop in the waffle cone).
A Trio of Gelato Flavors at D'Ambrosio
D’Ambrosio Gelato has taken the town by storm with its fresh-made gelato, now with a second location in the restaurant-heavy Pike-Pine corridor. You’ll find sorbet in the showcase, but I recommend the gelato ($4.95 for a medium, which includes 1-3 flavors). Secrets to success here include high quality ingredients and meticulous preparation. Pictured, clockwise starting at the top, is my top recommendation: Pistacchio di Bronte. Made with the finest imported (Bronte) pistachios, it’s full of flavor—nutty, creamy, and perfectly sweet. In the Marscarpone, Fichi and Caramello, the fig and caramel shine in a rather rich base. Lastly, the lemon and ginger (fresh, with painstaking preparation to remove the fibers) of the Zenzero & Limone provide a sharp, citrusy finale that’s refreshing.
Strawberry Sorbet and Lemon Grisbi Gelato at Fainting Goat
Using organic milk and sugar is Fainting Goat’s claim to fame for its gelato. Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood seems to agree, as long lines continually delayed my first visit to this little shop. Fainting Goat turns out 18 flavors of gelato and sorbetto daily, and I recommend getting one of each.
Pictured ($3.75 for a small, with two flavors) is Strawberry Sorbet, which takes advantage of seasonal fruit, and Lemon Grisbi Gelato, where lemon curd and shortbread cookie crisps contribute texture. I find Fainting Goat’s gelato to be a little creamier than D’Ambrosio’s, though slightly more subtle in its flavors.
Ballard Bee Honey Ice Cream and Raspberry Sorbet at Parfait
Parfait’s slogan is “Small batch. Made from scratch.” This is ice cream from a food truck, but it’s perhaps my favorite “simple” ice cream in town. Its custard base is 100% organic—with no corn syrup, no added stabilizers, and no preservatives. Plus, the ingredients are locally sourced. Mint Stracciatella is my favorite, made from fresh spearmint leaves that give it a natural, refreshing taste. From an ever-changing menu board, pictured ($5 for two scoops) is Raspberry Sorbet, with its perky pink color and tangy taste, and Ballard Bee Honey, which is seductively smooth with hints of locally harvested honey. You can find the Parfait truck at area farmers markets and other locations. (Check the Twitter or Facebook feeds for details.)
Mocha and Molasses Ice Cream Sandwich at Street Treats
Street Treats is perhaps the sweetest of Seattle’s food trucks. They make a wide variety of bars and cookies, and add in homemade ice cream and you’ve got the makings for some delicious Ice Cream Sandwiches ($5.00). (Street Treats also does cookies sandwiches without ice cream, using fillings like peanut butter, cream cheese, and caramel.) Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Ice Cream is a classic, but I recommend trying the Molasses Cookies with Mocha Ice Cream. The soft, chewy cookies grip the ice cream well, with the deep, sugary flavor of the molasses penetrating the mocha for what feels like an adult dessert.
Street Treats: Various addresses (food truck); twitter.com/streettreatswa; streettreatswa.com
Mount Olympus at Peaks Frozen Custard
Peaks Frozen Custard brings Wisconsin to Washington in a winning way with its classic custard. It’s a little denser than typical soft-serve ice cream, with extra egg yolk and butterfat (and less air) yielding a texture that’s thick and creamy. On the tongue, you’ll notice that the frozen custard is slightly warmer than ice cream and seductively smooth. Peaks puts out chocolate, vanilla and a special, or two per day (producing each custard at least every two hours), and is a casual spot to hang out. I believe the vanilla flavor is best. This is the Mount Olympus ($5), topped with homemade fudge sauce, a candy-like combination of caramel and pecans, and whipped cream with a cherry.
Blue Moon and Ube Ice Cream at Full Tilt
Full Tilt is simply a fun place for ice cream, especially if you go to the White Center location. It’s got a vintage feel, with old arcade games galore. And it’s here that you can score root beer and alcoholic beer floats, as well as paletas (Latin American ice pops) in flavors like Mango Chile and Horchata. While debate continues whether White Center is actually part of Seattle, I keep this list Seattle proper by showcasing the University District location, where you can find a two-scooper ($3.50) like mine. On the left is Blue Moon, a “secret” flavor from the Midwest. (Full Tilt will only say that it’s like “frooty cereal.”) On the right is their popular Ube, made from Filipino sweet potatoes, tasting a little like a taro bubble tea drink turned ice cream.
Rhubarb Sorbet and Cappuccino Ice Cream at Half Pint
Half Pint scoops ice cream at just a handful of Seattle’s farmers markets, and it’s well worth seeking out while shopping for your fruits and vegetables. Owner-operated, this little cart puts out big flavors. You can get pints to go, but for more immediate satisfaction, get a cone or a cup. Pictured ($5.00 for a double scoop) underneath the patriotic cone is Rhubarb Sorbet, with just the fresh fruit and simple syrup combining for seasonal tartness. Below that is Cappuccino, smooth and soothing, made with coarsely ground Victrola coffee beans steeped in milk, and finished with a touch of cinnamon.
Husky Flake at Husky Deli
Husky Deli in West Seattle is a favorite dating back to 1932. You can buy local products like smoked salmon and berry jam, a purple sweatshirt with the University of Washington’s Husky mascot, licorice and gummies from the candy shop, coffee (of course, as it’s Seattle), and a made-to-order sandwich. And what you can’t avoid is the ice cream counter by the front door. Pictured is Husky Flake ($3 for a single scoop), made with French vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips. It’s fairly traditional stuff, but it’s great to sit on swiveling stools in the window, watching the world go by.
Shaved Ice at Little Uncle
Little Uncle is a Thai-style street food vendor serving a small number of dishes a day. Summertime is when they break out an old-fashioned shaved ice maker and put Nam Keng Sai ($5.50) on the menu. Walk up to the window, place your order, and they’ll shave the ice in front of you, adding coconut syrup and seasonal fruit. Here’s mine with lychee, jackfruit, and rhubarb. The freshness of the fruit is what makes the shaved ice especially delicious. It’s fun to watch the preparation, and even better to eat it—especially on a hot day.