The Best Ice Cream Sundaes in the Country

The sundae is an iconic dessert: scoops of ice cream blanketed in hot fudge with whipped cream and a cherry on top. But its classic status hasn't kept chefs from adding everything from doughnuts to potato chip crumbles to this tried-and-true treat.

January 28, 2020

Bumpity Bliss Sundae at Sanders, Rochester, Michigan

Anyone from Michigan knows Sanders for its hot fudge and its iconic Bumpy Cake. The hot fudge is legendary, thick and rich and always made from high-quality ingredients. The Bumpy Cake is known for its ridged chocolate frosting with cream piped underneath each ridge to form bumps. Pair these two icons together with vanilla ice cream and you have the Bumpity Bliss Sundae — a true taste of Sanders history. (Locations throughout Michigan.)

Deep-Fried Brownie Sundae at Puckett’s Grocery, Chattanooga, Tennessee

This sundae at Puckett's is not for the faint of heart. The base itself is indulgent — a brownie that's mixed with a triple-threat cookie (with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter chips) and then deep-fried. Piled on top are scoops of vanilla ice cream, plus bits of toasted pecans, candied bacon, and chocolate and caramel sauces. You can add to your enjoyment by listening to the live music that this Tennessee staple has become known for. (Additional locations throughout Tennessee.)

C.C. Brown’s Sundae at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills, California

Most people go to Lawry’s for the prime rib and the restaurant's deep-rooted history, but few know that part of that great history is a hot fudge sundae. C.C. Brown is thought to have invented the hot fudge sundae at his downtown Los Angeles ice cream shop. In the 1920s he moved to Hollywood, where he acquired a huge celebrity following. Today Lawry’s owns the C.C. Brown brand and still produces hot fudge the original way — in copper kettles. C.C. Brown's Sundae is presented royally, in a silver goblet with vanilla ice cream, roasted almonds and homemade whipped cream. The hot fudge comes in a sidecar to offer guests the experience of pouring it right out of the pitcher. (Additional locations in Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas.)

Coffee & Donuts Sundae at Swift & Sons, Chicago

Two classic treats — coffee and doughnuts, and a hot fudge sundae — collide to make this ultra-special treat at one of Chicago’s chicest steakhouses. Move over, vanilla: Coffee ice cream and doughnut ice cream make up the base of this sundae with mini doughnuts scattered throughout. Top it with a coffee fudge sauce, sprinkles, whipped cream and a cherry, and you have a tasty (and super-cute) finish to your meal.

Macadamia Nut Sundae at Harry Waugh Dessert Room at Bern’s Steak House, Tampa, Florida

You know a steakhouse takes dessert seriously when it has its own dedicated dessert room. One of the classic desserts here is the Macadamia Nut Sundae, made with macadamia nut ice cream that took the kitchen seven years to perfect. The ice cream is packed into a homemade waffle cone bowl and covered in hot fudge, whipped cream and roasted macadamia nuts for crunch.

Campfire Sundae at Rally Pizza, Vancouver, Washington

Come for the pizza, but stay for the dessert at this Pacific Northwest spot where a husband-and-wife duo split the menu between savory (him) and sweet (her). They’ve developed their own vanilla bean frozen custard and designed a ton of fun ice cream treats around the dense and creamy base. A favorite is the Campfire Sundae, a twist on the classic s’mores: Frozen custard is topped with chocolate fudge sauce, graham cracker crumbs and torched homemade marshmallows.

Topsy Sundae at Chaney’s Dairy Bar, Bowling Green, Kentucky

When the weather allows it, you can actually tour the farm and watch the cows being milked at this Kentucky spot — or you can opt to dive directly into its farm-fresh ice cream. Don’t shy away from going big. The Topsy Sundae is full of hidden treats, starting with two scoops of Cow Tracks ice cream (vanilla with Snickers and a caramel swirl) embellished with ribbons of hot caramel and hot fudge, and topped with two warm chocolate chip cookies, crushed Snickers, peanuts, whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Vegan Brownie Sundae at Vegenation, Las Vegas

No dairy, no problem. Vegenation's vegan sundae is so delish that you wouldn’t even know it had no milk or cream in it. It starts with a homemade black bean brownie that’s topped with a vegan ice cream from local and artisanal ice cream shop Nourish Creamery. The sundae is rounded out with a few caramelized bananas, coconut shreds and fresh berries on top and then is served in a bowl with a sprinkled rim.

Lava Tube at Lappert’s Hawaii, Oahu, Hawaii

When in Hawaii, why not indulge in a volcanic sundae at this island favorite? The Lava Tube overflows with beloved flavors: vanilla bean and macadamia nut ice creams, caramel, homemade hot fudge, whipped cream, macadamia nuts and a waffle cone fan.

Magic Negra Sundae at Chocobar Corte, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Chocolate takes center stage at this Old San Juan restaurant where even savory dishes like croquettes and salmon include a chocolate element. It’s no surprise, because the Cortes family that owns this restaurant also owns a bean-to-bar chocolate factory. The ice cream sundae on the menu here — Magic Negra (Black Magic) — contains 70% dark chocolate ice cream (made by a local purveyor), coconut ice cream, pineapple marshmallows, crunchy coconut, a gluten-free coconut cake, and a chocolate sauce made with 100% cocoa.

Salted Pretzel Brownie Sundae, Adele’s Nashville, Tennessee

This seasonal restaurant, named after Chef Jonathan Waxman’s late mother, is known for its locally sourced comfort food, but it has a dessert you definitely don’t want to pass by. This indulgent sundae is made with a warm salted-pretzel brownie topped with stracciatella gelato and crowned with caramel and chopped hazelnuts.

Chocolate Nut Sundae at Leopold’s, Savannah, Georgia

Since 1919 this Savannah institution has been serving up ice cream with the same recipe. And when in Georgia, it only makes sense to order a sundae with local pecans on it. The chocolate nut sundae here fills the bill with a classic sundae build: vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, a cherry and those prized pecans.

Avalanche Sundae at Burlock Coast, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

This waterfront restaurant focuses on seafood for dinner, but when it comes to dessert, creativity reigns supreme. There are many dessert choices, it’s hard to ignore the giant Avalanche Sundae, with a trifecta of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, salted caramel and chocolate sauces, chunks of pineapple, brownie bites and toasted marshmallow.

Spring Sundae at Melt, Fort Worth, Texas

You never know what kind of ice cream you may find at this Texas small-batch ice cream shop where flavors are always changing with the seasons. The same goes for the sundae, which rotates four times a year. The spring rendition is made with three scoops of your choosing, plus Meyer lemon marmalade, a drizzle of thyme butterscotch and tons of blueberry buttermilk crumbles.

Hot Fudge Sundae at Savona, Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania

Just outside of downtown Philadelphia is a great place to indulge in a menu that skews Italian with lots of pizzas, pastas and vegetables. Don’t overindulge in those items, though, because the sundae here is worth saving room for. It includes homemade vanilla and chocolate gelato, a banana grilled over local hardwood, Fabbri amarena cherries, wet walnuts, whipped cream and rich, dark 64% hot fudge.

Bourbon Ball Sundae at Crank & Boom, Lexington, Kentucky

Since Lexington, the world's horse capital, is arguably its bourbon capital as well, it’s no surprise to see a bourbon sundae pop up in an ice cream shop here. This small-batch shop in the Distillery District mixes Buffalo Trace bourbon and honey for the ice cream and tops it with chocolate bombe sauce and pecans for a perfect sweet and boozy taste of Lexington.

Frozen Nachos at Wild Scoops, Anchorage, Alaska

Summers in Alaska may be fleeting, but that doesn’t mean residents and visitors can’t enjoy ice cream year-round. This microcreamery pulls in the best ingredients Alaska has to offer, with flavors like Mint Chocolate Fleck, made with locally grown mint and locally roasted Black Cup coffee. Pick three flavors of your choice for the Frozen Nachos, a sundae made with homemade chocolate fudge, birch chipotle nuts and whipped cream and served on chips cut from cinnamon-star anise waffle cones.

Sundae Cart at Greene Street Kitchen, Las Vegas

In Vegas, sundaes follow the same rule as everything else: The more over-the-top, the better. This sundae trolley at Greene Street Kitchen is an adult version of a make-your-own-sundae bar with sophisticated toppings like brown-butter bourbon caramel sauce, cookie butter whipped cream and housemade candied peanuts. Each trolley comes with three homemade sauces, two whipped creams, plenty of fun toppings and the ice cream flavors of your choice!

The Ribbon Room Sundae at The Ribbon Room, Nashville, Tennessee

This downtown Nashville complex offers a wide-ranging menu of fun activities, from axe throwing to rooftop cocktails. Its main restaurant, The Ribbon Room, serves up American classics, including a candy shop-inspired sundae. Three classic scoops — chocolate, vanilla and strawberry — are topped with caramel, hot fudge, whipped cream, toffee bits, peanut butter cups, crushed Oreos and rainbow sprinkles for a scrumptious flashback sundae.

Fudgeanna Sundae at Fenton’s Creamery, Oakland, California

Some people head to Fenton’s for its famous crab sandwich, but the sundaes are where it’s at. Everything is made on-site; the kitchen uses cream from Crystal creamery in Modesto as well as Madagascar vanilla in the vanilla ice cream, and iconic Guittard chocolate in the hot fudge. Even their almonds are roasted specifically for Fenton's. One of the most-famous sundaes here is the Fudgeanna: Hot fudge and a whole banana are layered between two scoops of ice cream and then topped with whipped cream, those special almonds and a maraschino cherry.

The Turtle Sundae at Margie’s Candies, Chicago

This spot is a true Chicago institution. You’ll find chocolate candies galore, but don’t let them distract you from your mission of cozying up in a booth and getting serious about the ice cream Margie's has been serving up since the 1920s. The Turtle Sundae features both hot fudge and caramel sauce made from passed-down family recipes, as well as nuts, cherries and whipped cream. It's simple, delightful and always a favorite.

Creole Strawberry Sundae at Creole Creamery, New Orleans

You could go the typical sundae route at this NOLA ice cream shop, but when in southern Lousiana, indulge as you can nowhere else. The Creole Strawberry Sundae is made with Creole cream cheese ice cream, an old-school New Orleans flavor made with farmer cheese, which has a texture somewhere between cottage cheese and creme fraiche. The sundae here is topped with fresh Louisiana strawberries, whipped cream and a cherry. It's a true taste of the city.

Hot Fudge Sundae at Cream, Denver

The key to the perfect hot fudge sundae here is adding one of Cream's signature fresh-baked cookies to the mix. From there it’s up to you — choose from over two dozen flavors, such as Blueberry Cheesecake or Birthday Cake, and select toppings from a list of more than a dozen, including Fruity Pebbles, Nutella and gummy bears. Top them with hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry to complete your own perfect sundae. (Locations in California, Nevada, Colorado and Florida.)

Sandcastle Sundae at Sloan’s Ice Cream, West Palm Beach, Florida

This fun and colorful ice cream shop serves up creations that are just as vibrant as the decor. It’s hard to choose one sundae here, but if we had to pick, it would be the Sandcastle Sundae. This beachy treat is served in a real sand pail complete with shovel. The pail is filled with a chocolate chip cookie on the bottom, five scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, wet walnuts, two dry toppings of your choice and lots of whipped cream and cherries. It’s garnished with a fun pair of sunglasses and other seaside accoutrements. (Locations in Florida, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.)

Unicorn Sundae at Small Batch, Los Angeles

Top Chef winner Brooke Williams and husband Nick Roberts are known for their fun South Bay concepts, and Small Batch is no different. This small-batch ice cream shop is full of fun flavors like Cereal Killer (with a rotating cereal), Elvis and Dark Chocolate Chip. The Unicorn sundae combines 10 scoops of your choice along with eight toppings (there are 150 to choose from, so it won’t be easy), all garnished with plenty of whipped cream, hot fudge and a cherry, plus a sprinkle-topped "uni cone." This dessert is meant to be shared among friends!

Loaded Hot Fudge Sundae at Conner’s Kitchen and Bar, Indianapolis

This Naptown bar and kitchen isn’t the first place you’d think to go for an ice cream sundae, but it’s worth a visit! The "loaded" hot fudge sundae is everything you'd want it to be, starting with a palette of chocolate and French vanilla ice cream on which you can create the sundae of your dreams. It’s served with 12 mix-ins, including gummy bears, marshmallows, Oreos and sprinkles, and you can add others to your heart's delight. Your masterpiece will also be topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

Salted Caramel Sundae at BLT Prime, New York City

Steakhouses are often home to incredible desserts, and the newest addition to the BLT family is no exception. Indulge in a big steak, but save room for the salted caramel sundae, made with both vanilla and dark chocolate ice cream, topped with a hazelnut potato chip crumble, drizzled with caramel and topped with hot fudge. It will satisfy all your sweet and salty cravings.

Zoe’s Sundae at Zoe’s Ice Cream Barn, Lagrangeville, New York

This Hudson Valley ice cream spot boasts that its ice cream gets from cow to cone in three days, meaning the scoops you get are ultra-fresh! In fact, every dairy item here is ultra-fresh, including the whipped cream. So, go ahead and splurge on the signature Zoe sundae, a feast for the whole family with 10 scoops of your choice of flavors and a little bit of everything from the barn: cone pieces, hot fudge, freshly whipped cream, sprinkles, Oreos and more.

Half and Half at Jaxson’s Ice Cream, Dania Beach, Florida

No trip to southern Florida is complete without a visit to Jaxson’s, a shop that's been slinging some of the best ice cream creations in the region since the 1950s. Today this funky institution is a well-known destination for massive desserts like the Half and Half sundae: any two of your favorite flavors paired with half butterscotch sauce and half hot fudge, garnished with toasted almonds, whipped cream and a cherry, and served with sidecars of the two sauces.

Tin Roof Sundae at The Potter Sundry, Potter, Nebraska

This small Nebraska town may not be widely known, but once you’ve had the Tin Roof sundae, it will be on your radar for life. Served at local soda fountain The Potter Sundry since 1916, it has won countless fans with generous scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup and marshmallow cream (often dripping down the sides of the parfait glass), and a smattering of nuts on top.

Mt. Vesuvius Sundae at The Franklin Fountain, Philadelphia

This newer-school soda fountain channels the ice cream fountains of yesteryear with classic ingredients, old-time decor and classic ice cream parlor service. The Mt. Vesuvius is an eruption of flavors: Chocolate or vanilla ice cream is piled on top of brownies, topped with a layer of hot fudge and malt powder "ash," and crowned with a dollop of whipped cream.

Dirt Sundae at Moomers in Traverse City, Michigan

There’s something extra delicious about getting ice cream from a farm — you know it’s going to be fresh. This shop in the cherry capital of the world makes over 160 flavors of ice cream, including favorites such as Cherries Moobilee, a black cherry ice cream with halved sweet cherries, fudgy brownie pieces and a chocolate swirl. The flavor works well in the Dirt Sundae, a throwback to the childhood pudding dessert. Here the ice cream is layered with crushed Oreo cookies and topped with gummy worms, whipped cream and a local Traverse City maraschino cherry.

Bob Feller Ballpark Sundae at Sweet Moses, Cleveland

This sundae, which started as an opening-day special and later made the roster at the Sweet Moses stand at Progressive Field, became so popular that it’s now on the daily menu at the shop. The ballpark sundae, named for Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, is inspired by Cracker Jacks. Scoops of homemade salted French caramel ice cream sit on top of housemade caramel corn, and the creation is topped with homemade hot fudge, more crunchy caramel corn and Spanish peanuts, whipped cream and a cherry — and served with the shop's signature touch for all its sundaes, a pretzel on the spoon.

Kitchen Sink Sundae at Churn, Phoenix

With candy, cookies, ice cream and throwback toys, this spot is a dream for both kids and kids at heart. Don’t bypass the ice cream sundaes, specifically the Kitchen Sink, filled with tons of goodness. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream is drizzled with toffee sauce and topped with chocolate pretzels, butterscotch chips, whipped cream and a smattering of peanuts.

El Vez Sundae at El Vez, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

This is a fun spot to indulge in Baja cuisine, with plenty of tacos, ceviche and guacamole, as well as an unexpected treat — the signature ice cream sundae. This sundae takes all the goodness of a regular hot fudge sundae and gives it a twist. Made with Mexican vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled with cajeta (Mexican caramel sauce) and topped with chile chocolate brownie pieces and a handful of peanuts, it’s sure to be the perfect end to the meal.

Sundae Nachos at Hearth and Hill, Park City, Utah

This Park City spot fills up hungry skiers and locals with its creative takes on American food, including the dessert menu. The Sundae Nachos, composed of fluffy chocolate waffles, bananas, fresh berries, pizzelle cookies, coconut almond ice cream, hot fudge, caramel sauce, almonds and whipped cream, are a fine ending to a dinner but could also be a decadent breakfast.

Ultimate Sundae at Ultimate Ice Cream, Asheville, North Carolina

Two social workers met, got married and...started an ice cream shop! Maybe it's not the expected ending to the story, but it's the way Kevin and Lucia Barnes chose to serve their community. Homemade small small-batch ice cream is their focus, but they’ve found plenty of ways to give back as well, like their Flavor of the Month program, which benefits a different local nonprofit each month. You can feel good eating flavors like Goat Cheese Bing Cherry, made with local dairy, or Brown Sugar Maple Bacon, made with local bacon. The sundaes are fabulous as well — the Barneses make their toppings in-house, including freshly toasting the coconut and nuts.

More from: