America's 25 Most Outrageous Ice Cream Treats
We all scream for ice cream, whether in cups and cones, or macarons and cotton candy burritos.
Photo By: Photo: Jon Pham
Photo By: Photo: Emily B. Hall
Snack Machine at PDQ, Tampa, Florida
The menu may read like a greatest hits list of fast food staples, but there’s a reason Tampa’s PDQ stands for People Dedicated to Quality. Made-to-order meals incorporate ingredients from small businesses such as Christie’s Cookies: whose products find their way into a handspun specialty shake called The Snack Machine, along with crushed Oreos, potato chips, toffee bits, mini M&Ms, Sour Patch Kids and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, finished with a cloud of fresh whipped cream.
Ultimate Sundae at Sweet Republic, Scottsdale, Arizona
Can a four-scoop sundae ever be considered virtuous? It’s nearly possible at this duo of eco-conscious, locally minded shops in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona. The shops are committed to local and sustainable, including table tops made of sorghum stalks, and paneling formed from bamboo pulp (both renewable resources), and milk and cream from independent Arizona farms, to serve with mix-ins and toppings that are homemade whenever possible. The four-scoop Ultimate Sundae is propped on a quarter-pound chocolate chip-walnut-oatmeal cookie, along with brownies, almond-toffee brittle, hot fudge, salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and mounds of roasted marshmallow for a frozen feel-good result.
"Churro-Ly We Can Taco 'Bout It" Freak Frappe at Boston Burger Co., Boston
While a burger and shake is a consummately American meal, the average diner may have trouble downing both at Boston Burger Co, where options include a monster patty (such as the Pigferno, with beer battered onion rings, American cheese, and habanero barbecue pulled pork), and the fittingly named freak frappes. The churro-themed frappe is a dulce de leche-flavored leviathan, affixed with churros, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a Choco Taco.
Fruity Pebble French Macarons at Milk Sugar Love, Jersey City, New Jersey
This Jersey City parlor celebrates ice cream in its purest form, made from little more than milk, sugar and love. Not that they’re above adding a bit of fun into the mix, as evidenced by their whimsical take on an ice cream sandwich; two airy French macarons, cradling Fruity Pebbles ice cream, and rolled in a dusting of neon Fruity Pebbles for good measure.
Cotton Candy Ice Cream Burrito at Milk Tavern, Los Angeles
L.A.’s Instagram game is especially strong, buoyed by the social media magnetism of this poofy, unicorn-colored, cotton candy burrito, folded around an ice cream filling and candy and/or sugared cereal toppings.
Drumstick Parfait at Trove, Seattle
Featuring Korean flavors as a through line, Seattle’s ambitious Trove complex is divided into four spaces. There’s a barbecue joint, a noodle shop, a beer bar and a confectionary corner, where you’ll find delectable, mason jar parfaits like the Drumstick, which is composed of black sesame ice cream, waffle cone chips, miso caramel pudding and peanuts.
Kitchen Sink at Jaxson's, Dania, Florida
This old-timey restaurant and ice cream parlor has created a giant sundae that includes everything AND the kitchen sink (a sink-shaped vessel to hold the massive ice cream bonanza). Available to parties of four or more, and charged per person, the dish changes based on the whims of the scoopers, but includes several dozen scoops of ice cream, plus all the toppings, with sparklers.
Yummi Buns at The Yummi Bunni, Fort Wayne, Indiana
A Fort Wayne, Indiana, favorite, Yummi Bunni’s captivating calling card is glazed donut ice cream sandwiches called Yummi Buns. Split pastries are packed to the brim with cookie dough, horchata or green tea scoops, and garnished with pretzels, Oreo pieces, Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares and more (even allergy-plagued eaters can get in on the action, thanks to the addition of gluten-free buns and dairy-free 'scream).
New Yorker Shake at Beyond Sweet, St. Louis
It’s like a year-round state fair at St. Louis’ Beyond Sweet, a veritable carnival of funnel cakes, fried Twinkies and out-of-bound milkshakes such as The New Yorker, furnished with an entire, indulgent wedge of strawberry cheesecake.
Sideshow Shakes at Coney Waffle, Belmar, New Jersey
Inspired by his grandmother’s 1940s-era Coney Island concession stand, the enterprising Joe D’Esposito set up shop on the Jersey Shore, actually using his nonna’s ancient, treasured wafflemaker to crank out Coney Waffles (folded, hot dog-style, around ice cream), cannoli waffles and waffle cones. And he’s further added to his family legacy with a series of media-baiting, two-foot-tall Sideshow Shakes, adorned with everything from gummy candies to chocolate covered pretzels to — unsurprisingly — ice cream waffle sandwiches.
Captains Breakfast Ice Cream Sandwich at Creamistry, Irvine, California
Recently expanded to New York, this Cali-based company uses liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze made-to-order ice cream right in front of their customers’ eyes. And if that wasn’t show boaty enough, the scoops can be further customized thanks to 20+ flavors, 25+ toppings and beyond-cup options such as chocolate bowls and ice cream sandwiches; featuring cookie discs forged from sugared cereal.
Kawaii Sundae at Kawaii Kitty Cafe, Philadelphia
It’s tough to out-cute the adoptable felines at Philly’s Kawaii Kitty Cafe. But the menu items also score high on the utterly adorable scale; think pastel sundaes and shakes, scattered with candy, butterfly sprinkles, cat-themed trading cards, and of course, mini Hello Kitties.
Freak Shakes at My Fair Sweets, Atlanta
Though primarily a bakery, this Atlanta-based business has attracted plenty of attention for its off-the-wall lineup of Freak Shakes, making it a sweet-tooth-satiating pit stop for local celebs and eager Instagrammers alike. Needless to say, whipped cream is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toppings, which include red velvet cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream cones and teetering stacks of donuts.
9-Pound Banana Split at The Poky Dot, Fairmont, West Virginia
West Virginians up for a challenge make a beeline for the 1950’s-era Poky Dot, home of the towering 9-Pound Banana Split. The challenge allows up to two people to demolish the behemoth in an unspecified time limit (but in one sitting), down to every last peanut, strawberry ice cream puddle, dribble of chocolate sauce, whipped cream droplet and sprinkle.
Breakfast Taco at TacoSweets, Austin, Texas
Austin is well known for its breakfast tacos, but this dessert destination might be the only spot where they come with vanilla ice cream, Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Loops, Cap’n Crunch with berries and blue funfetti syrup, as opposed to eggs, meat and cheese.
Doughnut Ice Cream Cone at Dough
It’s become increasingly commonplace to use divided donuts instead of cookies in ice cream sandwiches. But the sugar-fueled sister to Tampa’s Datz actually molds their dough into swirled, sturdy cones, packed with handcrafted ice cream and all the fixings.
S'mores Ice Cream at Cauldron, Santa Ana, California
A frozen campfire, this summery flavor tops chocolate ice cream with crumbled graham cracker and a torched marshmallow. Get it in a pressed-to-order puffle cone for the full over-the-top experience.
Mauna Loa at Volcano Shakes, Honolulu
Leave it to a Hawaiian island ice cream shop to name its shakes after volcanos. Overflowing from their glasses and erupting with flavor, the Haleakala (a veritable lava flow of red velvet shake, red velvet cupcakes and swiss roll cake), the St. Helen’s (a black and white shake surmounted with chocolate chip cookies and ice cream cookie sandwiches) and the Mauna Loa (an espresso milkshake served affogato-style, and crested with donuts and biscotti) lure crowds from around the island.
Dill Pickle Shake at Scotty' s Drive-In, Bismarck, North Dakota
This honest-to-goodness drive-in has been plying the denizens of Bismarck, North Dakota with all-American eats (sloppy joes, corn dogs, burgers) at recession-era prices since 1965. But that doesn’t mean that they’re stubbornly stuck in the past. In fact, Scotty’s decided to take a chance on their patrons by debuting a pickle juice-infused shake (crowned with a briny chip) in the summer of 2017, and it quickly cemented itself as a menu staple, riding high alongside more expected options such as vanilla, chocolate and coffee.
Café Liégeois at OddFellows Ice Cream Co.
If iced coffee is your primary summertime indulgence, kick it up a few notches at Brooklyn’s reliably unexpected Oddfellows. They’ll provide a sugar high to go with your caffeine kick courtesy of the Café Liégeois; espresso, coffee crunch ice cream, whipped cream and coffee soil.
Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwich at The Mockingbird, Nashville
Nashville’s finer diner serves up Southern comfort classics with a contemporary twist — think pot pie with truffle butter, and fried chicken with chorizo gravy on the supper menu, and doughnut ice cream sandwiches, boozy "Tropic Thunder" shakes with mango liqueur, and a blueberry sage compote sundae with liquid cheesecake amongst desserts.
Sundae of Champions at CREAM, Berkeley, California
Short for "Cookies Rule Everything Around Me," CREAM offers a secret, utterly Instagrammable menu item, the Sundae of Champions, which includes a crumbled cookie, a scoop of ice cream, a crumbled brownie and another scoop of ice cream, topped with a do’sant ice cream sandwich, a cookie, whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles.
Mt. Monadnock at Ava Marie Chocolates, Peterborough, New Hampshire
As awe-inspiring as the real Mt. Monadnock, this New Hampshire sundae is made with your choice of five flavors, all covered in hot fudge and caramel, granite chocolate rocks and whipped cream, topped with a chocolate moose.
The Dessert Platter at Etaru, Hallandale Beach, Florida
If there’s any reason to break a bikini diet in South Florida, it’s the Dessert Platter at the Japanese robatayaki Etaru. The all-in assemblage includes smoked coconut with passionfruit parfait and raspberry, a peanut-vanilla-chocolate sundae with sesame poky sticks, a dark chocolate and green tea pudding, crunchy jivara and pear ice cream, guava mousse with grilled papaya, a mango biscuit, and passion fruit sorbet.
Horchata Loca at Puesto, San Diego
You can have your ice cream and drink it too at Cali’s self-prescribed temple of tacos. Though it may be on the dessert menu, the Horchata Loca — frozen, white rum and cinnamon-spiked rice milk — shouldn’t be relegated to the end of the meal. Don’t do dairy? Scoops of nopales (cactus) and lime gelato make a compelling alternative.