I scream, you scream ...
Why is everybody screaming?
Seriously, there is no need to make a ruckus, because I'll bet that you're not the only cowboy at the rodeo who is enthusiastic about ice cream. Cold, sweet and creamy is a gustatory experience with wide-ranging appeal. Ice cream is not only fun to eat, but it is also a symbol of fun itself. Like surprise parties and Liberace and Valleyfair, ice cream isn't necessary for human survival, but that is precisely what makes it so great. Its gratuitous joy is associated with nostalgia for our carefree youth, familial comfort and celebrations of every stripe. Its appearance also tends to coincide with summer -- aka "awesome season" in Minny -- which we try to pack chock-full of every possible outdoor activity and sport imaginable, from fishing to stooping.
Here we present a guide to our favorite ice cream joints in the Twin Cities. Whether you are a La Belle Vie foie gras ice cream (served last March!) kind of gal, or a Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait dude, it's all good. Because with ice cream, you always win. Flavors vary, so call ahead if you have your heart set on a peculiar flavor fetish.
Conny's Creamy Cone
Conny's is a freaking adorable roadside shack with a giant ice cream cone reclining on its roof. It is a North End neighborhood hangout -- kind of like "Cheers" but with ice cream and families instead of boozers and a depressing theme song. Richard Noren, a precociously wise employee, shared his punditry with me while I sampled flavors at one of the red and white-striped picnic tables. Queen for a day!
Conny's uses a special "24-flavor system" to produce an especially soft soft-serve base, which is then flavored using extracts and mechanical wizardry on a cone-by-cone basis. The result of all this mad science is surreal: plasticine-smooth dollops of soft-serve in Frank Gaard-worthy colors. Dripping is a side effect of the supersoftness, so be prepared with back-up napkins.
Flavors bifurcate into adult vs. kid favorites. The adult camp goes for a smooth, deep and natural-tasting caramel, a muted glowing green pistachio and a bold beige rum. And the kidlets love the (electric) robin's egg blue Cotton Candy, which tastes a bit like voluntarily immersing one's face in a cotton candy machine. Tutti Frutti smacked of red Jell-O mix and that rascally Hawaiian Punch cartoon surfer guy. But hey -- you only get to be a kid once.
- Where: 1197 N. Dale St., St. Paul
- Phone: 651-488-4150
- Web: www.connyscreamycone.com
- Best features: Vibrant soft-serve in 24 flavors; low prices; friendly staff; fried mac 'n' cheese wedges ($2.45 for five and ridiculous-good).
- Fave flavors: Pistachio, tutti frutti, rum, caramel.
- Prices: Small: $1.79, medium $2.09, large $2.39.
- Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. spring and fall; 11 a.m.-9:45 p.m. summer. Open March to October.
Purists, rejoice! Pumphouse is a quaint shop with melon-colored walls, a rustic table and photos of the local farmers who provide the ingredients for owner Barb Zapzalka's organic, all-natural ice creams. Her ethical sourcing is omnipresent: The strawberries come from Natura Farm in the St. Croix Valley; the dark chocolate ice cream uses fair-trade chocolate; even the cookies 'n' cream uses Newman-O's in lieu of the standard Oreos. The result is ice cream with refreshingly clean flavor and natural texture, in pretty muted colors. Vanilla is elegant and rhubarb resonates with vegetal, tart sweetness. The lavender is a bit much for me, only because it reminds me of eating an Aveda facial. But the lemon champagne sorbet is spectacular, all sweet bubbly and citrus zing.
JakeDog is the tawny, handsome hound whose portrait appears on the wall, and who is the namesake for Pumphouse's lush homemade root beer and rhubarb sodas. He is also a big-time fan of the peanut-butter Doggie Ice Cream ($1.20 each).
- Where: 4754 Chicago Av. S., Mpls
- Phone: 612-825-2021
- Web: www.pumphouse-creamery.com
- Hours: Noon-9 p.m. daily; noon-10 p.m. starting mid-May.
- Best features: All-natural, organic and locally sourced ingredients; homemade root beer and rhubarb sodas, Doggie ice cream.
- Fave flavors: Vanilla, rhubarb, sea salt caramel with praline pecan, dark chocolate with roasted almonds and cocoa nibs.
- Prices: Kiddie $2.40, single $3.20, double $5.10.
Izzy's Ice Cream
During high season, the line at Izzy's snakes out the door and down the street, and the hunter-green chairs outside the building are filled. Izzy's enjoys a fierce and loyal following because it delivers consistently creamy-dreamy ice cream in an array of spot-on flavors. They're also on the vanguard of some Richard Branson-style innovations -- such as using solar energy during peak season, or their Flavor Up! system, which allows customers to check online for the current flavor inventory, updated every three minutes.
Izzy's also hosts the annual People's Flavor Awards, which invites regular Joes to suggest new flavor ideas. Best in Show 2006 winner Jane Carlson came up with the genius "hot brown sugar" -- a caramel base studded with cayenne-candied pecans that delivers the perfect balance of heat and sweet. Their salted caramel is a long-standing bestseller, so I was surprised to find that it is seriously, no-joking salty. And the colossal Izabella is a multi-component ice cream orgy involving a giant homemade waffle cone, dipped in Guittard chocolate and Marcona almonds, and filled with all kinds of surprises ($7.88/single).
- Where: 2034 Marshall Av., St. Paul
- Phone: 651-603-1458
- Web: www.izzysicecream.com
- Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu., noon-10:30 pm. Fri.-Sat.
- Best feature: Imaginative flavors galore, solar energy, Flavor Up! updates, People's Flavor Awards, the Izabella.
- Fave flavors: Hot brown sugar, green apple, Italian strawberry, midnight snack.
- Prices: Izzy Scoop $1.55, Kiddie $2.88, single $4.43, double $5.97.
Sebastian Joe's is an ice cream institution, founded by three brothers in 1984 and dedicated to local, small-batch production with as many natural ingredients as possible. It has two locations: one perched atop Lowry Hill and the other nestled in Linden Hills. The latter also features a quaint, gorgeously landscaped patio and whimsical giant turtle sculpture. Seb Joe's has earned its superstar rep from its dizzying array of luscious, quirkily named flavors and its commitment to the community.
Flavors tend toward the decadent. Pavarotti is delightful: caramel, banana and chocolate chip so lush and sweet, yet still balanced. Luciano would have loved it. The raspberry chocolate chip is a deep berry burgundy in color, with all of the tartness and seediness that one might expect, interspersed with dark chocolate chips. The Oreo, their top seller, is miraculously smooth -- its base is vanilla but looks like chocolate due to all the blended Oreos. Choose your luscious poison and enjoy it in a handmade, fudge-dipped cone, available with additional flair including almonds, sprinkles, coconut and candy-bar crumbles. Life is a highway, so you might as well ride it all night long.
- Where: 1007 W. Franklin Av., Mpls. (612-870-0065); also 4321 Upton Av. S., Mpls. (612-926-7916)
- Web: www.sebastianjoesicecream.com
- Hours: Franklin Av.: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 7 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat. Upton Av.: 7-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
- Best features: Locations; velvety, inventive and cleverly named flavors; hand-dipped cones.
- Fave flaves: Pavarotti, Nicollet Avenue pothole, Oreo, caramel cashew, Kare 11 Sunrise.
- Prices: Sugar cone or cup, $3.30-$5.20. Homemade cone, $4-$5.20. Hand-dipped cone, $4.50-$6.20.
Ice cream legend Sonny Siron passed away in 2007, but he still appears on the bright red signage at its entrance of Crema Cafe. Crema continues to reflect Sonny’s unique charm in its Mediterranean grotto feel inside and picturesque patio outside.
Although Crema is best known for its signature creamy latte flavor, Sonny's son, Ron Siron, explores plenty of uncharted flavor territory. This endures in offerings such as olive oil or cardamom and black pepper, which delivers a brilliant spicy, herbal jolt against a creamy vanilla base. The Adults-Only Spumoni is made exxxtra-boozy by using both cherry and vanilla rum ice creams. But the weirdest option has to be the avocado with garlic, lime and fleur de sel, which tastes initially like “Who the eff put garlic in my ice cream?” and then becomes mellower and sweeter. My tasting buddy, Sarah, suggested pairing it with pork, which was both cute and genius and made me imagine ice cream sundae versions of classic dinners like spaghetti and meatballs or beef stroganoff.
- Where: 3403 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls
- Phone: 612-824-3868
- Web: www.cremacafeminneapolis.com
- Hours: Pre-Memorial Day: 5-11 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sun. Memorial Day through Labor Day: 2-11:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 2 p.m.-midnight Fri., 10 a.m.-midnight Sat., 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Sun.
- Best features: Sonny's sophisticated and unusual ice cream flavors; fancy getaway ambience; restaurant.
- Fave flavors: Cardamom and black pepper, Adults-Only Spumoni, mango sassi with organic Greek yogurt.
- Prices: Single $3.70, double $6.45, triple $8.75, quadruple $10.95.
Hometown Creamery is tucked away in a strip mall in North St. Paul, and decorated with a battalion of stuffed animals, school raffle posters, portable ice cream equipment and country ice cream kitschery. Hometown hosts myriad community events, from an annual pajama party to the Friday Night History Cruz Car Show during the summer.
Their ice cream is traditional and densely packed. Most (righteously) popular are the flavors involving caramel: salted caramel, dulce de leche and the sinister-good caramel chaos -- a light caramel base laden with rich amber tributaries of caramel and burst caramel cups. Also awesome: birthday cake, which captures the delight of a buttercream-frosted birthday cake bedecked in rainbow sprinkles. Superman is a comic-book red, yellow and blue homage to our favorite caped crusader, and vanilla marshmallow tastes like a sweet cloud. Warning: These flavors might just transport you back to a Lisa Frank sticker-filled world of mylar rainbows and unicorns and convivial clowns that you might not want to leave.
The P.M.S. sundae -- a homemade fudge brownie topped with chocolate ice cream, hot fudge and chocolate chips (regular size $5.39) - could also be called the Preggo sundae. Not that I'm pregnant (sorry, mom), but many of my friends seem to be, and they deserve sundaes, too.
- Where: 2231 E. 11th Av. (Polar Plaza), North St. Paul
- Phone: 651-779-4400
- Web: www.hometowncreamery.com
- Hours: 3-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 1-9 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
- Best features: Traditional, homemade ice cream in fun flavors; community involvement; P.M.S. sundae.
- Fave flavors: Caramel chaos (!), birthday cake, Superman, vanilla marshmallow.
- Prices: Baby $1.65, kid's $2.85, single $3.95, double $5.05.
Grand Ole Creamery
The original Grand Ole Creamery in St. Paul exudes a circus vibe with an adjacent pizza parlor and oldies radio playing in the background. Mason Mongiat was my helpful escort through their collection of grand ole flavors. I soon deduced that many of their most popular flavors employed a secret ingredient that elevated their tastiness into the realm of the Kantian sublime: crushed Oreos. Black Hills Gold is a fan favorite with a caramel ice cream base, pralines, pecans and Oreos. Grizzy Grumble is a chocolate peanut-butter base with Oreos, and Mac Daddy has a butter-pecan base with Oreos. Often the big-O flavor wasn't specifically recognizable, but served instead as an overall enhancement. Kind of like nutmeg. All of these flavors were straight-up delicious, and best enjoyed in an especially crisp, perfectly formed homemade waffle cone. Taro was the most daring option: a pink and rich tribute to the starchy root vegetable.
Grand Ole Creamery would be perfect for an evening of good, clean fun. Bonus: The pizza place has an infuriating but exciting Fish Tales pinball machine with a fake fish that may shake when agitated.
- Where: 750 Grand Av., St. Paul (651-293-1655); also 4737 Cedar Av. S., Mpls. (612-722-2261)
- Web: www.grandolecreamery.com
- Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; noon-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
- Best features: Family-friendly, circus-like feel with adjoining pizza parlor; homemade waffle cones; secret ingredient; pinball.
- Fave flavors: Mac Daddy, Black Hills Gold, malted banana.
- Prices: Single $5.50, single-split (one and a half scoops) $6.25, double $7.
Froz Broz: Keep your eyez on these guyz
Business partners Ben Solberg and Erik Powers are in the midst of fundraising for Froz Broz, their Minneapolis craft ice cream start-up, and hope to start small-batch sales this summer. Their flavor list is rife with mind-blowing foodie juxtapositions of sweet and savory, such as Brown Butter Cornbread, Apple Crisp With Sharp Cheddar, and Jalapeño Honey with Cotija Cheese.
I got to try some of their Lemon Rosemary Bar, and it was killer: smooth and herbal with citrusy-sweet, finely textured lemon bar chunks. Are these broz going to be the local ice cream revolutionaries of this generation? I have a very good feeling about it. Find them on Facebook for the latest on their progress toward fulfilling their ice cream dreams. Dreaming? Yes. Screaming? Not really necessary.
© 2013 Vita.mn