In South Florida, we know heat — and we know how to beat it. Between air conditioning, swimming pools, a dip in the ocean, and all these ice cream and serve-yourself froyo shops, we've got summer meltdowns covered.
Icy treats can be traced all the way back to the Persians, who would save snow in cold underground chambers until it was steamy hot outside — then pour grape juice on top and call it a day. People in the Arab world are thought to have been the first to incorporate cream instead of just frozen water, and the Chinese are credited with the first device that churned the frozen goods into what we would now recognize as sorbet or ice cream. It wasn't until the 1500s that ice cream made its way to Europe, and later, the Western world. But America has long put its own stamp on ice cream, including the invention of the hot fudge sundae and, more recently, alcoholic ice cream.
From crazy flavors and adult-only scoops to design-your-own ice cream cookie sandwiches and sundaes sprinkled with everything but the kitchen sink, here's our list of Broward and Palm Beach counties' favorite spots to get summer's most essential treat.
1. Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlour & Restaurant. This landmark ice cream parlor, opened by Monroe Udell in 1956, still makes each of its more than 60 flavors of ice cream by hand, each batch mixed one by one. Today, the old-fashioned ice cream parlor not only boasts one of the largest — and best — ice cream selections in the area, but also one of the nation's largest collections of American memorabilia. Expect supersize scoops, waffles and ice cream, frosted floats, giant shakes, parfaits, and banana splits. Jaxson's is perhaps most famous for its "kitchen sink" sundae, but it's also a restaurant with a menu offering "country kitchen" fare, from wings to clam rolls. 128 S. Federal Hwy., Dania Beach; 954-923-4445; jaxsonsicecream.com.
2. Wilton Creamery. Pastry chef DJ Colby dreams in flavors — ice cream flavors, to be exact — which you can find in the display case at his two-year-old Wilton Manors ice cream shop. That creativity guarantees Wilton Creamery offers a rainbow of flavors you won't find at your average scoop spot. Instead, Colby prepares anywhere from 20 to 30 handcrafted confections from his own carefully calibrated recipes with a unique selection of upscale, specialty ice cream, sorbet, and pelatos (Colby's version of adult popsicles). The most popular flavor, He's Not Worth It, is a favorite; not because of its catchy title, but for its ability to replicate the exact taste of a Snickers bar without using any Snickers whatsoever. The combination of vanilla ice cream, English toffee, Oreo, Heath bar, chopped soft caramel, and housemade sea-salt-infused caramel swirl reveals itself in layers, one flavor at a time, resulting in an almost identical flavor profile. 2301 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors; 954-565-1183; wiltoncreamery.com.
3. Proper Ice Cream. Proper Ice Cream chef-owner Rick Felberbaum may be a practicing lawyer, but he loves making ice cream, too. Before opening his first Delray Beach shop this June, you could find these gourmet desserts on the menu at Palm Beach haunts like 1000 North, Grato, Imoto, and Buccan, or for sale by the pint at Joseph’s Classic Market. It's some of the freshest it gets, created from scratch using local fruits or exotic spices sourced from places like Turkey, Israel, and Yugoslavia. Dozens of flavors offer up gourmet creations from black sesame and sweet corn and blueberry to pistachio with caramelized fig and fresh ginger (and weekly one-off's to boot). At Proper Ice Cream, you'll truly get a proper scoop: one, two, or three of your choice placed in a rainbow variety of Konery cones — each made using herbs and spices and free of dairy, eggs, and preservatives — in flavors like red velvet, birthday cake, orange dreamsicle, or toasted coconut. Felberbaum recommends his hot ice cream sandwich: your choice of ice cream placed between two slices of warm, house-made pound cake. If all this isn't indulgent enough, throw in some homemade toppings that range from rich hot fudge and cinnamon whipped cream to an orange caramel drizzle. 1445 N. Congress Ave., Ste. 4, Delray Beach; 561-359-3420; propericecream.com.
4. Phenomenom Nitrogen Ice Cream & Bake Shop. Sometimes a bowl of ice cream just won't cut it. You need fresh-baked, gooey-centered, indulgent cookies, too. That's where Chuck Woodard's Phenomenom reigns supreme. You might be familiar with Woodard, co-founder of Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream (which also has a spot on this list). In 2014, he sold his ownership interest to launch Phenomenom in Davie, a second location in Boca Raton, and a third cookies-only Phenomenom in Miami Beach. Like other flash-freeze ice cream shops, Phenomenom specializes in using liquid nitrogen to create its own brand of ultra-creamy frozen treats with flavors like Nutella, dulce de leche, cake batter, mint, peanut butter, and strawberry. But, along with a long list of nitrogen ice cream prepared on the spot, Phenomenom also offers up super fresh-baked cookies with chocolate chip, M&M's Oreo, s'mores, half-and-half, and sugar sprinkles. If you can't choose between cream or dough, do both together in a sundae or sandwich. 2272 S. University Dr., Davie; 754-216-3478; phenomenom320.com.
5. Cherry Smash. Open since 2010, Cherry Smash Ice Cream Parlour began with an idea to bring back the quality (and flavors) of the early 1920s. The place is decorated with antiques and memorabilia, a colorful setting for enjoying specialty ice cream sundaes, old-fashioned malts, ice cream sodas, banana splits, and more. Beautiful candy jars from the turn of the century are filled with a number of popular old-timey confections; the perfect toppings for a number of Cherry Smash's crazy in-house creations. Try an Orange Crush float in place of the standard root beer drink, or go for the mega cone where three giant scoops are balanced atop a single large waffle cone. 8000 Wiles Rd., Coral Springs; 954-346-0999; cherry-smash.com.
6. Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream. Traditional ice cream manufacturers aim to freeze the ice cream as fast as possible, and therein lies the problem: ice crystals and dreaded freezer burn. What to do? At Chill-N, with seven locations in the tri-county area, ice cream is made on the spot using a flash-freeze liquid nitrogen method. While you can't sample any of the ice cream flavors first, the payoff is worth it: quite possibly the creamiest, richest ice cream ever (it's made with zero overrun for 100 percent density). The menu looks like a periodic table with letters for every flavor, from biscotti and Krispy Kreme to Pop Tarts and Butterfinger. One of their most popular flavors, Nutella, requires tubs and tubs of Nutella (over 60 pounds per week) to make, and we're not complaining. Multiple locations; chillnicecream.com.
7. Cool Spot Ice Cream Rolls & Tea. Rolled ice cream is a thing these days. Served in tight spirals, the popular Thai treat made its way stateside several years ago. What makes this frozen treat so special is the method of preparation: liquefied ice cream is poured onto a chilled plate (about -4 degrees Fahrenheit) and mixed with toppings of your choice, instantly freezing the combo into your very own ice cream flavor. From there, it's spread into a thin layer and rolled before it's stuffed into a cup where more toppings can be added. Various pairings are available at Cool Spot, but the most colorful concoction is the Rainbow Unicorn. Blue cotton candy ice cream is rolled with Fruity Pebbles cereal, then topped with rainbow sprinkles and pastel-hued marshmallows. If any of the half-dozen pairings doesn't appeal to you, you can opt to build your own. There are dozens of bases to choose from and a variety of fruit, cookies, and other toppings to customize your own creamy creation. 1015 Gateway Blvd., Suite 401, Boynton Beach; 561-469-8135; coolspoticecream.com.
8. Sloan's. Sloan's is the kind of pretty pink ice cream parlor you only feel comfortable walking into while holding the hand of your five-year-old, tutu-adorned niece. If you can man up enough to brave the princess-festooned parlor, however, you'll be rewarded with dozens of unique ice cream flavors, all made in-house, and a menu that spoons over a long list of sundaes, floats, smoothies, and made-to-order ice cream cookie sandwiches. It's all about choice, here: everything from Mom's apple pie and Dad's milk chocolate, to Elvis' peanut butter and banana, to Minnie and Indy's Wonderworld — a pink buttercream ice cream swirled with Lucky Charms marshmallows, mini M&Ms, and fresh-baked Rice Krispie treats. We challenge you to find some of these flavors served anywhere else. If you can't decide which one to try, get the luxury sampler — a boat of nine scoops — and show them all who's king of the ice cream shop. Multiple locations; sloansicecream.com.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
9. La Michoacana Natural. There always seems to be a line leading to the walkup window at this small stucco building at the corner of Congress Ave. and Second Ave. North in Lake Worth, which houses the Mexican ice cream shop known as La Michoacana Natural. No matter what time of year, customers flock for a taste of the funky Mexican-style desserts. The shop is the first of three opened by a Mexican family, each specializing in offerings reminiscent of the paleterias (or ice cream shops) of their homeland. The house specialty here are the helados — Spanish for ice cream — or paletas de leche and paletas de agua, frozen fruit bars that can be either water- or cream-based. The shop offers nearly two dozen flavors in all, including favorites like the bright pink besos de angeles — "angels' kisses" — fruit-flavored ice cream with chunks of dried fruit and a regular pick among the Spanish-speaking patrons. Make sure you also try the mamey fruit (a creamy orange scoop with flecks of real fruit in the mix) and pine nut (known here as piñon, flavored with the edible nuts of the Mexican pine tree). 636 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach; and 3881 S. Congress Ave., Lake Worth; 561-514-3030; lamichoacanaus.com.
10. Sprinkles Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop. Since 1984, this Palm Beach ice cream shop has been dishing out some of the best homemade ice cream in Palm Beach County. Originally founded by mother-daughter team Eve and Therese Williams, today the shop continues to sell more than 30 flavors of specialty ice cream, over a dozen floats and shakes, and a wide-ranging menu that includes smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and even flatbread pizza. Located smack dab in the center of Palm Beach Island's downtown hub, the shop has seen many a celebrity visitor over the years from Rod Stewart and Jimmy Buffet to Brooke Shields and, of course, Donald Trump. The publicity doesn't stop there, though. In 2002, People Magazine voted Sprinkles' Triple Chocolate Supreme — a combo of rich chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips — the #1 ice cream in America. The most recent addition to the Sprinkles menu lineup is a gourmet coffee bar, where fresh-ground beans are used for made-to-order lattes and cappuccinos. 279 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach; 561-659-1140; sprinklespalmbeach.com.