It’s hot. It’s so damn hot. We’ve taken it upon ourselves (and waistlines) to find the ultimate steals and summer treats in EVERYTHING the District has to offer when it comes to frozen goods. Everything. From custards to froyo to food trucks, we’ve got you covered. Dig in, D.C.
Summer 2014 Intern Ice Cream Taste Test
Words By Ashlyn Frassinelli, Photos By Sarah Guan
Armed with a pocketful of cash, an air-conditioned car, and a loosely-outlined map, four hungry BYT interns set out to try five of the D.C. metro area’s favorite frozen treat destinations. Ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt — no stone would be left unturned on this quest to taste and rate every flavor in the D.C metro area. Would we succeed in our quest? Or would the trials of indigestion, lactose intolerance and brain freeze overcome us?
3214 P St., NW
We had intended to hit the new Dolcezza Gelato on 14th Street first on our whirlwind tour, but after botching the iPhone directions we ended up somewhere in the middle of Georgetown. Taking the misstep as a sign, we decided to head to our second destination first: Thomas Sweet. The carroty orange-and-green storefront welcomed us from across the street, beckoning with big open windows, umbrellas, and a sign that read freshly made fudge.
Inside, the huge flavor board was enough to make our heads spin. The 30+ options were definitely a few too many. We asked the man behind the counter their top flavors — “bittersweet” and “vanilla chocolate chip.” The basics covered, we also got an order of cake batter and something called “butterbrickle” (which, according to a quick Google search, is something like toffee ice cream with Heath Bar bits). I got a splash of Fourth of July sprinkles on mine, just to be festive. The scoops were already starting to melt as we carried them outside for a quick round of photo snapping.
- Ashlyn: (Bittersweet Chocolate) Extremely chocolatey in the best possible way. Tastes like this homemade chocolate soft serve my parents and I made when I was a kid. Sort of like pudding and ice cream’s love child. It just needs to stop melting so fast.
- Sarah: (Cake Batter) Very melty. Tastes like cake. After a while it starts to taste like vanilla. I probably should have gotten some topping on it.
- Heidi: (Butterbrickle) You better wolf it down because it melts FAST. The nutty “brinkles” add fun to the creamy texture. A bit too sweet for my palate, though.
- Caroline: (Vanilla Chocolate Chip) An enjoyable cup, but not as chocolate chippy as I would’ve liked. And when you would come across a rare chip it was a concrete brick. Although when you gnawed through, it was a delicious fudgy flavor. Worth the effort.
1418 14th St., NW
Our first bowls of ice cream out of the way, we backtracked downtown to get to Dolcezza’s new 14th Street location. It just opened last Saturday, and the place looks, feels, and smells sparkling new. Big, bright windows pour light onto pristine marble counter tops and open mahogany cupboards. Step inside and immediately feel a bit more high-class. (Oh, and there’s also wi-fi.)
Pop Quiz: Is gelato the same thing as ice cream? Sort of, but with a few key differences. The Italian version has a lower percentage of fat, and is churned slower to keep air from whipping up inside. Also — and this is key — gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, so you’ll get a perfectly-scooped bite every time.
The gelato servers behind the counter were gracious enough to fix us a sampling of nearly everything on the menu. We tasted two sundaes: the Fruity Pebbles, made with lemon ricotta gelato, marcona almonds, and candied citrus zest; and a rich concoction made with Valrhona chocolate gelato, fresh whipped cream, and Kinderhook nut crumbles. We were also treated to a big bowl of Thai coconut gelato, a scoop each of strawberry tarragon and blueberry lemon thyme sorbetto, and to top it off, an affogato made with salted caramel gelato.
- Ashlyn: (Valhrona Chocolate Sundae) Every ingredient is incredible on its own but together it combines into this sweet-yet-slightly-bitter-yet-slightly-salty-with-a-kick mouth party that I never want to end.
- Sarah: (Fruity Pebbles Sundae) Very light. The citrus zest adds a nice taste to it. Very refreshing.
- Heidi: (Affogato) Give this a try even if you are not a fan of espresso; the combination is heavenly.
- Caroline: (Strawberry sorbetto) PSA: This flavor will only be around for a week or two more so get it while it’s hot! Or I guess I should say cold. Not much more to say about it other than it’s a super strawberry flavor. Nothing wrong with that. If you do choose to order it, you know exactly what you’re getting.
1633 Connecticut Ave., NW
Since we couldn’t help but eat everything placed in front of us at Dolcezza (who in their right mind wastes gelato?), we were beginning to feel slightly full as we climbed back in the car and rode into Dupont Circle. Our next destination was Larry’s, an ice cream shop that the average D.C. resident has probably passed dozens of times but never entered. Tucked in the basement of a townhouse below the Human Rights Campaign headquarters, Larry’s advertises homemade ice cream and house-baked cupcakes.
Inside, black-and-white checkerboard tiles attempt to lighten up a somewhat dreary little room with dim lighting and sparse windows. The menu at Larry’s is fairly expansive, with about 20 flavors and a few choices you won’t find on the average ice cream shop listing. We tried to find a mix of flavors we hadn’t sampled yet. After wandering around for several minutes pressing our faces against the sneeze guards, we decided on Mud Pie, Salted Caramel Swirl, Rum Raisin, and Lavender.
- Ashlyn: (Salted Caramel Swirl) The caramel is good, but that’s about it. I think I’m just going to eat the caramel out of the ice cream and leave the rest. I’m wondering if it’s fair to judge this place after tasting the perfection that is gelato.
- Sarah: (Lavender) Mostly tastes like cream with a slight hint of lavender. I thought it would look purple. I’m a little disappointed.
- Heidi: (Rum Raisin) So thick it bends the plastic spoon. An overall bland vanilla ice cream that by no means tastes like rum. #FalseAdvertising
- Caroline: (Mud Pie) Unfortunately, the flavor did not live up to my high expectations. Coffee with graham cracker sounds good on a label but there was hardly any graham cracker evidence to be seen and the coffee was very bitter, almost alcoholic.
1515 17th St., NW
We walked to the next shop, hoping some movement would help with dairy digestion. Frozen yogurt shop Mr. Yogato was our next target. Featuring “light” and “healthy” fro-yo offerings, the small but cute shop is nestled in a little corner of Dupont Circle. Inside, white boards list the day’s special discount offers, most of which are fun and a little degrading. Stand on one tiptoe with your eyes closed for fifteen seconds and score free yogurt! Order like Elvis and get 5% off!
With four flavors and four of us, we ordered one of each, plus one topping each. As for discounts, we decided to do a trivia round. Together we were able to name three US capitals with the word “city” in it (Carson City, Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City) and three countries with the letter Q in them (Qatar, Mozambique, Iraq). The interactive component was an exciting twist on the usual boring, order-and-eat froyo experience. When we sat down, there was an original Nintendo console on a table with a big stack of games to play. I spent the rest of the time trying to beat a Super Mario Bros. level, completely neglecting my fro-yo.
- Ashlyn: (Original Sweet with Fruity Pebbles) I’m not a fan of fro-yo that really tastes like yogurt, so I’m not thrilled by this. Compared to the ice cream and gelato, it tastes too icy. There’s no substance.
- Sarah: (Coconut with Chocolate Chips) Maybe I’ve had too much ice cream today but I can’t really taste the coconut. It’s really light.
- Heidi: (Original Tangy with Wheat Germ) Literally just that. #HonestAdvertising But props to the creativity, though! These two go together nicely, the slightly savory flakiness of wheat germs complements the tangy creaminess very well.
- Caroline: (Strawberry with Granola) Maybe granola wasn’t the best choice because it ended up tasting like my breakfast. But what’s so wrong with that? I like breakfast.
750 17th St., NW
Full, and with our tongues tasting slightly like curdled milk, we forced ourselves to rally enough morale to hit our final destination. McDonald’s. Every experiment needs a control, and McDonald’s fake, powder-made ice cream with synthetic hot fudge is the perfect, terrible standard against which we could compare the day’s findings. As we stumbled into the building, we thought back fondly on memories of piling into the car that morning, thrilled at the prospect of consuming a day’s worth of free ice cream. What young, naive fools we had been.
With my last dollar I ordered a hot fudge sundae. “The sundae machine’s broken,” the cashier said, promising that the team was working on it and that the order would be up soon. “Please, no rush,” I told him.
- Ashlyn: You can taste the grit. The hot fudge tastes like fake sugar. Not even this little nut package can save it. Why are we here? I need a nap.
- Sarah: Ew. Too much ice cream.
- Heidi: What was it even called? …So, that happened.
- Caroline: One little taste was all I needed. The soft serve was so soft in fact it was pretty much just milk with some drippy fudge. I mean, it was decent. Solely due to the fact it was little more than a dollar.
- KaleidoScoops, 5926 Kings Towne Ctr Ste 170 Alexandria: This ice cream shop doesn’t just serve scoops of ice cream; they serve, malts, shakes, smoothies, Italian sodas, sundaes, banana splits, and their special KaliedoChills. That tasty treat is like a frappe, but much smoother and creamier. If you just want scoops of ice creams, you will have no trouble there, but you may have trouble picking a flavor from their huge selection.They even have ice cream cake. I mean, what else could you want from an ice cream store? Facebook
- Georgetown Scoops, 2818 Pennsylvania Ave NW: This cute little ice cream shop offers a huge variety of both ice cream and sorbet flavors. They want to create a European cafe feel while serving only the best food made from the best ingredients. Plus, they have smoothies!
- Thomas Sweet, 3214 P St NW: For all of you health conscious people who’s mouths are watering from reading this list, Thomas Sweet has delicious fat-free frozen yogurt! This traditional, cash-only ice cream shop is known for its homemade fudge and gracious portions (for all of you non-health conscious people). Their signature item is the blend-in, where they combine eight scoops for your favorite ice cream flavor with whatever candy, nuts or fruit you want in a machine to produce a mind blowing sundae.
- Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Co., 109 King Street, Old Town Alexandria: This store has everything and we mean everything. From scoops of ice cream and banana splits to egg creams and root beer floats, you may just have to come back more than once. They also have several healthier options, such as protein shakes and non-fat ice cream for those of you who want a tasty frozen treat sans the calories. Of course all 63 flavors are made in-house.
- Faithfully Sweet, five kiosks in the Convention Center: Faithfully Sweet is unique as they make their ice cream by using liquid nitrogen. Also, they naturally sweeten their ice cream with agave, honey, and maple syrup. They offer over 50 flavors, from the standard chocolate and vanilla to banana chocolate madness and blueberry lemonade sorbet. There are also several gluten and wheat free options. While Faithfully Sweet only has kiosks for now, there will be a cafe opening soon. Check their Facebook and Twitter for updates!
- Larry’s Ice Cream and Cupcakes, 1633 Connecticut Ave NW: Known for its homemade ice cream, Larry’s Ice Cream is a favorite of many in the Dupont Circle area. Not only do they have amazing ice cream, but tasty cupcakes as well. How could this place get any better? Larry! Fans of this ice cream shop can’t get enough of him. Check out Larry’s for great desserts and even better entertainment.
- Moorenko’s Ice Cream Shoppe, 8030-B Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring: If you love stores that support local farmers, Moorenko’s is the place for you. All of the dairy used is from small, family-owned, local farms. The ice cream is naturally lower in sugar and all of the added ingredients (fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.) are high quality. And just because they are organic doesn’t mean their flavors are limited; in fact, their flavor list seems unending. They’re known for their unique flavors, like Cotton Candy Gummy Bear, Honey Lavender, and Guinness. Facebook, Twitter
- Trickling Springs Creamery: 1309 5th Street NE: Their super premium ice cream is made from dairy provided by small, local farmers in the area. They have monthly flavors, with Blueberry being July’s flavor. They also have several other flavors they offer daily, such as chocolate, grapenut, coffee, and peaches’n'cream. They supply tons of stores in Maryland, Virginia, and Maryland but this is one of their retail stores. Facebook, Twitter
- Nicecream Factory: 2831 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA: This ice cream factory is unique as it creates unique, customizable treats for each customer with liquid nitrogen. Anything you want, they can make (within reason). Everything is made to order, something you can’t say for most ice cream shops. Plus, all the ingredients are from local farms and shops. Facebook, Twitter
- LuLu’s Ice Cream: Mt. Pleasant Farmer’s Market: DC’s newest liquid nitrogen ice cream company, LuLu’s ice cream can be found on Saturday’s at Mt. Pleasant Farmer’s Market. They use local, seasonal, and organic ingredients and serve the ice cream in a compostable cup. Facebook, Twitter
- The Dairy: Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland, College Park, MD: This is probably the best ice cream you will ever have. It’s so good it is illegal to sell it off campus. When I was asked in an interview why I wanted to go to UMD I said it was because of the ice cream.
- Dolcezza, several locations in the D.C. Metro area: Dolcezza pledges to only use the finest ingredients in their gelato as well as making in fresh daily. They are huge supporters of local farmers, using ingredients only from those farmers, from herbs to fruits. Everything is done by hand, no steps skipped or shortcuts taken. Flavors change weekly, so check their website for what flavors they’re offering at each location. Examples of what they can offer include Champagne Mango, Cucumber Mint Vodka, and Chocolate Mexicano. Facebook, Twitter
- Dolci Gelati, 7000 Carroll Ave Takoma Park, MD: This delicious gelato is the brainchild of pastry chef Gianluigi Dellaccio. He uses nothing but the best ingredients in his gelato, which is made in his “Laboratorio del Gelato” aka laboratory of gelato. Facebook, Twitter
- Gelateria Dolce Vita, 3000 K St NW: Located right on the Georgetown waterfront, the location is probably the best thing about this gelato shop. There is outdoor seating so you can enjoy your dessert while watching all people boating on the Potomac.
- Pitango, several locations throughout D.C.: Pitango promises all real ingredients, all real taste in their authentic Italian gelato and sorbets. Their list of flavors include spicy chocolate, black tea, chocolate hazelnut, and mojito. Even better, they offer a list of their ingredients so you know exactly what you’re eating when you order their gelato or sorbet. Facebook, Twitter
Ice Cream Trucks & Carts
- Scoops2U: More than just your average ice cream truck, Scoops2U doesn’t just do ice cream, it does ice cream sundaes. You order whatever flavors you want, then create your own sundae with their toppings buffet. They also make their own ice cream sandwiches with their homemade cookies, with flavors like Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut. Facebook Twitter
- Clayboy’s Shaved Ice, Woodmont Ave & Bethesda Ave Bethesda Row, Bethesda: Ice cream too heavy for you? Well there is a solution: Clayboy’s Shaved Ice. Shaved ice is just what is sounds like: finely shaved ice that is then doused with what ever syrup you want, from cherry to skylite. It’s basically a snow cone, but a lot better.
- The Orange Cow: Delicious homemade ice cream in a variety of vessels, what more could you want? Maybe a sundae or some sorbet or a float! So many things packed into such a small food truck. And they aren’t just a summer food truck; they serve into the fall. Facebook, Twitter
- Goodies Frozen Custard and Treats: Goodies is throwin’ it back with their vintage van named “Gigi” and matching vintage frozen treats. Frozen custard is their namesake, but they also serve doughnuts, peach cobbler, and more. If you wish you were born in a different time and want a taste of it, visit the Goodies Frozen Custard and Treats truck. Facebook, Twitter
- Street Cream: If you like your ice cream with a taste of hip-hop, then check out Street Cream. They’re an average ice cream truck with a unique look, giving their flavors names like “Nilla’ Ice” and “Snitchin’ Berry.” Sizes are “Cool Wit’ It” (small), “Down Wit’ It” (medium), and “Have’n Sum” (large). Even better, they now serve “Milk-quakes.” Facebook, Twitter
- Captain Cookie and the Milkman: What’s better than milk and cookies? How about cookies and ice cream? This unique food truck travels around D.C. offering the most delicious cookies money can buy as well as the best ice cream. Even better, you can combine the two into an amazing ice cream sandwich. They only offer four flavors, but they are delicious and homemade. If you have a hankering for ice cream sandwiches, seek out Captain Cookie. Facebook, Twitter
- Dolci Gelati: If you don’t feel like going to Takoma Park to get gelato, Dolci Gelati also operates DC’s first gelato truck. Facebook, Twitter
- Pleasant Pops: If you feel like eating ice pops as opposed to ice cream then Pleasant Pops is your answer. They use local ingredients to make their fruit pops which were inspired by Mexican ice pops. Twitter
- The Dairy Godmother, 2310 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria: The Dairy Godmother serves both frozen custard and unique varieties of sorbet. The frozen custard flavors change per day, so check their website or just the chalkboard in the store for the daily flavor. Along with the custard comes with a plethora of unique sorbet flavors, such as Lemon Lavender, Pineapple with Cilantro, and Fresh Pumpkin. Flavors depend on seasonal availability and such, so check out the store to see what cool flavors you can try. Facebook, Twitter
- Dickey’s Frozen Custard, 1710 I St NW: Dickey’s offers something that is hard to find these days: simplicity. They serve only three flavors of frozen custard, the standard chocolate, vanilla, and swirl. But, they offer a plethora of both healthy and not-so-healthy topping choices, from fruit to crushed Oreos. It provides something for everyone, whether it be just a plain cone to a massive DIY sundae.
- Frozen Dairy Bar & Boardwalk Pizza, 6641 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church: A pizza shop featuring a 1950′s-style frozen dairy bar, this Falls Church shop offers frozen custard in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, swirl, and a rotating flavor of the day. Get yours straight on a cone, mixed up with crushed candies Flurry-style, or churned into a delicious malt shake.
- Mr. Yogato, 1515 17th Street NW: This ain’t your mama’s average froyo shop. Mr. Yogato takes the froyo trend and gives it a new spin, offering both original and new flavors, such as pink guava, spiced chai, pear cinnamon, and more. He also offers more than 40 toppings for these crazy frozen yogurt flavors. Along with delicious yogurt, the employees are a delightful, starting singalongs, providing funky trivia, and asking you thought-provoking questions as you purchase your crazy frozen treat. Yogato will even take customer suggestions for new flavors and toppings, which is pretty cool. Twitter, Facebook
- Sweetgreen, various locations throughout D.C.: Sweetgreen offers a more natural and organic look to frozen yogurt. Its yogurt is made with Stonyfield yogurt and is all-natural and fat-free. Their toppings also take a more healthy route, not offering the usual M&Ms or sprinkles, but instead offering a variety of dried fruits, nuts, and granola. If you love frozen yogurt, but want a more healthy option, head to your nearest Sweetgreen. Facebook, Twitter
- Bloo Moo, 4530 Wisconsin Ave NW: Tenleytown’s Bloo Moo boasts a big listing of nonfat and low-fat frozen yogurts, all rich with “live and active cultures.” Flavors include toffee, peach mango tart, pomegranate raspberry, snickerdoodle and Irish mint. Top with fresh fruit, cereal, or bits of candy. Facebook, Twitter
- Frozen Yo, various locations throughout D.C.: If you’re a control freak, Frozen Yo is your kind of yogurt shop. Grab a bowl (one size), fill with as much or as little fro-yo as you want from the self-serve machines lining the walls, and then head to the toppings station and go crazy. When you’re done, a cashier will weigh your creation and tell you how much you owe. There are dozens of flavors, including a few seasonal offerings, and an equal number of toppings (strawberry boba, white chocolate drizzle and gummy bears, anyone?). And the best part: the hot fudge and caramel are FREE. Facebook, Twitter
Specialty Ice Cream
- Farmers, Fishers, Bakers, 3000 K St. NW: While they offer traditional scoops of ice cream, Farmers, Fishers, Bakers serve sundaes, a super Banana Split, and feature daily special with ice cream sandwiches and ice cream cakes. Their ice cream flavors include Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla Bean, Malted Dulce de Leche, Pecan Butter Brickle and daily sorbet flavor. Facebook, Twitter
- Blue Duck Tavern, 1201 24th St. NW: Indulge your ice cream craving with class by visiting Blue Duck Tavern for dessert. This hotel restaurant rotates its ice cream and sorbet offerings seasonally; on the menu right now: slow-churned honey vanilla ice cream and milk chocolate Guinness ice cream topped with togarashi peanuts and salted Stout caramel. Facebook, Twitter
- Mike’s Deli @ Lazy Sundae, Delivery Ice Cream: Want ice cream but don’t have any in the fridge and you have no motivation to leave the house to buy some? Call up Lazy Sundae and they will deliver their ice cream, sundaes, or milkshakes to your door. They have a huge selection of ice cream flavors on their site, and even more they don’t even put on the menu. Facebook
- Belga Cafe, 514 Eighth St. SE: Primarily a Belgian restaurant, this cafe’s Hoegaarden Honey Milkshake gets it a spot on this guide. This boozy float is for the adults but it’ll make you feel like a kid again. It is made with Hoegaarden beer and housemade vanilla ice cream that has a lavender honey and beer infusion. Sounds just grown-up enough to order. Belga’s Cafe also serves a dessert, La Grande Dame Blanche, that is simply vanilla ice cream covered in delicious chocolate and whipped cream. Facebook, Twitter
- Bourbon Steak, 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW: This well-known steakhouse has an equally fantastic dessert menu. They serve a root beer float made with sassafras ice cream AND a root beer sorbet (I didn’t even know that was possible). They also serve salty caramel ice cream covered in Nutella and hazelnuts which has already won my heart without me having to even try it. Facebook, Twitter
- Shilla Bakery, 6 locations throughout the D.C. metro area: While they are primarily a bakery (surprise, surprise), Shilla Bakery also offers some unique Asian frozen desserts for customers to try. They serve bubble tea, a milkshake-like beverage with giant balls of tapioca at the bottom, and bingsoo, a type of shaved ice that is covered in a variety of toppings. It’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a new spin on dessert that isn’t just a scoop of ice cream or a standard milkshake. Facebook, Twitter
- Et Voila, 5120 MacArthur Blvd NW: This restaurant specializes in Belgian cuisine so naturally, they’re going to have Belgian dessert. The best part of their dessert: their homemade Hoegaarden Beer Ice Cream. Beer in ice cream sounds like a dream come true. They also serve speculoos ice cream, speculoos being a European spiced shortbread biscuit, and a trio of homemade sorbets. Facebook
- Pleasant Pops, 1781 Florida Ave NW: Remember popsicles? They were an integral part of summer, fighting off the drops as the sugary goodness melted down. Well Pleasant Pops have revamped popsicles, creating them with fresh local ingredients. They have a location in Adams Morgan but you can also find their food truck all around D.C. Twitter