The Best Ice Cream Places in Seattle

The best spots for locally made creamy frozen treats
best ice cream seattle magazine
Another happy Molly Moons customer, with maple walnut ice cream

A glossary of iced treat terms

Ice cream: Typically made with cream, the classic American definition of this dessert requires a minimum of 10 percent milk fat. Premium ice creams usually contain between 13 and 17 percent milk fat. Stirred slowly to integrate flavors, the mixture becomes fluffy with as much as 50 percent air mixed in during the process. Vegan variations are made with coconut milk or rice milk.
Frozen custard: Similar to ice cream, frozen custard is made with eggs in addition to cream and sugar.
Gelato: Italian-style ice cream often made with more whole milk than cream. Scoops are usually denser, as less air is mixed into the dessert in the process.
Frozen yogurt: Frozen yogurt can refer to various preparations, including ones made with whole milk or fat-free milk, live and active cultures, and tart or less tart varieties.
Sorbet (or sorbetto): Second cousin to the ice or granita, this dairy-free treat is most often made with fruit, sugar and water, and can be sweet or savory.

Bluebird Ice Cream
For a fun twist on a float, Bluebird is the place. Its rotating taps feature local craft beer—along with occasional nonalcoholic options, such as Rachel’s ginger beer and small batch root beer—just begging to be topped with Bluebird’s inventive, made-from-scratch ice cream flavors. When it’s available, you can double-down on hops with the Elysian Belgian raspberry stout ice cream and a matching brew. Made-to-order waffle cones are best filled with chocolate pudding or snickerdoodle ice cream and topped with hot fudge. Vegans and lactophobes can get their fix with horchata (ice cream made with rice milk and cinnamon) or coconut mint chip flavors, among other rotating options. The Cap Hill original has more room for sitting and noshing at wooden tables amid mural-covered walls. The pared-down Phinney/Greenwood location is great for grab-and-go treats, or snag a board game and a table and stay a bit. $3.50/1 scoop; $1.50 per extra scoop, or toppings, or waffle cone. Capitol Hill, 1205 E Pike St., 206.588.1079; Fremont, 3515 Fremont Ave. N; 206.588.1079; Phinney/Greenwood, 7400 Greenwood Ave. N, 206.588.6419; Facebook, “Bluebird Seattle

Bottega Italiana
Fans of silky gelato head to Bottega Italiana for pure flavor. The panna cotta packs the essence of the popular Italian dessert into a creamy scoop. Likewise, the limone is among the tangiest fruit sorbetti around. (New taste combos include strawberry with pink peppercorns, and chocolate with local bee pollen and Aleppo peppers.) Feeling sleepy? Pair the dark and rich chocolate-orange gelato with a shot of espresso for a refreshing affogato. Enjoy your snack while sitting on low, fabric-covered blocks and looking out on Pike Place shoppers. Things can get noisy when it’s packed, giving the simple shop lots of life. $2.62/kid’s scoop, $3.62/2 scoops, $4.62/3 scoops, $5.62/4 scoops. Pike Place Market, 1425 First Ave.; 206.343.0200; bottegaitaliana.com

Cupcake Royale
As if their cupcakes weren’t delicious enough, the diabolical bakers at Cupcake Royale decided to one-up themselves by taking desserts to the frozen side. Five of its inviting white-and-pink shops now offer scoops of ice cream, developed in partnership with Portland’s famed Salt & Straw, including flavors such as salted caramel cupcake, with chunks of its most popular cupcake and ribbons of caramel. Red velvet lovers can also find their fave in cupcake and ice cream form, or grab a red velvet waffle cone to really double up on rich flavor. Several of the half-dozen-plus flavors feature local ingredients, such as Stumptown coffee, with dark chocolate ribbons. While not all of Royale’s shops serve scoops, all of them keep pints and ice cream sandwiches tucked away in the freezer, and vegan options are always available. $2.75/kid’s scoop (golf ball size), $3.75/1 scoop (softball size), $5.75/2 scoops, $1 for waffle cone, $8 for a pint. Scoops available: Ballard, 2052 NW Market St., 206.701.6238; Bellevue, 21 Bellevue Way NE, 425.454.7966; Capitol Hill, 1111 E Pike St., 206.701.9579; downtown, 108 Pine St., 206.443.8674; Queen Anne, 1935 Queen Anne Ave., 206.285.1447; cupcakeroyale.com/ice-cream

D’Ambrosio Gelato

Walk by the big windows of the Ballard Avenue store day or night, and you are sure to see couples munching on cones and crowds filling the (mostly standing room) simple space of this flagship gelato spot. The Bellevue Square outdoor walk-up stand and the Capitol Hill locations become equally busy, and for good reason. The pistachio gelato is by far the most popular, and with nuts imported from the mountains of the Bronte region in Italy, it’s one of the few made intentionally with nonlocal ingredients. Seasonal flavors such as lemon sorbetto get big thumbs up, and the tiramisu is always a pick-me-up. D’Ambrosio also makes semifreddo cakes, cannoli and biscotti for special order. $3.95/small, about 2 scoops, 2 flavors; $4.95/medium, 3 flavors; $5.95/large, as many as 4 flavors (free waffle cone with large, 9 ounces). Ballard, 5339 Ballard Ave. NW, 206.327.9175; Bellevue, 403 Bellevue Square, 425.451.4919; Capitol Hill, 1542 12th Ave., 206.328.4285; dambrosiogelato.com

Fainting Goat Gelato

This narrow gelato shop in the heart of Wallingford, two blocks down and across the street from popular ice cream spot Molly Moon’s, is just as satisfying as its celebrated neighbor, but without the long wait. If you can snag a seat at one of the handful of family-filled round tables, get the chocolate lava cake with a scoop of Nutella gelato on top, or one of its other house-made desserts, such as the crème caramel. Lactose intolerant? Fainting Goat always has a sorbetto among its rotating 18 flavors, and even has one thing you won’t find anywhere else in Seattle: a single daily gelato made with mastic, a tree resin from Greece that’s mixed with Grace Harbor Farms’ goat’s milk to make an earthy, piney gelato with a stretchy, toffee-like consistency. The coconut and roasted almond flavors get props for their super true-to-their-name taste, and scoops are generous. $4.20/small, 2 flavors; $5.60/medium, 3 flavors; $7/large, as many as 4 flavors; sugar cone, 25 cents; waffle cone, $1. Wallingford, 1903 N 45th St.; 206.327.9459; faintinggoatseattle.blogspot.com

Full Tilt
Perfect for an outing with the little or big (read: grown-up) kids in your life, Full Tilt offers more all-around experience than most. Its big draws are the gritty ambience and, in Ballard, Columbia City and White Center, pinball and beer, so you'll often find friends battling over a pint. Milkshakes and floats are great for those who aren't cone-issueurs, and with flavors such as birthday cake, black licorice or one of the many vegan varieties made with coconut milk, you'll never be bored. $2.75/kid’s scoop; $3.85/1 scoop, 2 flavors; 50 cents/waffle cone. Ballard, 5453 Leary Ave. NW, 206.297.3000; Columbia City, 5041 Rainier Ave. S, 206.226.2740; University District, 4759 Brooklyn Ave. NE, 206.524.4406; West Seattle, 9629 16th Ave. SW, 206.767.4811; fulltilticecream.com


Gelatiamo in downtown has a direct line to Italy

Gelatiamo

Owner Maria Coassin comes from a long line of bakers from a town in Friuli, Italy, and in 1996 brought her family’s recipe-creating traditions to the Pacific Northwest with Gelatiamo. Located downtown, the beautifully tiled shop marries Italian traditions with local flavors and boasts one of the best cappuccino scoops in town. The passion fruit and strawberry treats are juicy and superfruity, while fans of richer tastes go for hazelnut. Cookies and other pastries complete the Italian sweet shop, and gelato or pastry cakes made with Marsala-soaked sponge cakes provide the secret ingredient for a fun party. (Pro tip: Try the delicata alla frutta, with rum-soaked sponge cake, berries mixed with Chantilly cream and a coconut topping for a fun party cake.) $2.50/kid’s scoop, $3.65/2 scoops, $5.64/3 scoops, $6.55/4 scoops. Downtown, 1400 Third Ave.; 206.467.9563; gelatiamo.com

Husky Deli
This sizable, belovedly stuck-in-time specialty food store in The Junction is part neighborhood deli, part soda fountain and totally homey. With approximately 50 flavors of made-from-scratch ice cream in rotation, Husky Deli has any kind you could want or imagine, and it’s been honing the perfect recipe for 83 years. The coffee Oreo ice cream is impossibly rich and caffeinated, and the double chocolate cheesecake is as decadent as it sounds. But it’s the salted caramel, Nutella and chocolate-raspberry flavors that owner Jack Miller, whose family has always owned the shop, can barely keep in stock because of the flavors’ incredible popularity. Don't want to hang and browse? Half-gallons to go are less than $10. $3/kid’s cone, $3.50/single scoop, $5.50/double scoop, extra charge for house-made waffle cone. West Seattle, 4721 California Ave. SW; 206.937.2810; huskydeli.com

Lick Pure Cream
Owner and flavor-experiment lover Michael Avery Darby gets a kick out of combos vanilla fans would never expect. With a pop-up inside of the ’Zaw on Capitol Hill (now selling pre-packed pints only) and a new shop in South Lake Union, Lick features seasonal scoops such as Southern Comfort with chunks of sweet potato cobbler in a cinnamon orange cream; honey bacon cornbread; and praline pound cake. For a fun game, try to guess what’s in the fan-favorite flavor M2—although they’ll never tell. $2/kids, $3.75/single, $4.75/double. Capitol Hill, 1424 E Pine St.; 206.478.3829; South Lake Union, 434 Yale Ave N; Facebook, “Lick Pure Cream

Molly Moon’s
The ever-popular Seattle chain of modern-rustic ice cream shops—the Wallingford flagship is still the most popular—are frequently wrapped with lines of people, and for very good reason. Starting with a base of Snoqualmie ice cream, owner Molly Moon Neitzel sources everything she can from local farms. Try the honey lavender with Sequim-sourced florals and honey from the foothills of the Olympics. The shop recently launched a Hello Robin habañero orange chocolate chip cookie dough flavor (hot diggety!), and vegans will enjoy one of the many sorbets (including a new kombucha flavor) or one of the coconut milk-based treats, such as salted caramel. $2.25/kid’s size, $3.45/1 scoop, $5/2 scoops, $6.50/3 scoops or a pint. Capitol Hill, 917 E Pine St., 206.708.7947, and 19th & Mercer, 522 19th Ave. E, 206.735.7970; Madrona, 1408 34th Ave., 206.324.0753; Queen Anne, 321 W Galer St., 206.457.8854; University District, 2615 NE 46th St., 206.525.5140; Wallingford, 1622 1/2 N 45th St., 206.547.5105; mollymoonicecream.com

Mora
The namesake “mora” (the Italian word for blackberry) ice cream is the best of the half-dozen fruit flavors, but the chocolate spectrum is where the real magic lies. Made from scratch on Bainbridge Island, the Swiss chocolate, chocolate mint and chocolate mousse all set tongues awagging. Rich and creamy, the flavors are intense and deeply satisfying. For more subtle notes, try the green tea ice cream. The Bainbridge store is sparsely decorated and brightly lit, with benches set under an umbrella out front. $3.65/1 scoop, $5.65/2 scoops, 69 cents/waffle cone. Bainbridge, 139 Madrone Lane; Kingston, 11250 State Hwy. 104; Poulsbo, 18801 Front St.; 206.855.1112; moraicecream.com

Old School Frozen Custard

Harking back to soda fountains of yesteryear, these charming brick stores offer impossibly creamy goods. There are two consistent flavors, vanilla and chocolate (with rotating specials daily, such as juicy lemon or the superpopular eggnog during the winter holidays). The cinnamony waffle cones are perfect for scoops of either staple, and the salted caramel shakes or sundaes with tons of toppings lend variety to the classic offerings. Try the Muddy Buddy with a house-made brownie, vanilla and chocolate custards, hot fudge and whipped cream. A “concrete” is a combo of frozen custard and “mix-ins” (toppings), slowly blended to make a multilayered treat you can only get at Old School. Discuss the magic of frozen custard on a wooden bench, among tables filled with couples on dates or parents taking their kids for a treat. $2.65/kid’s size, $3/single, $4.79/double. Capitol Hill, 1316 E Pike St., 206.324.2586; Fremont, 704 N 34th St., 206.695.2887; oldschoolfrozencustard.com

Parfait
Macaron ice cream sandwiches? Yep, they really do exist, and the pink grapefruit flavor (when in season) is the stuff midnight cravings are made of. Push-pops with orange sherbet and brownie ice cream sandwiches are owner Adria Shimada’s signature alternatives to traditional scoop-shop desserts—and everything, down the the sprinkles, is made in-house. Started in 2009 as the brown and orange food truck (which is still in rotation at special events), Parfait opened its first brick-and-mortar shop in November 2013—and it’s already popular. The krumkake-like “waffle” cones nod to Ballard’s Norwegian roots, and are light and crispy companions to the bright flavors of the made-from-scratch ice cream. Local summer fruits find a place in the ice cream case, including Tiny’s organic nectarines and Alm Hill Gardens’ blueberries. The modern-meets-traditional white space provides a few chairs for sitting a spell and a wall of windows for customers to watch the magic happen in the kitchen. $2.75/kid’s size, $3.75/1 scoop, $5/2 scoops. Ballard, 2034 NW 56th St.; 206.258.3066; parfait-icecream.com

Procopio Gelateria
Hidden away on the Pike Street Hillclimb, Procopio has been a Seattle gelato favorite since 1980. Formerly home to the Il Corvo pasta pop-up, Procopio still serves lunch and espresso alongside its well-regarded house-made gelato. The zabaglione gelato brings the rich Marsala wine flavors of the traditional Italian dessert, and the floral-flavored orange blossom is light and addictive. Kids can lick a strawberries-and-cream cone while parents lounge on the patio, sipping a glass of wine and taking a break from market shopping. $3.50/kid’s size, $4.75/2 scoops, $5.95/3 scoops. Pike Street Hillclimb, 1501 Western Ave.; 206.622.4280; procopiogelateria.com

Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt
Frozen yogurt flavors are tart and creamy, with the rotating flavors of marionberry and cherry fro-yo being the closest to the true tastes. Established in 1976 by Verena Schwippert and now owned by Celeste Poff-Schaffer, the Pike Place Market spot claims to be the first frozen yogurt store in the Pacific Northwest, and second on the West Coast. Novelty flavors from Snoqualmie Ice Cream, such as black licorice, keep froyo detractors coming back. Cruise by, if only for the history, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised that this place has been hiding in plain sight all along. Ice cream $3.50/1 scoop, $5/2 scoops; frozen yogurt, $3/small, $3.50/medium, $4/large. Pike Place Market, 1500 Pike Place; 206.743.6777; Facebook: “Shy Giant

Sirena Gelato

Owner Brian Ugurlu and the friendly scoopers dole out big samples of their gelati to neighborhood locals, who line up outside during the warmer months. The Thai coconut and mango flavors are intense icy versions of their namesakes, and a waffle bowl (85 cents) is the perfect vessel for a festive treat. Not in the mood for a scoop? Grab a pan dolce gelato “popsicle” or one of the many frozen sandwiches heaped with the Italian treat. The portions are huge for the price, and the Bellingham shop has the most generous seating, in a brick building in the Fairhaven Historical District. $2.50/kid’s size, $3.75/2 scoops, $4.75/3 scoops, $5.75/4 scoops. Bellingham (original location), 960 Harris Ave., 360.733.6700; Fremont, 3415 Fremont Ave. N, 206.547.1908; Kirkland, 109 Park Lane, 425.739.9339; sirenagelato.com

Snoqualmie Ice Cream
Served all over Seattle and available in ice cream cases at the best grocery stores, Snoqualmie’s gelati, frozen custards and ice creams are very popular. It’s easy to see why, with their unusual flavors, such as knock-your-socks-off lemon custard and crème fraîche, which are so rich and real, you won’t know what hit you. The spacious, barn-like “scoop shoppe” in Maltby serves up boozy milkshakes, such as the lemon lavender thyme shake with vodka, as well as regular milkshakes, sundaes and soft-serve parfaits. $3.50/1 scoop, $4.50/2 scoops, soft serve/$2. Scoop shop: Maltby, 222106 86th Ave. SE; 360.668.2912; snoqualmieicecream.com

Top Pot Doughnuts

The Wedgwood shop was the first Top Pot outlet to offer the doughnut–ice cream marriage that may cause you to weep with joy. With help from a Snoqualmie ice cream base, apple fritters and maple bars find their way into the mix. Not all the shops serve scoops, however. $2.19/kid’s size, $3.28/1 scoop, $4.38/2 scoops; $3.78/pint. Available only at the following Top Pot locations: Bellevue, 1000 NE Ninth Place; 425.457.7440; downtown, 2124 Fifth Ave.; 206.728.1966; Pioneer Square, 888 Western Ave.; 206.466.1729; Wedgwood, 6855 35th Ave. NE; 206.525.1966; (pints only available at Third & Columbia location); toppotdoughnuts.com

Vovito
The downtown Seattle location makes the perfect stop on your way to or from the library, with plenty of seats and tables, allowing you to finish a good book over a cup of gelato. Both locations—the other is in Bellevue’s Bravern shopping center—offer full menus, with espresso, panini and pastries rounding out the offerings. Besides the great sorbetti, the spots have friendly staff, good music and a relaxed atmosphere. Spirited smoothies, such as the peach Bellini and sangría give a little kick to the norm. $3.50/1 scoop, $4.50/2 scoops. Bellevue, The Shops at The Bravern, 700 110th Ave. NE, 425.502.7522; downtown, 1100 Fourth Ave., 425.503.5522; vovito.com

Zoe Yogurt
Smooth and velvety textures fill the bowls of self-serve frozen yogurt enthusiasts at the three locations of this locally-owned chain. The Green Lake original, across from the park, gets hordes of kids, fresh from the wading pools, whose parents are happy to have hormone-free, no-HFCS treats for their kids. Cake batter and original tart yogurt are the flavor faves, and true fanatics can go nuts with a toppings bar full of fresh fruit and chocolatey goodies. With 80 percent of their yogurt nonfat (and the other 20 percent lowfat), you’ll leave your guilt at the door. 45 cents per ounce, including toppings. Green Lake, 6900 E Green Lake Way N; 206.829.8270; Newcastle, 6920 Coal Creek Parkway SE; 425.429.3091; Redmond, 8900 161st Ave NE, 425.497.9800; zoeyogurt.com

Food Trucks & Carts

Empire Ice Cream
Empire (empireicecream.net) started out as a farmers market sensation, with its French custard ice cream available from a cart and Seattle-area stands. Made from scratch with an original recipe, each batch includes Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy’s milk and cream. Those in search of dairy-free offerings can try Empire’s sorbets, also made from scratch, with organic berries from Hayton Farms in Skagit Valley. Now, Eat Local makes and sells the flavors at its four locations, in Burien, Capitol Hill, downtown and Queen Anne. eatlocalonline.com

Six Strawberries
The dairy-free ice pops from Ballard-based Six Strawberries are refreshing and delish. The strawberry rhubarb pie packs tons of fresh-picked flavor, rolled in graham crackers for an authentic pop of pie. Visit the website for locations of the Six Strawberries bike cart. Chances are, it will be at your favorite market or event this summer. $3/pop. sixstrawberries.com (Left: Six Strawberries owners Will Lemke and Vanessa Resler) 


Street Treats
Ice cream made from scratch is at the center of the creamy success of this mobile outfit’s cookie sandwiches. Build your own unique treat by picking a cookie and an ice cream flavor—may we recommend a sandwich with two chocolate chip cookies filled with peanut butter ice cream? $5.50. 206.714.9535; regular locations listed at streettreatswa.com

Whidbey Island Ice Cream Company
Rich cream from Oregon’s Lochmead Farms is trucked and ferried over to provide the base of the delicious ice cream for this family-owned operation’s pints and bars. Catch the carts at a local market, such as the Ballard Farmers Market on Sundays, when ice cream lovers line up for a hand-dipped triple Skagit berry bar, or take home a pint of cardamom ice cream. Also available at Metropolitan Markets, Whole Foods and other local grocers in the freezer section. 43 flavors and counting. $2.50/bar, $4.29/pint. whidbeyicecream.com