Why the Twin Cities is the best place to eat ice cream in the universe

With this many choices of local, handcrafted treats, why go anywhere else?

Izzy's

Izzy's is all about innovation. Every other year, the St. Paul shop hosts its People's Flavor Awards: Customers submit new flavor ideas, then the Izzy's staff makes samples of the most intriguing ones and submits them to a lick-off. Flavor fanatics buy tickets to taste all the entries and vote for the winner, which earns a coveted spot in Izzy's flavor rotation. Past finalists have included everything from Chocolate Covered Potato Chip to Dirt Cake (chocolate ice cream with chocolate pudding, cream cheese, Oreos, and gummy worms, for those of you who don't have kids). Owner Jeff Sommers used the 2006 People's champion, Hot Brown Sugar, to beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a "Throwdown" on Flay's Food Network show.

One of the shop's other innovations is the "Izzy," an additional mini-scoop so the indecisive don't have to choose between, say, a scoop of ume (dark chocolate with plum wine) or baklava. Another advance: the solar panels installed on the roof, which provide about 15 percent of the shop's energy.

Scooping out the action in the Crema Cafe courtyard
Jana Freiband
Scooping out the action in the Crema Cafe courtyard

Location Info

Map

Crema Cafe

3403 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > Breakfast

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Details

CREMA CAFE 3403 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612.824.3868

PUMPHOUSE CREAMERY 4754 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, 612.825.2021; pumphouse-creamery.com

IZZY'S ICE CREAM 2034 Marshall Ave., St Paul, 651.603.1458; izzysicecream.com

GRAND OLE CREAMERY 750 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651.293.1655; grandolecreamery.com

SEBASTIAN JOE'S 1007 W. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, 612.870.0065

Grand Ole Creamery

"Where are you guys?" a guy barked into his cell phone, as he stood among the throngs outside Grand Ole Creamery, peeking into the window. "Oh, I see you. Get me a single scoop of Reese's Pieces." An older lady waiting patiently on a nearby bench commented to her friend, "That's cheating. You've got to go through the line."

Ordering methods may be different than when the St. Paul shop opened in 1984, but everything else feels, and tastes, much the same. A lot of shops make handmade waffle cones, and while their quality is good across the board, Grand Ole Creamery's are the best to watch. On the night I was there, kids pressed their faces against the glass to watch a teenage girl pour batter into eight waffle irons. When the bumpy skins started to brown, she peeled them off the iron and deftly rolled them on a conical mold, careful not to burn her fingers.

Grande Ole's flavors are mostly classics, from Peppermint Bon-Bon to Maple Nut, but my favorite is Birthday Cake, which tastes just like the batter, with colorful candy bits and little angel food sponges.

Sebastian Joe's

By the time I made it to Sebastian Joe's, I'd already been to two other ice cream shops that day. (Though at one I took only three licks of a plastic-tasting peach soft serve before tossing it into somebody's bushes. To the squirrel I hope discovered it: Eat your heart out. And to the homeowner who hopefully didn't: Sorry!) Though Sebastian Joe's has its fair share of funky flavors—like Roasted Garlic Almond Chip—I always gravitate toward its signature raspberry chocolate, which tastes like it has a whole pint of berries crushed into each scoop, or Oreo, which is rich, chocolaty, dark as asphalt, and seems to contain more cookies than ice cream.

The best thing about Joe's ice cream may be the treats it is fashioned into: Oreo ice cream made into a pie, raspberry chocolate chip sandwiched between two buttery cookies, vanilla blended with caramel and espresso into an elixir that's sweet and caffeinated enough to bestow the frenzied energy of its namesake, local writer and Joe's regular Neal Karlen. I sat on the sidewalk and made a mess of my Brr Bar, dark-chocolate-dipped Oreo ice cream on a stick. Each time I took a bite, shards of chocolate went flying and the ice cream quickly dripped. At this point, I was probably just a scoop or two shy of making myself sick. But Minnesota summers are too short not to enjoy them to the fullest, so I licked it all the way down to the popsicle stick.  

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