We know, we know—these days, ice cream is only worth its weight in Instagram likes if it’s olive-flavored or black as the night sky. But these spots—a midwestern deli, Harry Potter’s hangouts, even Elon Musk’s HQ—are serving up frozen delights alongside an unexpected setting, also known as photogenic goldmines. Just don’t be surprised when you’re too dumbfounded by the best-ever ice cream here of all places to snap a picture of your scoops.
There’s nothing better than a Jewish deli — unless that Jewish deli has decor on par with a Chuck E Cheese’s gone rogue, offering dioramas, displays, and dozens of handmade mobiles whizzing across the ceiling above. (Even their website is a masterpiece in ‘90s web browsing.) Ella’s wide selection of ice cream is served in massive cones or atop grilled homemade pound cake (their specialty), the perfect treat after a ride on the decades-old carousel. If Walt Disney dropped acid, he may have opened Ella’s himself; it’s a nightmare for people with hangovers or dairy intolerances, but legitimately my favorite restaurant in the world.
Seriously. Parse your Facebook network for anyone who works at Elon Musk’s futuristic company and beg them to let you visit the office, where you can suck down some of the most delicious soft-serve available while watching people build freaking spaceships. Really gives a whole new meaning to astronaut ice cream, doesn't it?
If the strange flavors of Salt & Straw or Morgenstern’s have ever enticed you, get your tush over to Universal Studios Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Florean’s, the ice cream shop within Diagon Alley, fills up cones of soft-serve in flavors like Butterbeer, orange marmalade and Granny Smith, while their scoops of earl grey and lavender, clotted cream, and salted caramel blondie rival some of the best creameries in the country. It’s magic, and not just because everybody’s carrying a wand.
There are plenty of ice cream parlors in Manhattan worth visiting, but nothing holds a candle to the hole-in-the-wall goodness that is this downtown creamery. Taro, Durian, Black Sesame and Pandan may pop up elsewhere as trends, but here, they’re the core flavors. Be sure to head here after your next dim sum run, or skip the entrees altogether—there’s no way they’ll stack up to homemade scoops of almond cookie-flavored ice cream.
If you’re visiting Notre Dame for the architecture and history, you’re doing it wrong. It’s but a picturesque preview of the real sight: Berthillion’s creamery, located on the tiny Seine island just past the cathedral (accessible by bridge). Their beloved ice cream is carried at restaurants throughout Paris, but it’s not the same. For the richest flavors and creamiest licks, you’ll need to go straight to the source—and if you have time afterwards, then peep Paris’ most famous church.
Deep in the heart of “my grandparents live near Miami” Florida is this ragtag restaurant, a Food Network clip show dream packed with antique who-knows-whats in a neighborhood that you’ll only end up in for family vacations. Their carnivalesque menu, featuring edible behemoths like “mile-long” hot dogs and toppling sandwiches, makes it unfathomable that the star of the show here is actually their dessert. Save room, order a sundae the size of your head in any flavor—they’ve got loads—and if you can, watch a lucky few conquer their specialty: the trademarked Kitchen Sink.
A hip pizza parlour with a tough-to-get reservation in a town that is unified in its hatred of carbs—makes sense, then, that this Hollywood outpost also happens to serve up the greatest soft-serve in the city. Made with Straus Family Creamery cream—the same guys who sell fancy cream-on-top milk at upscale groceries across the state—this soft-serve is a decadent take on what can often be a disappointing treat, served with a wooden stick (LA, amirite?) for good measure.
Some people go to Bloomies to register for Le Creusets, but real sweet-tooths know it as a dream ice cream parlor surrounded by a department store. Deep within about half of its locations— including in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu—is a soft-serve outpost whose best-selling “plain” flavor is anything but. It hits the sweet spot between McDonald’s clownish vanilla fro-yo and Pinkberry’s ultra-tart taste in a way that’s irresistible, which is great, because they give you so much you’d think they’re having a closeout sale. (No wonder it’s remained a shopaholic’s secret.)