In 1984, President Reagan did something most Americans could agree on: He declared July National Ice Cream Month. Establishments across the West are whipping up fun ways to get your licks in this summer. Here are just some of our new favorites. Made-to-order ice cream sandwiches, anyone?
Soda jerks concoct fizzy beverages behind a marble countertop at the retro San Francisco Ice Cream Bar. The menu gives yesteryear a nod with rich milkshakes, floats, and sundaes, but it’s the sodas that will knock your socks off. Try the Cole Street Cola made with a blend of 15 botanicals, including kola nut and coca leaf extract. (415) 752-4932, theicecreambarsf.com.
Fresh marshmallows, toffee, peaches, and nuts are just some of the ingredients you might find swirled into the treats at Lottie's Creamery in Walnut Creek. Opened in February 2013, it’s the only creamery in the San Francisco Bay Area that can pasteurize ice cream on-site. Cool off with a strawberry-lemonade sorbet, or indulge in a roasted-banana scoop packed into a homemade waffle cone. (925) 472-0723, lottiescreamery.com.
Three Twins Ice Cream founder Neal Gottlieb was just learning how to make the dessert when he started his small shop in San Rafael in 2005. Since then, his bright green containers have managed to become iconic—in the organic food–loving households, at least. Try summer’s new flavors made with organic milk and fair-trade coffee at a scoop shop in Larkspur, San Rafael, San Francisco, or Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. (707) 257-8946, threetwinsicecream.com.
Sketch Ice Cream in Berkeley churns out soft-serve dessert, homemade marshmallows, warm empanadas, local Sightglass Coffee, and fruity frozen “sketchsicles.” You can choose from toppings that range from sweet cacao nibs to savory olive oil. (510) 984-0294, sketchicecream.com.
It’s a sweet-tooth delicatessen at Batch in San Luis Obispo, where you can pick freshly baked cookies, cool ice cream, and various toppings (including miniature chocolate chips, nuts, and a chocolate hard-shell dip) to order your own custom sandwich. Celebrate the shop’s one-year anniversary in July 2013 with one of the sandwiches or an affogatto, espresso poured over ice cream and topped with whipped cream. Gluten-free and vegan options are also available.
Who said you can’t burn some calories by eating dessert? Cruise into Peddler’s Creamery for bicycle-churned ice cream at its new downtown Los Angeles location. The flavors rotate as fast as a bike wheel, but you might find mint-chocolate-chip cookie, fig ginger sorbet, or a vegan salted caramel. (213) 537-0257, peddlerscreamery.com.
Go straight to the source at Reed's Dairy in Idaho Falls, where cows and calves graze in the fields. After you ogle the spotted animals, taste some udderly fresh ice cream made the old-fashioned way with cream, milk, and sugar. (208) 552-0123, reedsdairy.com.
Badlands Café & Scoop Shoppe in Terry serves up the 13-scoop Pen-i-jaks sundae that could satiate any sweet tooth. The soccer ball-size bowl is recommended for groups of four, but those who manage to tackle it alone are rewarded with a spot on the Hall of Fame wall. (406) 635-2233.
Big Dipper Ice Cream founder Charlie Beaton started experimenting with an old ice-cream maker in the back of Kettle House Brewery. Today, his Missoula and Helena restaurants are attracting visitors with perennial flavors such as yellow cake and the Cold Smoke, made with the Kettle House Scotch ale. You might even spot a Big Dipper truck tooting around Missoula on July 4 for patriotic treats. (406) 543-5722, bigdippericecream.com.
In the shadow of the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower sits Luv-It Frozen Custard, just off the Strip in Las Vegas. The tiny shack has attracted devotees to its Western sundae—vanilla custard drizzled with hot fudge, caramel, and salted pecans—since 1973. (702) 384-6452, luvitfrozencustard.com.
Red Wagon Creamery has developed a cult following to its food cart at local farmers’ markets in Eugene and Springfield. From July 4–7, celebrate the grand opening of its first store in downtown Eugene with the new L'il Almond Annie, orange ice cream with local Queen Anne cherries and smoked almonds. Alternatively, adults can revel in the vodka-infused, roasted beet delicacy known as the Russian Meteorite. (541) 345-8008, redwagoncreamery.com.
Salt & Straw dishes out farm-fresh flavors such as a summer-only blend of marionberries, goat cheese, and habanero chiles. Fans of the family-owned operation welcome a third location to Portland this July with scoops of strawberry cheesecake, raspberry-basil sorbet, and other creative combinations. (503) 208-3867, saltandstraw.com.
The smell of fresh waffle cones lures sun-kissed vacationers into the checkered-floored Ike’s Creamery, a 1950s-inspired diner at Provo Beach Resort in Provo. Take your pick from an assortment of Blue Bell dairy delights for sundaes, floats, and shakes. (801) 224-5001.
Organic scoops of spumoni, rocky road, and the Zonker Stout are among some 100 choices at Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Jackson Hole. (307) 733-1998, moosjacksonhole.com.
People from all over the Cowboy State visit Farson Mercantile in Farson for its Big Cone. Choose from about 20 varieties to create your own leaning tower of ice cream made of four giant scoops. (307) 273-9511, farsonmerc.com.
Photography courtesy of Leela Cyd Ross