As far as coping mechanisms for sweltering summers go, ice cream is right up there with a dip in the pool or hunkering down in the air conditioning. Lucky for us, Philly has a number of fantastic parlors that range from historical to avant-garde — and some exceptional gelato purveyors as well. These are the ice cream shops you need to know.
By Wendy Ramunno with contributions from Caroline Russock
Weckerly’s blueberry ice cream sandwich. Courtesy of Weckerly’s
This husband-and-wife ice cream operation opened its first brick-and-mortar shop on Girard Avenue in Fishtown late last year. The rotating roster of flavors (think Juneberry buttermilk swirl and wild rose pistachio) are made with in-season and locally sourced ingredients. Weckerly’s ice cream sandwiches, with their creative flavor combinations, are worth seeking out at retail shops around the city.
Must-try: Blueberry ice cream sandwich made with dark rum, lime zest and cardamom-sugar–dusted graham crackers
9 West Girard Ave.; 215-423-2000
Love Park ice cream at Sweet Charlie’s. Courtesy of Sweet Charlie’s
One of the first shops to bring the Thai rolled ice cream phenomenon to Philadelphia, Sweet Charlie’s was founded in 2015 by 18-year-old Kyle Billig and his brother Jacob. Patient customers choose their base (ice cream, nonfat yogurt or vegan) and flavor add-ins, and watch as it’s all mashed up and shaped into cylinders on subzero griddles. The original location at Washington Square Park often has a line out the door, and several more shops have opened and are in the works.
Must-try: The Love Park made with chocolate, pretzel and peanut butter is a signature. The Rittenhouse location recently introduced “Sweet Charlie’s After Dark,” adult-only flavors that come with a shot of alcohol mixed in.
Strawberry cheesecake ice cream. Courtesy of @custardcakescreamery/Instagram
This busy fourth-generation Roxborough shop (you might know it by its longer name Custard & Cakes Creamery) started by selling just vanilla and chocolate soft serve, but today it’s known for ice cream cakes and a slew of other offerings, including shakes, sundaes, frozen yogurt and water ice.
Must-try: Chocolate and vanilla ice cream cakes (with chocolate cookie crunch) are typically in stock, but specialty cakes need a few days advance notice.
5461 Ridge Ave.; 215-487-1920
The Trolley Car. Courtesy of Trolley Car Ice Cream Shoppe
Parked in front of an old-school diner with the same name in Mt. Airy, this kid-pleasing converted trolley car serves up the usual classics made with old-style ice cream sourced from Nelson’s of Royersford. On summer Saturdays the owners host free family-friendly movie nights.
Must-try: You can’t go wrong with a classic chocolate milkshake or banana split.
7619 Germantown Ave.; 215-753-1500
The “Franklin Mint” sundae. Courtesy of Franklin Fountain
This old-timey Old City ice cream parlor has been dishing up some of the best (and most authentically Philadelphia-style) ice cream for more than a decade and it just keeps getting better. Scoops are a great choice, but seasonal sundaes like the peach melba parfait are even better, especially because they’re served in vintage ice cream bowls.
Must-try: For mint chocolate chip lovers, the “Franklin Mint” is the holy grail. This concoction comes topped with marshmallow, chocolate syrup, crème de menthe, whipped cream and a mint chocolate coin made at neighboring Shane Confectionery.
116 Market St.; 215-627-1899
Avocado ice cream. Courtesy of Capogiro
This Philadelphia-born mini-chain has won worldwide accolades, and if you’ve visited any of the shops around town (or its Capofitto pizzeria) you know exactly why. Italian-accented flavors like hazelnut and stracciatella share freezer space with options like Lancaster County strawberry made with local ingredients or signature creations like avocado gelato.
Must-try: When this spot has boozy options, they’re the only way to go. After all, when’s the next time you’re going to be able to get a few fingers of single-malt scotch gelato?
Pizza-flavored ice cream. Courtesy of Little Baby’s
These guys made their debut with stunt ice cream flavors like pizza and Earl Grey Sriracha, but they’ve retained a following with a menu that features all sorts of unlikely but always delicious, rotating scoops.
Must-try: Not for the faint of heart, the everything bagel ice cream is a once-in-a-lifetime combo (and not to mention totally breakfast appropriate).
Founder Bryan Petroff at Big Gay Ice Cream. Courtesy of Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
Fans of rainbows, unicorns and soft serve rejoiced when this New York import opened its doors in 2015. And with amazing cones like the Salty Pimp (a chocolate-dipped vanilla cone with sea salt and dulce de leche), it’s a welcome addition to the Philly ice cream scene.
Must-try: The Mermaid is a perfect cup of vanilla soft serve, lime curd, graham cracker crumbles and whipped cream. Think of it as a Key lime pie sundae.
521 S. Broad St.; 267-886-8024
With 150-plus years of ice cream making under its belt, this Reading Terminal staple churns up classic flavors like rum raisin or pralines and cream, alongside new additions like pomegranate blueberry chunk and Guatemalan ripple.
Must-try: A two-scoop cup or cone is the ideal way to enjoy one of Bassets’ signatures — the sweet and salty peanut butter swirl.
45 N. 12th St.; 215-925-4315
There is something oh-so-very Italian about this Rittenhouse cafe, trattoria, wine bar and gelato shop. The rainbow-hued gelato case is home to dozens of flavors like mojito, melon and arachide — that’s peanut in Italian. And all are expertly made by Gelato World Champion Stefano Biasini.
Must-try: The super-silky, nutty pistachio is a top-seller. If you’re in the market for a next-level gelato experience, go for one of maestro Biasini’s gelato pairings, savory dishes topped with a scoop of gelato.
1716 Chestnut St.; 215-568-5600