The Best Ice Cream & Frozen Treats In AustinWhere to get ice cream, gelato, and frozen desserts.
It’s a well-known fact that very few foods are as effective at battling the heat as ice cream. It’s soft, it’s cold, and it’s been proven to lower the ambient temperature by almost 10° (please don’t fact check us on that). Which is why, after extensive scientific analysis—AKA eating a bunch of ice cream all at once—we’ve compiled a list of our favorite spots. Whether you’re looking for a classic scoop of ice cream or gelato, or just anything frozen to cool your hands a little, these spots are here to help.
The original gourmet ice cream experience in Austin. Gone are the days when employees would be drunk on the job, pouring bourbon into the ice cream itself. Amy’s has grown up into a well-oiled ice cream machine, but still remains a quirky, family-friendly mainstay of the Austin experience. And with more locations in Austin than we have fingers, you’re probably within a few blocks of some ice cream right now.
All of the ice cream at Gati is vegan and gluten-free, with a rich, coconut milk base that gives it a silky smooth texture. The flavors change regularly and highlight local ingredients, so expect to see things like Texas pecans and peaches, as well as Thai-influenced flavors like pandan and green mango (it started as a side ice cream project of Thai Fresh).
Very few things can combat the heat as well as a snowball from Casey’s at 51st and Airport. Show up on a summer afternoon and you’ll probably see a crowd of people perched on the front steps of the old, renovated house long before you see the tiny window taking all of those orders. The menu is simple enough, but with 50+ flavors, all available with or without soft serve and assorted toppings, you could easily spend the rest of your summers here without ever repeating a flavor combo. We like our snowballs stuffed with soft serve and topped with sweetened condensed milk, but as long as you leave with a cup of ice and some sort of flavor, you did Casey’s right.
At Luv Fats, the small-batch vegan ice cream shop on North Lamar and St. Johns, the vegan ice cream is avocado- or coconut milk-based (there are sorbets, too). The shop is not hard to miss—it’s very pink. The menu changes daily, but you’ll usually find fun flavors like caramel rosemary, ube black sesame, chocolate chai, and banana pudding. Toppings include crumbled gluten-free oreos and a show-stopping (and delicious) torched marshmallow fluff. Ice cream pints are available at the store, and at farmers markets, small grocery shops, and cafes around town.
Right out front of DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya in Crestview is their ice cream shop, DipDipDip Ice Cream, serving shakes, cones, cups, and even tacos (with a brioche shell). The cones are big and can be something of a commitment, but our favorite is the Sum Yum Yuzu, with a super-creamy black pepper yuzu mascarpone with strawberries and a pink lemon-dipped mochiko waffle cone. We’re also fans of the Barney Poo with Japanese purple sweet potato ice cream. Just watch out because it'll stain your teeth blue for a few hours.
The “island-inspired” helados at Color Cafe on East MLK somehow manage to out-cool even the most refreshing of frozen treats in Austin. Maybe it’s the fact that this tiny trailer is practically a desert oasis in a hot parking lot shared with a couple other food trucks, or maybe there’s just something inherently refreshing about tart and tangy tropical flavors like guava, passion fruit, and mango. Either way, when the temps start creeping up, we head to Color Cafe.
Fans of Arrested Development might know a thing or two about banana stands. In fact, the show inspired its own real-life take on the concept right here in Austin (there’s a second location near UT). Bananas are the name of the game here, but they get the full dessert treatment. They’re served frozen on a plastic spoon and dipped in peanut butter, vanilla, or chocolate (with a vegan option), then covered in toppings. If you’re not sure what toppings pair well with a banana, you’re not alone. Just choose one of the suggested options, like The Gob–a double banana dipped in chocolate and topped with nuts, or mix and match for your own combination.
You can get all kinds of snacks and desserts at Hay Elotes, from fruit cups and chamoy apples to, well, elotes. Of course, there’s also a full selection of ice creams and sorbets. But our favorite dessert just might be the Mango Hill—a seemingly bottomless cup of mango sorbet studded with fresh strawberries and topped with strawberry syrup and chile limón powder. It’s refreshing enough to make you forget that you just sweat through your second shirt of the day.
Hiding in a small shopping center on South Congress Avenue is Gelato Paradiso, one of our favorite spots for gelato in the whole city. Everything is made in-house daily, and it shows. A scoop of pistachio packs in an intense earthiness, and the stracciatella is about as classic as it comes—with a rich, creamy vanilla folded around bitter strands of dark chocolate. Grab an affogato if you need an afternoon pick-me-up, or just grab a two, three, or four scoop bowl and try to successfully finish your gelato before the summer sun does.
It’s almost impossible to make a list of ice cream spots in Austin without mentioning Sandy’s. They’ve been around for over 70 years, and in that time not a lot has changed on their menu. After you’ve taken down one of their classic burgers, get a vanilla, chocolate, or mixed frozen custard to really get the full Sandy’s experience. Bonus points if you can make it out of the parking lot before it melts all over your hands.
The first time we went to Dolce Neve and asked a question about their mint gelato, the folks behind the counter pulled out a potted spearmint plant from a top hat and told us “this plant right here is where all of the natural mint flavor comes from,” and that was when we realized just how committed they were to fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients (OK there may or may not have been an actual tophat involved). And it shows—they consistently make some of the best gelato in town. Their flavors rotate out pretty often, but if you happen to see their mascarpone and matcha, do yourself a favor and order it ASAP.
Lick is about as close as Austin gets to a farm-to-table Baskin’ Robbins. They have close to 31 flavors—mostly made with local, seasonal ingredients—multiple locations in Austin (and more in San Antonio), and nationwide shipping. A lot of their mainstays are twists on classic ice cream flavors, like dark chocolate with olive oil and sea salt, or vanilla bean with Hill Country honey. But there’s also a whole menu of seasonal flavors like strawberry margarita and lemonade pound cake.
Sugar Pine on Research Boulevard is a Japanese restaurant with food like bento boxes, noodle dishes, udon soup, and onigiri. All of the ice creams and sorbets are made in-house and come in fun and less common flavors like matcha green tea, taro root, black sesame, and watermelon-Thai basil. They also make their own waffle cones.
Zeds serves soft serve ice cream blended with fresh fruit to order, creating a dessert that’s a little easier to justify after eating a few too many tacos on the East Side. You start with a base, then choose from whatever fruits they have. It all gets blended together and topped with various drizzles and toppings. But if you want something more than vanilla and fruit, they also have rotating specials like a blackberry pie, complete with la lechera, graham crackers, and, of course, blackberries.
Bésame is a trailer at Meanwhile Brewing, and it’s probably our favorite way to finish up a meal of smoked meats at Distant Relatives next door. Flavors change out regularly based on what’s in season, so expect things like a lavender and blueberry ice cream with Fruity Pebbles, or an earl gray ice cream with wildflower honey meringue. And if you’re really a fan of unique flavors, set your alarms for Thursday when they drop a weekly, limited-edition pint (they go fast).