If you’re anything like us, those cool, double-digit days probably feel like a distant memory right about now. Fortunately, one of the best ways to cool down is also one of the tastiest (no, we’re not suggesting you drink the water at Barton Springs). Austin is home to some great frozen desserts. From gelato and avocado-based versions, to fully-loaded dessert tacos, here are some of the best places around town to get ice cream.
Avocados are magic - they’re good on toast, make the best margaritas, and they play the starring role in guacamole (what’s guacamole without avocados - salsa?). And at Luv Fats, avocado is also the solution to an ice cream that’s dairy-free, vegan, and super smooth (with an assist from coconut milk). Flavors change often, but recent ones include butter pecan, rosemary chai, sourdough toast with peach jam, and lavender cookies and cream. It’s available by the pint at The Bee Grocery in East Austin, or you can buy scoops and pints at the downtown farmers market on Saturdays and the Mueller market on Sundays. They also participate in other pop-ups and events, so do check them out on Instagram.
Tropical Dreams has been making ice cream for over 25 years, but you’ve probably never heard of them since their new location on The Drag is their first one outside of Hawaii. They use a high-butterfat mix to make their ice cream, resulting in a really rich, creamy texture. Besides, this is the closest most of us are getting to traveling to Hawaii at any point in the near future.
We like the vegan ice cream at Sweet Ritual on Airport Blvd just fine - especially the very good Death Metal by Chocolate (with a double chocolate sunflower seed butter base and gluten-free chocolate cookies). But our favorite frozen desserts to get here are the shakes, made with their coconut and soy-vanilla soft serve. Most of the sauces and flavors are homemade, including chocolate, peanut butter, and salted caramel. We like to get the strawberry shake with chopped peanuts for a PB&J-adjacent dessert.
Ice cream tacos are the perfect answer to the question, “How can I fit more tacos into my life?” At the trailer Taco Sweets, you can build your own if you’re feeling up to it, and finally live out your childhood dream of building a waffle-cone taco with strawberry ice cream, Cap’n Crunch cereal, and Sour Patch Kids. We usually go with one of their pre-vetted combos, like the S’more Lovin’ taco with vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips, marshmallows, crumbled graham crackers, and chocolate syrup. They’re located in a small food trailer park near Burnet and Hancock for takeout and delivery, with plenty of picnic tables in the area.
Dai Due, the Manor Road butcher shop and restaurant, might not be the first place you think of when you’re looking for ice cream. It’s probably not the second or third place either, for that matter. But the next time you’re placing your online order for wild boar lettuce wraps or four pounds of steak, throw in a pint or two of ice cream. It’s all churned in-house. Flavors vary based on what’s in season, but you can expect to find local, seasonal flavors like Texas peach buttermilk, or goat cheese and blueberry.
While Dipdipdip’s hot pot service may be temporarily on pause (they’re doing a sandwich pop-up right now), the ice cream stand they opened up outside of their restaurant is still going stronger than ever. The menu features a rotating ice cream taco with a pan-fried brioche shell and a daily flavor, as well as shakes and ice cream flavors by the pint, including ones like a super-creamy yuzu mascarpone (with strawberries and snickerdoodle cookies that we liked a lot. They’re located near Burnet and West Anderson Lane.
Mandola’s operates with four locations across Austin as equal-parts Italian marketplace and restaurant. So it’s a great place to grab some imported olive oil and cheese with your take-home bowl of gnocchi. They also sell homemade Italian-style gelato by the pint or quart. Flavors are more classic - chocolate, lemon, berry, etc…but you’re probably not coming here for some kind of caramel-bacon-gummy bear drizzle anyway.
The Mexican/Tex-Mex spot Fresa’s has got a lot of things going for it - the 9th St and Lamar drive-thru is extremely convenient, and the South First location has a spacious patio. The food’s good too, but getting any meal there without the excellent ice cream would be a serious mistake. The flavors change regularly, and they’re simple and well-executed (like orange creamsicle or cookies and cream), or sometimes they’re fun and innovative (like strawberry cheesecake or rice krispies). At both locations you can get “tiny” servings and pints to go, as well as scoops at South First, dine-in only (sometimes with a cookie).
You already know about Amy’s, we don’t really need to tell you more. Hundreds of flavors in rotation, more locations in Austin than we have fingers. You’re probably within a block of one right now.
While Austin’s East Side seems to have no shortage of ice cream and gelato, Gelateria Gemelli consistently comes out as one of our favorites. There are some great classic flavors, like lemon curd and pistachio, as well as less-common ones like miso vanilla. They also double as a coffee shop, which means you can turn any of these into a delicious affogato for a perfect, late-afternoon pick-me-up.
Staring down the menu at Dolce Bacio will make you feel like you’re in a small Italian coffee shop, with the smell of fresh cream in the air and Nessun Dorma playing softly in the background. That is, until you realize you’re in a food truck park in East Austin and it’s 110 degrees out. The menu consists mostly of gelato and sorbet - all made in-house - but they also have tiramisu made with fresh mascarpone cheese, cannoli, and affogatos.
Equal parts cocktail bar and ice cream shop, Prohibition is that perfect after-dinner spot when you’re not sure if you want to end the night with a drink, dessert, or both. The flavors are constantly changing out with local, seasonal ingredients, like prickly pear mezcal sorbet or pecan buttered rum. And of course, there are just as many flavors without alcohol - both vegan and dairy-based - because not everything has to be boozy to be refreshing on a hot summer afternoon.
It’s not exactly an ice cream shop, but we felt it would be a disservice to dessert-based sandwiches everywhere to not mention the birthday cake ice cream sandwich from Launderette. It’s simple, it’s covered in sprinkles, and it’ll make you feel like it’s your birthday. This seems like an easy win right now, so give a try or two or three. They also sell the ice cream sandwiches in six-packs that come in a mini foam cooler.
Most of the food at Lou’s is rotisserie-based - with chicken, sirloin, and cauliflower - but if you’re looking for a sweet finish to your meal, they make some really nice frozen desserts. The hand-spun milkshakes are tasty (try the horchata flavor), but we usually go with their classic vanilla custard and add some brandy cherries.
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. They’re located near Webberville and East 7th and are currently open for takeout and delivery.
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, make sure to 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.
Cannone is located on Barton Springs Rd, right near Zilker, making it the perfect spot for a post-park cool down. The owner started off with a gelato shop in Monaco before opening up this small, mobile gelato shop in Austin a few years ago. All of the gelato is made daily, and many with imported ingredients like Italian pistachios or hazelnut paste.
At Cow Tipping Creamery, they like to combine less-conventional toppings with rich, dairy-based soft serve. So you can expect to see things like funfetti cake chunks, blue sugar crystals, and birthday cake crumbs on top of your vanilla or chocolate base. The result is a rich, creamy dessert that looks almost as good as it tastes. They have a bunch of pre-vetted flavor combos, or “Stackers,” but our favorite is the NOLA that comes topped with bananas foster bread pudding, rummy caramel sauce, honey-dusted pecans, and whipped cream. There’s also an additional soft serve flavor and Stacker special each week.
Manolis sells homemade ice cream, paletas, shakes, Italian ice and pastries out of a trailer just off South 1st. The ice cream flavors range from classics, like vanilla or strawberry, to less common fruits like soursop and lulo. All of the ice creams can be made into shakes. And since they also sell espresso, you can turn them into an affogato.
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 (OK there may have been a door involved) and told us “this plant right here is where all of the natural mint flavor comes from.” That was when we realized just how committed they were to fresh, seasonal, and (very) local ingredients. 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.
All of the ice cream at Thai Fresh is vegan and gluten-free, which in this case means a rich, coconut milk base. The flavors here range from Texas favorites like local peach or fig, to the more Thai-influenced flavors like green mango and pandan leaf. They’re located near South 1st and Mary St, with ice cream available by the scoop, pint, or gallon for curbside pickup.
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 - three locations in Austin (and another two 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 elderberry mojito and lemonade pound cake.
Holla Mode specializes in “Thai style” ice cream, which isn’t so much a comment on flavors as it is on the method of preparation. The liquid base - made with dairy or coconut milk - is prepared to order before being poured onto a frozen, stainless steel surface, where it quickly starts to freeze. Meanwhile, a wizard of sorts starts scraping this now-frozen mixture into little rolls that get stacked into a cup and covered with all sorts of syrups and toppings. You can make your own combo or go with one of their house specials. We like the Sticky Mango - their take on the classic mango and sticky rice Thai dessert.
Bat City Gelato in North Austin has (you guessed it) house-made gelato and frozen desserts like sorbet, gelato pops and cakes, as well as affogato. They’re constantly rotating flavors in and out - if you see something you like, you better order it - and they’ll even sometimes take customer requests. There are often classic flavors like salted caramel, pistachio, and stracciatella, and there are also creative ones like Almond Joy, butterbeer for you Harry Potter nuts, and Samoas for the Girl Scout Cookie fans. Follow them on Instagram for the latest flavors.
Sugar Pine is Japanese cafe near 183 and Ohlen that specializes in bento boxes, soba noodles, onigiri, and ice cream. All of their ice creams and sorbets are made in-house, all-natural, and come in flavors like matcha, black sesame, and watermelon-Thai basil.
Taiwanese snow ice might just be one of our favorite methods of ice-intake. Blurring the lines between shaved ice and ice cream, SnoMo takes giant blocks of creamy, flavored ice and shaves them into bowls, before covering them with your choice of fresh fruit and syrup toppings. We like to go with a fruit-flavored base - like mango or strawberry - and add a scoop of ice cream, some fresh fruit, and condensed milk. But there are so many possible combinations that you could try a different one every day for a couple of years (don’t check our math on that). They have locations in North and South Austin, as well as Cedar Park, and are currently only accepting takeout orders.
Michoacana is probably best known for their house-made paletas, but they also have a great selection of ice creams and other frozen treats, like mangonadas and Oreo frappes. You can also get some really fun snacks, like hot cheetos with queso, if you’re feeling especially cheese-inclined. Grab a snack, a scoop, and a paleta, and get ready for a great afternoon.