A good ice cream is like a big, cold hug on a warm Austin afternoon. It cools you down, and in some cases, can really make your day. Fortunately, Austin is home to some great frozen desserts. From gelato and coconut-based versions, to fully-loaded dessert tacos, here are our favorite places in town to get ice cream.
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).
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.
Outside of DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya is their ice cream shop 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.
photo credit: Holly Dirks
Amy's Ice Creams
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 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.
photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
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 like to go with their classic vanilla custard.
photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
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.
photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
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.
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 have been a cabinet 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 elderberry mojito and lemonade pound cake.
Holla Mode near Barton Springs 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. We like the Sticky Mango—their take on the classic mango and sticky rice Thai dessert.
Bat City Gelato in North Austin serves house-made gelato and frozen desserts like sorbet, gelato pops, and cakes. 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, as well as more creative options like butterbeer for the Harry Potter nuts and Samoas for the Girl Scout Cookie fans.
photo credit: Raphael Brion
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+fruit flavors, they also have rotating specials, with combos like a strawberry paleta with chamoy and tajin.
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. 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, with a couple options available each day.