We like to think that all ice creams are special and amazing, but soft serve is in an elite league of its own. It’s creamy, smooth, and isn’t as bad as a regular scoop if your teeth are sensitive to cold stuff. The only problem is, Seattle doesn’t have a ton of it.
Thankfully, there are enough places serving swirled frozen dairy (and in some cases, the lack of dairy) to come up with a list of the very best. From drive-throughs with textbook vanilla cones to bubble tea shops serving brown sugar boba sundaes, these spots prove that OK, thank goodness, there’s actually plenty of great soft serve in this town.
Prefer hard ice cream and not sure how you got to the soft serve page? Check out our full guide to The Best Ice Cream In Seattle.
If we had to crown a grand champion of the swirl, we’d give it to the one from Hot Cakes. The creamy vanilla soft serve at this molten cake bakery on Capitol Hill uses outrageously good ice cream to begin with. But a waffle cone of this stuff is just not complete without a dunk in their smoked chocolate dip, which tastes like an entire campfire embodied within a dark magic shell - only without any dirt or shards of wood.
Milk Drunk is the newest spot on the list, and it deserves to be here for their malted chocolate soft serve alone. It’s a little nutty, not too sweet, and pairs really well with an order of mozzarella sticks dipped in herby green aioli. In addition to vanilla and malted chocolate, this fried chicken sandwich shop on Beacon Hill serves two rotating vegan flavors (some examples are coconut fig and rainier cherry), and they’re so good that we sometimes crave those over the dairy options.
Before Milk Drunk, there was Homer, the same team’s excellent Mediterranean restaurant down the street. There are only two ice cream flavors available at any given time, but they’re both usually just as tasty as they are interesting - like chocolate bay leaf and vegan tahini, or vanilla whey and summer melon. Grab a cup to eat on the way back to the car if you’ve ordered some mezze plates for takeout.
If you couldn’t care less about ice cream infused with herbs or wild seasonal berries and just want some imitation vanilla extract, go to Little Coney at Golden Gardens. This burger-and-fries spot (where we don’t really care about either of those things) serves great soft serve, and we recommend ordering a towering supermarket cake cone pumped with artificially-flavored swirl, adding some sprinkles, and then taking it to Little Coney’s outdoor patio seating. Otherwise known as the beach.
Nana’s Green Tea
There are a small handful of ice cream spots in town that serve matcha soft serve, and until Matchaman opens their permanent location soon, Nana’s is the best. It’s quite balanced - the bitterness of the green tea is toned down without it being sickly sweet. We love it especially when swirled with vanilla and/or eaten with an entire slice of matcha pound cake shoved on top.
Here’s our constructive criticism of soft serve in Seattle - the portions are a little small for what you pay. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth at King’s Deli, a corner convenience store in the Central District that serves ice cream among trays of fried chicken and jojos. For only $2, you get a massive cone of delicious, drippy vanilla or chocolate (we prefer the vanilla here). On a hot day when you need to cool off, scrape together a few pocket quarters and go to King’s for some sweet, momentary bliss.
Next Level Burger is a plant-based fast food joint located inside the Roosevelt Whole Foods. And while you might be there to grab a Beyond patty topped with tempeh bacon and fake cheddar, you cannot leave without some non-dairy coconut soft serve. The only catch is that said soft serve is only available in milkshake form. “This is not a milkshake guide. I’m very angry,” you might be thinking, and we hear you. But to be fair, you could eat their fantastic (and fudgy) cookies and cream shake with a spoon and call it a concrete. It counts.
The day that Drip Tea ran out of vanilla soft serve for a Tiger Boba sundae was the best day of our lives as we were then forced to have it with their ube soft serve instead. We’ll always order it with ube from now on, because the earthy purple sweet potato combined with a kind-of-nutty brown sugar syrup drizzle and chewy tapioca pearls could totally beat up a hot fudge sundae in a street fight. And, the yam-and-brown-sugar situation gets us excited for Thanksgiving. Even though it’s not our top reason to look forward to November.
Pick-Quick Drive In
This drive-in’s soft serve is pretty similar to Dairy Queen’s. That’s totally a good thing - it’s a very basic vanilla that’s just as enjoyable as a caramel sundae as it is topping a root beer float. It’s an ideal third wheel to a double cheeseburger and fries.