The Best Soft Serve In Seattle
The best options for soft serve in Seattle.
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 town.
Prefer hard ice cream? Check out our full guide to The Best Ice Cream In Seattle.
If the white-mustachioed celebrity athletes and promises of strong bones and teeth don’t get you extremely hyped to guzzle some milk, allow us to introduce you to Indigo Cow. It’s a soft serve window in Wallingford that sources their dairy specifically from Hokkaido to make unflavored ice cream. Apparently these Japanese cows know something the American ones don’t, because the end result is a barely-there sweetness and a refreshing texture that prompts a line to form down the block regardless of the thermostat reading outside. The ice cream is perfect plain, but just as excellent with toppings like Theo’s dark chocolate dip or brown sugar syrup with nutty roasted soybean powder. Essentially, this dairy-based bliss is what the “Got Milk” campaign wanted us to feel when slugging down a frosty glass of liquid calcium. Turns out, it just needed to be churned into soft serve.
The affogato is a genius invention. But when you swap out gelato for velvety soft serve, which is exactly what's happening at Mainstay Provisions, it's even better. Since this cafe's freshly-piped vanilla is so smooth and porous, the hot espresso poured on top steeps each bite, flavoring the ice cream throughout with bittersweet latte essence. When you require dessert and caffeination all at once, it hits just right.
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photo credit: The Pastry Project
The Pastry Project
The Pastry Project is not an ice cream shop—it's an organization that provides baking training to those who face barriers. And in the summer on weekends, their front door turns into a soft serve window, selling cones, cups, ice cream cakes, and cookie sandwiches. While they typically have standard flavors like (purple) vanilla and chocolate, they're delicious, and made even better when loaded with The Pastry Project's homemade peanut crunch topping—which tastes like the middle of a Butterfinger bar but won't stick to every single molar in your mouth.
photo credit: Nate Watters
The soft serve flavors at this sit-down Jamaican-inspired restaurant change weekly and range from apple pie to wedding cake, and we advise you to please save room for it after your meal. Consider a swirl, since the two flavors always complement each other—like the heat and salt of ras el hanout cooled down by buttery white chocolate.
Milk Drunk is one of the newer spots on the list, and it deserves to be here for their chocolate soft serve alone. It’s a little malty, 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 unique—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're not familiar with flavor burst soft serve, that's probably because Moto—a Detroit-style pizza shop in West Seattle—is the only place in town where we've seen it. Essentially, imagine a regular soft serve machine, with artificial syrups pumped into the ridges, causing, well, bursts of flavor. You get it now. Anyway, there's nothing quite like creamy cold vanilla with a karate chop of fictional blue raspberry essence. Ask Lee (the owner) to top yours with his homemade chili crisp—it's spicy, tingly, loaded with crispy garlic chips, and works surprisingly well as a topping.
One of the best spots in town for sashimi, dumplings, and marinated Wagyu cooked on a sizzling hot rock unveiled a soft serve operation known as Baiten. Whereas other spots in town obsess over inventive base flavors, Baiten sticks with a classic, mellow vanilla—and gets wild with the toppings instead. You'll find syrups ranging from black sesame to thick mango jelly, sundaes involving mochi and cookies, and iced hoji latte floats. We like to keep it simple with their matcha syrup, which is deeply bracing and counteracts the sweetness pretty perfectly.
If you couldn’t care less about ice cream infused with herbs or wild seasonal berries, 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.
At this Indian counter on Capitol Hill, you can eat delicious kathi rolls stuffed with things like fried aloo tikki or fresh crumbly paneer—as well as fries dipped in a fantastic green chutney. But afterwards, you should eat a cup of housemade soft serve. Their bases feature flavors like coconut cardamom or mango, and sometimes they’ll have special sundaes, like vanilla ice cream with hot fudge and roasted peanuts. It’s the best way to cool off after experiencing the happy heat of Spice Waala’s chicken tikka roll.
Matcha Man Ice Cream & Taiyaki
Matcha Man used to be a pop-up, and while it sure was fun chasing them around the Puget Sound, it's even better to know that we can stop in their Georgetown shop anytime (well, during opening hours at least) for a freshly-griddled taiyaki with excellent matcha soft serve dispensed inside. The green tea ice cream is clearly the standout, but we'd use their cereal milk flavor in our morning Cornflakes every day if we could.
Nana’s Green Tea
Nana's is another great option for matcha soft serve. It’s quite balanced—the bitterness of the green tea is toned down perfectly without 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 quarters and go to King’s for some sweet, momentary bliss.
Next Level Burger
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 artificial 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.
Enjoying a huge cup of Atulea's soft serve is like eating a frozen cloud—it's the lightest and fluffiest of any of the options on this guide. And while the flavors rotate at this Capitol Hill tea cafe, the typical matcha and blue butterfly pea-stained mint is a fantastic combination. A swirl of them both is equal parts creamy and refreshing, complete with grassy matcha balanced by a subtle minty zing.
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 brown sugar syrup drizzle and chewy tapioca pearls could totally beat up a hot fudge sundae in a street fight.
Pick-Quick Drive In
Pick Quick's soft serve is creamy, not too sweet, and cement-thick. That’s totally a good thing—it stands up to chocolate dips, warm caramel, and/or a cup of fizzy root beer. This stuff is an ideal third wheel to a double cheeseburger and hand-cut fries, and more importantly, will not melt too much while you eat those other things.
Aqua S is an Australian soft serve franchise with locations in New Zealand, Cambodia, Texas, New Orleans, and...Bellevue. They specialize in a sea salt-flavored soft serve in the exact shade of light blue that would dominate a baby boy's bedroom in the '90s. And this sky-colored ice cream is delicious, with a stiff whipped cream-like texture and subtle salty kick that's made even better with their crunchy caramel popcorn topping. If you're looking for soft serve on the Eastside, you no longer have to resort to Menchie's Frozen Yogurt.