photo by tj turner
July is peak ice cream season in Minnesota. “We pretty much go from zero to 100,” Izzy’s Ice Cream co-owner Jeff Sommers says. Every morning, he prepares for 3-5 times the traffic Izzy’s gets in the colder months, with a line trailing out the door.
Science shows that Minnesotans might in fact enjoy ice cream more than people do in other states: If you refrain from eating it, it actually ups the pleasure factor when you finally indulge, according to an Oregon Research Institute study. So, once the heat kicks in, we lap up our icy treats with renewed zeal, flocking to the 50-plus (and counting) independent creameries across the state.
Those who want to taste what’s hot should turn to the Twin Cities: You’ll find all things artisanal (like Izzy’s roasting pistachios in Punch Pizza’s wood-burning ovens), bold (like Minneapolis’ Milkjam Creamery selling alcoholic flavors), and ready for Instagram adulation.
Or, if you crave old-school, cherry-topped decadence, Minnesota’s ice cream history goes deeper. Soda-fountain standards from Duluth to Winona still serve malts in frosty tins and banana splits blooming with whipped cream, where small-town secrets make summer road trips memorable—including at one Moorhead Dairy Queen that has refused to play by the rules for more than 60 years.
With ice cream season in full churn, check out these spots—and hope summer sticks around as long as last winter.
The hippest ice cream shop in Minneapolis has as much fun minting flavors as it does naming them. There’s the PB vs. Everybody (peanut-butter banana with Oreo chunks), the Emma Stone (vanilla yogurt with cherry swirl), and the Milkjam itself (caramelized goat, cow, and condensed milks). Alcoholic options include the Rosy Cheeks (grapefruit Campari with gin) and the Caught in the Rain (yup: piña colada). Expect gluten-free and vegan options, too.
2743 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis | milkjamcreamery.com
photo by tj turner
This 43-flavor Stillwater establishment started out selling the region’s first pasteurized milk as a grocery store in 1923, then began double-scooping cones for 10 cents in the ’60s. They’ve since expanded to St. Paul, and like any classic parlor, there’s an ice cream challenge. The Lumberjack pits customers against five “softball-sized” scoops with choice of toppings—part of the Mayberry mythos that makes the original Nelson’s one of the tourism town’s must-visit attractions.
920 Olive St. W., Stillwater & 454 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul | nelsonsicecream.biz
Crepe & Spoon
Treats made with coconut milk, cashew cream, and almond milk in place of dairy fat can be just as delicious. Taste the proof at northeast Minneapolis’ new Crepe & Spoon, which serves up purple yam, black sesame, and pumpkin alongside more-conventional flavors like Oreo and maple nut for lactose-intolerant, vegan, and average sweet-tooth consumers. The sweet or savory crêpes are vegan, too—on which you can order jam; banana with a vegan Nutella-like spread; vegan bacon with arugula and sautéed mushrooms; ice cream (of course); and much more.
339 22nd Ave. NE, Minneapolis | crepeandspoon.com
Cup and Cone
This third-generation soft-serve joint might be 45 years old, but it caters to today’s crowd, posting flavors of the day on Twitter (@CupandConewbl) and selling gluten- and lactose-free options such as salted caramel, birthday bake, and chocolate mint. Walk up to the stand with a glowing, yellow-and-blue retro sign for a classic northeast-metro experience.
2126 Fourth St., White Bear Lake | cupandconewbl.com
Grand Ole Creamery
St. Paul’s first premium (extra creamy) ice cream retailer’s delicious trademark: fragrant, hand-rolled, malted waffle cones with a Whopper milk ball plopped into the bottom. Former President Obama even stopped by this award-winning, nearly 35-year-old institution back in 2014. One hallmark flavor mixes Oreos, pralines, pecans, and caramel, which you can enjoy in Minneapolis at its second location near Lake Nokomis.
750 Grand Ave., St. Paul & 4737 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis | grandolecreamery.com
Izzy’s Ice Cream
Izzy’s has 32 classic-to-kooky flavors to fantasize about at both its hole-in-the-wall St. Paul location and its gleaming, modernist outpost next to Minneapolis’ Gold Medal Park. For Peppermint Bon Bon fans secretly dreaming of Summit Oatmeal Stout, there’s the Izzy scoop, a mini spoonful topping the first heap like a little hat. (For a party, order the Hot Dish: a red casserole dish of all 32 flavors in Izzy scoops.) This summer, Izzy’s Target Field space gives old-fashioned chocolate malt cups—those tall, icy tins—the artisanal treatment.
2034 Marshall Ave., St. Paul & 1100 Second St. S., Minneapolis | Izzysicecream.com
Minnesota Nice Cream
After operating out of a candy-striped truck since 2016, this Instagram fave now has a mod-chic storefront in northeast Minneapolis. The locally sourced soft serve comes decked in pretzels, peanuts, sprinkles, edible glitter, cereal, gummy candies, popcorn, strawberries, and entire donuts. Get it coiled into waffle cones or laid alongside bacon in rainbow-colored taco shells beneath dollops of avocado ice cream. You get three free toppings per order. Choose wisely.
807 Broadway St. NE, Minneapolis | mnnicecream.com
This family-run, south Minneapolis creamery has churned out more than 100 flavors of all-natural ice cream over the past 30 years. Signature among them: the Nicollet Avenue Pothole—a thick blend of chocolate, caramel, fudge truffles, chunks of Heath candy bars, and sea salt (for those icy Minnesota roads). This year’s new favorites include scratch-made birthday cake, cookies and cream, salted brownie, and black walnut. Don’t skimp on the baked goods, including biscotti based on the owners’ Italian grandmother’s mix, along with chocolate croissants, popovers, scones, cookies, and more.
4321 Upton Ave. S., & 1007 W. Franklin Ave. S., Minneapolis
Also at Sea Salt Eatery
4825 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis | sebastianjoesicecream.com
Sweet Science Ice Cream
This summer, St. Paul food hall Keg and Case, in the old Schmidt Brewery building, opens with a space for Sweet Science, the all-natural, organic ice cream brand launched by St. Paul resident Ashlee Olds in 2011 (and known for pop-up tastings, with cult-favorite flavors like sweet-corn blueberry and lemongrass ginger bark). For the first time, she has her own retail location: a 20-some bucket lineup with new flavors including strawberry mascarpone and fresh basil.
928 W. Seventh St. | sweetscienceicecream.com
photo by casie beldo
This nearly decade-old walk-up creamery near the Sauk River earns favorable comparisons to Dairy Queen. Along with malts, sundaes, and slushies, Mr. Twisty sells scoops of Italian ice—a non-dairy option similar to sorbet. For the signature experience, though, order the Mr. Twisty: soft serve on a cone (with a crunchy, cereal-and-sprinkles coating available) or done blizzard-style, and always dotted with two candy eyes.
5821 Ridgewood Rd., St. Cloud
Tip Top Dairy Bar
Open since 1955, this Osakis shop’s handmade ice cream novelties include polar bars, peanut parfaits, and 20 “cyclones,” in such mixes as chocolate with cherries and bananas with vanilla wafers. Otherwise, simply savor a soft-serve cone dipped in chocolate, butterscotch, cherry, or the customer favorite, cake batter.
22 W. Nokomis St., Osakis | tiptopdairybar.com
photo by jon forness
Legend has it that Robert Litherland, co-owner of downtown Moorhead’s Dairy Queen, invented the Dilly Bar around 1955. He dipped a disc of soft-serve in chocolate, held it up, and said, “Now, isn’t that a dilly?” Unlike other Dairy Queens, this franchisee’s nearly 70-year-old contract means it can sell otherwise-extinct treats, including the Mr. Malty (chocolate malt on a stick), the Chipper Sandwich (vanilla ice cream squeezed between chocolate-chip cookies and coated in chocolate), and the Monkey Tail (chocolate banana)—in addition to all the HQ-approved fare.
24 S. Eighth St., Moorhead | moorheaddairyqueen.com
This cherry-red A-frame on the outskirts of downtown Fergus Falls still has its old intercom system, used in its early carhop years, mounted on the wall. Since 1955, the retro ice cream shop has served on-a-stick favorites, and today Dairyland offers specialty coffees, too.
1220 Union Ave., Fergus Falls
The Minnesoda Ice Cream Fountain
This 17-stool, ’50s-throwback diner on Park Rapids’ Main Street opened back in 1922, with wooden booths and black-and-white checkered flooring. Old reliables include banana splits and sundaes powdered with malt, with the pecans-and-marshmallow Butterscotch Royal and the strawberries-and-marshmallow Lady Slipper Sundae (a state-flower shout-out).
205 Main Ave. S., Park Rapids
Frosty’s Ice Cream & Pizza Parlor
Every summer, the people of Longville hold turtle races downtown before taking a brief walk to Frosty’s for hard-scoop. Inside the ’50s-style, red-and-white space, choose from some 30 flavors, test your luck at pinball or arcade games, and order pizza or sandwiches if you’re looking for a casual dining alternative to Patrick’s Fine Dining a mile away. You can take a shiny, vinyl-cushioned seat inside or move outdoors to look out over the small, scenic bay of Girl Lake that separates Frosty’s from Patrick’s.
1485 County Rd. 5, Longville
The Portland Malt Shoppe
On the westernmost tip of Lake Superior, watch the ships drift in while devouring a cherry-topped, green-mint milkshake—or a banana sundae, an orange-soda float, or a double-scoop cone of Moose Tracks. A North Shore favorite since 1989, the fairytale-classic red-brick building, in a lush, pedestrian-friendly area, has two awning-lidded windows for walk-ups.
716 E. Superior St., Duluth
Sydney’s Frozen Custard
Not technically ice cream, but this frozen custard shop, on the shores of a romantic little peninsula called Artists’ Point, is worth the visit. Enjoy sundaes, cones, shakes, floats, and “Sydnamis” topped with waffle wedges on the rooftop while viewing Lake Superior’s epic East Bay.
14 S. Broadway, Grand Marais
Pier 77 Mini-Golf & Creamery
After 18 holes around buoys, under lighthouses, and next to tiny waterfalls, hit up this lodge-themed café nestled among birch trees along Lake Vermillion’s northwestern shore for soft serve, root-beer floats, and malts.
4066 County Rd. 77, Tower | pier77minigolf.com
Matt Tierney and his wife, Vicky, opened this Rochester creamery in 2011 with a vision for flavor and presentation. Scoops come in boat-shaped cups with cones on top to look like sailboats. Unique flavors such as puppy chow, bourbon praline, Zoo in the Goo (white chocolate with frosted animal cookies), and the Dark and Twisted (salted caramel with chocolate-covered pretzels) add to a creative, off-the-wall ambience. A second location opened in 2016.
3525 22nd Ave. NW, Rochester & 1710 Broadway Ave. S., Rochester | flapdoodlesicecream.com
The Chocolate Twist
This hard-scoop stop serves premium ice cream—from Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream in Wisconsin—for a cause: Area teens working behind the counter get job experience through Rochester’s Boys and Girls Club. The shop doubles as a candy emporium, with trays of fine chocolates and buckets of taffies, caramels, and other sweets.
311 S. Broadway, Rochester | chocolatetwist.org
Dairy Freeze/Deep Freeze
Dairy Freeze has sold soft serve since 1952. This spring, a sister location called Deep Freeze opened next door to serve locals during Dairy Freeze’s off-season (between September and April)—but in a different style, scooping the hard stuff, including as three one-ounce flights.
1506 Albion Ave., Fairmont
Mom and Pop’s
Along with ice cream, the husband-wife owners make in-house gelato, sorbet, smoothies, frappes, dairy-free Italian ice, and homemade cookies.
629 N. Riverfront Dr., Mankato 507-344-0629 | momandpopsicecream.com
Since the late ’40s, the Penguin Zesto’s pink-striped, barn-like building in downtown Winona has been an outdoor affair. Locals still fill the drive-up restaurant’s patio seating for malts, sundaes, floats, cones, and novelty treats like Rocket popsicles, chocolate-covered bananas, and paddle wheels. Dip flavors range from chocolate to blue raspberry to peppermint to bubble gum.
602 E. Third St., Winona
Schoolhouse Scoop’s brightly colored Hastings location opened in 2013, and a second spot in Cannon Falls followed last year—inside a long, narrow building furnished with church pews. If you’re having trouble choosing from 32 premium flavors, take the Sweet 16 Challenge: You (plus friends and family, because they’re generous) get your picture on the wall if you finish 16 scoops in 30 minutes.
919 Vermillion St., Hastings & 402 Mill St. W., Cannon Falls | schoolhousescoop.virb.com
Rolled Ice Cream in MN
This Thai treat hit the Twin Cities last summer with two main draws: Rolled ice cream (a.k.a. stir-fried ice cream) has the best new texture since Dippin’ Dots, and the prep is oddly satisfying to watch. Flavored milk is poured onto a freezing-cold plate, strewn with candy toppings, diced using a sharp spatula, spread into a thin paste, and scraped into curling, tidily bound scrolls of ice cream. It’s enough to stoke YouTube-fueled fascination.
Loulou Sweet & Savory
photo by Darin Kamnetz
Loulou Sweet & Savory
This Minneapolis shop takes complex, fruit-forward espressos as seriously as it does locally sourced, organic ice cream rolls. Try the ground espresso-infused Café Roll, and catch the food truck around the metro.
2839 Emerson Ave. S., Minneapolis | loulouandco.com
Sota Hot & Cold
After an inspiring trip to Thailand, owner Pheng Vang opened shop in St. Paul. This summer, taste his experiments—including ube (purple yam) with green tea, Oreos, fruit, and Pocky sticks—in Uptown, too.
394 University Ave. W., St. Paul & 2829 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis | sotahotandcold.com
Digital Extra: Mesmerizing Ice Cream
Peek behind the scenes of St. Paul’s Thai rolled ice cream shop Sota Hot & Cold—and see the entrancing way these ice cream roll-ups are made.
Wonders Ice Cream Co.
At three locations, choose from 20 all-natural flavors and signature mixes—including Nutella and bananas, coffee and Teddy Grahams, and honeydew sprinkled with Fruity Pebbles.
298 University Ave. W., St. Paul & 12410 Aberdeen St. NE, Ste. 500, Blaine & 11200 Fountains Dr., Maple Grove | wondersicecream.com
At a Grocery Store Near You
photo by JonnyPops
Forbes recently named the young co-founders of Minnesota’s all-natural ice cream maker JonnyPops among this year’s “30 Under 30,” and it’s easy to taste why. These popsicles, with uplifting messages on the sticks, come in 11 flavors—from strawberry to mango to root beer float—all made with real cream.