This post was originally published in July 2017 and was most recently updated in May 2021.
When I moved to the Twin Cities, a scoop of raspberry chocolate chip ice cream was what convinced me to stick around. Since then, I've become an ice cream connoisseur, scouting out the best frozen treats in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the suburbs. If I'm going to treat myself, it has to be the good stuff: premium, housemade ice cream with natural ingredients and interesting flavors. From the trendy to the nostalgic, custard to gelato, here are my picks for the best ice cream in the Twin Cities—plus my hands-down overall favorite.
For hipsters: Milkjam Creamery
From its location in Uptown to the Instagram-friendly "I ♥ Ice Cream" neon sign, Milkjam Creamery is the trendiest place in the Twin Cities to grab a scoop. The innovative flavors have quirky names and unusual ingredients, like Cereal Killers (orange coriander milk with candied pebbles cereal) and Uma (Greek yogurt with a passion fruit lychee swirl). There are a handful of vegan options, plus a lineup of house-made sundae toppings and creative shakes. Can't make up your mind? Order a 4-scoop flight.
Recommended flavors: Chocolate lovers will appreciate Hard Knock Life 2.0, a dark chocolate ice cream studded with salted chocolate fudge, Whoppers, and brownies. Ridin' Duuurty offers a tasty combination of Oreo chunks and salted peanut butter.
2743 Lyndale Avenue S, Minneapolis; 612-424-4668; milkjamcreamery.com
For nostalgia: Grand Ole Creamery
With its cheery striped awning and handwritten flavor signs, the Grand Ole Creamery's original St. Paul location feels like an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. In fact, President Obama stopped by for a photo op and a scoop on his 2014 visit to the Twin Cities. The shop's over 200 flavors skew towards classic, crowd-pleasing options like peppermint bon bon, birthday cake, and cookie dough; at the St. Paul location a rotating selection of about 30 is available on any given day. The malted waffle cones are made in-house and include a malted milk ball at the bottom to prevent any unfortunate ice cream drips. Cone lovers can even buy a bag of broken pieces to take home.
Recommended flavors: The best-selling Black Hills Gold is a delicious combination of sweet cream ice cream with praline pecans and Oreos. The mango is packed with enough fruit flavor to qualify as an honorary smoothie, and the nut-dense pistachio and intensely minty peppermint bon bon set the standard.
Multiple locations; grandolecreamery.com
For whimsy: Bebe Zito Ice Cream
The ever-changing flavors at Bebe Zito combine mass-market and upscale ingredients in a way that appeals both to novelty-seeking ice cream lovers (me) and those that prefer the classics (Mike). You can order cups and cones, and they have a single split so that you can try two flavors without ordering a double scoop. The specific selection of flavors rotates daily, but you can check the website for a current list of the the seasonal offerings.
Recommended flavors: Dat Malt Dough pairs a malted base with chocolate ganache cookie dough for an extra-rich scoop; on the other side of the spectrum, Maracuja shines with the brightness of fresh passion fruit. The Crowening is a mashup of cookies and cream ice cream, caramel, peanut butter, Oreo, and cookie dough that's more than the sum of its delicious components.
704 W 22nd Street, Minneapolis; bebezitomn.com
For a picture-perfect cone: Treats
The elaborately decorated cones at Treats are definitely Instagram bait. They also taste just as good as they look: a variety of crushed breakfast cereals are mixed into vanilla soft serve for an extra-sweet twist on your childhood favorites. Creations can be ordered as a cup, cone, or milkshake, and some are carefully garnished with add-ons like gummy bears, cereal, and caramel. Be sure to snap a photo in front of the colorful mural before enjoying your treat.
Recommended flavors: The Crisp n' Cream has a nice balance of chocolate and crunch, with Oreo O's, Cookie Crisp, and Rice Krispies Treats cereal, plus Snickers and Oreo cookie crumbs. Chocolate lovers should opt for the Cocoa Party, which includes Cocoa Puffs, Oreo O's, chocolate chips, and freshly-toasted marshmallows.
770 Grand Avenue, St. Paul; 651-478-4385; treatsmn.com
For frozen custard: Adele's Frozen Custard
What's frozen custard? It includes eggs for a denser consistency and extra-smooth texture. Adele's Frozen Custard offers two rotating flavors of custard each day (there's a handy schedule online); vanilla and chocolate custard are always available. Custard can be ordered in a dish, cone, or as a concrete, a delightfully dense blend of custard and your choice of toppings. Note that Adele's is open seasonally, making it a true summertime treat.
Recommended flavors: The cookie dough flavor—vanilla custard blended with cookie dough pieces and truffle chocolate—tastes even better than the real deal. If the flavors of the day don't pique your interest, you can't go wrong with the richly flavored chocolate or vanilla.
800 Excelsior Boulevard, Excelsior; 952-470-0035; adelescustard.com
For gelato: Fat Lorenzo's
Although it's primarily a pizza place, Fat Lorenzo's also offers a rotating selection of housemade gelato. Their gelato chef has created over 100 incredibly creamy, rich flavors, which range from traditional classics like amaretto and strawberry to more innovative selections like Jamaican rum and chocolate malt.
Recommended flavors: The fruit flavors, made from fresh fruit puree, are always a delicious choice—try the berry-packed Fruits of the Forest. Chocolate lovers can never go wrong with a classic scoop of Nutella, and the chocolate malt and red velvet flavors taste uncannily like their namesake desserts.
5600 Cedar Avenue S, Minneapolis; 612-822-2040; fatlorenzos.com
For vegan options: Crepe & Spoon
While many of the spots I've mentioned offer a dairy-free flavor or two, Crepe & Spoon is an all-vegan ice cream parlor with flavors everyone will enjoy. Most of their ice creams are made with coconut milk, cashew cream, and almond milk, and there are typically a few nut-free sorbets available. The rotating flavor list includes classic flavors like mint chocolate chip as well as unusual selections like rose cardamom.
While you won't mistake the ice cream for a dairy-based dessert, it has a smooth mouthfeel and a refreshingly light texture, and the plant-based milks add additional flavor notes.
Recommended flavor: Try a scoop of ube, which gets its brilliant hue and subtly sweet, nutty flavor from a purple sweet potato native to the Philippines.
339 22nd Avenue NE, Minneapolis; crepeandspoon.com
Overall favorite: Sebastian Joe's
The Linden Hills location of Sebastian Joe's has it all: an inventive selection of flavors crafted with all-natural ingredients, a sunny indoor seating area with a fireplace, and a leafy patio with a giant tortoise statue for kids to climb. Celebrating a special occasion? The custom ice cream cakes are the perfect present for the ice cream lover in your life.
Recommended flavors: While the flavor lineup changes daily, several best-sellers are always available—raspberry chocolate chip, Oreo, and Nicollet Avenue Pothole (chocolate caramel ice cream with Heath bar chunks, fudge truffles, and a fudge sea salt swirl) are all must-tries. Some of my other favorites are honey cinnamon crisp, chocolate cinnamon pretzel, pistachio and marion berry D.C. nut.
1007 W Franklin Avenue S, Minneapolis and 4321 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis; 612-870-0065 and 612-926-7916; sebastianjoesicecream.com
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