Best Ice Cream in the Twin Cities

May 6, 2024
Stacy's hand holding a waffle cone
Grand Ole Creamery

This post was originally published in July 2017 and was most recently updated on May 6, 2024.

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.  Here are my picks for the best ice cream in the Twin Cities—plus my all-time favorite.

Grand Ole Creamery
Grand Ole Creamery

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.

750 Grand Ave., St. Paul and 4737 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis; 651-293-1655 and 612-722-2261;

Stacy's hand holding a cup of ice cream labeled "Bebe Zito"
Bebe Zito

For creative flavors: 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 committing to 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 sweet cream base with malted, 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 Parent Trap is a mashup of doce de leite ice cream, Oreos, peanut butter, and a doce de leite sauce topping that's more than the sum of its delicious components.

Multiple locations;

Hand holding soft serve cone garnished with Oreo crumbs and pieces of cereal

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 cookies, Cookie Crisp cereal, and Snickers.  Chocolate lovers should opt for the Cocoa Party, which includes Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Pebbles, chocolate chips, and freshly-toasted marshmallows.

Multiple locations;

Stacy's hand holding a small cup of chocolate gelato
Sonny's Ice Cream

For date night: Sonny's Ice Cream

Sonny's Ice Cream is the most romantic place to eat a cone in the Twin Cities, and the ice cream is as wonderful as the surroundings.  The interior evokes an quaint Italian cafe, and the adjacent alley patio continues the Italian theme with potted plants, fountains, and fairy lights.  Sonny's crafts over 1,000 flavors of ice cream, gelato, and sorbet completely from scratch—they make their own caramel and fruit purees and use fresh herbs and spices.  About 20 flavors are available each day, in cups, cones, floats, or as an affogato (a shot of espresso poured over ice cream).   Sonny's is open seasonally, typically June through November.

Recommended flavors: The ultimate chocolate gelato, a chocolate gelato swirled with homemade caramel and salt, is my go-to as a chocolate lover.  The mint truffle has a refreshing, herbal flavor, and it's white instead of green since Sonny's doesn't use any artificial ingredients.

3403 Lyndale Ave. S, Minneapolis; 612-824-3868;

Adele's Frozen Custard
Adele's Frozen Custard

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 one or two rotating flavors of custard each day (their website has a handy schedule), plus vanilla and chocolate.  Custard can be ordered in a dish, cone, or as a concrete, a delightfully dense blend of custard and your choice of toppings.  Adele's is open seasonally, typically March through November.

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 Blvd., Excelsior; 952-470-0035;

Two chocolate cookies sandwiching an ice cream filling rolled in sprinkles
Nellie's Ice Cream

For ice cream sandwiches: Nellie's Ice Cream

The ice cream isn't made on-site, but Nellie's Ice Cream deserves a mention for their build-your-own ice cream sandwiches.  Pick your cookies and ice cream (there are six types of cookies and 20 different ice cream flavors) and then customize your sandwich by rolling the edges in sprinkles, chocolate chips, Oreo pieces, or M&Ms and topping it with chocolate or caramel.  Get your sandwich hot-pressed for a freshly-baked cookie texture and definitely grab lots of napkins.  Nellie's Ice Cream is open seasonally, typically April through October.

Recommended flavors: If you love chocolate, get the chocolate Oreo ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

2034 Marshall Ave., St. Paul; 651-645-7839;

Hand holding a cup of chocolate ice cream with a Sebastian Joe's label
Sebastian Joe's

All-time 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 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, double chocolate, and marionberry D.C. nut.

1007 W Franklin Ave. S, Minneapolis and 4321 Upton Ave. S, Minneapolis; 612-870-0065 and 612-926-7916;

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Waffle bowl with small scoops of ice cream and text reading "Best Ice Cream in the Twin Cities"