The best ice cream in the world is in Cincinnati.
Who knows why. Probably good karma for slogging through those gruelingly humid Cincy summers. We reward ourselves with a bowl, a cone, or a suspended colloid (i.e. Blizzards) of that dairy-based deliciousness.
And I'm not just talking about Graeter's and UDF, either. The Queen City is home to a myriad of independent makers of ice cream, soft serve, gelato, custard, and frozen yogurt. Let's meet the shops.
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Locations throughout Cincinnati
You pretty much HAVE to start here, because let's face it... there's just something special about Graeter's. For me, it's the smell -- that powerful aroma of various sugary confections, rich ice cream, and spilled homemade soda clinging like varnish to the metal appliances. For any true Cincinnatian, walking into a Graeter's is like walking into a temperature-controlled version of their own pantry.
Must-try: Mint chocolate chip (Or, y'know... anything.)
137 West Elder Street -- Findlay Market
1735 Blue Rock Street -- Northside (Opening 2016)
I actually quite hate Dojo Gelato. [insert winky-face emoji here] You've just bought a meal's worth of healthy, wholesome food from Findlay Market. You're almost to the end of your trip, having done minimal damage to your diet. And then. ... Dojo Gelato appears, an irresistible oasis of thick and rich gelato. "Oh, I'll just have a taste." Sure you will.
Must-try: Raspberry sweet cream gelato
3046 Madison Road -- Oakley
9899 Montgomery Road -- Montgomery
Do yourself a favor and visit the Oakley location in person, rather than just picking up a half-gallon at Kroger. It's like stepping back through time. Or into a dimension where everything is covered in a pink, nostalgic gossamer. And the only meal that exists is dessert.
Must-try: Peach ice cream
MT. WASHINGTON CREAMY WHIP
2069 Beechmont Ave -- Mt. Washington
It was apparently once the case that every Cincinnati hamlet had its own creamy whip, a phrase that opens an existential can of worms when you consider that "creamy whip" is both the name of the ice cream and the place that serves it. In any case, Mt. Washington kept its creamy whip. And it's been dishing out the stuff for decades.
Must-try: Peanut butter soft serve with Reese's Cups toppings
1028 Delta Avenue -- Mt. Lookout
Buena Terra means "good earth" in Italian -- a nod to the gelateria's belief that using local products and supporting local businesses is the key to providing high quality desserts. It works for them. The gelato is as good as anywhere in the city.
Must-try: Pistachio gelato
PUTZ'S CREAMY WHIP
2673 Putz Place -- East Westwood
My grandparents spoke reverently of going to Putz's as kids, which should give you some insight into how old and venerated this place is. Strange, considering it's now nearly hidden beneath I-74. But the regulars don't care. And they shouldn't, because the soft serve is good and the sense of community is better.
Must-try: Cherry-dipped vanilla cone
WHIT'S FROZEN CUSTARD
9405 Kenwood Road -- Blue Ash
Yes, it's a chain. But it's too good not to include in the list. That, and I'm a sucker for custard (which is basically ice cream with egg yolks, which creates a thicker product).
Must-try: Bear Tracks (brownie bites, fudge, and caramel swirls)
UNITED DAIRY FARMERS
Locations throughout Cincinnati
If a soft serve cherry dip cone is the flavor of my childhood, an extra thick peanut butter malt from UDF is the flavor of my adolescence. (I'm not a thin man.)
Must-try: (You mean other than the aforementioned malt?) Cookies 'n cream ice cream
4050 Drew Avenue -- Cheviot
Unlike Putz's (the West Side's other ice cream staple), you'll have no trouble finding Zip Dip. That's primarily thanks to the neon lightning bolt striking the neon ice cream cone. Good thing, too. 'Cause these guys are dipping, sprinkling, and brownie sundae-making geniuses.
Must-try: Chocolate soft serve with crunch topping
4720 Vine Street -- OTR
3096 Madison Road -- Oakley
An unconventional option to be sure, Street Pops is all about creative, gourmet, flavorful popsicles. It feels strange to call them "popsicles," actually, because they transcend what's in your freezer in almost every possible way. But that's what they are. Both fruit-based and cream-based pops area available, all wonderful.
Must-try: Lemon lavender pop
6855 Tylersville Road -- West Chester
Like Zip Dip, The Cone is famous for its zany exterior decorations -- in this case, a giant ice-cream cone. But at the end of the day, that's part of all ice-cream experiences, isn't it? The zaniness? Officially on board.
Must-try: Orange and vanilla swirl
11776 Springfield Pike -- Springdale
Not just any Dairy Queen, this place is an old, weather-beaten shack of a place that I frequented after tee-ball games and tennis matches growing up in Wyoming. It's truly unlike any DQ you've ever been to (in ways both good and bad). Perfect for a hot summer night under the svetting sun when you're with your best friends and nothing really matters.
Must-try: Peanut butter crunch blizzard
9361 Montgomery Road -- Montgomery
"Y'know what'd make this amazing Madisono's gelato even mooore amazing?" ... No, what?
"Smashing it between two perfect, moist, crispy-chewy cookies." ... Yep. Yep, that's better.
That's basically how I imagine the brainstorming sesh that brought us Scrumbles. And the world shall never be the same.
Must-try: Gelato cookie sandwich (I'm partial to the Sea Salt Carmel twixt two classic chocolate chip cookies. But that's just me.)
THE ROOT BEER STAND
11566 Reading Road -- Sharonville
While not technically an ice-cream shop, The Root Beer Stand is nonetheless an excellent place to get ice cream. If you like it submerged in a mug of delicious, syrupy root beer. Indeed, the best root beer float that exists.
Must-try: Uhhhhhh, the root beer float?
9425 Montgomery Road -- Montgomery
The charming outdoor patio is reason enough to visit this walkup soft-serve shop. Plus it's right across the street from Montgomery Inn, so you can follow one of Cincinnati's most classic food experiences with another.
Must-try: Soft serve with candy toppings
633 Vine Street -- Downtown
What an incredible place. I had a warm croissant filled with Nutella and topped with ice cream, and it was ooooooooooout of this world. Next-level stuff. Because even downtowners need to get their ice-cream fix.
Must-try: Nutella ice cream
OLD MILFORD PARLOR: COFEE & ICE CREAM
119 Main Street -- Milford
"Coffee & Ice Cream." ... 'Nuff said. Get thee unto the Parlor.
Must-try: The Affogato (vanilla ice cream & espresso)
6407 Bridgetown Road -- Cheviot
Holy crap, they have a ton of flavors. Everything from chocolate amaretto to hazelnut coconut to freakin' Sprite. Get 'em after enjoying a fantastic panini and a hot coffee. Or be a crazy person and just get the gelato. It's up to you.
Must-try: Hazelnut coconut gelato
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In the massive, legendary brain freeze that I suffered while researching and compiling this list, it's quite possible that I forgot your favorite place. Let me know in the comments on Facebook.