9 places serving delicious ice cream
It's always a good time for ice cream
It’s both the ultimate and versatile dessert and a balm for every stop on our emotional thermometer: We crave it when we want to celebrate something and turn to it as a pick-me-up when we’re feeling blue. We seek it out in the heat of summer and devour it in subzero temperatures. Basically, what we’re saying is, there’s no time that’s not a good time for ice cream. There are, however, plenty of places that are better to enjoy icy treats than others, and Madison’s purveyors put a creative and/or international spin on frosty confections. Read on, but do it quickly before everything melts.
Babcock Hall Dairy Store
The fact that there have been flavors named after University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank, athletic director Barry Alvarez and Badgers football coach Paul Chryst tells you most of what you need to know about the creativity level offered at the ice cream storefront of UW-Madison’s Food Science Department. And that science is the reason Babcock’s sherbet, Greek frozen yogurt, lactose-free and super-premium flavors – they’re a subset of the usual 22 you can find on the menu – contain plant stabilizers to maintain a similar texture between different ice cream formulations. There’s always plenty to tempt your dessert-loving taste buds, but the secret weapon has and always will be the orange custard chocolate chip. There’s really nothing better. In addition to the central location on Linden Drive, you can also score Babcock’s finest at The Daily Scoop in Union South as well as Memorial Union, right next to a lakefront that’s just dying to complement it. 1605 Linden Drive, 262-3045; Daily Scoop in Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St., 890-4405; Daily Scoop in Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St., 262-5959
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
Chocolate Shoppe is Madison’s homegrown ice-cream parlor with a story that spans nearly 60 years, starting with a single location and growing to six today. We appreciate creative options like The Exhausted Parent, a bourbon-spiked espresso number with chocolate chunks, and This $&@! Just Got Serious, the mother of all salted caramel ice creams. If your tastes run a little less in-your-face, no worries. With more than 70 flavors of super-premium ice cream – a term that refers to the balance of air and ice crystals in the mix and determines how creamy an ice cream is – there’s sure to be something in your wheelhouse. 2302 Atwood Ave., 204-2702; 1726 Fordem Ave., 241-2747; 555 S. Midvale Blvd., 441-5248; 468 State St., 255-5454; 2981 Triverton Pike Drive, Fitchburg, 283-9056; 1925 Monroe St., 230-6259; 2831 Parmenter St., Middleton, 203-5228 (opening April 27)
There’s a reason why the forearms of employees at the oh-so-aptly named Fancy Roll are so ripped: Every order of Thai-style ice cream rolls requires them to stab and flick the creamy mix more than 200 times before flattening it onto a freezing metal plate and rolling it into a photo-worthy concoction to devour. Oddly, outside of the Oreo Man (the menu’s most popular item), the original 10-roll recipes are typically outpaced by the jaw-dropping creations the staff rotates, many of which are based on bizarro grocery store ingredients that inspire Rob Kratochwill, one of Fancy Roll’s three main owners. One recent entry, the OMG, mashes up peanut butter, jelly, banana and white chocolate chips. Word is that Fancy Roll could be expanding its locations beyond the mall food court soon. We’ll raise more than a few gummy bears to that. 66 West Towne Mall, 747-6464
Java Cat Coffee
So you’d like to pair an electric jolt of caffeine with a dose of sweet gelato goodness? Cat’s got you covered. Between eight and 16 delish gelato flavors, all made in-house, are offered every day, depending on the season. The flavors rotate and range from staples like chocolate and cake batter, the runaway best seller, to wild-side flavor choices like peanut butter habanero (spicy!) to lemon basil (savory!) and well beyond. And if you literally want to pair your gelato and your caffeine, you can order a javalato, a milkshake that blends gelato and espresso, or an affogato, a treat that features espresso shots poured over gelato. Twofer! 3918 Monona Drive, 223-5553
Aficionados know that Latin America has some of the best, most eye-popping spins on ice cream, and you’re going to find plenty of them in this colorful strip-mall parlor. Fan faves here include the pistachio and the mango sorbet, but we’re straight-up drawn to the G-money – as in guava and guanabana, flavors so authentically fruity they even come with oversized seeds. The value here is beyond ridiculous, with a triple-scoop option that’ll barely dent your wallet, with enough creamy goodness to last at least a few days. 6712 Odana Road, 841-1123; 4512 E. Washington Ave., 665-3242
Michael’s Frozen Custard
Ice cream fads come and go like drips down the side of a sugar cone in July, and Michael Dix’s Madison custard empire reliably and deliciously endures, delicious as it was the first time you tasted it. The sundaes, especially Death by Chocolate, have always been signature, but this is a place that doesn’t even need the bells and whistles of bizarre flavors to draw a crowd. The vanilla custard is the standard by which everything else is measured – just as it has always been. 2531 Monroe St., 231-3500; 5602 Schroeder Road, 276-8100; 3826 Atwood Ave., 222-4110
The Thai-style rolled ice cream trend is, um, rolling along deliciously at the upper end of State Street, where 13 uber-creamy roll creations/options await you, starting with standbys like strawberry and moving to cleverly named cups like Super Mango Bros and the tea-licious Matcha Man. Not that it’s even necessary, but you’re welcome to punch each one with a set of syrups (before the ice cream’s rolled) and free toppings (once it’s in the cup). Choices include everything from fruit to candy to spicy honey. This is Rollicious’s second location (the original is camped in a mall in Wauwatosa). It feels like it won’t be long before they roll out more. 330 State St., 230-5895
A Pan-Asian restaurant is likely one of the last places you’d consider stopping for ice cream, but if you don’t, you’re guilty of underestimating chef Tory Miller’s propensity to throw a dessert curveball. So yes, you can – and more importantly, should – totally chase your noodle dish with a thick, creamy soft-serve cone at Sujeo (pronounce it “Suh-Joe,” if you please). But not just any soft-serve, mind you: We’re talking a Sassy Cow base with a rotating bullpen of say-what flavors often pulled from the restaurant’s seasonal menu – you can have them solo or mix them together. The flavors change about every two weeks, but previous combos have included cranberry and shortbread, black sesame and chocolate and exotic fruits like lychee and ube. You won’t find those at the local Dairy Queen, that’s for sure. 10 N. Livingston St., 630-9400
Florence is a world away from Middleton – bummer, we know – but you can at least get a taste of the former when you visit the latter’s Villa Dolce, where a cool dozen flavors of smooth gelato await your tender dessert mercies. The dozen routinely rotates from a significantly more expansive menu of 46 flavors, all made on site. Chocolate’s the solid go-to for long-timers, and the fruity flavors are heavenly. But hey, feel free to dive into mixed picks like the Raphaelo, a gelato that combines white chocolate, almonds and coconut. It’s like upscale candy-bar perfection in a cup. 1828 Parmenter St., Middleton, 833-0033
Aaron R. Conklin is a contributing writer to Madison Magazine.
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