I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Houston Ice Cream — 11 Scoop Shops Making Ice Cream More Fun
Though all that screaming for ice cream may seem unnecessary, recently Van Leeuwen Ice Cream nearly broke the internet when it launched its limited-run Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Ice Cream. It’s part of a trend of increasingly unique, inventive and sometimes bizarre ice cream flavors happening not just at well-regarded national chains, but also in local shops. Houston has no shortage of ice cream destinations creating new and exciting flavors — such as Fat Cat Creamery, Cloud 10 Creamery, and Dolce Neve Gelato. Booza and Popfancy, among others, are also finding unique ways to shake up dessert.
This article delves into some of our Houston favorites for unique ice cream and gelato flavors that are perfect for cooling down during the long, hot summers.
Booza, 5922 Richmond: This spot is named for the Middle Eastern style of stretchy ice cream it sells. The family recipe dates back to the 1930s and includes salep, a flour made from orchid tubers that is responsible for the dessert’s signature gummy, stretchy texture. The shop is scooping some classic flavors such as chocolate, cookies & cream and lemon as well as less-common offerings like rosewater, orange blossom, Turkish coffee and ashta, which is based on a style of clotted cream from Lebanon.
Cloud 10 Creamery, multiple locations: Well-regarded pastry chef Chris Leung launched his ice cream shop a decade ago, making this local business one of the first to serve elevated ice cream flavors. Since then, the creamery has grown to three locations, has pints available in stores around Texas and ships nationwide. Unique offerings include Toasted Rice, Cafe Sua Da, and Earl Grey Lemon. Plus, you can go all out and order the decadent banana split or a PB&J ice cream sandwich.
Craft Creamery,1338 Westheimer: Craft Creamery makes off-the-wall ice cream everyday in Montrose. For the traditionalist, the shop offers pistachio, chocolate and vanilla. For guests wanting to try something unique, it has flavors like Honey Lavender, Shiro Miso Caramel and Hibiscus Mint. For customers willing to throw caution to the wind, Craft Creamery offers specials such as Barbecue Brisket, Phở, Cacio e Pepe, Tomato Tarragon and Jalapeño Cornbread. Despite the remarkable variety, the flavors are deliberate and balanced. Chef and owner Steve Marques — who’s worked in Houston and Las Vegas for many years, including at The Burger Guys, known in part for its cafe sua da and cereal ice creams — transforms the unusual ingredients into legitimate ice cream flavors. It’s about the quality, not the shock value. While some flavors may seem a little too unusual, Craft Creamery has developed a following, and its ice cream is served at several restaurants around the city.
The shop’s design is simple and centered around the ice cream. There are a handful of benches and a glass case at the front door that holds 16 flavors. There’s also a second case with products from Mill-King Market & Creamery in McGregor, Texas (just outside of Waco), which also supplies the shop’s dairy ingredients. The hours of operation at Craft Creamery are Wednesday and Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m., Friday from 2 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dolce Neve Gelato, 4721 North Main: This Austin-based gelateria is serving up legitimate gelato on the edge of the Heights. Francesca Silvestrini brings the traditional Italian gelato pedigree, while her brother Marco Silvestrini adds flair and creates many of the unorthodox combos. Dolce Neve offers handful of staples such as the the don’t-miss pistachio and the signature Crema Dolce Neve, a decadent blend of custard and lemon zest, as well as a rotating selection of flavors, many of which are based on seasonal ingredients. Unique seasonal flavors include Ricotta, Honey and Pistachio; Goat Cheese and Blueberry Jam; Whiskey and Pecan and Skyr & Banana.
Fat Cat Creamery, 1901 North Shepherd and 1225 West 34th: A decade ago, Sarah Johnston went from a cart serving small-batch ice cream using primarily local ingredients to a fully fledged store, and recently opened a second location at the Stomping Grounds center in Garden Oaks. In the years since Fat Cat Creamery first started, the commitment to Texas-based quality has never waned. Johnston and her team continue to blend ingredients from around the state into everyday offerings such as Milk Chocolate Stout, which combines chocolate and the oatmeal stout from Austin’s Independence Brewing Co., and the dairy-free Chai Tea Coconut, a coconut milk ice cream infused with chai and cinnamon. The shop also has a rotating selection of seasonal flavors such as the Easter-time Bunny Bait, a malted milk ice cream mixed with bits of Cadbury eggs. Don’t miss ordering your scoops in a decadent, housemade Brown Butter Brown Sugar Cone or try the ice cream as part of a creative sundae or float.
Koffeteria,1110 Hutchins: This East End café owned by pastry chef Vanarin Kuch (formerly of Tiny Boxwoods and a previous Top Chef: Just Desserts competitor) is known for its creative pastries such as Phở Kolache, French Onion Danishes and Pistachio Baklava Croissants. However, there is also a small, rotating selection of equally creative ice creams such as Salted Egg Yolk, Coffee with Ginger and Salted Caramel, Blueberry Pie and Pistachio Baklava. Koffeteria also makes particularly decadent ice cream sandwiches called Chiboustier, to mimic the bra worn by legendary singer Selena. (Chiboust is pastry cream lightened with Italian meringue.) For this ice cream sandwich, Tiger Uppercut, a Thai tea flavored ice cream, is encased with profiteroles. The shop also serves a seasonally rotating sorbet menu, featuring flavors such as Black Raspberry Sangria.
Popfancy, 9393 Bellaire: Originally a stand in the Memorial City Mall started by Chris Doan, a former architect, this dessert shop is now serving up frozen treats in a bricks-and-mortar in Chinatown’s Bellaire Food Street development. In a sleek, white space that often gets dressed up with anime (it has recently hosted Sailor Moon- and Pokémon-themed special events), guests can choose from an array of dairy and non-dairy popsicles. “Creamy Pops,” as the options with dairy are dubbed, include Thai Tea, Vietnamese Coffee, Creamy Avocado and Lavender Matcha Green Tea. The primarily fruit-based, non-dairy options include Hibiscus Raspberry and Mangonada, a blend of mango and chamoy, that’s a nod to the Mexican paletas Doan would find in area mom-and-pop stores and that served as an early inspiration for his business.
SweetCup Gelato, 3939 Montrose and 3444 Ella: Owner Jasmine Chida says she’s created over 600 flavors since opening her original Montrose shop in 2012, 200 of which still rotate through the ever-changing menu. The volume of outside-the-box flavors could be a list unto itself. Some of the current flavors include Rose Milk, Lavender & Guajillo-Honey Tres Leches, Texas Sheet Cake and Texan Kulfi, a blend of cardamom, cream, candied Texas pecans and local whiskey that is a riff on the traditional Indian frozen dessert. Some interesting rotating flavors to watch for are Double-Fermented Soy Sauce and Black Pepper and Blue Cheese. SweetCup Gelato’s unique offerings can be found at either the Montrose or Garden Oaks location, or for retail sale in Whole Foods and Central Market stores across Texas.
Treats of Mexico, 724 Telephone: This under-the-radar dessert shop next door to Bohemeo’s serves delicacies such as conchas, elotes and arroz con leche, as well as a handful of unique ice cream flavors and nieve, a Mexican-style of fruit-forward sorbet that shares its name with the Spanish word for snow. The shop’s selection of nieve includes watermelon, chamoy, tamarindo and mango. Ice cream offerings include seldom-seen creations such as tequila, rose petal and rompope (think Mexican eggnog).
Underground Creamery, 4100 Montrose: Underground Creamery is as much about the challenge of getting the treats as the ice cream itself. Owner Josh Deleon has been making waves with both his ice cream and his riddles, which announce when online ordering for his unique flavors goes live. The small rotating menu has included a recent offering simply referred to as Mystery, as well combinations that include more detailed descriptions such as Corntalia, a basil-infused ice cream with a strawberry-balsamic swirl and a honeycomb crumb, and Choco PB MSG, a salted vanilla ice cream with chocolate peanut butter and a Chips Ahoy and MSG swirl.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, 2565 Amherst and 1151 Uptown Park: This new arrival from New York routinely serves a selection of special flavors, which usually flirt with being truly over the top without falling over the edge. For example, the flavors for September 2021 include Matcha Green Tea, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll and Vegan Baklava. (It’s worth noting that the specials often sell before the end of the month.) Other brands’ complex ice cream flavors can be muddled, but Van Leeuwen leave no ambiguity. The Vegan Banana Pudding, a specialty flavor from July, is a prime example that tasted exactly as it sounds.
Another example of leaving subtlety was the controversial Kraft Macaroni and Cheese ice cream. It was released on July 14 — National Macaroni and Cheese Day — and quickly sold out across the country. It looked like mango sorbet, but the flavor was clearly what you would get when mixing a rich, eggy custard with the dried cheese powder that comes with the pasta in the blue box. Closer to home, to celebrate the opening of the Uptown Park location, Van Leeuwen collaborated with Hugo Ortega (Hugo’s, Backstreet Cafe, Xochi, Caracol) to create another unique flavor: Horchata Dulce de Leche Swirl. Van Leeuwen is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and you can check the status of its specialty and regular flavors online.