Messy, marvelous Full Tilt. Photograph by Amber Fouts.
Adria Shimada makes her ice cream—including her own four-ingredient base, an unusual and labor-intensive move—in the rear of her charmingly spare shop a block off Market in Ballard that’s also state-certified as a creamery. She grows her own spearmint for the vividly herbaceous (but not the traditional artificially green-colored) mint straciatella and bakes her own version of an Oreo to crumble into smooth coffee ice cream fueled by True North Coffee Roasters. Which is to say, she’s about as artisan as ice cream gets, her flavors familiar, yet meticulous, like their environs. All this cheffiness doesn’t make her too cool for push pops or macarons filled with chocolate ice cream. Take heed: Right now Parfait has limited business hours only for picking up pre-ordered pints.
Ballard and Capitol Hill
Portland’s ice cream juggernaut landed in Seattle a while back, now a pair of local scoop shops sling cerebrally delicious creations from the mind of flavor savant Tyler Malek. Here, a tangy Woodblock chocolate flavor delivers a different experience than the menu’s other chocolate ice cream, which mimics the nostalgia of brownies warm from the oven. Salt and Straw may have built its rep on more fantastical flavors (sea urchin and baked potato double scoop, anyone?) but most of the monthly creations that rotate through the case apply Malek's flavor balancing skills to more accessible territory.
Pike Place Market
Though it debuted in 2016, this ice cream parlor on the First Avenue side of Pike Place Market feels every inch a timeless institution, from the egg creams and cherry phosphates to the swinging row of stools before a marble topped soda fountain that dates back to the 1930s. Lopez Island Creamery supplies the 15-ish flavors—lovely on their own, but even better in Shug’s menu of elaborate sundaes. The brown derby sundae stacks your preferred scoop atop a doughnut; the bruleed banana split requires an actual tiny butane torch. Ice cream–based cocktails, a takeaway coffee window, and cold brew affogatos keep this retro robin’s egg–blue space firmly planted in the present.
Since 1932, four generations of the Miller family have churned ice cream at this West Seattle institution, named not for their devout UW allegiance, but for little peanut-rolled ice cream concoctions ice cream patriarch Herman Miller would make all those years ago. Today, an impressive 40-odd flavors emerge from a pair of Emery Thompson ice cream machines in the back, scooped by upbeat local high school students onto freshly made waffle cones. This bevy of flavors ranges from classics (coffee, rocky road, butter toasted pecan) to Americana-tinged creativity (root beer, licorice, strawberry cheesecake). Every single one is a testament to the simple, astonishing powers of really good ingredients, like name brand Nutella or berries straight from a Mount Vernon farm.
The doyenne of Seattle’s modern ice cream scene is equal parts salted caramel and social responsibility. Eight shops (plus the occasional vending machine, and retail pints) around town scoop staple flavors like honey lavender and melted chocolate, plus seasonals heavy on local ingredients. Neitzel was a local leader on initiatives like health care and sick leave, and donates 1 percent of sales to nonprofits. No wonder employees display such good cheer as they dole out endless samples on tiny tasting spoons. A reliable coconut-based flavor and admirable vegan chocolate hard shell topping mean even dairy free visitors can build themselves a sundae. Lines can get long, especially in the evening.
Seattle’s mind-blowing plant-based ice cream shops are the work of Juicebox cafe’s Kari Brunson and Hot Cakes founder Autumn Martin. So is the lineup of scoops—crazy decadent, deeply flavored, and in no way a dietary consolation prize. Three plant-filled shops (Capitol Hill, Ballard, and a U Village newcomer) serve coolly modern flavors, like dirty horchata, or chocolate date, packing all the richness of a roadside Southern California date milkshake. Sorbets like beet-strawberry-rose achieve similar levels of excellence, sans nut milks. Ice cream comes in a cup or miraculous gluten-free vanilla-maple waffle cone, ready to be topped with things like chocolate sauce or moon goo (a caramel sauce). It bears repeating: everything in here is vegan and gluten free.
Seattle’s ur-cupcake operation also runs an impressive ice cream program. Some of these cold-churned creations are studded with actual chunks of cupcake, like a frozen take on red velvet. Others lean on housemade confections, like hazelnut brittle and salted ganache, or bits of fudgy brownie partnered with roasted banana, rum, and a caramel ribbon. Scoops happen at the Capitol Hill, Ballard, and Downtown locations, while the Madrona and West Seattle locations stock pints.
Now a single location on Phinney Ridge, Bluebird has also added a home delivery program that shepherds pints of Elysian stout or Remlinger Farm's marionberry across a big swath of North Seattle. Deliveries happen on Fridays (and you can order by noon that day) and include pre-packed flavors plus a host of toppings like cookie crumbs, fudge, or Bow Hill blueberry preserves. The Phinney outpost dishes out scoops, like Bluebird’s ever-popular snickerdoodle flavor, into freshly made waffles cones and the 11-year-old company remains a fixture at farmers markets around the city, albeit with a different setup depending on the markets’ individual protocols.
It’s weird to think of Full Tilt without the incessant plingplingpling of arcade games. But that aspect of Justin Cline’s brilliant formula (pinball plus beer plus ice cream) has to wait until Washington enters Stage 3 of Governor Inslee’s phased recovery. Until then, all four locations continue scooping standard and rotating flavors with Full Tilt’s singular verve, from Thai iced tea to Mexican chocolate. The way-better-than-average vegan lineup includes a salted buttered popcorn flavor beloved by dairyphiles and plant-based customers alike.
For a decade, Lois Ko operated the Haagen Daz across from her alma mater, the University of Washington. Now she runs her own ice cream businesses out of that same space on the Ave, making her own products from start to finish using organic, mostly hyperlocal ingredients and no emulsifiers (she even had the shop state-certified as a creamery). Her rotating lineup, 70-odd flavors in total, offer a refined sort of comfort, like taking a nap beneath a really plush blanket—london fog, Persian rose, banana Nutella crunch, or cookie explosion, a rich chocolate chunked with chocolate and a mind-bending four different types of cookie. Sweet Alchemy emerged from our state shutdown with a robust delivery business, but also scoops from its newest location in Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row, and sells its lovely glass pints and pre-made scoops at a third outpost inside the Mighty-O doughnut shop in Ballard.
The 30-minute ferry to Bainbridge Island feels like a full-fledged getaway if you head straight to this wallpapered and wainscoted little ice cream shop in the heart of Winslow Way. Founders Jerry Perez and Ana Orselli, a husband-and-wife team from Argentina, weave their ancestry across flavors like gianduja and dulce de leche (with or without flecks of chocolate). But those are just a few of the 40-ish flavors in the shop’s repertoire, from cool sorbets to dark chocolate mint. Mora, of course, is Spanish for "blackberry," so it stands to reason the summer fruit is also one of its best flavors. Funny to think this little Bainbridge gem now has seven franchised locations from here to Charleston.