The housemade waffle cones at Creamy Cone Cafe are good; the ice cream is even better.
Kryse Martin, the woman behind the vivid flavors at the former Central District Ice Cream Company, has launched her own line of pints. Customers hover on Sunday mornings when the week’s new flavors go live, and pickup happens at the Station coffeeshop on Beacon Hill. No wonder these sell out fast; creative, carefully wrought combos include brown sugar ube, banana pudding spiced with cardamom and cinnamon, or orange Thai basil. Martin draws lots of inspiration from her Filipinx roots, as well as from broadly Asian ingredients. Her scoops show up on dessert menus at a few great restaurants around town, but the Instagram flavor reveal each weekend is half the fun.
The family behind Rainier Beach’s charming Stonehouse Cafe runs an ice cream counter within the restaurant, scooping flavors they make from scratch (even the base) in a production space next door. And oh, those flavors. Some—lilikoi, a creamy pineapple, the top-selling ube—honor familial ties to Hawaii and the Philippines. Others summon childhood favorites, like a Reese’s Pieces tribute and a take on apple pie layered with chunks of actual crust. The lineup rotates often, and a cooler next to the counter is stocked with pints. The menu now includes boozy milkshakes, and special one-off flavors debut along with discounts at a monthly ice cream social.
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.
Ballard, Capitol Hill, University Village
Seattle’s mind-blowing plant-based ice cream shops are the work of Juicebox veteran 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 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). Recently pints landed in a few local grocery stores. 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.
Though it’s now a single brick-and-mortar location on Phinney Ridge, Bluebird is also a cooling presence at about 10 Seattle-area farmers markets, scooping Elysian stout or Remlinger Farm’s marionberry from Bellevue to Queen Anne. Meanwhile, the Phinney outpost dishes out scoops, like Bluebird’s ever-popular snickerdoodle flavor, into freshly made waffle cones.
Step inside this cheerful green-walled espresso and scoop shop and three generations of owner Ashanti Mayfield’s family might be waiting to assist. Their immensely warm service can help you choose among flavors that feel classic, but not basic: coffee toffee crunch, watermelon sorbet, a rich vegan rocky road, and wow that banana pudding. The first topping is free for kids 12 and under. Creamy Cone even makes its own waffle cones, some of which get filled with caramel and no-bake cheesecake for a portable indulgence that isn’t quite so melty.
The plingplingpling of arcade games has returned to this quartet of shops, renewing that inspired triad—pinball plus beer plus ice cream. Full Tilt is plenty kid friendly, but remains a fierce advocate for its community and for the adult pleasures of a tallboy and a banana split. Its standard and rotating flavors have a singular sort of verve, from Thai iced tea to Mexican chocolate, ube maple or lemon marshmallow. The 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. The delivery setup devised during 2020’s shutdown lives on, but Sweet Alchemy also scoops from Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row, and has at a third outpost inside the Mighty-O doughnut shop in Ballard. Ko also makes a mean special-order ice cream cake.
Ballard, Capitol Hill, Totem Lake
Portland’s ice cream juggernaut landed in Seattle a while back, now a trio 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.
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.
And a Few Great Local Options at the Grocery Store
The cheerful blue and white pints originated in the San Juans, but now come from a production facility in Anacortes (which doubled as a mask production facility in the earliest days of the coronavirus shutdown). Today they’re back to being a dedicated ice cream operation, making rich-tasting pints of Bow Hill blueberry, cinnamon, and mint chip. Seattle-area grocers also stock Lopez’s ice cream sandwiches, made with chewy chocolate cookies that are big enough to feed two.
The company that makes the base for the vast majority of Seattle ice creameries runs its own scoop shop in Maltby, but its pints populate pretty much every grocery store in the city and it’s hard to go wrong. Familiars (cookies and cream, salted caramel) share freezer shelf space with tempting flavor flexes like s’mores or a creation inspired by bourbon.
The scoop shop may be on Whidbey, but more than 300 local stores, from chains to independents, carry its scoops and pints. These tend to be satisfying (and locally sourced) versions of classic flavors: Mukilteo espresso, peanut butter chocolate chunk, Skagit triple berry. Newer flavors on Seattle shelves include a Cherry Garcia-esque Cherry Choctopus Chip made in partnership with the Seattle Aquarium, and a seasonal centered on Washington’s favorite fair food: A blend of vanilla, raspberry jam, and Fisher scones. Just as exciting is the line of ice cream bars, made using a low-tech process that keeps ice cream dense rather than airy.