Summertime in Philly means water ice, ice cream, popsicles, shakes and sundaes on the frozen dessert scene, which includes both Franklin Fountain and John's Water Ice. (Left photo by D. Swanson for GPTMC, right photo by R. Kennedy for GPTMC)
There’s a heat wave in our midst, Philadelphia, and we want to help you stay cool through this week’s scorching forecast.
Sure, you could just head indoors to check out the air-conditioned cool of our city’s awesome attractions, but why not cool down from the inside out with ice-cold confections.
From the to the artisan vegan ice cream at Little Baby’s neighborhood locations to fabulous fruit pops at South Street’s new Lil Pop Shop outpost, there are all sorts of ways to stay cool with sweet treats in Philadelphia this summer.
Here’s our picks for sweet frozen treats that promise to tempt taste buds as the temperature rises:
Ice Cream and Gelato
• Little Baby’s: Super premium ice cream made from local ingredients is the specialty at Little Baby’s, which offers creative concoctions such as birch-beer vanilla, cardamom caramel and vegan Earl Grey sriracha from its two brick-and-mortar shops, customized tricycles, at Union Transfer, and practically everywhere you could use a scoop.
• Franklin Fountain: Franklin Fountain stacks scoops of nostalgia high atop hand rolled waffle cones. The throwback ice cream parlor decor and of-the-era costumes are just the cherries on top.
• Capogiro: The elder statesman of the local artisan-frozen treats scene, Capogiro has a national reputation for its excellent gelatos and sorbets in flavors such as Thai coconut milk, sea salt, Nutella and Dulce De Leche, with various storefront locations in Philadelphia.
• Bassetts: In Philadelphia it doesn’t get more classic than Bassetts, the local ice cream company founded in 1861. Though many local eateries will make shakes from Bassett’s ice cream, it’s worth a trip to the Reading Terminal Market stand for the real thing in one of more than 40 flavors such as butterscotch vanilla, Irish coffee or peanut butter.
• Philly Flavors: The two Philly Flavors scoop shops are low on frills, but luckily, the treats make up for the spartan atmosphere by being decidedly high on flavor. Don’t miss the black cherry water ice made with fresh fruit, and stay tuned for a third location in Rittenhouse soon.
• Scoop Deville: This longtime favorite parlor recently moved its digs from Rittenhouse east to Midtown Village, but Scoop Deville still dishes super-customizable ice cream and frozen yogurt. Pick your flavor, pick your toppings to mix in or put on top and be the master of your own ice cream destiny.
• Scoops: With the opening of a location in Bryn Mawr last year, Scoops has stepped up its game. The Conshohocken staple Scoops, which serves both classic (cookies and cream; mint chocolate chip) and innovative (thin-mint crunch, birthday cake) hand-dipped ice creams.
• Custard & Cakes Creamery: A long-time institution in the Roxborough neighborhood of the city, Custards and Cakes Creamery is worth a visit, even if you don’t happen to live in the area. Plus they make all their ice cream in-house. (Tip: watch our short Philly 101 video featuring Derrick Pitts of The Franklin Institute to find out what makes the creamery so chill.)
Water Ice and Popsicles
• John’s Water Ice: This South Philadelphia institution is a favorite spot for water ice. John’s Water Ice is a combination of fruit or syrup and shaved ice that has long been a refreshing summer treat in the city. Get iced.
• Lil’ Pop Shop: One of Philly’s latest and greatest frozen treat staples, Lil’ Pop Shop now boasts two brick-and-mortar shops, one in West Philly and one on South Street. The pop shop wows ‘em with artisan popsicles in surprising combinations: goat cheese and cherry, lemon blueberry buttermilk, Mayan chocolate and lime mint. Follow them on Twitter to keep tabs on the mobile cart as well.
• La Michoacana: There are more than 50 flavors of homemade ice cream at Kennett Square’s Mexican heladeria, La Michoacana, but the oft-changing ice cream flavors like guava and cream and peanut butter fudge are a special treat.
• Pop’s: In the Summer of 1932 Filippo “Pop” Italiano began selling frozen treats from a pushcart in South Philadelphia. Today at Pop’s four locations, they’re committed as ever to that original quality and friendly service.
• Mancuso’s Cheese Shop: On East Passyunk Avenue, lovers of old-school “wooder” ice can head to Mancuso’s, primarily a cheese shop, for a scoop of house-made cherry, lemon or chocolate ice. 1902 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-389-1817
• Rita’s: Ah, Rita’s Italian ice. The Pennsylvania-based chain has several Philadelphia area locations, and the round dome of water ice is the happy ending to any hot day.
• The Igloo: Serving super-premium frozen yogurts, sorbets and gelatos, The Igloo has quickly warmed the hearts of its Graduate Hospital neighbors with its frozen confections, especially the homemade non-fat Greek fro yo and salted caramel soft-serve gelato.
• Yogorino: With locations on Rittenhouse Square and Market East, Yogorino has the tart fro-yo field covered and decorated with quality toppings such as fresh fruit, a variety of hot and cold syrups and pomegranate seeds.
• Red Mango: With more than 200 locations nationwide, Red Mango is one of the shops that greatly contributed to the wave of frozen yogurt popularity. Serve yourself a generous helping of this tart, all-natural chilly treat.
More frozen treat picks, below.
• The Lite Choice: New York’s The Lite Choice now has two Philly locations, making it a cinch to snag a cup of low-guilt creaminess — the calorie count ranges from just 80 to 120 calories in a half a cup.
• Gozen: As Philly’s first self-serve frozen yogurt truck, the aptly named Gozen allows patrons to choose between eight flavors (tart, cake batter, blueberry açai and cookies and cream, to name a few) and sprinkle their cups with fresh fruit and other goodies.
• Old City Frozen Yogurt: Old City Frozen Yogurt offers self-serve probiotic, fat-free delights in flavors such as New York cheesecake, peanut butter and no-sugar chocolate.
• Whirled Peace: Whirled Peace brings an eco-minded sensibility to dessert, with a biodiesel-fueled delivery truck and a portion of the proceeds donated to philanthropic causes. Meanwhile, the recycled cups filled with lemon chiffon, frozen apple pie and caribbean colada yogurts make giving back fun.
• Yogo Sano: Taking its health-conscious credentials seriously, Yogo Sano proclaims that its USDA-certified organic frozen yogurt — available in regular, tart and a changing daily flavor — is probiotic, hormone-free and gluten-free.
• Phileo Yogurt: Philly gives Pinkberry a knockout Rocky-style punch, with Phileo Yogurt. Unsure of what to try? No problem. They have mini cups to sample from: snicker doodle, birthday cake, georgia peach, cheesecake and many more.
Milkshakes and Smoothies
• Shake Shack: New York-based chain Shake Shack is celebrating its inaugural summer in Philadelphia. Their ever-popular frozen custard (vanilla, chocolate, caramel, black and white, strawberry and peanut butter) is served up in cup, cone or shake form. Those who really want to splurge can indulge in the Center City Pretzel concoction, made with vanilla custard, soft pretzel, caramel and marshmallow sauces and bananas.
• Square Burger: Sure, people visit Franklin Square’s Square Burger for the burgers, but the Cake Shake (Butterscotch Krimpets, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream) and monthly selections like the Strawberry Shortcake Shake are what keep them coming back.
• HipCityVeg: Sure, it’s vegan, but blended treats at HipCityVeg are served up so thick and tasty, you won’t miss the dairy. The Groothie, a green smoothie, changes daily to include various fruits and veggies and is freshly made throughout the day. For a decadent vegan goodie, order up a vanilla, chocolate or creamsicle soy milkshake or a banana whip topped with fruit or chocolate chips.
• Honeygrow: At Honeygrow, the smoothie menu is simple and sweet. Choose from one of four blends that are simply crushed ice blended with fresh fruit.
• Animo: New Center City spot Animo serves up fresh juices, smoothies, banana whips and more, alongside made-to-order burritos and salads. If you have trouble choosing from the extensive juice and blend selection, opt for a signature blend like Nirvana, a mix of cantaloupe, mango, banana and carrot.
• Village Whiskey: For $6-9, get a milkshake with a twist at Chef Jose Garces’ whiskey bar. There are currently three options (a fourth is non-alcoholic). Our two favorites: the Irish Car Bomb (devil’s food cake brushed with Negra Modelo and chocolate pastry cream flavored with Jameson and Bailey’s, blended into vanilla and chocolate ice cream and topped with a piece of cake); and Cherry Garces (cherry chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sauce mixed with rum topped with Amarena cherries).
• Frankford Hall: $6 Spiked Shakes have been added to the Frankford Hall menu, including Jack N’ S’mores, Orange Creamsicle and Honey Graham. Delicious.
• Bobby’s Burger Palace: Leave it to a celebrity chef to reinvent the classics. Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in University City has three signature spiked shakes (Vanilla Caramel Bourbon, Pineapple Coconut Rum and Mocha Kahlua Vodka) in addition to a host of virgin shakes and malteds in tempting flavors like dark chocolate, pistachio and cola.
• PYT: At PYT at The Piazza at Schmidts, the boozy ice cream cocktails are called “adultshakes,” with varieties like The Bubble Ohh (vanilla ice cream, jimmies and Three-O Bubble vodka), the Jon Valdez (espresso ice cream, Kahlua and Patron) and the ?uestlove, named for (duh) the famed Roots drummer (Frangelico, Bailey’s Irish Cream and vanilla ice cream).