Today's weather should seal the deal: It's summer. Whether we're going for a single scoop or a decadent sundae, one of our favorite ways to celebrate the summer is ice cream. Here are the ten best places -- both tried-and-true neighborhood favorites and a few exciting new joints, listed in no particular order-- to chill out with ice cream this summer.
Bonnie Brae Ice Cream 799 South University Boulevard Join the long line at this neighborhood institution and you'll feel like a kid again -- even if you got your AARP card years ago. The Bonnie Brae could certainly qualify for a card, since it's been on this corner of University Boulevard for more than fifty years. And over that time, it's perfected its ice cream. You don't come here for the fancy flavors; stick with creamy classics like chocolate and mint chocolate chip, or the shop's namesake, the "Bonnie Brae Delight," a decadent coconut base with fudge and caramel ripples.
Little Man Ice Cream 2620 16th Street LoHi could be Denver's hottest neighborhood -- but Little Man Ice Cream keeps things cool. In the summer months, this Highland landmark shaped like an actual milk jug serves as an unofficial neighborhood hangout, serving up scoop after scoop of ice cream. (In the winter, it focuses on soup.) Try such handmade, small-batch flavors as salted Oreo, a toothsome Rocky Road or strawberry balsamic (gelato), all available in a fresh waffle cone, shake, malt or sundae. We dare you to drive by without stopping.
Sweet Action 52 Broadway Sweet Action has become something of a cult favorite -- not just for its unexpected and inventive flavors, but also for its sensitivity and understanding toward the lactose-averse and vegan contingents that continue to grow in the Denver area. They flock to this Baker neighborhood mainstay for flavors that change as frequently as the owners can dream them up; right now they're offering delights like Thai iced tea, blackberry lavender, chocolate whoopie pie, vegan pistachio, carrot cake and Nerds.
Spuntino 2639 West 32nd Avenue How sweet it is! Spuntino is not only a dinner destination (co-owner/chef John Broening recently introduced a new menu of Italian classics), but a must-stop for dessert. Four-time James Beard semi-finalist Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, who's married to Broening, makes the pastries here. And Spuntino continues to serve some of the best gelato you'll find this side of Italy. Along with traditional flavors like stracciatella and pistachio, there's a rich brown butter and a dreamy cookies-and-cream that's heavy on the cookies.
Liks 2039 East 13th Avenue 5270 East Arapahoe Road, Centennial The original Liks, opened in Capitol Hill in 1976, continues to attract adoring crowds hooked on one of the 300 flavors it's invented over the years -- everything from the cult-favorite graham cracker, banana nut bread and blackberry cobbler, to cayenne caramel, birthday cake and the spicy, hot-sauce-inspired Avery Iceland. Try it by the scoop, or in a shake, malt, float or sundae. You can't lick Liks.
Sweet Cow 3475 West 32nd Avenue 637 Front Street, Louisville Sweet Cow, which got its start up in Louisville, opened its first Denver outpost earlier this year -- and the Highland neighborhood isn't complaining. With a slew of traditional (and permanent) staples like its "very delicious" vanilla, Dutch chocolate and butter pecan, as well as a rotating list of inspired flavors like Captain Crunchberries, orange creamsicle, oatmeal cookie and Ozo coffee, Sweet Cow gives visitors plenty of ways to fill a homemade cone or make a shake. You can also pair a scoop with Sweet Cow's root beer, brewed exclusively for the shops by Wynkoop Brewing Co.
Peteybird Ice Cream Sandwiches D&F Clocktower Peteybird Ice Cream Sandwiches landed in Denver this year. Former engineer Peter Bredemann whips up bite-sized ice cream sandwiches from scratch, then serves them out of a cart parked at lunch every weekday by the D&F Clocktower on the 16th Street Mall. (You can also order them off the Peteybird website.) The sandwiches come in six varieties: chocolate-chip cookie and vanilla ice cream; graham-cracker cookie and key lime ice cream; sugar cookie with sea salt and strawberry ice cream; chocolate cookie and fresh mint chocolate-chip ice cream; peanut-butter cookie and chocolate ice cream; and maple-flapjack cookie with sweet-potato pie ice cream. And more flavors are coming, Bredemann promises.
Glacier Ice Cream 3455 South University Boulevard 1350 College Avenue (and several other Boulder locations) Since it opened in Boulder in 2001, Glacier Ice Cream has expanded along the Front Range, adding both shops and flavors. So far, it's created more than 800 ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen-yogurt flavors, and it's not done yet. Just try choosing between coffee caramel crunch, Bing cherry, peanut butter blast and funky donkey -- or there's the refreshing Junior Mint, the sea salt dulce de leche gelato, or the Colorado peach sorbet. With a store that opened last year in Cherry Hills, this is one Glacier you won't see retreating any time soon
Ice Cream Alchemy Although Ice Cream Alchemy doesn't have a storefront, chances are you've tried its ice cream at one of the many restaurants it supplies. For Boulder's Salt, for example, Ice Cream Alchemy created a cocoa nib ice cream: light coffee ice cream with pieces of cocoa nibs. For TAG, it's now making a trio of cake-inspired flavors -- red velvet, lemon chiffon and carrot cake -- in addition to a burnt sugar, sea salt caramel, yuzu gummy bear, mocha marshmallow and strawberry basil sorbet. Past flavors have ranged from sea urchin and black truffle to pig's feet and caramel lobster. Alchemy, indeed.
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Bones 701 Grant Street Bones might be known for its ramen dishes and succulent steamed buns, but Frank Bonanno's noodle house also offers homemade soft-serve ice cream. Served alone or as a twist, the imaginative flavors range from a Girl Scout-inspired Thin Mint to bananas Foster, chocolate Nutella, lemon curd and glazed donut. There's no better way to end a summer meal.