Last week we scoped out scoops, dishing up our list of the ten best ice cream places in town. But there are more opportunities for getting a good brain freeze than just ice cream, especially here in Denver, where endless sunny days give rise to creative, chilly desserts. Here, presented in alphabetical order, are the five best places for frozen treats that aren't ice cream, from dairy-free delights to superfood sweets.
1284 South Pearl Street
You probably gave up Popsicles some time before you hit high school, realizing that the sticky frozen sticks were nothing but sugar and food coloring. But Aikopops makes flavors for adults, ranging far beyond the standard cherry, grape and orange. New flavors pop up faster than Pokémon Go characters, but past favorites have included orange-wasabi, cucumber-sesame and coconut-Nutella. Track down the cart at special events around town or head to the South Pearl Street shop for a well-made sandwich before indulging in a frozen pop with real pop.
Creamy, smooth desserts from the Ba-Nom-a-Nom get their richness from frozen bananas, not heavy cream. So go ahead and indulge in founder Sarah Ladley's healthy blends, with tropical flavors like mango or pineapple, fruity blackberry or rich chocolate-banana, all made with no added sugar. If banana isn't your thing, try the watermelon base instead for a true taste of summer.
4. Berriegood Co.
681 East Louisiana Avenue
The frozen bowls and smoothies at Berriegood aren't technically desserts; they're more like meal replacements in cold, fruity form. Acai berry or dragonfruit (also known as pitaya) form the frozen base, and toppings range from toasted coconut to cocoa nibs. For a bright burst of flavor and a dose of antioxidants, try the Snap Dragon bowl, made with day-glo dragonfruit blended with banana, strawberries, pineapple and coconut milk, then topped with hemp-seed granola, coconut flakes, honey and more banana. Indulging never felt this healthy.
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3. The Inventing Room
2020 Lawrence Street
The Inventing Room starts out as an ice cream parlor, but chef Ian Kleinman isn't content to serve boring flavors from cardboard tubs. Instead, each scoop is made to order, frozen to a creamy consistency in a liquid-nitrogen bath in a matter of seconds. But that's just the beginning. All manner of sweet and savory snacks get the cold treatment, from caramel corn (often handed out as complimentary treats to guests in line) to the aptly named Really, Really Cold Cheetos. For a trip back to childhood, order the frozen peanut-butter mousse, a cylinder of creamy goodness sprinkled with chocolate and topped with a cloud of grape cotton candy. It's like a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich in frozen-dessert form.
4360 East Evans Avenue
Snowlab serves a style of shaved ice that originated in Taiwan but has become popular on the West Coast. The base is made with soy milk frozen into a wheel and turned on a kind of dessert lathe to produce a ribbon of sweet, creamy confection that gets layered into a cup. Other fun textures and fruity flavors are mounded on top to create a unique treat far from other frozen desserts. One of the oddest — and best — is the Avocado Mountain, with shaved ice tinted a pale green from avocado and topped with "dragon eyes" (they're really a tropical fruit called a longan), mango boba and condensed milk. The funky flavors and mild sweetness prove more refreshing than sweeter, heavier desserts, and the boba — which are not the solid, chewy tapioca balls found in Vietnamese smoothies — pop in your mouth for a juicy burst. But there are plenty of other exotic choices on the rotating menu: Green tea is ever-popular, but keep an eye out for black sesame, coffee or black rice.