Whether on its own or atop a warm brownie or generous slice of pie, ice cream is the perfect way finish to any meal. And it’s twice as nice when it’s slow-churned in small batches with fresh ingredients right on site. Indulge your sweet tooth with the in-house programs at these restaurants for ice cream lovers across the U.S.
The Publican, Chicago, Illinois
A two-time James Beard finalist for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” and the author of Hello, My Name is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop, Dana Cree elevates ice cream to an art form at Publican. “Whenever I create a new ice cream for The Publican, I crowdsource — everyone has a favorite and people have emotional ties to certain flavors,” Cree says. “The seasons change what guests are in the mood for as well, so I try and be mindful of what ingredients are available.” Her housemade ice creams and sorbets have included eggnog rum caramel ripple and lemon meringue pie. Whether taking center stage in Cree’s ice cream sundae for two (pictured) or served alongside waffles or artisanal cookies, these inventive flavors are sure to delight. Make a reservation at The Publican.
Oceana, New York, New York
At Oceana, executive pastry chef Douglas Hernandez frequently updates the menu of housemade gelatos and sorbets. “With every item I create, I ask myself — can I eat this on its own?” he says. “I choose to feature gelato over ice cream because gelato is denser and provides a more concentrated flavor, which is why I love gelato. I can always eat more gelato than ice cream.” Recent gelato flavors have included apple cider, chocolate hazelnut, and amaretto, while sorbets have included mixed fruit, tiziano, and coconut, all served with a housemade vanilla shortbread Make a reservation at Oceana.
Espita Mezcaleria, Washington, D.C.
Executive chef Robert Aikens feels strongly about making ice cream and sorbet in-house rather than buying it. Flavors have included canela cinnamon, parsnip, and masa along with the traditional milk chocolate, banana, white chocolate, dark chocolate, and mango sorbet. “I think ice creams and sorbets play an important, intricate, and interesting part in a dessert when you pair warm and cold together again, also adding a different texture profile, balance, a cleansing refresher, and richness in the dessert,” Aikens says. His chocolate tostada with ice cream is pictured. Make a reservation at Espita Mezcaleria.
Herb & Wood, San Diego, California
Executive pastry chef Adrian Mendoza makes all of Herb & Wood’s ice creams in-house with a machine from Italy. Flavors have included Turkish coffee, black pepper and thyme, blueberry cheesecake, pistachio, chocolate brownie, vanilla bean, red kuri squash, raspberry chip, mint chip, banana stracciatella, hazelnut chunk, and vegan purple sweet potato. “My inspiration comes from our produce company, Specialty Produce, a family-owned and operated food service and retail fresh produce supplier located in San Diego,” Mendoza says. “They go and shop at the Santa Monica Farmer’s market and come back with amazing produce from local farmers of California. It’s there where I look and inspect everything that they have to offer and ponder, how can I turn this into a frozen delight.” Make a reservation at Herb & Wood.
Craft Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Pastry chef Shannon Swindle frequently changes Craft’s dessert menu based on seasonal ingredients. His housemade ice cream and sorbet flavors have included goat cheese and black pepper; white chocolate and macadamia; and lemon verbena sherbet, available a la carte or accompanied by fresh fruit. Swindle prepares ice cream with a custard base according to an old-fashioned churning method. “I generally get inspired by everything from childhood nostalgia and the market offerings to whatever someone may have a craving for,” he says. “Usually, we serve the ice cream separately and I pair it with a dessert that makes sense — though there are cases when creating a certain flavor combination guides what ice cream is made! If there is something a little more off the beaten path in terms of ice cream flavor, like candy cap mushroom and pecan, I might pair it with a popular dessert, so people are encouraged to try it.” Make a reservation at Craft Los Angeles.
Il Villaggio Osteria, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Chad Horton, the executive pastry chef for Fine Dining Restaurant Group in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, makes all of the ice cream served in the group’s restaurants. Flavors range from funky (black garlic ice cream) to traditional (salted caramel with housemade vanilla sea salt and caramel) and everything in between. Horton’s ice creams and ice cream sandwiches have garnered such a dedicated local following that they’re now available from local retail outlets including the restaurants. Make a reservation at Il Villaggio Osteria.
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Susan Johnston Taylor is an Austin-based freelance writer who’s covered food and business for publications including The Boston Globe, Civil Eats, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fresh Cup, and Pizza Today. Follow her @UrbanMuseWriter.
Photo credits: Paul Johnson (Oceana); Justin McChesney Wachs (Herb & Wood);