As Miami's temperatures soar, we can't help but crave a scoop of ice cream. And though some consider this cold, creamy blend a special treat, Miamians deem it a necessity. From Serendipity in Wynwood to Nanndi in Downtown Dadeland, let your closest ice-cream parlor serve as a sanctuary for the scorching heat and relentless humidity.
July is also National Ice Cream Month. To celebrate the occasion, here are the ten best ice-cream makers in Miami-Dade County.
This hole-in-the-wall ice-cream shop in Wynwood began as a rogue pop-up during Art Basel 2014. Now it's a permanent fixture, which means the shop's whimsical (and sometimes boozy) flavors are always at your fingertips. Owned by Jessica Levison, Serendipity peddles a selection of signature creams ($5 to $7), such as salted caramel, pecan pie, and lavender orange, along with beer floats made with local brews. Most of her flavors, however, are in constant evolution, meaning no visit to Levison's shop is the same. Depending upon the day, customers might find flavors such as blood-orange sorbet or white Russian with candied hazelnuts. The only way to find out is to make the trek to Wynwood or to the flagship in Surfside.
2. Sweet Melody
At Sweet Melody, flavors such as Brie and apricot, pecan and bourbon, lemon ginger, and blueberry cheesecake are just a smattering of the more than 100 varieties owner/creator Mike Romeu has developed over the years. All of his flavors are free of GMO sweeteners and hormones and use high-quality local ingredients when possible. He's involved with each batch from start to finish, crafting everything from the cream to its infusions by hand, keeping in line with Sweet Melody's artisanal practices. Romeu doesn't have a storefront yet, so find his ice cream, averaging about $4 a scoop, at various restaurants in town, including Coral Gables' Caffe Vialetto, Ghee Indian Kitchen in Downtown Dadeland, and No Name Chinese in South Miami.
3. Lulu's Ice Cream
In 2013, Luisa Santos was studying political economy at Georgetown University when she learned a surprising fact: Ice cream could be made from scratch using liquid nitrogen. Today her hunger for running a business and producing quality ice cream has led her to create one of Miami's best purveyors of frozen treats. The way it works is you choose a base ($5 for two scoops), which Santos emphasizes has been made in-store from scratch. Then it's frozen right in front of you. Flavors rotate frequently and according to what's in season at the farms in Homestead. But fear not — classics such as chocolate, vanilla, and the popular Nutella will always be available. More creative options might include strawberry-basil or honey-lavender, and there will always be at least one vegan choice, such as avocado. All of the dairy used is local and comes from the shop's very own adopted cow. Her name: Lulu, of course.
4. Azucar Ice Cream Company
When strolling along Calle Ocho in the afternoon, nothing satisfies like a scoop of something cold. So pop into Azucar Ice Cream Company, where you'll find flavors that could be dreamed up only in Miami. Located in the heart of Little Havana, this shop has long served frozen sweets with Cuban flair. Instead of downing scoops ($3 to $5) of French vanilla and bubblegum, you'll savor flavors such as café con leche, plátano maduro (sweet plantain), and Abuela María (vanilla ice cream with ripe guava, chunks of cream cheese, and crushed Maria cookies). There's also the Burn in Hell, Fidel! — which was created days after the announcement of Castro's death — featuring chocolate ice cream with a kick of cayenne.
5. Mr Kream
Forget the ordinary ice-cream shop. Mr Kream makes frosty treats cool again through flavors like A$AP Rocky Road and Fat Joe Pistachio. This Wynwood ice-cream concept offers a variety of flavors named for rappers, such as LL Cool Crunch and Vanilla Ice. Find beer floats, Ricky Rozay mimosa popsicles, sundaes, and flavored coffee. The shop is open until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday, when a DJ spins hip-hop. Decorate your frozen delight with some edible spray paint, or snag a bottle of real spray paint to take home (both are available for purchase). Menu items range from $5 to $12.
6. Wynwood Parlor
This purple graffiti-painted food truck is stocked with custom ice-cream sandwiches ($5.50) and edible cookie dough. The concept officially launched in spring 2016, and a brick-and-mortar store is in the works. In the meantime, the mural-clad truck rolls throughout Wynwood on weekends, brimming with homemade cookies, brownies, and waffles waiting to be kicked up with a variety of ice-cream flavors and toppings. The truck, which was hand-painted by street artist Nicole Salgar, offers eight cookie varieties ($1.50 to $2), such as chocolate chip, red velvet, s'mores, and rocky road. Ice-cream flavors ($2.50 to $4) include vanilla, cookies 'n' cream, and salty caramel. Toppings — or, as McMillon likes to say, "roll-ons" — range from almond chips to Fruity Pebbles to cookie crumble, made from the shop's handmade cookies. Wynwood Parlor is expected to open July 16 at 860 NE 79th St.
7. Cream Parlor
Cream Parlor, a sky-blue ice-cream shop and café on Biscayne Boulevard, is the progeny of husband and wife Johnny and Ainsley Tsokos, who dreamed of sharing their favorite foods with the public in a quaint, vintage-style space. Besides offering a menu filled with salads and sandwiches, which are served on Zak the Baker bread, Cream Parlor is best-known for its selection of house-made ice cream and desserts ($3 and up). Don't pass up a few scoops of the Prince-inspired Purple Rain, covered with berries and dark chocolate, or pastelito cheesecake.
8. Mr. Bing
This technicolor truck rolls around town with a concept unlike any other: shaved ice cream. Paper-thin ribbons are shaved off a huge cylindrical block at superhigh speeds. Customers have described its consistency as frozen cotton candy and compared its appearance to a carnation flower. A 3.5-ounce serving ($6) of Mr. Bing contains fewer than 100 calories. Flavors range from coconut and green tea to chocolate and original sweet milk. Find the truck at the Wynwood Yard.
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9. The Frieze Ice Cream Factory
This shop has been a staple for 30 years in South Beach, where it whips up homemade and uniquely named flavors ($3 and up) such as Sassy Strawberry, Perfect Pistachio, Jack Daniel's Maple Walnut, and Get Down Boogie-Oogie Cookie. The Frieze also offers rich-tasting sorbets. The dozen or so flavors, including watermelon and passionfruit, are refreshing but not too watery, and tart but not too tangy. If you’re feeling fancy, ask for the crowd favorite: champagne sorbet.
In Downtown Dadeland, Nanndi specializes in frozen cream, which is a fusion of ice cream and gelato. Two of the shop's recipes are the Maria Cookie, made with Maria cookies, and guava and cheese, a Cuban-inspired favorite. There are also dairy-free and fruit sorbet varieties. "There's nothing better than a creamy vanilla ice cream," owner Sabrina Mancin says, "or the texture of an Italian hazelnut gelato. But if you want gelato, go to a gelateria. If you want ice cream, go to Häagen-Dazs." Prices hover around $5 to $8.