The South's Best Frozen Treats
Chill out with snowballs and pudding pops, Bushwackers and milk shakes—or a scoop of ice cream flavored with everything from pecan pie to bacon
Chill out with the South’s best ice cream shops, popsicle stands, snowballs, and milk shakes. From kid-friendly fruit popsicles to delicious boozy slushies, we’ve scoured the South to find the best places to get an icy treat on a hot Southern afternoon. In Birmingham, Alabama, Satellite’s Rocket Booster blends vodka and Tang for a delicious summer treat. Find North Carolina’s best and creamiest old-fashioned ice cream at Cabarrus Creamery in Concord. In Key West, Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe serves up some of the best Key Lime pies in the South. And we think that every Southerner should know about Atlanta-based King of Pops frozen fruit popsicles, serving up summertime treats in artisan flavors using organic ingredients. Down in New Orleans, you can find the South’s best snowball at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, a corner shop uptown where the original snowball was invented. You just can’t beat these refreshing summertime desserts—try them out for yourself!
Brent's Drugs: Jackson, MS
Though it’s no longer a drugstore, Brent’s hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1946, despite a recent (and subtle) revamp. A supporting character in The Help, Brent’s has been serving Jacksonians egg salad sandwiches, grilled burgers, and shakes for decades. And there’s no better place in the world to go for a good old-fashioned cola float, with the smooth balance of vanilla ice cream and pulled soda in a parfait glass. If you’d rather adult-ify that float, visit The Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs in the back of the restaurant. Located in the old dispensary, this speakeasy-style bar has upped the city’s cocktail game. Look for creative drink offerings like the Vanilla Argentina, which combines Fernet-Branca, Ron Pampero rum, house-made vanilla syrup, Mexican Coca-Cola, and vanilla ice cream for a grown-up take on a cola float.
665 Duling Avenue; 601/ 366-3427; brentsdrugs.com
Cabarrus Creamery: Concord, NC
Go here for hand-scooped, old-fashioned ice cream with a generous side order of small-town charm. Concord, which is a community outside of Charlotte, is probably best known for talented native sons The Avett Brothers, and it still happily trades in Main Street sensibilities. Inside this cheery ice-cream shop, a hand-lettered chalkboard touts the flavors of the day, and locals gather around tall, retro-style tables to dig into scoops, sundaes, and build-your-own ice-cream sandwiches. Don’t miss the Sliced Lemon, which is a delicately tart and sweet lemon ice cream that’s studded with slivers of crystallized lemon and peel. It gets an emphatic stamp of approval from The Charlotte Observer food editor (and all-around Southern food maven) Kathleen Purvis.
21 Union Street South; 704/784-1923; cabarruscreamery.com
Chuck's: Raleigh, NC
If chef Ashley Christensen is involved, you know it’s going to be good. At her downtown Raleigh joint, the mainstay shakes, such as Dark Chocolate Cake and Salty Peanut Butter with Roasted Banana, rival the flattop-seared, four-napkin burgers. Her team also creates daily specials from the leftover desserts at Christensen’s other restaurants. If you think nothing can top homemade banana pudding or deep-dish apple pie for dessert, you’ve never tried either of those as a milk shake. Think of them as the inverted à la mode. Or don’t think—just order and eat.
237 South Wilmington; 919/322-0126; ac-restaurants.com/chuck
Dreamette: Jacksonville, FL
Located in Jacksonville’s Murray Hill neighborhood, just a short drive from the beach, Dreamette has been filling cups and cones with soft serve since it opened in 1948. Very little has changed. You still walk up to the window beneath the blue-and-white striped awning to place your order, and many of the faces—both inside the shop and idling along the bright blue benches outside—remain the same. Until he passed away a few years ago, Lee High School coach Leonard Skinner was a regular. He’s the man who inspired band members of a group called One Percent to change its name—to Lynyrd Skynyrd—in a cheeky tribute to their former coach. The Upside Down Banana Split (soft serve topped with chocolate sauce, fresh strawberries, fresh crushed pineapple, sliced bananas, and honeyed walnuts) has something of a local cult following. But the real winner is the dipped cone. Sure, you can get basic vanilla with a chocolate shell. But for ice-cream magic, try a cone of chocolate or vanilla with a peanut butter, cake batter, or toasted coconut shellac.
3646 Post Street; 904/388-2558; facebook.com/Dreamette
Flora-Bama: Orange Beach, Alabama
With its beachfront location, rotating roster of live music (Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney), endless supply of ice-cold beer, and most-anything-goes attitude, the Flora-Bama just might be the world’s perfect dive bar. Having begun life as a lounge and package store on the Florida-Alabama state line in 1964, the Flora-Bama has weathered hurricanes, fires, and the annual onslaught of 30,000 beachgoers for its mullet toss (the fish, not the hairdo) to become a true Southern bucket-list destination. Its calling card is the Bushwacker, a rum-based, milk shake-style cocktail that packs a punch. (The longest-running owner of the bar, Joe Gilchrist, even titled his memoir Bushwhacked at the Flora-Bama.) Though the recipe is more closely guarded than Nick Saban at the Iron Bowl, we’ve nosed out coconut cream and coffee liqueur, in addition to the generous pour of rum. Just be careful you don’t get Bushwhacked.
17401 Perdido Key Drive; Florida: 850/492-0611; Alabama: 251/980-5118; florabama.com
Hansen's Sno-Bliz: New Orleans, LA
We’ve had snowballs . . . and we’ve had Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. No comparison. This little corner shop on Tchoupitoulas Street is long credited with creating the first snowball in the United States, dating back to 1939, when Mary and Ernest Hansen first opened. Unlike standard snow cones, Louisiana snowballs are made with super-fine shaved ice—the closest thing to snow that southern Louisiana sees on a regular basis. Ernest originally designed a machine that transforms giant blocks of ice into delicate, fluffy crystals. The shop, now run by their granddaughter Ashley, still uses it to fill paper cones and souvenir plastic cups with ice that’s ready to be topped—in layers—with a kaleidoscopic range of 37 syrups. They’re all made with Mary’s original secret recipes. The flavors run the gamut from fruity (strawberry, blueberry, satsuma) and creamy (almond, coffee, wedding cake) to inspired (root beer, honey lavender, ginger-cayenne). Half the experience is concocting your dream cup by mixing and matching flavors, which you can then top with sweetened condensed milk, whipped cream, or cherries. Open only March through October, Sno-Bliz keeps a steady line any time the door’s open, but it moves quickly and the cool treats inside are assuredly worth the wait. The original has led to other snowball spots opening across the city (and beyond). Bars often put tribute Sno-Bliz cocktails on the menu. If New Orleans is a city of culinary legacies—and it most definitely is—Hansen’s is one of the crown jewels.
4801 Tchoupitoulas Street; 504/891-9788; snobliz.com
Home Team BBQ: Charleston, SC
When the popular Home Team BBQ opened a second location on Sullivan’s Island (right on the heels of the manager’s trip to the Virgin Islands), they decided to introduce beachgoers to The Game Changer. This frozen drink, which is a riff on a Caribbean Painkiller, combines dark and spiced rum with orange juice, pineapple juice, and coconut cream for an ultra refreshing Tiki-style drink that Charlestonians immediately embraced. (And that kind of quick acceptance is high praise indeed, coming from a town that has long been revered for its cocktail culture.) In 2014, Home Team partnered with Atlanta-based King of Pops to create a boozy ice pop version of the drink. And this past spring, the group expanded to the Charleston Peninsula (aka downtown) with a third location for Home Team. This new spot features a popular outdoor patio shaded by a live oak tree. It’s a great place to chill in the evening over good drinks and good conversation with friends. Thanks to Home Team BBQ, locals and tourists alike can take comfort in knowing that—even if they don’t make it to the beach during the steamy dog days of summer—they can still get their game changed.
Sullivan’s Island: 2209 Middle Street; 843/883-3131; hometeambbq.com
Jerry's Sno Cones: Memphis, TN
Though the exact opening date is up for debate, one thing is for sure: This walk-up snow cone stand (which also makes a mean Delta tamale) in the former Sinclair Gas Station has been a Memphis institution for decades. When you order your cone, in flavors like Wedding Cake, Fuzzy Navel, and Dreamsicle, ask for it “supreme” to get a ribbon of soft-serve vanilla swirled through the center. Just trust us on this one. And though the wait can be long—30 minutes isn’t unusual—there’s a communal atmosphere that flourishes in the line at Jerry’s. Chalk it up to the inherent friendliness of the kind of people who will drive to a bright pink building 20 minutes from downtown, just for a snow cone. Don’t miss the back of the building, where people use nubs of chalk to scrawl their goals, promises, and general wishes on the “Before I Die” board.
1657 Wells Station Road; 901/767-2659; facebook.com/Jerry’sSnoCone
Joy Macarons: Dallas, TX
For Francophiles, French macarons—with their glorious combo of delicate meringue cookies and cream filling—rate as the ultimate snack food. In Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, Joy Macarons creates small batches with freshly milled almonds, pistachios, Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla, fresh fruit, and honey from local apiaries. A couple of years ago, in a move of inspired genius, the shop began making macaron ice-cream sandwiches—house-made ice cream stuffed between two macaron shells. Flavors for these Ice Cream Sammys vary throughout the season, but look for strawberry-basil, mocha, lemon-blueberry, vanilla bean, and cinnamon. You’ll find macarons in a crayon box of hues at the bakery’s industrial-chic space: exposed brick walls,glass-walled kitchen, blond wood macaron counter. Pay a summertime visit and you’ll immediately understand why they call it “Joy.” (A new location in the Lower Greenville neighborhood is coming soon.)
839 West Davis Street; 214/434-1922; joymacarons.com
Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shop: Key West, FL
Failure to eat Key lime pie during a visit to the Conch Republic should be a punishable offense. The tangy dessert is as ubiquitous as happy hour here on America’s southernmost spit of land. Tiny Key limes, found throughout the Florida Keys, have a tarter, richer flavor and a thinner, more delicate skin than the more common Persian limes. They are the heart and soul of this area’s famous no-bake dessert. At Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, staffers whip up pies daily, with fresh-squeezed Key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and a handmade graham cracker crust. Then the pastry wizards take it a step further: They insert a wooden stick into individual slices, dip them in chocolate, and freeze them. Think of it as a pie-sicle. Visit the shop on Elizabeth Street, pick up a slice, and nibble it as you wander down to Mallory Square for the nightly sunset celebration. Or, try the new location on Duval. Thankfully, they also sell all the Key lime goodness you can handle on their website, making it easy to stock your freezer for a fresh, cool, year-round taste of the Keys.
200 Elizabeth Street; 802 Duval Street; 305/ 296-0806; keylimeshop.com
King of Pops: Atlanta, GA
Brothers Steven and Nick Carse became a little obsessed with ice pops during a family vacation to Central America, where they ate frozen fruit paletas on the regular. After Steven lost his corporate job, he decided to turn that obsession into a business. A few years later, Nick left his law career to come on board. What began with a single pushcart (and a cramped home kitchen production line) in Atlanta’s Poncey-Highland neighborhood in 2010 has now grown into a mega-business across five states, with a mail-order arm and grocery cases at Whole Foods and Kroger selling their wares. Even so, the Carses haven’t abandoned the pushcart model that got them started. Daily updates on their site direct a devoted following to the nearest cart, where the brothers and their growing team hawk cooling pops in such flavors as pineapple-habañero, blueberry-lemongrass, and grapefruit-mint. They look to area markets and growers such as Lone Oak Farms and Mercier Orchards for primo produce, then add extra sweetness with organic cane sugar, agave, or honey. There’s no better way to beat the Atlanta heat. Check the website for cart locations or visit the walk-up window.
337 Elizabeth Street NE.; 678/732-9321; atlanta.kingofpops.com
Las Nieves Fruit Cups & More: San Antonion, TX
In San Antonio, everyone has a favorite raspa stand where colorful illustrated menus guide visitors through the assortment of fruit cups, aguas frescas, and fresh-fruit raspas. The name “raspa” comes from hielo raspado, which is Spanish for scraped ice. Here in San Antonio and the surrounding area, the raspa is Texas’ answer to the snow cone. Stop by Las Nieves, a squat, bright green building with an inviting covered patio, to order one of the best raspas in town. Here, ice is finely shaved into a powdery snow-like consistency and doused with syrups that are made from fresh mango, cantaloupe, strawberry, cherry, and watermelon. You can expect to find chunks of fruit as you eat your way to the bottom of the cup. (Just think of them as little reminders that Las Nieves does not take any shortcuts with its ingredients or preparation.) And if you like a little heat, be sure to ask to have your raspa topped with chili powder. Try any one of their three locations—
Blanco: 4310 Blanco Road, Suite 2; West Hildebrand: 1118 West Hildebrand Avenue, Suite 101; Marbach: 9385 Marbach Road; lasnievesfruitcupssa.com
Las Paletas: Nashville, TN
In 2001, sisters Norma and Irma Paz opened Las Paletas in Nashville’s 12South neighborhood to showcase the ice pops of their native Mexico. Irma learned the art of the pop the old-fashioned way—by spending quality time with a generations-deep paletero (paleta maker) in a small town in western Mexico. Today, the sisters make an impressive 20 different flavors daily, each one of them created with fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as well as flowers and herbs from community gardens. Stop by their minimalist space (basically, freezers and a chalkboard menu) to choose from two types of paletas: cream (the texture of ice cream) and fruit (more like a usual ice pop). Traditionalists go for Mexican flavors, such as tamarind, pineapple with chili peppers, hibiscus, or avocado. The Paz women also channel the Nashville growing season to create locally inspired favorites like corn, basil, and lime with mint. Their chocolate pops are outstanding, but if ever there were a time to step outside your flavor box, it’s now.
291112th Avenue South; 615/386-2101; laspaletasnashville.com
Lick Honest Ice Creams: Austin, TX
Austin is the sort of obsessive food town where lunch plans are hatched over breakfast tacos, and a three-hour line for barbecue doesn’t elicit so much as a flinch. It’s also hot as blazes in the summertime. No wonder an artisanal ice-cream shop such as Lick thrives here. Open since 2011, Lick takes the “honest” part of its name very seriously and maintains a firm commitment to working with local farmers to produce scoop after scoop of pure dairy bliss. Every ounce of milk and cream comes from Mill-King Market & Creamery in nearby McGregor, Texas, just outside Waco, where the Miller family has been raising grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free Jersey, Brown Swiss, and Holstein cows for three generations. From there, the innovative and delicious Lick flavors are inspired by the growing season and by the great state of Texas itself. Just imagine: Dewberry Corn Cobbler, Sweet Persimmon and Sage, Horchata, and Texas Sheet Cake (a frozen riff on a Texas classic with rich chocolate-pecan icing folded into chocolate ice cream).
1100 South Lamar Boulevard, Suite 1135; 512/363-5622; ilikelick.com
Loblolly Creamery: Little Rock, AR
Using milk and cream from hormone-free dairy cows, this Arkansas-based operation partners with local farmers to source ingredients, such as lavender from Dunbar Farms and fruits from the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market. Since cocoa and coffee beans don’t grow so well in Arkansas, Loblolly works with regional artisans to make sure all ingredients measure up. The chocolate, for example, comes from Springfield, Missouri, where bean-to-bar producer Askinoskie Chocolate is known for its commitment to fair trade. Though you can now find Loblolly ice creams and sorbets on restaurant menus throughout Little Rock, the best way to get a taste is to grab a restored, wrought-iron chair and pull up to the Lippincott marble counter in The Green Corner Store. At this old-fashioned neighborhood soda fountain, you can get a scoop fresh out of the churn, and even the hot fudge and sprinkle toppings are made in-house. But it’s not just the fresh ingredients and corner-store approach that root Loblolly in the local community. Once a month, the creamery teams with an area nonprofit to create a special flavor, with a portion of the sales from it going directly to that organization.
1423 South Main Street; 501/374-1111; loblollycreamery.com
Pudding Please: Richmond, VA
For children of the 1980s, eating pudding pops after school ranks right up there with watching Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That on Television—or combing My Little Pony’s hair. Thanks to Ryan Doherty, a Richmond lawyer by day, you can now eat a sophisticated version of the treat. Doherty owns a mom-and-pop start-up that crafts ultra-creamy puddings (using real sugar, fresh milk, and thoughtfully sourced add-ins), in flavors such as Creamy Coffee Espresso with Brownie Bits, Vanilla Bean, and Butterscotch. Then he freezes the pudding into individual bars for a modern spin on the pudding pop. Though Doherty has been steadily growing his business, he’s still running the operation out of his Church Hill home. But not to worry. You can easily get your hands on a delicious—and refined—taste of your youth by visiting Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market or Union Market. Both of these neighborhood grocers are happy to spotlight area artisans such as Doherty. And their customers certainly like chilling out with his yummy pudding pops. puddingplease.net
Satellite: Birmingham, AL
For kids across the South, slurping the nectar out of honeysuckle blossoms is as much a part of summer as opening a lemonade stand or taking a rope-swing dive into a swimming hole. At the bright orange, space-themed Satellite in Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood, bar magician Steva Casey uses Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka made in Jackson, Mississippi, to infuse her frozen Rocket Booster with the nostalgia of summers past. This slushy drink blends the vodka with Campari and Tang (an homage to NASA’s space program, with its roots deep in nearby Huntsville) to create the delicious balance of bitter and sweet in a single sip. So refreshing, it’s the popular tipple for sun-kissed afternoons on Satellite’s outdoor patio. We won’t judge if those afternoons give way to twilight summer nights.
200 41st Street South; 205/703-9545; saturnbirmingham.com
The Comfy Cow: Louisville, KY
There are no shortcuts here. A from-scratch approach to ice cream in signature Southern flavors runs deep. For the Simply Southern, The Comfy Cow starts by baking actual pecan pies, which then get folded into the ice cream. Cookie Monster Dough begins with the best homemade cookie dough the staff could dream up—and they’re an inventive bunch. Since everyone in Kentucky tends to take bourbon pretty seriously—more than 95% of the world’s supply is made here—you better believe The Comfy Cow does the homegrown whiskey proud. Staffers use Old Forester as the base for their rich and creamy Bourbon Ball ice cream. That means house-made, from-scratch bourbon balls “enrobed in dark Barry Callebaut chocolate” with a splash of Old Forester. Pause and take that in. Bourbon on bourbon. With chocolate. If there’s a better way to keep cool in Kentucky, we haven’t found it yet.
You can choose from any of The Comfy Cow’s five Louisville locations. thecomfycow.com
The Parlour: Durham, NC
“We make the best ice cream around, with the best ingredients.” That’s the mantra Yoni and Vanessa Mazuz live by. What began with a school bus converted to a pink-and-white ice-cream truck (still in use) has turned into the North Carolina Research Triangle’s most beloved ice-cream shop, smack in the heart of downtown Durham. The key to its success: working with Durham community favorites, such as Fullsteam Brewery, as well as area farmers, to keep premium ingredients in stock for the hand-churned, hyper-seasonal ice-cream flavors like Summer Corn or Pretzels & Porter. Every thing on the menu in the bubblegum-pink shop is made from scratch, including the pastries and a slew of toppings. The ice cream uses 18% butterfat from Homeland Creamery, making it super-rich and velvety. For their vegan friends, the staff always has fruit sorbets in stock, as well as creamy varieties made with coconut milk.
117 Market Street; 919/564-7999; theparlour.co
The Revolution Ice Cream Co.: Brandon, FL
Doubling as a gallery space for area artists, this ice-cream parlor outside of Tampa has started a sweet revolution by reimagining the possibilities of the freezer case. Owner Bill Workman started by making fantastical flavors for family and friends. It wasn’t long before local media outlets caught wind and named him the “Willy Wonka of Ice Cream.” In 2013 he opened his shop in a strip mall and drew crowds willing to wait an hour to get a taste of Curried Sky (vanilla with curry-toasted coconut) or Pump Up the Yam (sweet potato with caramel, pecans, and marshmallows). Now, Workman continues to push food boundaries like a mad scientist of the kitchen. His approach is to think of a dish he likes and then figure out how it might translate to ice cream. Nothing is off-limits. That’s how you might come across Porky’s Delight (vanilla with bits of bacon and bacon brittle) or Drunken Brownies (Chardonnay-caramel ice cream with brownie crumbles). It’s an ice-cream world gone wild, and it’s delicious.
220 West Brandon Blvd.; 813/857-3250; revicecream.com