Part of Houston’s charm is its year-round warm weather, the perfect condition for enjoying ice cream any time you want. Because of this good fortune, the city is brimming with options for those seeking the sweet stuff whenever a craving hits.
There are parlors scooping the frosty treat into over-the-top sundaes, between freshly baked cookies, and piling it high inside homemade waffle cones. And then there are the shops switching the game up entirely by rolling ice cream into delicate cylindrical art forms, begging to be Instagrammed.
By now, chances are you’ve seen the viral videos of the Thailand-originated icy confection known as rolled ice cream. The artistes making it begin with a liquid base, which they pour onto a super chilled metal plate. Once the slurry is spread out into a thin layer, fruits and other add-ons are chopped in while the mixture rapidly freezes. Afterward, the frozen concoction is scraped into long, tightly wound tubes and placed inside a cup, ready to be topped with such essentials as fresh fruits, cookies, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It’s pretty much the sweet equivalent of watching a teppanyaki chef in action.
After gaining popularity throughout New York and Los Angeles in 2015, then-newcomer Class 502 began serving the dessert phenomenon in Houston last year. Food lovers came en masse to the Chinatown bubble tea shop, the first place in town to offer the trendy creation.
These days, however, you no longer have to travel to Chinatown (or stand in ridiculous lines) to dig into this Southeast Asian street food. There are shops across Houstonia specializing in the visual and gustatory treat, some of which may even be in your own backyard.
Grab a spoon and get acquainted with the latest additions creating ice cream rolls.
Chop Ice Cream
When Tony Doeun isn’t getting his clients into shape as a fitness trainer, the San Bernardino native is whipping up scroll-shaped ice cream at his Pearland Town Center creamery. Opened since the summer, the shop is completely dedicated to the Thai-inspired dessert, offering around eight specialty flavors and six basics. DIY-it by making your own unique selection, or choose one of the more elaborate handcrafted creations like German Chocolate Cake or the Cookie Monster—a best-seller consisting of chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, Cookie Crisp cereal and an extra helping of chocolate chips.
Pro tip: Create your own rolled ice cream using almond milk and honey as a sweetener. Surprisingly, the dairy-free option makes for a light, yet very creamy treat. Want more toppings? It will cost you. Additional syrups are 25 cents and add-ons are 50 cents each.
An extra scoop: Chop Ice Cream is relocating to another space within Pearland Town Center in April, which will feature new menu items currently under wraps. There are also plans to open a second location elsewhere in the Houston area.
This adorable classroom-themed shop has proven to be an exceedingly popular dessert destination in Houston. And it’s all thanks to owners Jennifer Zhao and Jerry Liu, who gloriously debuted the Southeast Asian-style ice cream concept at their Dan Huang Plaza digs last spring. Each spoonful of the frozen confection yields a light, creamy serving that’s as refreshing as it is delicious. From vividly hued Mindblowing Matcha—green tea ice adorned with strawberries, cookies, and Pocky sticks—to punchier alternatives Mango Madness and Sassy Strawberry and Banana, there’s really no wrong decision when it comes to choosing a flavor.
Pro tip: Go crazy with unlimited toppings, which includes organic fruits and organic cookies.
An extra scoop: A possible Class 502 outpost down the road is on the drawing board. There are talks of expanding further into Houston or Spring.
You’ll find this bright counter-service spot tucked within Colony Plaza Shopping Center in Sugar Land. Eddy Lui, the young owner of the quaint dessert den specializing in Hong Kong-style sweets, has been busily chopping and scraping ice cream rolls since opening in September. The house best-seller is Strawberry Fields, a creation that includes berries, condensed milk, and a heap of Fruity Pebbles that adds crunch. If strawberry isn’t your jam, the shop offers four additional flavors including the decadent Chocolate Forest packed with Nutella and vanilla.
Pro tip: Don’t skimp on the boba pearls, cereals, fruits and other extras. Toppings are unlimited here.
An extra scoop: Ice-cream-stuffed egg waffles, handmade taro balls and sweet Hong Kong pancakes are just a few of the other goodies on the menu.
Royalty Tea’s main focus may be boba beverages, but this shop has been in the rolled ice cream game since last summer too. It’s situated in Dun Huang Plaza near Giau Bar n Bites. The bubble tea bar takes a different approach to rolling ice cream than neighboring Class 502. Instead of handcrafting rolls on sub-zero rotating plates, a stationary plate is used. While there isn’t a vast selection of toppings, you will find such standard flavors as mango, strawberry and chocolate on the menu. Unfortunately, the presentation can leave much to be desired.
Pro tip: Arrive after 7 p.m. This bubble tea shop, which doubles as a karaoke bar, opens in the evenings only.
You may come to this colorful shop for frozen yogurt in Saigon Houston Plaza, but you’ll stay for the rolled ice cream. Yogitopi uses the same technique as the others; however, the final result is a denser, silkier dessert. From flavors like cookies-and-cream to Vanilla Monkey (Nutella and banana), the ice cream can be further customized with a variety of toppings ranging from fresh blueberries to puffed rice.
Pro tip: Don’t go overboard on the toppings. Extra goodies include a supplemental charge of 75 cents for each add-on.
If that wasn’t enough, there are even more rolled ice cream treats to come. Here's what’s on the horizon:
- 8° Fahrenheit – The Georgia-based ice cream parlor will brings its made-to-order rolls inside the 610 Loop later this year. Look for this shop to open at the newly constructed Westheimer Oaks, the River Oaks development home to Eloise Nichols Grill & Liquors and Bosscat Kitchen + Libations.
- M Boba – Cypress has a trendy new dessert hub, and it comes from the owners of Chinatown’s Yogitopi. Although it’s been open since November, rolling ice cream has been noticeably absent from the menu. Expect the Thai treat to re-emerge once the rolling apparatus returns to the shop in late March or early April.