Frozen in time

Houston's Most Nostalgic Ice Creams

Ah, those halcyon summer days in the buggy yard, the grass collecting in the kiddie pool, the ice cream truck’s jingle carrying on the breeze.

By Timothy Malcolm, Gwendolyn Knapp, and Joanna O'Leary May 31, 2021 Published in the Summer 2021 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Sarah Johnston, owner of Fat Cat Creamery

Image: Amy Scott

These treats will make you want to adjust the bass and let the Alpine blast (thanks, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince) and rewind to summers past.

Choco Taco at Fat Cat Creamery

Remember when you’d order up a choco taco at the Taco Bell drive-thru while cutting class back in high school? No? Well at least ordering Fat Cat’s refined take on the classic—a waffle cone shell packed with vanilla ice cream, dense, hardened dark chocolate and magical sprinkles—will make you feel rebellious in the land of cups and cones. Multiple locations–Gwendolyn Knapp

99¢ Dipped Cone at James Coney Island

Houston’s consummate simple pleasure is this spiral of vanilla soft serve dipped in milk chocolate. We recommend taking that first bite (yes, bite) while still indoors to savor the satisfying crunch of the cocoa shell before the humidity hits and it’s a race against time to slurp up the rapidly melting cream. Multiple locations–Joanna O'Leary

Banana Pudding Waffle Cone at Hank’s Ice Cream

This historic, family-run institution in South Main has stood the test of time probably because its signature banana pudding ice cream, complete with large chunks of vanilla wafers, is the preeminent oldie but goodie. Go for the waffle cone as it holds the maximum amount of cream possible. 9291 S. Main St.–JO

Malt at Avalon Diner

For over 75 years this retro diner has served up the oft-overlooked malt, the old-fashioned frozen beverage made from germinated cereal grain (aka malt powder) and chocolate ice cream. The banana malt is equally delectable with a mild sweetness from the overripe fruit. Also intriguing: They sell hard-to-find Tootsie Roll Pop flavors. Multiple locations–JO

The Pick-a-Dilly from Sno Dreamz.

Image: Jeff Fitlow

Picadilly at Sno Dreamz

One of our favorite snow cone spots around is this teal-colored shack down in Southwest Houston, which honors one of South Texas’s summertime traditions well—the picadilly, or as it’s called here, the “pick-a-dilly.” For this sweet and tart creation, cherry Kool-Aid-marinated pickles are mixed into whatever flavor of snow cone you order (we like coconut to offset the sour tang). 11320 Fondren Rd., 713-728-1550–Timothy Malcolm

Dole Whip at Herzstein Trading Post

If you’re a fan of Disney, you probably know the origin story of this dairy-free pineapple soft serve, created by fruit overlords Dole for the park’s Tiki Room attraction (the one with all the singing, exotic bird animatronics) in the 1980s. Nary is there an amusement destination these days that doesn’t benefit from having the refreshment on hand, and the Houston Zoo is no different. Enjoy it on the hottest of days while taking in real exotic birds. 6200 Hermann Park Dr.–GK

Gelati at Rita’s Italian Ice

Everyone loves Italian ice, but transplants from up North will tell you its mature sibling gelati—which has soft-serve custard blended into it—is the one to pine for. At Rita’s, a Philly company that popularized its hometown Italian ice, also called water (ahem, wooder) ice, the gelati comes in lots of flavor combinations, though the cherry ice with vanilla custard is primo. If you’re really feeling it, you can also call the gelati by its preferred Philly nomenclature: a radio ball. Got a problem with that? Didn’t think so. 2802 White Oak Dr.–TM

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