Scream!

Our 16 Favorite Ice Cream Shops

These are the lucky ones we're crowning this summer.

By Timothy Malcolm, Jessica Lodge, and Alexia Partouche

Brain Freeze makes some wild ice cream treats.

The temperature is rising into the 100s. Most of the city's elites have fled to breezier spots like Aspen and St. Barts (we see you), leaving the rest of us to languish in our inflatable backyard pools. ERCOT is telling us to conserve electricity. The pavement is making an unsettling sizzling sound. The steering wheels in our cars are hotter than a Nora Roberts novel. Mosquitoes are attacking our legs. There's no looking back: Summer is here. 

But we don't have to moan and groan (at least not all the time) because there's ice cream—creamy, dreamy, sweet (sometimes savory?) ice cream. In honor of the season giving us sweaty clothing, heat rash, and a bad case of seasonal depression, here are our favorite ice cream shops in the Houston area. 

Aqua S's sea salt with a toasted marshmallow.

Amy’s Ice Creams

For a late night cold treat, you can’t go wrong with Amy’s Ice Creams. With locations in over three Texas cities, this ice cream behemoth offers service to their customers until midnight, because it’s never too late for a sugary treat. Amy’s offers standard flavors like Mexican vanilla that encompasses Madagascar vanilla beans and Mexican orchids, and their signature fine Belgian chocolate. Be sure to call your location to see if their range of specialty flavors include our favorite: the Tri-Wizard treat with Biscoff cookies, marshmallows, and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookie crush’ns.

Aqua S

If any ice cream in Houston can be classified as whimsical, it's the treats from this Australian-born magic factory. With locations in Asia Town and the Heights, Aqua S specializes in sea salt ice cream colored in (what else) aqua blue. You can top your cone (charcoal, naturally) of soft-serve with fun toppings like toasted marshmallows, popcorn, and cotton candy.  

Booza

Stretchy ice cream! Booza—ice cream in Arabic—has been a Palestinian delight for decades, and this family-run shop does it was well as anyone in America. Look for traditional flavors like lemon, rosewater, and ashta (sweet cream). Booza also does sorbet and gelato (almond with salted peanuts for the win), plus banana splits and coffee.

Brain Freeze

Don't let the craziness get to your head at this roadside stop in Pasadena. Brain Freeze does some of Houston's most insane ice cream creations, like a rich chocolate shake (in a Mason jar) topped with Oreos, full scoops of chocolate ice cream, and a Klondike bar. For color, and for the heck of it, the rim is "salted" with Fruity Pebbles. But that isn't all—the menu offers just about every kooky idea under the sun. Just be mindful of melting.  

Cloud 10 Creamery

Houston's quintessential modern ice creamery offers both traditional flavors (dark chocolate, vanilla bean, mint chocolate chip) and innovative fare (cafe sua da, toasted rice, marzipan). It also has ice cream for good dogs, featuring peanut butter, banana, honey, and non-fat yogurt. (Can that be for humans, too?) Cloud 10's popularity is so strong that it now has three locations—be sure to hit them all this summer.

Fat Cat Creamery

Recently adding a location at the Stomping Grounds development in Garden Oaks, Fat Cat is one of the city's most popular spots to get ice cream. The shop's secret is a small menu of big flavors like milk chocolate stout made with oatmeal stout and strawberry jam and buttermilk ice cream made with Texas gin. Fun seasonal flavors come in and out, and nostalgic treats like push-up pops and ice cream sandwiches round out the experience. 

Flower & Cream

The monochromatic hues of pink in this modernized shop give off a refreshing vibe as you take that first yummy lick (or bite) of ice cream. Flour & Cream emphasizes their fresh, made-in house baked goodies and uniquely crafted flavors that are locally sourced. Dig into a fluffy scoop of unicorn tracks with a cotton candy base and lucky charm marshmallows, or try the raspberry tres leches made with raspberry swirls and yellow cake. Your sweet tooth is guaranteed to be satisfied.

Hank's Ice Cream Parlor

Long live Hank’s, Houston’s king of homemade ice cream since 1985. Though Hank Wiggins himself passed away in 2011, his family has kept his legacy alive by continuing to carefully craft batches of banana pudding, banana strawberry, cookies ‘n’ cream, and that perennial Hank’s favorite, butter pecan. 

Sometimes a waffle bowl, here from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, is all you need.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Taking over the former Carter & Cooley Co. space, the national chain that started in Ohio has taken the Heights by storm with its creative and chef-like flavors. There's salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks, brown butter almond brittle, and gooey butter cake, along with dairy-free offerings, like cold brew with coconut cream.

Kwality Ice Cream

When you want traditional Indian ice cream known as kulfi, or maybe the cold drink known as falooda, there's Kwality. At the chain's two area locations (Mahatma Gandhi District, Sugar Land), get flavors like Alphonso king mango and the wondrous kulfi falooda, made with rose, malai and takmaria (watercress seeds). You can go cone or cup, or again, pop it in a falooda with ingredients like basil seeds and vermicelli.

Magnolia's Ice Cream & More

In the East End, Magnolia's holds it down with everything from raspas to Frito pies to rich sundaes like banana caramel. Homemade ice cream flavors, which we recommend over the basic fare like vanilla and chocolate, include mango, pineapple, and lemon lime (with chamoy, of course). For an extra-indulgent treat, try Magnolia's supreme, which combines three scoops of homemade ice cream with fresh fruit.

Milk + Sugar

Montrose's ice-cream hang naturally doesn't do vanilla and chocolate. Find fun and cheekily named combinations like cereal milk base with Froot Loops (called Follow Your Nose) and cream cheese base with cinnamon sugar blondies (called Heart of Glass). Make sure your scoops go into a brown sugar waffle cone, too.

Over The Top Waffle Shoppe

What’s better than ice cream in a waffle cone? Ice cream in a bubble waffle cone, of course. Unlike typical waffle cones, Over The Top Waffle Shoppe’s cones are soft, cakey, and warm—an excellent contrast to the velvety smooth ice cream inside. The shop offers signature creations with a ready-made combination of flavors and toppings. Try the Granny’s Banana Pudd’n or Unconeditional Love, or create your own combination out of their 12 flavors, 30 toppings, and the choice between a vanilla or chocolate bubble waffle.

Red Circle Ice Cream

No ice cream shop in Houston asks you to taste the rainbow more than Red Circle. The small local chain has neon flavors like Elmo Crunch, Donkey Kong, and Green Goblin. It also gets adventurous with scoops like durian, crawfish, and Hot Cheetos. The big draws at Red Circle are the churros—just get your favorite and add a scoop of the ice cream of your choice. And no churro hits quite like the churro daddy, a circular creation that arcs around your ice cream scoop for an unmistakably Instagrammable feast.

Sweet Bribery

With its calming pink and white hues and its old-school parlor feel, Sweet Bribery certainly looks like a throwback. But the creativity runs high at this boozy sweet-treat establishment. Choose from flavors like coconut milk horchata, champagne mimosa sorbet, and bourbon espresso, or order a porter float made with a local dark beer. We recommend Southern Grasshopper for a refreshing summery moment: mint chocolate chip ice cream, a crème de menthe brownie, hot fudge, and Andes mints.

Van Leeuwen goes big on flavor, whether vegan or not.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

This new kid in town is one of the most popular ice cream makers in America. Van Leeuwen uses a whole bunch of eggs in its ice cream, which makes their offerings a little more velvety and rich than sweet. The result is seriously addictive stuff, from honeycomb and Earl Gray tea to Marionberry cheesecake. A number of vegan ice creams, including some made with oat milk, are astoundingly delicious. For example, dig the peanut butter brownie.

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