“What other flavors would you like to try?” asked the server with a smile, a small, plastic spoon at the ready. Even with a line of hungry patrons behind me, he still wanted to make sure I picked exactly what would satisfy my sweet tooth.
“Sun-popped corn, please,” I answer eagerly, trying to keep my sampling to a select few. The smooth, buttermilk-colored ice cream tasted like a frosty spoonful of popcorn. The flavor surprised my taste buds. My next request? Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks — I was hooked. I decided on a combination of Darkest Chocolate (and it was!) and the peanut butter capped off with a waffle cone wedge. Meanwhile, my teenager tried the lilac-hued Wildberry Lavender before settling on a scoop of Brambleberry Crisp (think fresh-baked berry crisp and ice cream all in one).
Unique flavors and fresh ingredients aren’t just a hallmark of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, where we were, but at ice cream spots throughout northeast Ohio. And with the temperatures reaching into the 90s, my family has found one of the best ways to cool off is with a big scoop.
Here are our family’s top favorites along with some flavors you’ll want to try:
Why it’s unique: Tucked into the Gordon Square section of downtown, Sweet Moses looks and feels like an old-time soda fountain shop. The popular sweetery got its name from Moses Cleveland, the city’s namesake. The homemade, small-batch ice cream is churned on-site along with in-house crafted hot fudge and caramel sauces.
Favorite flavors: If you’ve got a crowd, order The Terminal Tower, which is heaped with 10 (yes, 10!) scoops of ice cream, five toppings, sprinkles, whipped cream, and just about everything else you might think of putting on a sundae. You can’t go wrong with any of the Signature Sundaes. My kids, though, found a new favorite, Bananas Foster ice cream.
Why it’s unique: The original Jeni’s set up shop in Columbus’ North Market in 2002. Jenni Britton Bauer began the company, which bears her name, with an eye towards offering ice cream made from real ingredients like dairy from pasture-roaming cows and natural flavorings. She also wanted to push boundaries with unusual combinations that would delight and surprise patrons, like Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam, Ylang Ylang & Fennel and others. Her idea caught on — she now has eight scoop shops across the country, including one in Chagrin Falls.
Favorite flavors: Jeni’s may not have invented the Salted Caramel flavor, but she’s certainly perfected it. My recommendation is to pair that with a scoop of the Milkiest Chocolate.
Why it’s unique: Whenever I have family in town, whether it’s the dead of winter or the hottest day of the summer, we go to Mitchell’s for dessert. Every night. My brother and his family from San Diego raved so much about the ice cream shop started by two Cleveland natives, they insisted on going after lunch, too. It’s just that good. Maybe it’s the locally sourced ingredients, or the care that’s been taken to mix the ingredients to creamy perfection. Whatever the secret — it has drawn a devoted following here in Cleveland, including our family. You can stop by one of eight area scoop shops and even see the ice cream being made at their Ohio City Kitchen & Shop.
Favorite flavors: We haven’t yet found one we didn’t like. A new favorite is the spicy Strawberries & Jalapeños (it’s seasonal so get it soon), but my go-to is Rocky Road made with Belgian chocolate ice cream, a marshmallow thread, roasted almonds, and chocolate chunks the size of small rocks. Coming in a close second is the lip-puckering Key Lime Pie that’s better than having a slice.