By the Independent Staff
On warm days, when things go slack, there are two possible remedies: a swim or an ice cream, or both — two dips are better than one. We asked our writers to consume their favorite frozen treats with notebooks in hand. Preliminary results: there is no bad ice cream. It always sparks memories of past joys or plans for future flavor experiments. We’ve included staff favorites from Orleans to Provincetown. —Teresa Parker
Bliss! P’town Frozen Yogurt
322 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
As I gently chew my Lactaid® pill and ponder the menu of flavors and add-ons, I am swept into a swirl of nostalgia. Bliss has been my go-to sweets shop here for over 10 years, and not just for the soft serve that takes me back to childhood. Bliss specializes in frozen yogurt, served with a twist in a punchy, lefty setting that would have AOC squealing into her rainbow LGBTQIA+ sprinkles.
As you place your order from a counter so high it could be in a Douglas Adams novel, notice the vintage P’town posters lining the ceiling. Get caught up in the vanilla smell of fresh-pressed waffle cones. Admire the collection of sassy signs on the double doors.
I ordered a plain froyo. Usually, I ask for it topped with blueberries, but I was feeling frisky, so this time it was strawberries and pineapple — summer by the sea in a cup.
It’s not just the froyo that’s the reward here. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a loving earful from the owner behind the counter. She’s a bespectacled embodiment of Provincetown’s salted qualities: a white-haired lady pirate straight out of Neverland, who would have you snickering over the whale of a tale she would tell if it weren’t for the line of landlubbers tripping over the high step to get in behind you. —Stefan Piscitelli
225 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Canteen isn’t an ice cream shop; it only recently began carrying handmade ice cream bars and gourmet popsicles from the Local Scoop in Orleans. But the backyard sand garden between the kitchen and the beach is so inviting that any excuse to stop in here will do. And Local Scoop’s treats go well with the space: a pocket-sized, thoughtful bit of bliss.
Step out of the teeming street into the calm interior and find a small cooler of frozen treats off to the right. For research purposes, I picked the salted caramel ice cream bar and the watermelon lemonade popsicle. There are six flavors of bars, including tempting triple espresso, chocolate malt, Cape Cod Red Ale, and peanut brittle versions. The other two popsicles were cucumber lime and honey mango.
Take your treat to the back yard, where the purpose of Canteen reveals itself. The music-filled beach garden has a full bar and just the right vibe.
The salted caramel bar was rich, soft, and delicious. It wasn’t overfrozen — in fact, it nearly came apart in my hands. But ice cream should be a gentle confection, dissolving on contact, and Local Scoop does a fine job. The watermelon lemonade pop had just the right amount of lemon to balance the sugars, and a great mouth-feel — like compacted snow. Deeply flavorful. —Paul Benson
310 Commercial St., Lopes Square, Provincetown
Open daily, 10 a.m. to midnight
I prefer cocktails and desserts to be separate. I’ve never been a big fan of the White Russian — that boozy, creamy, coffee-y drink popularized by The Big Lebowski. But I make an exception for the White Russian ice cream at Lewis Brothers.
For me, the experience starts pre-scoop. Will they card me? Not this time. I was lucky. Maybe it was the self-assured way I said, “Small White Russian, sugar cone,” like I was describing a model of car.
There is minimal alcohol in this confection, actually — just a smidgeon of vodka and Kahlúa. Enough to remind you that you are, indeed, a fully grown adult eating a dripping ice cream cone alone on the beach.
Remember the first time you had coffee ice cream as a child and how sophisticated you felt? Now take that a step further. The ice cream is smooth and creamy, with hints of vanilla and espresso. Then there’s that slightly bitter, alcoholic undercurrent. Not enough to induce a siesta — just a perfect afternoon jolt.
The price is $6 for a small scoop. Perhaps expensive for ice cream. But cheap for a cocktail. —Saskia Maxwell Keller
The Nut House
237 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, 10 a.m. to midnight
When Bon Appétit sampled the ice cream at Toscanini’s in Cambridge, the magazine declared it “the most cerebral ice cream.”
I investigated a statistically significant sampling of scoops of the Toscanini flavors on offer at the Nut House. The results: the ice cream is plenty sensual, rich and dense. NB: I ignored the far end of the counter, where sorbets and ices are displayed, though fruity types should know there’s a good selection.
The fabled B3 — brown sugar, brown butter, and brownies (the Nut House calls it “burnt butter”) — is as buttery, caramelized, and chocolate-y as it sounds. A single dip in a cone ($4.95) was almost overwhelming, not in size but in flavor and texture. Same with the gingersnap, with its big hunks of soft cookie. But I’ve never gone for mix-ins, smush-ins, or even chocolate chips.
Espresso is the way to go if you are looking for a concentrated gelato-like lick. The pistachio is excellent, too: cleanly creamy, and with tiny bits of nuts that don’t distract from that flavor’s mysterious allure. —Teresa Parker
385 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, noon to 9 p.m.
Tucked away in the East End, Ptown Scoop offers homemade ice cream that’s exceptionally creamy in original, addictive flavors. The shop, now in its 12th season, is far enough away from the center of town to not have long lines. It’s a great diversion for gallery district patrons.
A friend and I sampled four flavors: I had a small cup ($4.75) with a scoop each of salted caramel chocolate pretzel and pistachio; my friend had a scoop each of cake batter (which has pieces of cake and fudge swirl) and strawberry lemonade sorbet.
I’d had the salted caramel before, and it didn’t disappoint: the saltiness enhances the intense sensation of sweet vanilla with a caramel swirl, and the chocolate-covered pretzels add a nice crunch. The pistachio, though unnecessarily green, is among the best I’ve had — whole pistachio nuts and a concentrated essence reminiscent of Italian gelato. My friend’s cake batter was exotic and similarly intense, though it overshadowed the fruit sorbet (I should have warned him).
Ptown Scoop also has shakes and sundaes, as well as some no-sugar-added flavors. But the stellar attraction is “New Licks,” a list of exotic tastes, from cherry amaretto to graham central station, with graham crackers and milk chocolate honeycomb crunch. —Howard Karren
High Tide Kitchen
8 Highland Road, North Truro
Open Thurs.-Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
There’s something about ordering ice cream from the side of a truck. Are there still ice cream trucks circling neighborhoods with that tinkling soundtrack?
This week it was me circling the truck. I heard that Chequessett Chocolate’s High Tide Kitchen had pivoted from Thai food to ice cream in the pandemic. I was excited. Then I heard it might be some kind of healthy ice cream. Now, I was afraid. But I decided to give it a try.
Lila was at the counter and filled me in on the details. High Tide’s ice cream is house made by Bliss Bros. Dairy in Attleboro; the truck also whips up an array of wittily named smoothies. The toppings are signature Chequessett Chocolate.
Getting my hands on my ice cream was a 4-step process. First, I chose vanilla (from among 12 flavors, some non-dairy and gluten-free) as my canvas. Step 2: a choice of flavored cones — I went for salted caramel. Next, I chose a scattering of cacao nibs and, finally, in step 4, I chose the cone combo size (cones come in only one size but cups come in large and small).
For just under $8 I got what I think is the most gorgeous ice cream cone ever to emerge from the side of a truck. And it didn’t appear healthy in the least. Nothing to fear here. —Edouard Fontenot
Editor’s note: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that High Tide Kitchen’s ice cream was supplied by Bliss! Frozen Yogurt of Provincetown. It is supplied by Bliss Bros. of Attleboro.
Savory and the Sweet Escape
316 Route 6, Truro
Open Mon., Wed., Thurs. 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Fri.–Sun. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
I remember when my mom told me about the lavender fig ice cream. I was intrigued. Still, though I contemplated it along with all the other flavors at this highway stop, I always opted for the same proven favorites: salty caramel, Andes mint chip, mint Oreo, and pomegranate dark chocolate.
For years, lavender fig stayed in the category of “not worth the risk,” alongside another special, candied bacon.
But for this assignment, I ordered it. At $4.50 for the kiddie size, I thought, it had better be good. It was! You mostly taste the fig, which, with a thick cream base that cuts out the sweetness, leaves a velvety undertone. There is a little hint of lavender, but not enough to be identifiable. That is a plus, I decided, after many considered bites, because, who wants to eat lavender? Next year, I may try the candied bacon. —K.C. Myers
A Nice Cream Stop
326 West Main St., Wellfleet
Open daily, noon to 9:30 p.m.
I have loved coffee since before I can remember (my mother says I drank decaf out of a large mug while in diapers). So, as I walked up to A Nice Cream Stop in Wellfleet, I already knew what I was going to order.
Through the windows at the back of the white cottage, this shop serves Emack and Bolio’s ice cream from the Boston-based chain. The store is cash only.
I ordered a small Beantown Buzz with rainbow sprinkles, which set me back $6.35. It was an obvious choice for me, based on the name alone. I was handed a towering, rainbow-coated cone. Oohs and aahs came from the group of older women behind me in line. A golden light shone down from the heavens. Angels sang. “It’s a small,” I told the women. A chorus of “That’s a small?” erupted.
Beantown Buzz is much more than your standard coffee ice cream. It features “a cookie crunch fudge swirl” and chocolate-covered espresso beans. The fudge complemented the coffee well, and the espresso beans provided a delicious crunch. The espresso beans were so good, in fact, that I found myself bored with the coffee ice cream itself.
Overall, an interesting twist on a classic flavor — this coffee fanatic is impressed. —Ben Glickman
3 West Main St., Wellfleet
Open Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
This place is just what its name says — a joy. Nestled behind Drift on Main Street, this family-owned gelato spot is one of the best new things in town. All the gelati and sorbets are made in house, and the menu is ever-changing.
Roasted almond, chocolate hazelnut, and salted caramel are now officially on my normal rotation. The gelato is reliably creamy and decadent. You’ll want to lick the inside of your cup. Blueberry, raspberry, and coconut were enticing, but I like to stick to what I know. Word on the street is that the sorbet is excellent, but I haven’t been able to stray from the richest flavors on the menu. On the days I visited, the vegan sorbet options were mango, lemon ginger, and chocolate.
A small cup costs $5.25, but it’s worth every cent. Pints are available for $11. I strongly suggest taking some of your favorite flavor home. You may need it later.
Gelato Joy also serves espresso, farm fresh milk, gelato spritzers, and affogatos. With patio seating for watching the world go by, this place is truly a gem. The cherry on top? Their cups and spoons are compostable, with a bin onsite to collect the goods. —Emma Doyle
Mac’s on the Pier
At the end of Commercial Street, Wellfleet
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Ice cream on the pier in Wellfleet always takes me back in time. It was a thing long before the Hay brothers came along and took over the Harbor Freeze, before the picnic tables with a view. Few places compare when it comes to location.
Mac’s has a separate window for the Hood ice cream with a decent list of flavors, plus soft serve and frozen yogurt. There are a couple of unusual choices: Moose Trax and blueberry oat crumble.
There are two endearing options, concocted by and named after Mac’s daughters. This year, there’s Lili’s mint delight: mint chocolate chip ice cream with junior mints, hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts, and chocolate sprinkles. Bella’s cookie dream tempted my daughter: cookie dough ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, hot fudge, butterscotch, whipped cream, and nuts.
But this is really a place for a cone and a stroll. We pared back our order to waffle cones with chocolate and cookie dough ice cream. The chocolate, was milky, not overbearing like some chocolate flavors, and very smooth. My daughter judged the cookie dough not too hard and mixed nicely with the sweet vanilla base.
A summer sunset glow and bayside breeze perfected the picture. —Susannah Elisabeth Fulcher
PJ’s Family Restaurant
2616 Route 6, at Cahoon Hollow Road, Wellfleet
Open Thurs.–Tues., 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; closed Wed.
Though it may have gone upscale with fish tacos and tuna sashimi, PJ’s continues to deliver standard summer scoops. It mostly serves Hood products, with some other brands and now even one made of oat milk. A small soft serve runs $3; a small regular ice cream $4.
PJ’s staff make sundaes, banana splits, frappes, floats, and sodas. They cheerfully incorporate toppings and mix-ins, from dips to nut crunch and mini Reese’s Pieces. Pup cups for canines are still on the menu. They’re $1.60, including a Milk Bone cookie.
As my husband and I tucked into our favorites — his, chocolate-dipped vanilla soft serve in a cone; mine, Rocky Road in a cup (frozen marshmallows!) — we chatted with a family with three young children from Framingham, vacationing in Dennis. The kids could not have been more delighted as they stood on the blacktop. All five licked their rainbow-sprinkled cones and talked about the relative merits of home schooling in the pandemic. Next: visits to relatives in Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee. We wished them well and hope they’ll find cones as satisfying as PJ’s wherever they roam. —Cathy Corman
Nauset Ice Cream
4550 Route 6, North Eastham
Open daily, noon to 10 p.m.
After a decade of searching for the perfect rum raisin ice cream, a local man’s quest ended last week at Nauset Ice Cream, where he raised his plastic spoon and declared this to be the best he ever had. This rum raisin had it all — perfect texture, sweetness, and raisin density — nirvana in a cardboard dish. (The man’s long-suffering spouse was elated.)
We had almost missed this discovery, as we tend to head south (or is it west?) from our home in Eastham when we go out for ice cream. But a reporter takes the assignments she gets. In fact, this one took the ice cream assignment to heart, and visited Nauset Ice Cream three times over the course of a week. With the help of family and friends, no spoon was left unturned. We tried mango sorbet, orange-pineapple, caramel sea salt (with and without sprinkles), cookie dough, purple cow, and (of course) rum raisin.
The ice cream is all homemade here, and we would love to have the recipes.
We ordered the small ($4.95), which were generous. On one visit we spent the extra $2 for homemade waffle cones, which one of our team described as “like waffles in cone form. Really, really good.” —Linda Culhane
Ice Cream Café
5 South Orleans Road, Orleans
Open daily, noon to 10 p.m.
Ice cream without dairy. It seems un-American, especially considering the way most of our country eats. And it doesn’t seem as if it could be good.
But this year, at my part-time job at the Ice Cream Café (yes, I’m biased), I’ve learned why non-dairy options are a hit. The options have evolved, for one thing, from plain vanilla to include chocolate soft serve, plus a multitude of scoopable flavors. There’s even non-dairy fudge and whipped cream for sundaes.
The non-dairy soft serve here is made with soy milk from a mix we order. The hard serve is homemade, with a coconut-milk base. The owner, Greg Norgeot, looks like a chemist, carefully portioning out the ingredients to make flavors like salty caramel, toasted coconut, cookies and cream, or chocolate hazelnut.
We combine the ingredients in a big bucket; then, they go into the ice cream churner, where the flavors and texture are developed.
I’m still a dairy ice cream eater. But it’s important to know what you’re making. I like the non-dairy soft serve best. It’s not as creamy as dairy-based soft serve, but it’s close in taste, and makes you feel better knowing you’re eating healthy.
What’s most satisfying is when people who’ve been allergic to dairy their entire lives come to us saying they’re having their first ice cream sundae ever. —Ryan Fitzgerald
5 Route 6A, near the rotary, Orleans
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
True to the DQ tradition that the Knack has otherwise so thoroughly replaced, soft serve is the ice cream of choice here.
Actually, there aren’t many choices. The soft serve comes in vanilla, chocolate, or a twist. There is only one size. The serving looks huge until you start eating it and realize you don’t want to ever stop. Its texture is dreamy, without the air and ice shards of more ordinary licks.
The twist’s flavor is different from other soft serve combos, too. If you’re one of those people who likes cafeteria trays with dividers, avoid this twist. In the usual twist, the flavors are indistinguishable; at the Knack, each flavor is distinct. The vanilla tastes like vanilla, infused in a remarkably dense, milky base. The chocolate, in spite of its milky color and frivolous form, has depth and intensity like no other soft serve I’ve ever tasted.
“Ask us about the ice cream sandwiches,” the sign said. There are also milk shakes and frappes. Maybe next time. That’s what we always say. —Edward Miller
The Local Scoop
34 Cranberry Hwy., Route 6A, Orleans
Open daily, noon to 10 p.m.
Next door to the Bird Watcher’s General Store, the Local Scoop looks like the ice cream place you might choose just because it’s convenient. But it’s much more than that. They serve an eclectic range of ice creams, all made on the premises, with ingredients that are locally sourced.
With “farm to scoop” recipes such as lemongrass ginger, made with herbs grown in Wellfleet gardens, the Local Scoop’s experiments with natural flavors are surprisingly successful. “Wow! This is amazing!” I overheard one customer exclaim, as she tasted the lavender honey ice cream.
The chocolate chip mint is made with mint from the gardens of the Chatham Bars Inn, while the jelly doughnut flavor contains chunks from the Hole-in-One down the road. Wine from Truro Vineyards is an ingredient here, too.
The Local Scoop carries gluten-free and vegan treats, too, and smoothies, milk shakes, frozen yogurt, frappes, soft serve, Cape Cod Pops, and ice cream cakes.
Erin took my order and answered all my questions. She brought my ice cream to the picnic table outside, which was shaded by an umbrella and overlooked a small putting green being used by other customers. After enjoying a cup with one scoop of black raspberry and another of chocolate, both covered with hot fudge, I drove home content, looking forward to my next visit. —Tom Recchio
Smitty’s Homemade Ice Cream
210 Main St., East Orleans
Open daily, 1 to 10 p.m.
Smitty’s is my local. I’ve been coming here for years, and occasionally still refer to it by its predecessor’s name, “The Sundae School.” Sometimes a place is about the vibe, and Smitty’s is welcoming. A shaded courtyard that cleverly isolates you from traffic offers a slice of nature to nestle in as you consume your reward for waiting in line.
I counted 42 flavors, with non-dairy and sugar-free choices and low-fat frozen yogurt. There’s a litany of toppings from creamy to crunchy, fudgy and syrupy. There’s no soft serve, but why quibble? It was good to see the raspberry lime rickey, a family favorite, still on the menu.
The servers were friendly, and patient with my questions and my children’s reluctance to make up their minds. It is cash only.
I ordered a sugar cone with a scoop of black raspberry with chocolate sprinkles, while my kids went for blueberry and Nauset mud — a chunky coffee. Small dishes or cones are $5, medium $6, and large $7.75.
As the afternoon wanes, Smitty’s catches the beach traffic from Nauset. It can resemble an impromptu tailgate party. We took our table under tall trees, traded our flavors, and agreed that good ice cream on a lazy summer day makes for a memory worth coming back to. —André van der Wende