“Let’s skip it this year,” said K.C. Myers, feeling jaded about the ice cream survey. “We’ve tasted it all before.” But that was before summer really heated up, before the sandy-footed unexpected drop-ins appeared on our doorsteps, before the slow sundowns allowed one more bite before day’s end.
By the time those things had happened, we’d gotten some calls: “What about the ice cream list?”
We needed reinforcements, and right now they are here. Our summer contributors include eight students: six in college and two in high school. They told us they stood ready to be deployed on a moment’s notice. And here we are again with our crew’s sweet favorites for this season. —Teresa Parker
Bliss! P’town Frozen Yogurt
322 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, noon to 11 p.m.
I approached the counter and explained that I was a reporter. The owner looked at me with apparent skepticism. “No pictures,” she said. “I’ve been here a long time and everyone who needs to know about me knows about me.”
But talking about the yogurt soft-serve, made fresh daily, her face lit up. I examined the familiar flavors (this was not my first foray to Bliss). There was one I had never seen before: almond biscotti. And before I could pull out my wallet, there was a kiddie cup waiting for me. The frozen yogurt had a satisfying level of sweetness; its almond flavor was noticeable, but not overpowering.
Servings come in kiddie ($3.25), small ($4.50), or big ($5.75). If your cone should meet a blazing concrete doom, that misfortune (or clumsiness) will be restored with a free replacement.
Once I had finished, I eyed the little boy next to me, licking a sample of sunset-colored tangerine frozen yogurt. It was time for me to deliver my own dose of skepticism: was it made with real tangerines? The owner reached over to fill my cup again and delivered her answer, which is the company’s motto: “Sell no crap of any kind, anywhere.” —Talia Kantor Lieber
310 Commercial St., Lopes Square, Provincetown
Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
When it comes to dining out, ambience is as important as the food itself. When I go out for ice cream, I’m going less for the sweet creaminess (not that I hate that part) and more for the classic summertime ritual of taking yourself out to the ice cream shoppe (ideally, it’s a “shoppe,” spelled just that way).
In Provincetown, the best place for this ritual is Lewis Brothers. Even without the “shoppe,” it still has old-fashioned charm: checkered tile floor, Tiffany-style lamps, but, besides that, absolutely no frills.
Rather than telling you what flavor to get, I’ll tell you how to enjoy whichever amazing, homemade flavor you choose (I do recommend lemon rhubarb, new this season).
Go on a night when it’s just chilly enough that you could wear a sweatshirt but you won’t miss it if you forget; leave your phone behind (live in the moment, babe!) but bring your wallet (a small scoop is $6); go with friends; get a cup, not a cone (no time for messes); always get sprinkles (for the vibe); take your ice cream outside and eat it as you mill about on the sidewalk and, if you’re friends with the right kind of people, make catty comments about the Commercial Street foot traffic. Lull yourself to sleep with all that lactose. That’s what I like to call summer. —Paul Sullivan
The Nut House
237 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, 10 a.m. to midnight
On the way to the newsroom, I pass through a heavy cloud of fresh-baked-cookie aroma. I would have walked right by the Nut House, not sure it was my kind of place, had it not been for one word on a little sign: “Toscanini’s.”
The fabled ice cream arrives twice a week from Cambridge, says shop owner Kim Leonard, who’s been scooping it here seven months a year for 22 years.
Toscanini’s is known for sophisticated flavors. The favorite? “Easy,” Leonard says, “B3. You know the one: brown sugar, brown butter, and brownie — I’ve had people cry when we run out.”
Wipe your tears and order the goat cheese and brownie. The creamy part is not too sweet, almost savory, but not at all goaty. As with the B3, the chunks of brownie are big and chewy.
There’s a light-colored old-fashioned plain chocolate, but I have never tried it. Because there is dark, shiny, cocoa pudding — chocolate ice cream to the tenth power.
The pistachio has only the slightest hint of that flavor’s bitter almond-like secret ingredient. The pistachios are chopped fine.
“And it’s not green,” a staffer chimes in. “Toscanini’s uses real ingredients.” Cups and cones are $5 for one scoop, $6 for two.
Speaking of crying, The Nut House does not replace a dropped cone. Leonard thinks that’s an odd idea: “If you drop your steak upstairs at Ross’s Grill, do they give you another one?” —Teresa Parker
Provincetown Fudge Factory
210 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, 10 a.m. to “at least midnight”
This West End shop has many praiseworthy features, but I’ll start with the most important: it’s always open when I need it. The sudden and desperate need for chocolate is no laughing matter, and Fudge Factory takes its role as provider seriously.
Every time I’ve looked, Fudge Factory’s cheerful staff is there, happy to fill my arms with Grand Marnier truffles, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, toffee-dipped pretzels, and the all-important coffee ice cream cone (with sprinkles).
Fudge Factory carries eight flavors of ice cream, all made by Gifford’s creamery in Maine. All are exceptionally creamy, with bright, well-defined flavors that never leave you hunting for “a good bite.” There is enough cookie dough in the peanut butter-caramel-cookie dough, and plenty of brownie bites in my favorite, the Muddy Boots (vanilla, caramel, brownie). The strawberry ice cream gets rave reviews from those who go fruity.
A waffle cone dipped in chocolate with rainbow sprinkles makes the best presentation, but you’d better be ready to consume it on the spot: this rich ice cream melts quickly. If your plan is to walk down the Court Street landing to look at the harbor, you might want to go with a triple-scoop cup, which is a deal at $6.50.
Dropped cones: “Oh, of course we replace them. It happens to the kids when they look at that giant wall of candy behind you,” says Bobby Ivanov, who’s at Fudge Factory year-round. —Paul Benson
385 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open Monday-Friday noon to 10 p.m., weekends until 11
Judging an ice cream store is not just about how good the salted caramel is — it’s about trust. Trust that when you walk in the door, the ice cream establishment will take you in its arms like the little baby you are and serve you the creamiest of treats.
Here, on the small wooden deck out front, sits an open cooler filled with ice-cold water and a small tin can for cash. Standing beside this honor-system cooler on the hottest day of the summer, you know you can trust Ptown Scoop to satisfy.
To ensure a good sampling of the menu, I finagled four half scoops for the price of two of the usual ones ($5.25). Then I walked next door to the picnic tables overlooking the pier at Cannery Wharf Park and got to work.
As I bit into the coconut almond bar ice cream, the water in front of me took on a shimmering turquoise color. The scoop, riddled with coconut flakes and crunchy bits of almonds, transported me to the tropics. Their new espresso-toffee flavor, Maine Deer Tracks, brought me back to reality in the best way possible. The salted caramel chocolate pretzel was perfectly salted.
I saved their new nondairy dark chocolate flavor for last, and after tasting three rich flavors, my delicate stomach gurgled in thanks. This one did not let me down.
The cherry on top here is the proximity of a peaceful stroll to the galleries of the East End. —Johnny Liesman
Twisted Pizza and Ice Cream
293 Commercial St., Provincetown
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Twisted Pizza and Ice Cream is not a place for ice cream snobs. They don’t have dainty or exotic flavors and don’t hand out samples on little spoons.
The store is loud, greasy, and chaotic, because they don’t just sell ice cream. There’s also New York style thin-crust pizza, loaded with cheese and toppings and handed to you on a paper plate with a large stack of napkins.
I’ve never been someone who enjoys fruit in dessert. Sorbet, fruit swirls, strawberry chunks — those would all be no’s for me.
But I surprised myself when I walked into Twisted and ordered one of their new flavors for the season: Maine Black Bear. It’s got a rich vanilla base swirled with gobs of raspberry jam and loaded with dark chocolate raspberry cups. I found myself pleasantly surprised.
After ordering a scoop ($5.35) and splurging on a waffle cone upgrade ($1.70), I sat on the curb outside the store, slurping as quickly as I could to minimize drippage loss. As bits of sugary cone, creamy vanilla, and chunky raspberry chocolate swirled together in my mouth, I wondered, for just a moment, whether fruit does belong in ice cream after all. —Emma Madgic
High Tide Kitchen
8 Highland Road, North Truro
Open every day except Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
My mother, father, six-year-old sister, and her friend piled into the car with me, and we headed to the ice cream truck parked in front of Chequessett Chocolate.
The line was formidable, so I scanned the menu while I waited. There’s an array of smoothies and soft-serves made from frozen bananas, plus nine regular flavors, made by Bliss Bros. Dairy in Attleboro. I selected the thick and chunky coffee mud pie and salted caramel chocolate pretzel.
Faced with the decision of cup vs. cone, I am staunchly team cup. An abandoned cone on the ground is a sight that sends shivers down my spine (though if it were to happen here, High Tide would take care of it.) But these cones are imported from the Konery in Brooklyn, so, feeling loyal to the borough where I have lived all my 16 years, I got one. A chocolate-flavored one, to be specific. I remain committed to the cup lifestyle, but I’ll admit it was excellent, even a little bitter, perfectly offsetting the sweetness of my ice cream.
The whole operation is a bit deluxe here. But this is by no means a flaw. It’s only logical that the truck outside Chequessett, with its beautiful, curated selection of chocolate, is special. Sure, it’s on the expensive side. But for $7 or $8 (depending on your selections), as the man working the window told me, “It’s just the best.” —Talia Kantor Lieber
Savory and the Sweet Escape
316 Route 6, Truro
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Last year in this same ice cream round-up I promised to try to the candied bacon at Savory in 2022. Sorry to disappoint, but I have decided life is too short to eat bacon in ice cream.
This year my stroll through the imaginative Savory ice cream flavors led me to meld two of my favorite things on earth: booze and cream. The combination brought me to Savory’s Armagnac plum. I ordered the kiddie size ($5) but got a very grownup taste.
I could smell the brandy wafting off the tiny scoop before it hit my tingling taste buds. Even after that powerful sniff, the flavor itself was quite a tipple. It had a rich velvety finish and just a hint of plum. The Indie’s former arts editor, Saskia Keller, said last year she did not like alcohol mixed with her desserts. Saskia, I beg to differ.
Scanning Savory’s list of homemade ice creams, I found one more containing the demon drink. I cannot remember the name of it — maybe I’m too buzzed by now — but I am sure that it also had coffee in it. I now know what I am going to get next time. What a fool to have denied myself a little hooch in my scoop for so long. —K.C. Myers
Bob’s Sub and Cone
814 Route 6
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
I pulled off Route 6 and into the lot at Bob’s Sub and Cone in a 1997 pickup. It fit right in. Inside the restaurant, the radio blared, and a friendly woman at the register took my order, then handed me several maps, pointing to her beach recommendations. American flags decorated the building. I had the feeling that I had traveled through a portal into a nostalgic version of America, wholly untouched by the last 20 years.
Bob’s has been serving up sandwiches and ice cream in the same spot since Carl and Vi Nelson opened it in 1981. Their son Bob and his family carry on the tradition.
Bob’s is right down the road from Marconi Beach — the perfect post-beach stop.
Hungry from a morning in the waves, my boyfriend inquired about a vegetarian sub. The man behind the counter shook his head. “You gotta go for meat,” he said. But after we explained that we don’t eat meat, the man reluctantly pointed us to the veggie sub they offer — which, incidentally, is delicious. Bob’s also offers pizzas, seafood dinners, and a full bar.
The prices here are untouched by inflation, with a small soft-serve cone of creamy deliciousness costing only $2.25, a medium $2.95, and a large $3.25. Their specialty is soft-serve dipped in a chocolate, cherry, or butterscotch shell, which can be had for 50 cents extra. I splurged, and with that, sealed my intention to return. —Nora Markey
3 West Main St., Wellfleet
Open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
It was a warm night at Wellfleet’s “little Italy” (behind the Sickday Surf Shop building). I stood by the counter at Gelato Joy, a child studying the bulletin board of potential flavors. Near the bottom of the list: “Roasted Almond.”
Nutty ice creams usually don’t appeal to me. I prefer my cold treat without a hint of health food about it. But that night, putting my prejudice aside, I took a risk.
Smooth and rich, the ice cream melted in my mouth and evolved. There were notes of almond, the hearth, Italia at dusk. In that moment, I transcended my juvenility.
“This is maturity,” the ice cream said to me. “This is who you are now.” I perched on a turquoise bench and thought about my Roth IRA.
The ice cream is homemade, “right in the back,” a server said. Flavors move in and out daily. If you drop your cup (they don’t have cones), they’ll replace one scoop of it. “Samples are a yes,” the server told me. I’ll be exercising that privilege. —Eve Samaha
Mac’s on the Pier
At the end of Commercial Street, Wellfleet
Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (food window closes at 8:30)
There’s no place more charming to slurp an ice cream cone than Mac’s on the pier in Wellfleet. Even if the line at the window is long, which it certainly will be in high season, the setting makes it worth the wait. Take your cone and sit at one of the picnic tables with your feet in the sand and gaze out across the water. Squint and it’s like inhabiting a vintage snapshot of a long-ago summer day.
Mac’s serves Gifford’s ice cream from a dedicated window. Their well-edited list of flavors skews traditional. Fifteen flavors of hard ice cream are on offer, including cookie dough, Moose Trax, and peppermint (with crushed peppermint candy pieces). Mac’s also serves American-style sherbet, sorbet, and 2 flavors of frozen yogurt. And, of course, soft-serve swirl is on the menu. Sizes and prices range from kiddie ($4.29) to waffle ($7.69).
The very friendly server wasn’t aware of any official policy regarding dropped cones, but when I asked, she immediately looked around, brow furrowed, for a crying child. I got the impression this kind of disaster is diplomatically handled on a case-by-case basis.
I opted for a scoop of my grandmother’s favorite, maple walnut in a wafer cone. Then I made my way down to a bench and took it all in: the sun sparkled on the water, boats bobbed in the harbor, kids squealed on Mayo beach, and the breeze, even carrying its whiff of nautical authenticity, made for a perfect old-fashioned afternoon. —Edouard Fontenot
A Nice Cream Stop
326 West Main St., Wellfleet
Open daily, noon to 9:30 p.m.
Tucked behind a craft gallery on Main Street, A Nice Cream Stop would be nearly hidden, if not for the big red and white sign out front.
Going to A Nice Cream Stop is a tradition for my family. Decades ago, my uncle scooped here — his favorite being anything drizzled in hot fudge. Beach outings were punctuated by the stop here on the return home. My allegiance to black raspberry chocolate chip yogurt on a cone has remained steadfast. Not overly sweet, this flavor is light, a lilac-colored confection with the perfect number of chocolate chunks scattered throughout.
This evening, I go with my older brother. The small courtyard is packed, with a 15-person line. I usually get one scoop ($6.26) but for only a bit more I have the option to double the portion and get two ($7.66). It’s an obvious choice. I get one scoop of my black raspberry favorite topped with another of Grasshopper Pie, which they say is their most popular flavor.
The scooper at the window is super friendly, animatedly describing the new passionfruit sorbet. Apparently, it’s a big hit. She says that the shop, supplied by Emack and Bolio’s, always replaces ice creams when kids drop them. To prevent that from happening, though, they also offer a cup on the side. —Benjamin Siegel
PJ’s Family Restaurant
2616 Route 6, Wellfleet
Open Thursday-Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
There was a time when I was vegan. During that time, I missed just two things: Regina Pizzeria’s pollo pesto pizza and PJ’s coffee-black raspberry soft-serve twist.
For me, this unlikely blend of soft-serve flavors is more than a rare and delicious combination. It’s served with memories of post-beach PJ’s runs and fish-and-chip dinners with friends, with the sweet taste of summer, with a coating of chocolate sprinkles, and, always, with a smile.
I’ve consumed many a twist in the PJ’s parking lot, and to do so once again, free from all dairy restrictions, was like reuniting with an old friend.
The Java Berry — that’s what fans have dubbed my favorite soft-serve blend — is not the only item served at PJ’s, of course. The restaurant is beloved for its classic Cape Cod clam chowder and fried seafood.
Follow a hearty meal with a visit to the ice cream window, and you’ll find a wide selection. PJ’s offers over a dozen hard ice cream flavors ($5 for a small), vanilla and chocolate soft-serve ($4, small), as well as sundaes, floats, homemade-cookie ice cream sandwiches, sorbets, and an array of toppings.
That coffee-black raspberry twist, though, is powerful. A combo like that makes a girl wonder how she ever lived without it, back in her dairy-free days. —Isabelle Nobili
Ben & Jerry’s
50 Brackett Road, North Eastham
Open daily, noon to 10 p.m.
If you’re looking for a local ice cream experience, then Ben & Jerry’s probably isn’t on your mind. The socially conscious Vermont-based company was bought in 2000 by Unilever, a multinational conglomerate, and their ice cream is now ubiquitous. It’s available at convenience stores across America. They even have a factory in Israel where they make the ice cream that was one of my lifelines to American culture when I lived there.
So, what’s the draw to visiting one of their two shops on the Outer Cape? (They have an outpost at 258 Commercial St. in Provincetown.) It’s the flavors. Whereas most supermarkets feature only a handful of their famously creative combinations, when I visited their Eastham shop I had over 25 to choose from, including four brand-new varieties.
Behind the counter was Brett Hardy, 16, who lives in Eastham. He recommended Chewy Gooey Cookie because of its coconut ice cream. I opted for Mint Chocolate Chance, which mixes fudge chunks into naturally colored mint ice cream. It was intense and even a small cone ($6.07) was a tad too much. Next time I’ll go for the kid size (that’s $5.14, while a large is $7.01).
My kids played it more conservative, forgoing exotic flavors like Netflix & Chill’d for chocolate and strawberry. They allowed me to sample their choices for the purpose of this article but my daughter, Malina, offers the best assessment: “It’s delicious.” —Abraham Storer
Nauset Ice Cream
4550 Route 6, North Eastham
Open daily, noon to 10 p.m.
Nauset Ice Cream’s popularity is evident even on a soupy Wednesday night. The outdoor dining area is occupied by families and teenagers out on their own. Even though the line stretches out the door and onto the sidewalk in front, it moves quickly. I had just enough time to peruse my options: sundaes, floats, fruit smoothies, sorbet, and frozen yogurt, not to mention the wide assortment of both vegan and traditional hard ice cream flavors.
The ice cream is made in house daily, with interesting flavors. The newest is perfectly in season: peach. I tasted a sample, and it was a deliciously subtle ode to the iconic summer fruit. Still, I decided on the Rainbow Monster. Although the name alone had me convinced, I was truly sold by the unique combination of Oreos, cookie dough, and rainbow sprinkles (stirred into the ice cream itself) with a vanilla base.
My “small” serving was generous, well worth $4.10. The servers were friendly and efficient, and the ice cream was delicious. My only regret about Nauset Ice Cream is not having discovered it earlier in the summer. —Greta Magendantz
Ice Cream Café
5 South Orleans Road, Orleans
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
When my wife and I arrived at the Ice Cream Café on a sultry Wednesday afternoon, there was a line out the door, but the high-spirited and efficient staff handled orders quickly. There we were, sitting on the back deck of the café just 10 minutes later, with one scoop of chocolate brownie fudge for me and for my wife a scoop of mocha. Both with hot fudge.
All 38 flavors of traditional ice cream here are made on-site, as are the nondairy flavors, some soy-based, some coconut and oat-based, and some pea-protein based. The nondairy coffee with gluten-free Oreos is particularly good. These vegan choices are the café’s signature options as are their gluten-free cones.
Then there is Dirt Bomb, made with dirt bomb muffins — the ones dipped in butter and cinnamon sugar from the Cottage Street Bakery next door. Ice cream sandwiches made with Cottage Street cookies are also available. New flavors this summer are sweet cream marshmallow swirl peanut butter fluff and a chocolate chili pepper offering that the scoopers here say has proved to be very popular.
Prices range from $4.35 for kiddie scoops to $6.25 for a large. And if by chance a customer drops a cone, it is replaced, no questions asked. — Tom Recchio
5 Route 6A, Orleans
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“We make our own cookies!” said the cheerful young server when I asked her about the Knack’s ice cream sandwiches. “Wow!” I said. Then I ordered a soft-serve twist. I just can’t bring myself to change my tune.
The soft-serve ice cream isn’t homemade. “We pour the mix into that machine right there,” said the server. She pointed to a place beside her, hidden from my view.
I like to imagine that the machine looks like a Dr. Seuss contraption: knobbly, weirdly anthropomorphic, and entirely magical. The ice cream, certainly, is out of this world.
My twist (in a cup because of the heat) exited the window. When I plunged it into the ice cream, my spoon encountered resistance — something not all soft-serves can muster. Some are barely there, more idea than real treat, a pitiful pile.
At the Knack, the vanilla is sweet and light, the chocolate rich and milky, with the familiar bitterness of good cocoa present but not overpowering. The serve really is soft — not melty, or slippery, but soft, like velvet.
Too soon, our trip to Orleans was over. On the drive home, I thought about Dr. Seuss. “Oh, the places you’ll go!” he wrote. The Knack, I thought. The Knack is the place I’ll go. —Dorothea Samaha
34 Route 6A, Orleans
Open daily, noon to 9 p.m., weekends till 10
When this shop opened 10 years ago, I was skeptical — yet another ice cream shop in Orleans? How long can they last? I’m happy to report that the Local Scoop is still going strong and supporting local businesses along the way.
All the ice cream is homemade — even their vanilla soft-serve is made in-house. The ice cream runs from $5.75 for a small to $9.55 for a large. Soft-serve and frozen yogurt start at $5.25 for a small; a large is $8.50.
In addition, Local Scoop carries its own line of Cape Cod Pops in more than a dozen intriguing flavors. There’s Brew, made with Cape Cod Red beer, and cucumber lime, with fresh cucumber from Chatham Bars Inn Farm.
Ice cream flavors contain Cape Cod ingredients, including Snowy Owl Coffee and Hole in One Donuts. Visitors and locals can also pick up gifts from the Cape while satisfying their ice cream cravings here.
My companion got the dairy-free Almond Joy, which is a coconut-based ice cream, with vegan whipped cream topped with vegan hot fudge. It was marvelous! I had the salted caramel, made with 1830 Cape Cod Sea Salt.
Word on the street is that Local Scoop is very generous in supplying ice cream for community events. —Susan Abbott
Smitty’s Homemade Ice Cream
210 Main St., East Orleans (on the road to Nauset Beach)
Open daily, 1 to 10 p.m.
Perfectly positioned on the way from Nauset Beach in Orleans, Smitty’s is in the space previously occupied by the Sundae School. We stopped by early in the afternoon on a very hot day to beat the after-beach rush.
This is the old-style no-surprises ice cream shop you expect on the Cape: staffed by enthusiastic young people, serving homemade hard and soft-serve ice creams in a multitude of flavors. Dropped cone policy: “We rescoop.”
Usually, I opt for the ginger ice cream, but today I tried their coffee Heath, another favorite. When asked about shop favorites, the scoopers suggested Oreo Crunch (made with real Oreos; they want you to know theirs is not “cookies and cream”) and an old New England favorite, Grape Nut. We eat gluten-free, so we couldn’t try either, but the coffee Heath did not disappoint.
Two flavors inspired by local geography are Nauset Mud (coffee ice cream with a fudge swirl, chocolate chips, and almonds) and Shark’s Tooth (black raspberry ice cream with white chocolate chips).
A nice shaded outdoor seating area, an ATM (since it’s cash only), and a water fountain are all nice touches. A small cone is $5.50 and a large is $8.25. —Susan Abbott