Are you searching for frozen treats that will tantalize your taste buds and cool your palate? Washington FAMILY Magazine has solutions that will stick. Here are 10 local family-owned shops around the DC Metro where you can fill your craving for chillin’ summer sweets:
109 King Street, Alexandria,VA (703) 518-5374
Strolling through Old Town Alexandria is always fun, but it’s more enjoyable topped off with ice cream. Kids and parents alike will have a hard time choosing among the 63 flavors– and fountain classics– in this old-fashioned establishment. The hard ice cream proved tremendously tasty—and as Cleveland Browns fans, we loved the rich “Cleveland Brownie” flavor of creamy vanilla with brownie chunks.
Part of the Fish Market restaurant, Pop’s makes its own ice cream on premises. The cashier says kids love the mint chocolate chip, but other favorites include Fudge Tracks with Reese’s, cookie dough and key lime pie flavor. My daughter enjoyed her chocolate (and as our budding actress, she noted the red carpet and velvet ropes in line). My son called the décor very “pizazzful,” a word invented from this visit.
305 Mill St., Occoquan, VA (703) 490-5052
As you window shop near the riverfront in historic Occoquan, you may want to stop in at MJ’s Ice Cream-n-More for an overstuffed scoop of Hershey’s ice cream, in 27 flavors such as birthday cake, black walnut, and “outrageous oatmeal cookie.” Toppings include M&M’s, hot fudge, Hershey’s kisses, and whipped cream. A few extra menu items are available such as hot dogs and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Parents will enjoy the cappuccino (variety of syrups) and the homemade fudge. Owner Margie Blanton sells popular chocolate, peanut butter, lemon, and penuche fudge, (specialties for parents include merlot fudge and chocolate rum, but they must be ordered in advance).
While MJs has only been in business for 2 years, they are listening to customers: they have Greek yogurt, gluten-free ice cream cones, and lemon ice sorbet for those needing dairy-free. A nice touch – A 20% military discount. No tables inside.
3706 Macomb Street, Washington DC (202) 364-2525
Just blocks from the National Cathedral, this shop offers 8 flavors of Gifford’s Ice Cream and 10 topping choices, in sugar and cake cones, better than the grocery store sugar cones, one friend tells me. “Overall, it’s as good as Ben and Jerry’s,” the mother of two said.
Something Sweet also boasts frozen yogurt, cupcakes, cakes, pies, brownies, cookies, ice cream sandwiches, and ice cream floats, and is co-owned with a sandwich and grilled taco restaurant. Don’t forget Fido’s sweet tooth: get him a homemade dog biscuit.
The French vanilla is “the best vanilla I’ve had,” said my friend’s daughter, and her brother agreed the ole’ chocolate and vanilla was better than the Oreo.
131A Maple Avenue West, Vienna, VA (703) 938-8188
You don’t need to go to Italy to taste the best gelato! Tucked away in Vienna, Sweet City Desserts offers the authentic Italian experience with 7 ever-changing flavors of gelato. Mom and Dad can even add a little sophistication to their sweet treat by ordering an Affogato al Caffè (gelato with a shot of espresso). Locals also enjoy the variety of lovely treats including (but not limited to) Kalamansi (Key Lime) Pie, Chocolate Mousse Shooters, Crème Brûlée, cookies, cupcakes and homemade cakes for all occasions! For the parents who need to recharge, Sweet City also makes macchiatos, mochas and more! And you must try their Samoa Cupcake – it’s our favorite.
906 Montgomery Street, Old Town Laurel, MD
This neighborhood place is packed on a midsummer’s night, but don’t let that halt your decision to check it out. A converted 19th century house is now an old school ice cream parlor, painted a hot pink inside. The ice cream is Hershey’s and over 20 flavors are available. My tester tried the Strawberry Cheesecake and the newest flavor, Salty Caramel Truffle, and reported they tasted true to their namesakes. A general scoop is the norm, and kids can also get hot dog and nacho combo, and there’s even a stash of juice sippees in the cooler. Parents will appreciate the fresh-tasting sandwiches.
8200 Centreville Road, Manassas, VA (703)-368-2013
If you see a steady stream of cars on route 28 heading into a parking lot, you know you’ve hit Kline’s, a landmark in Manassas for over 40 years. Kline’s serves soft-serve ice cream, specializing in treats like brownie and blondie sundaes and funnel cake sundaes, as well as 21 flavors of shakes, including butterscotch, marshmallow, red raspberry, caramel coffee, mango, and peach. Chillers, strawberry shortcake, and smoothies dot the menu, which also includes food: my daughter loved the chicken nuggets.
Though it’s a stand with no indoor seating, it doesn’t hurt business. Families use benches or eat in their cars.
7111 Bethesda Lane, Bethesda, MD(and 3 other locations) (301) 215-9226
Is your family a fan of Italy’s version of ice cream? If fresh is what you’re after, and you want lower amounts of fat, calories and air, be sure to try the family-owned Dolcezzo artisanal gelato in downtown Bethesda (also in cafes in Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Fairfax as well as farmers markets.) At $5.25 a cup, Dolcezzo boasts fresh ingredients grown by local farmers and is produced in the Georgetown location. They use local fruits, herbs, cheese, milk and cream.
Flavors are based on seasonality. Kids go for the chocolate, vanilla, dark chocolate, and chocolate hazelnut here; parents veer more towards pistachio, caramel, and cappuccino. Pineapple, peach, and strawberry are popular in the summer. Dairy-free options available.
2261 Amendola Terrace, Ashburn, VA (703)-858-3894
Tucked into Moorefield Village in Ashburn, you’ll find a frozen yogurt place with your choice of 16 flavors, such as pineapple colada and NY cheesecake, and 49 toppings. Senior cashier Kaitlyn Chiodo reports kids usually choose the chocolate or cookies and cream here, while parents head for the Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel (highly recommend!) Your child won’t notice the festive décor, because they will be immediately drawn to the iPads, preloaded with kid apps, or the flat screen TV. Parents appreciate the anti-bacterial gel near the iPads and the absence of blinding neon colors. The newly-opened store was sparkling clean with immaculate tables and swivel chairs to delight little movers and shakers.
A bonus point – kids with lactose intolerance or milk allergies may choose 2 dairy-free options – orange and watermelon sorbet.
2416 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington DC, (202) 333-3111
Nestled into the Glover Park neighborhood between Georgetown and Tenleytown, you’ll want to stop in to Max’s Best Ice Cream. Their website says they’ve been “a fixture in the community” for 20 years, and the ice cream is homemade. The $4 scoops are generous and rich with flavor, and the sundaes are piled high but inching towards $10 (what can you expect, it’s DC!) You may enjoy originals like Graham Cracker Honey Ice Cream, Mexican Vanilla, Mint with Oreo, and other treats like homemade cappuccino-flavored ice cream. Call ahead if you want to know the day’s flavors. Cash only here, but don’t forget to say hi to Max!
26420 Ridge Rd., Damascus, and Mt. Airy, MD (301) 253-2003
On the edge of Montgomery County, you’ll find the popular soft-serve Jimmie Cone open from mid-March to October. This ice cream stand is a landmark in Damascus, where tradition invites every little league team to stop after their game. They’ve been in business for over 50 years and serve up twists, hot fudge sundaes, snowballs, flurries, and fat-free and sugar-free yogurt.
Manager Kyler Leiter estimates in the height of the summer, they sell 1,000 cones a day, mostly between 6-11 pm. “At $2 a cone, it’s the cheapest ice cream around,” he says.
Bonus points from this mom for his willingness to make a dairy-free smoothie for kids who are allergic or sensitive to milk products. Cash only.
Kristine Meldrum Denholm (www.kristinemeldrumdenholm.com) is a freelance writer published in magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Dog’s Life. After this assignment, she and her family reside in a sugar-induced coma.