Cool off with ice cream made right here in the South.
by Erin Z. Bass
A big bowl of ice cream can’t help but cool you down, even on the hottest of days, and lucky for us, there’s no shortage of producers in the South. (Or shortage of indigenous flavors like maple bacon brittle, blackberry cobbler or Creole cream cheese.) From one of the best-selling ice creams in the country (does “Have Yourself a Blue Bell Country Day” ring a bell?) to smaller companies like New Orleans Ice Cream, Wright Dairy in Alabama or Leopold’s in Savannah, Georgia, there’s probably a local ice cream shop around the corner no matter where you live. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best, but if we left out your favorite, let us know!
If you really feel the need to scream for ice cream, events like the Austin Ice Cream Festival next month are the way to go. The fifth-annual event has a screaming contest, ice cream eating and making contests and popsicle stick sculptures. Could you ask for more?
Started on a hot summer day in Brenham, Texas, Blue Bell Creameries opened its doors in 1907. First delivered to neighbors by horse and wagon, Blue Bell Ice Cream now ranks as one of the top three best-selling ice creams in the country, sold in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Dubbed the “best ice cream in the country,” we can’t find a reason to argue since Blue Bell puts out flavors like Southern Blackberry Cobbler, Peaches & Homemade Vanilla, Southern Hospitality and Caramel Kettle Crunch.
Bop’s Frozen Custard
With its first store in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2000, Bop’s brought the old-fashioned ice cream treat created in Coney Island, New York, in 1919 to the South. Served at approximately 26 degrees, Bop’s Frozen Custard is a treat for the tastebuds and has since franchised all over Mississippi and into Mandeville, Louisiana. Specialty flavors include Amazin’ Grace with cheesecake pieces and raspberry and The Big Bubba Banana Split.
Lafayette, Louisiana, lays claim to the last Borden’s retail ice cream shop in the country. Recently renovated by new owners, Borden’s retains its 1940s deco exterior and menu of old-fashioned sundaes, malts and shakes inside. The renovation also added a drive-thru, so now frozen treats are available to go.
Tiny dots of ice cream, Dippin’Dots was created by microbiologist Curt Jones in 1988. A retail store in Lexington, Kentucky, was first, and locations inside Opryland helped take Dippin’ Dots nationwide. The product can now be found in vending machines, movie theaters and stand-alone shops like those in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Don’t miss the chance to try the “ice cream of the future.”
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor
South Florida’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor has been featured on the Food Network’s “Top 5 Cool Quenchers.” Brought to Dania Beach from the East by the Udell family in 1946, Jaxson’s ice cream recipes are prepared fresh daily in flavors ranging from Chewy Fudge to Blueberry and Peppermint Candy.
Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has a long history in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, staking the claim of being the first farmers to successfully grow sugarcane in East Baton Rouge Parish. Now led by a fourth generation, ice cream has entered the mix of products and comes in distinctly Southern flavors like Pralines & Cream, Sweet Potato Pie (proudly displayed by 2008 Yambilee Queen Meghin Frazier), Café Au Lait and Banana Pudding. Their ice cream can be found throughout the state and across the border into southern Mississippi.
Since 1919, Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia, has been serving homemade, super-premium ice cream to all of Savannah, including Johnny Mercer, who grew up a block away from the original store on Gwinnett and Habersham streets. Now located on East Broughton, Leopold’s continues to serve up favorite flavors like Tutti Frutti, Lemon Custard, Rum Bisque and Savannah Bee Honey Almond in a décor that includes the original soda fountain and banana split boats.
Morelli’s Ice Cream in Atlanta got our attention with their list of specialty flavors. Coconut Jalapeno, Sweet Corn, Maple Bacon Brittle and Red Bean certainly deserve a mention and can be found in their gourmet ice cream shop on Moreland Avenue.
New Orleans Ice Cream Co.
Heavily influenced by the unique flavors found in New Orleans and Louisiana, New Orleans Ice Cream Co. is a newer contender in the local market. Once you spot their gold fleur de lis ice cream logo in the case at your local grocery (distribution includes Winn Dixie, Whole Foods, Rouses, Albertson’s, Piggly Wiggly and more), you won’t be able to help but put a pint of Ponchatoula Strawberry, Coffee & Chicory or Creole Cream Cheese in your cart.
Stacey Old Tyme Soda Fountain
Included on the list of “100 Dishes to east in Alabama before you die,” the Key Lime Milkshake at Stacey Old Tyme Soda Fountain in Foley is a given. Expertly blended at the old-time soda machine, you’ll want to share this shake with your honey while listening to the sounds of The Drifters or Sammy Davis Jr. on the jukebox.
Tabasco Ice Cream
Heading toward the levee in Henderson, Louisiana, Robin’s Restaurant sits unassumingly off the highway. But inside, Tabasco Ice Cream awaits. A local delicacy, on the menu next to crawfish etouffee and bisque, the vanilla ice cream, flavored with Tabasco pepper sauce, is something you should try at least once. And if you’re really feeling adventurous, you can purchase Tabasco’s Homemade Jalapeno Ice Cream Mix from their country store.
Located in Calhoun County, Wright Dairy is the only dairy farm in Alabama that milks the cows, bottles the milk and sells it right from the farm. The same goes for ice cream. Sold in half gallons and half pints, Wright has basic flavors vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, in addition to butter pecan, black walnut and grape. Seasonal blackberry ice cream has already sold out for the season, but special flavors are offered weekly.
The last Arkansas-based ice cream company, Yarnell’s has been serving up its premium ice cream for over 75 years. No longer the state’s best-kept secret, Yarnell’s now distributes its yummy flavors like Fried Ice Cream, Ozark Black Walnut and Lemon Ice Box Pie across Tennessee, Mississippi and parts of Texas, Missouri, Alabama and Louisiana. For more on Yarnell’s, read Deep South contributor Kat Robinson’s blog post about the Arkansas tradition.