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Beat The Heat: Top Picks For Cold Confections In Philadelphia

A Philly summertime favorite, water ice is just the tip of the frozen dessert scene in a city where artisan purveyors, trendy restaurateurs and brilliant pastry chefs are reimagining the possibilities for ice cream, popsicles, shakes and sundaes. (Left photo by D. Swanson for GPTMC, right photo by R. Kennedy for GPTMC)

From the just-opened Shake Shack (replete with locally themed shakes) to the artisan vegan ice cream sold from Little Baby’s tricycle, there are all sorts of ways to get and stay cool in Philadelphia this summer.

And, with each day warmer than the last, there couldn’t be a better time for a guide to all things frosty and frozen.

Here’s a look at a few of the sweet treats that promise to tempt taste buds as the temperature rises (i.e., today):

I Scream, You Scream, Philly Screams For Ice Cream

Zsa’s: A retro mobile truck offering small-batch ice cream treats, Zsa’s sells maple toffee graham, cinnamon, lemon buttermilk, sour cream blueberry and other flavors by the cup, by the pint or sandwiched in between home-baked cookies.

Little Baby’s: Super premium ice cream made from local ingredients is the specialty at Little Baby’s, which offers creative concoctions such as birch-beer vanilla, cardamom caramel and vegan Earl Grey sriracha from its customized tricycles, at Union Transfer, local retailers, and soon, from a bricks-and-mortar shop.

Capogiro: The elder statesman of the local artisan scene, Capogiro has a national reputation for its excellent gelatos and sorbets in flavors such as blueberries and cream, chai tea, Nutella and single-malt scotch, with various storefront locations in Philadelphia.

Scoops: A new location in Bryn Mawr has stepped up the game for Conshohocken staple Scoops, which serves both classic (cookies and cream; mint chocolate chip) and innovative (thin-mint crunch, birthday cake) hand-dipped ice creams.

10 Arts: Chef de Cuisine Nathan Volz concocts Tastykake ice cream at 10 Arts at the Ritz and serves them up in sweet mini waffle cones. (The inside “scoop”: he steeps Tastykake Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes in heavy cream overnight to infuse the flavor before mixing with dark chocolate.)

Bassetts: In Philadelphia it doesn’t get more classic than Bassetts, the local ice cream company founded in 1861. Though many local eateries will make shakes from Bassett’s ice cream, it’s worth a trip to the Reading Terminal Market stand for the real thing in one of more than 40 flavors such as butterscotch vanilla, green tea or mocha chip.

Franklin Fountain: Franklin Fountain stacks scoops of nostalgia high atop hand rolled waffle cones. The throwback ice cream parlor decor and of-the-era costumes are just the cherrys on top.

Custard & Cakes Creamery: A long-time institution in the Roxborough neighborhood of the city, Custards and Cakes Creamery is worth a visit, even if you don’t happen to live in the area. Plus they make all their ice cream in-house. (Tip: watch our short Philly 101 video featuring Derrick Pitts of The Franklin Institute to find out what makes the creamery so chill.)

On A Stick

Lil’ Pop Shop: West Philly’s brand-new Lil’ Pop Shop wows ‘em with artisan popsicles in surprising combinations: goat cheese and cherry, mango sriracha, strawberry rhubarb lemonade and vegan avocado coconut.

La Michoacana: There are more than 50 flavors of homemade ice cream at Kennett Square’s Mexican heladeria, La Michoacana, but the sweet rice, cucumber and chile, cantaloupe and tamarind paletas (also known as popsicles) are a special treat.

Davio’s: Just in time for the first official summer heatwave, Davio’s is offering boozy ice pops from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. today and tomorrow. Try a Prosecco and rose petal, watermelon and mint (with vodka) or piña colada… or all three.

Lots more treats, below.

Winning Water Ice

John’s Water Ice: This South Philadelphia institution is a favorite spot for water ice. John’s Water Ice is a combination of fruit or syrup and shaved ice that has long been a refreshing summer treat in the city. Get iced.

Rocco’s Italian Ice: As the temperature rises, so do our cravings for Rocco’s Italian Ice . And with several area locations, the tongue-staining treat is always in reach.

Rita’s: Ah, Rita’s “wudder” ice. When you think of Philadelphia, you think of Rita’s and that perfectly domed cup of goodness. Their made-fresh-daily water ice is the happy ending to any hot day.

Yo, Fro Yo

Gozen: As Philly’s first self-serve frozen yogurt truck, the aptly named Gozen allows patrons to choose between eight flavors (tart, cake batter, blueberry açai and cappuccino, to name a few) and sprinkle their cups with fresh fruit and other goodies.

Yogorino: With locations on Rittenhouse Square and Market East, Yogorino has the tart fro-yo field covered and decorated with quality toppings such as Toblerone syrup, chopped hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds.

Old City Frozen Yogurt: The recently opened Old City Frozen Yogurt offers self-serve probiotic, fat-free delights in flavors such as coconut, pomegranate-raspberry and no-sugar chocolate.

Whirled Peace: Whirled Peace brings an eco-minded sensibility to dessert, with a biodiesel-fueled delivery truck and a portion of the proceeds donated to philanthropic causes. Meanwhile, the recycled cups filled with snickerdoodle, lychee, frozen apple pie and taro yogurts make giving back fun.

Yogo Sano: Taking its health-conscious credentials seriously, Yogo Sano proclaims that its USDA-certified organic frozen yogurt — available in regular, tart and a changing daily flavor — is probiotic, hormone-free and gluten-free.

Phileo Yogurt: Philly gives Pinkberry a knockout Rocky-style punch, with Phileo Yogurt. Unsure of what to try? No problem. They have mini cups to sample from: snicker doodle, banana tart, georgia peach, butterbrickle and many more.

Shake It Up

Shake Shack: New York-based chain Shake Shack is celebrating its inaugural summer in Philadelphia. Their ever-popular frozen custard (vanilla, chocolate, caramel, black and white, strawberry and peanut butter) is served up in cup, cone or shake form. Those who really want to splurge can indulge in the Center City Pretzel concoction, made with vanilla custard, soft pretzel, caramel and marshmallow sauces and bananas.

Square Burger: Sure, people visit Franklin Square’s Square Burger for the burgers, but the Cake Shake (Butterscotch Krimpets, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream) and monthly selections like the Strawberry Shortcake Shake are what keep them coming back.

Lucky Old Souls: A burger truck that frequents Love Park, Greensgrow Farm and the Headhouse and Chestnut Hill farmer’ markets, Lucky Old Souls serves up a killer milkshake with Bassett’s ice cream, It’s available in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry (with or without malt) and specialty flavors such as maple black pepper and salted caramel.

Golosa: A chocolate bar/dessert lounge is an ideal spot for sophisticated milkshakes, and Queen Village’s Golosa obliges with 14 varieties—all chocolate—with accent flavors such as lavender, orange and pink pepper. They also allow patrons to bring their own libations to spike shakes as desired.

Jake’s Sandwich Board: Paying homage to Philadelphia’s favorite hometown candy, Jake’s whips up a mean Peanut Chew milkshake, and if you decide to pair it with one of their unique sandwich creations, just prepare yourself for a self-inflicted food coma.