It wasn't that long ago that ice cream stores in DFW were ruled by Dairy Queen and Braum's — not that that's a bad thing — and a handful of pioneering indies such as Milwaukee Joe's, which still has locations in Colleyville and Southlake Town Square.
During the past few years, however, the ice cream scene has been booming, with homegrown shops such as Melt Ice Creams (owner Kari Crowe Seher was just chosen as one of 20 fellows nationwide participating in The James Beard Foundation's 2018 Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program in September) and Gypsy Scoops (which started as a truck, moved into a craftsman house on Race Street and, according to Fort Worth magazine, is planning a second location on South Main Street — and just announced one of its quarterly Freak-Shake-a-Paloozas, scheduled for Saturday, June 23).
Then came the next-wave ice cream/frozen treat shops — the liquid-nitrogen places, the Thai-style rolled ice cream spots, the places like north Fort Worth's Lumi Snow (which has since added a North Richland Hills location) that turn "shaved snow" into sculptured confections. The wave continues to roll: Bingbox Snow Cream, a Korean shaved ice shop, just opened in Trinity Groves, the west-Dallas restaurant playground, boasting in a release that each spoonful of its "snow cream" is "feels like just-fallen snow, a texture that’s truly unlike anything else."
Here's a look at some of what's opened in the past 12 months — and a few under-the-radar places that have been around a little longer — in and around Tarrant County.
Around the same time Alabama-based fancy-popsicle stand Steel City Pops moved into Fort Worth with its gourmet popsicles, Carolyn Phillips launched her own gourmet popsicle business, Alchemy Pops, as a part-time catering business. That was in 2015, and by 2016 she was building the brand and quit her job to work on pops full time. On March 20, Alchemy opened a small brick-and-mortar in the 4 Eleven building in the growing South Main Village on the Near Southside, after many customer requests to have an anchored shop. "We are actually planning to celebrate National Food Truck Day on June 29th to commemorate getting started with one pop cart I bought off of Craigslist in 2015," Phillips, who identifies herself as owner and "chief alchemist," says in an email. The pops are hand-made from original recipes and sweetened with organic cane sugar or local honey. Flavors rotate seasonally: current items include watermelon, cold brew coffee & cream, grapefruit hibiscus, honeydew lime and more.
Created by Cristiano Sereni and Paolo Benassi, friends since their Italian childhood, Amorino opened its first store in 2002 on Paris' Ile St Louis. After moving to North Texas several years ago, Colleyville resident German Rodriguez, a friend of the founders, told them that if they expanded to the U.S., he would open locations in Dallas-Fort Worth. Amorino made it to the States in 2011, and in January of this year, a Fort Worth location opened at the Shops at Clearfork. The ordering system takes some getting used to — rather than choosing your flavors and getting a cone or cup, you choose the size cup or cone you want first, then select your flavors. And it's not easy to be decisive when there are more than two dozen flavors, some of them with names such as L’Inimitabile (cocoa-hazelnut) and speculoos (inspired by Belgian cinnamon/sugar-cane cookies). Scoops are then constructed, petal by petal, into rose shapes, and you can choose to have those topped with a macaron (more decisions). Presentation is a big deal at Amorino. Also available: shakes, Italian cafe pastries, chocolates and gelato-filled macarons, Belgian waffles, French crepes, 10 flavors of hot chocolate, as well as cappuccinos, espressos, tea, and lattes.
While Thai-style ice cream shops have been popping up more frequently in DFW, liquid nitrogen shops are a little more rare. Fort Worth got its first in May with the opening of Creamistry. If you've never been to a liquid nitrogen shop, here's the short version of how it works: You choose your flavors and toppings, then a worker mixes them together, and flash-freezes them with liquid nitrogen, which as you may recall from chemistry class, comes out as a fog that spills over the counter. The quick-freeze process helps prevent the kind of freezer burn you see when ice cream sticks around too long on grocery store shelves. And Creamistry's creations are as creamy as its name indicates that they will be. Creamistry is based in California, but this location has strong Fort Worth roots: Jordan Scott, owner of Mama's Pizza chain, and his wife, Nicole, are franchise partners, along with Patrice and Wes Hall (who was on the Texas Wesleyan baseball team with Jordan Scott).
Dallas' Hypnotic Donuts is known for flavors such as the Evil Elvis (peanut butter, bacon, banana, honey) and the Homer ("The classic yeast donut with strawberry icing and more sprinkles than most places put on 3 donuts."). So, it's no surprise that this ice cream/candy store spinoff is just as imaginative. The ice cream comes from Beth Marie's Old Fashioned Ice Cream, a Denton Courthouse Square must visit that looks like a classic soda fountain/ice cream shop. But get the Hypnotic spin with concoctions such as the "Cloud Cone" (a waffle cone wrapped in house-made cotton candy), the "Dream" (a Hypnotic Donut filled with your choice of ice cream and flash heated), and "Hyppie Shakes" (loaded shakes including the Candy's Bar — vanilla ice cream, caramel and chocolate syrups, Butterfinger pieces, peanut butter cups, peanuts, whipped cream and a cherry on top — and three other indulgent flavors). If you're not in the mood for ice cream, Hypnotic Emporium also offers classic and hard-to-find candies. The Mansfield shop, next to a new Twisted Root Burger Co. location, is small, but outside is the "Backyard," one of the coolest new restaurant patios around.
Generally, we consider frozen-yogurt and even frozen-custard shops as a separate category, slightly off to the side of ice cream.. But then there's Muggle Shakes, where in addition to the usual self-serve froyo, you can order from a number of "Muggle Shakes" — elaborate concoctions, carefully constructed by the employees, that get their name from the mugs they're served in as much as from Harry Potter. A "Straw-Quake" was a vanilla shake topped with whipped creme, a piece of a strawberry Pop-Tart, and a lava-like flow of marshammalow creme, with strawberries and chunks of strawberry cheesecake inside. The cookies-and-cream "Panda" comes with Oreo-cookie "ears" on top. The s'mores-inspired "Campfire" is topped with a large marshmallow that employees will roast to your specification with a brulee torch. And so on. "Mini" shakes are available, and if you're indecisiive, you can get a flight of four minis.
Another popsicle shop, except that New York-based Popbar, which opened in fall 2017 in the WestBend shopping center off of University Drive, does gelato on a stick as well as sorbetto and frozen yogurt on a stick. Flavors are pretty standard — gianduja (a chocolate-hazelnut spread), green tea and dulce de leche are about as "out there" as the gelato gets — but you can get pops dipped in chocolate or other sauces, and rolled in crunchy toppings. And you can get a "popWich" — a gelato sandwich, on a stick. Popbar is just around the corner from WestBend pioneer HG Sply Co. and just across a breezeway from new neighbor Bartaco.
Under-the-radar spots on the rocky road
This months-old shop is on a busy stretch of River Oaks Boulevard, but it's in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it spot in a strip shopping center. When a neighborhood Braum's closed down, Tina and Jonathan Winnett, River Oaks residents for four years, saw an opportunity and opened Boulevard Scoops last October, running it with their daughter, Amanda Woodbridge. The scoop selection, from national supplier Ice Cream Club, is relatively small, but there's an emphasis on quality over quantity here. Banana splits, malts, shakes, sundaes, fried bananas and funnel cakes — in several flavors — are also available.
Helados La Azteca
Just north of the spot where U.S. 377 splits off from Belknap Street is a side street you'd probably never take unless you lived in the neighborhood. Or unless you'd stumbled across this shop, which is in a red building you can't miss ... once you've actually turned on the street. Opened in 2016, It's actually the second location of Helados La Azteca; the first opened in Waco around 1998. "Our story starts back in 1995 when my family immigrated to the US from a small town in Mexico, Mexticacan, known for great paletas and ice cream, founder Victor Garcia says in an email. "Something unanticipated when moving to the US was the lack of these treats in the flavors most familiar to us - i.e. Mamey, Cajeta, Gansito, etc. After searching without avail, we decided to throw ourselves into the ice cream business, focusing on the flavors of our hometown." Mamey is atropical flavor that has been compared to sweet potato and pumpkin; Cajeta is a Mexican caramel sauce; Gansitos are a Twinkie-style treat covered in chocolate and filled with jelly (the ice cream has chunks of Gansitos mixed in). You can still find vanilla and rocky road here, but you can also find tres leches and mango con chile scoops. Paletasand snacks also available. Garcia says that a third location is planned for 2019 in Fort Worth, and he hopes to grow from there.
Ice Cream Gallery
Like Boulevard Scoops, this shop is on a busy street — namely Saginaw Boulevard, aka Business 287, straight through the heart of Saginaw. But, if you don't catch it out of the corner of your eye, you might miss it, and if you're southbound, you might not see it at all. It's in a corner of a strip shopping center but the store itself is fairly spacious and welcoming. "[I] spent 25 years in the corporate world and really just wanted to do something to make people smile," says Kevin Gallagher, who along with his wife, Sherry, opened the shop 21 months ago. "Ice cream makes people smile. So we opened an ice cream shop." The "Gallery" part? Sherry Gallagher is an artist, and some of her paintings hang in the shop. "But we really just combined our love of ice cream and the arts to come up with the name," Kevin Gallagher says.
Paleteria La Azteca
We were actually looking for this place, after reading a Fort Worth magazine item about it, when we tripped over the aforementioned Helados La Azteca online. Paleteria La Azteca has a hard-to-find Facebook page, but it's easier to spot when you're driving by. You still have to be paying attention, though, as it's one of many spots in a large strip center off of Belknap Street. Although it's not related to Helados La Azteca, the offerings are similar, although here we tried the queso flavor (think something closer to mascarpone than chips and dip). If you're after something other than ice cream, or just need to wash it down, there's also a huge selection of aguas frescas.
Thai-style rolled ice-cream shops
If you've never been to a Thai-style shop, here's how it works: ingredients are mixed together on cold metal plates, rolled out until they’re about as flat as they can get and scraped up with a spatula — it looks more like a putty knife — that coils them into pretty little rolls. They’re then placed vertically in a cup, usually with some kind of topping. Orchid City Fusion Cafe, a southeast Arlington Asian/Cajun/burgers restaurant, got credit for introducing it to DFW a couple of years ago, but Iceland Ice Cream in south Arlington arrived around the same time. Since then, Chills 360 has opened locations in Dallas and on Foch Street in Fort Worth; Sno Dash opened in a strip shopping center on Main Street/U.S. 377 in Keller; Cream Rolls popped up on Rufe Snow Drive in Watauga; Evergreen Ice Cream is open in Colleyville. And Dessert Lab, recently opened in the Parks Mall at Arlington, plans to combine two trends: It already has the rolled ice cream, and it is working to add liquid-nitrogen ice cream as well.