Taking a bite of the right scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day can be just as refreshing as plunging into a crystal-clear swimming pool.
Now that it’s officially National Ice Cream Month, we set out to round up some of the most unique, and delicious, summer sundaes in town.
INTERACTIVE MAP: Click to experience this story place by place, sundae by sundae
Gone are the days of throwing some chocolate syrup and a dollop of whipped cream over a couple scoops of vanilla and calling it a sundae. Sundaes are evolving, from the way the ice cream is frozen and scooped (or shaved, or rolled, in some cases) to the unconventional ingredients going into and on top of them. Want vegan, gluten-free or locally sourced options? You’re in luck — there are lots.
Below is a sample of sundaes we feel really capture the spirit of summer in Austin. Have a favorite we missed? Email email@example.com to let us know.
Strawberry Snow Ice Sundae, Snow Monster
When customers first visit Snow Monster in North Austin and sample the unique “snow ice,” many have trouble finding words to describe it.
“They’re mostly like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never seen this before, but it’s so good,’” manager Ted Yang said.
A traditional dessert from Taiwan, snow ice is like a perfect blend of ice cream and shave ice. Rather than churning ice cream after the base is created, Snow Monster pours it into a cylinder-shaped container and freezes it. Before serving, the frozen cylinder is placed on a machine that shaves it down into a frosty treat with a texture and consistency that is, indeed, much like snow.
Snow ice flavors include almond, honeydew, lychee, milk tea, vanilla and coconut, and toppings range from blueberry boba and watermelon to green apply jelly, egg pudding and chocolate chips.
The Strawberry Snow Ice Sundae starts with a heaping pile of delicious shaved strawberry snow ice, flanked with toppings such as strawberries, kiwi, mango and taro pudding and drizzled with chocolate syrup.
“It’s very unique,” Yang said. “The kids love it. It’s the perfect dessert for summer.”
Info: 11220 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-551-3238, thesnowmonster.com.
The Smickers, Spun Ice Cream
If you see what looks like a cloud of smoke coming from behind the glass when you walk into Spun Ice Cream, don’t be alarmed. That’s just the minus-320-degree liquid nitrogen being pumped in to flash freeze made-to-order portions of homemade ice cream.
“It really creates the freshest, tastiest product,” said Ashley Cheng, who co-owns Spun with her sister, Christina, a chef. “You can see and hear when it’s ready. It’s a real art form. It’s really important that people understand the quality and thought and care that goes into curating our menus.”
Flavors on the current menu include dark chocolate, salted caramel, vanilla bean and strawberry coconut (which is vegan). Toppings, or pairings as Spun calls them, include shortbread crumble, handmade chocolate waffle cone and spicy bacon powder (yes, really).
The Smickers, which is Spun’s lighthearted take on a frozen Snickers bar, takes three scoops of salted caramel ice cream and pairs them with peanut brittle and brown butter powder dusted over a salted chocolate shell (think Magic Shell, but better).
“It’s a made-from-scratch version of what a frozen Snickers would be,” Cheng said, adding that the shop has also done twists on the Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar and Cracker Jack. “There’s a really strong nostalgia factor for us. We want people to have simple, delicious treats that we would want to eat.”
Info: 1912 E. Seventh St., Suite D. 512-524-1768, spunicecream.com.
S’mores and Glitterbeast sundaes, Sweet Ritual
Peanut butter cup. Chocolate chai. Cookies and cream.
There are many mouthwatering flavors, toppings, shakes and sundaes at Sweet Ritual. And everything is vegan.
“We didn’t know who our audience would be, but from the moment we opened, it wasn’t strictly vegans,” said Valerie Ward, who co-owns Sweet Ritual with Amelia Raley. The shop was established in 2011 and formerly shared a space with JuiceLand on 45th Street but last month relocated to its own storefront on Airport Boulevard following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Ward said they’ve enjoyed adding their own touches to the new shop, which features work from local artists, kitschy ice cream-themed decor and lots of parking. They’ve also streamlined their menu but continue to offer old favorites, such as the S’mores and Glitterbeast sundaes, if you ask. Think of it as a secret sundae menu.
Let’s start with the Glitterbeast, which can include your choice of flavors or toppings (the one pictured here was made by Ward and includes toasted coconut ice cream topped with strawberry and caramel sauce) as long as it’s doused with a hearty helping of edible glitter. The S’mores sundae is another popular option and includes your choice of ice cream, homemade chocolate sauce, graham cracker crumbs and, of course, toasted marshmallows.
Info: 4631 Airport Blvd., #125. 512-666-8346, sweetritual.com.
Lemon Lavender with Dewberry Sundae, Lick Honest Ice Creams
The flavors at Lick Honest Ice Creams may sound odd, but trust me when I tell you that they all work.
A sample of the current menu: dark chocolate with olive oil and sea salt; goat cheese, thyme and honey; roasted beets and fresh mint; and Texas sheet cake.
The shop, which has two locations in Austin as well as one in San Antonio, has a mission of using only pure, wholesome ingredients — all of Lick’s milk and cream comes from a family-owned dairy in Central Texas, and sauces, syrups, cakes and even marshmallows are handmade in the shop’s kitchen.
The new Lemon Lavender with Dewberry Sundae includes several scoops of tart-yet-sweet lemon lavender ice cream drizzled with dewberry sauce and topped with waffle cone crisps.
Co-owner Anthony Sobotik, who owns Lick Honest Ice Creams with his partner, Chad Palmatier, grew up picking dewberries along the driveway at his grandparents’ farm every summer, filling empty ice cream containers with them so his grandmother could use them for her “fantastic” dewberry cobbler. The dewberries Lick uses for its ice cream and sauce are sourced from Sobotik’s hometown of Hallettsville.
“To me, this sundae is exactly what I would want to eat in Central Texas in the peak of summer,” Sobotik said. “The slightly tart lemon and uplifting lavender of the ice cream are light and refreshing, and the dewberry sauce adds a subtle touch of bitterness.”
Info: 1100 S. Lamar Blvd., Suite 1135, and 6555 Burnet Road. ilikelick.com.
Color Me Austin Sundae, Ice Scrapers
How many rolls of ice cream would you like? At Ice Scrapers, an ice cream and snow ball truck located in the food truck court behind University Co-op at West 23rd and San Antonio streets, the ice cream comes in rolls, not scoops. Owners Jenny and Les Juliano and Jess Horton came up with the idea after watching YouTube videos of street vendors using a similar technique in Thailand, then modified it using their own custom-made machine and ice cream pans that get as cold as minus-36 degrees.
Here’s how it works. Once a customer orders, the liquid ice cream base and mix-ins are placed on the cold pan and chopped together. Then, that mixture is spread smooth onto the pan and scraped into rolls. The rolls are placed together in a cup or cone, then topped with anything the customer requests.
Popular flavors here include s’mores, banana split and caramel macchiato.
“Once we got (the technique down) we realized how good the ice cream really was,” Horton said. “That’s helped us build up our loyalty. A lot of people come and think it’s really neat.”
Ice Scrapers just started serving an adorable Color Me Austin Sundae — a vanilla, marshmallow and banana ice cream with Nutella rolled in, topped with sprinkles and whipped cream and garnished with a rainbow waffle and a white chocolate and sprinkle-covered marshmallow. The end result? Rainbow Brite’s dream dessert.
Info: 411 W. 23rd St. txicescrapers.com.
The Mystery Box Sundae, Amy’s Ice Creams
When you think about ice cream in Austin, one name comes up in conversation immediately: Amy’s. Established in 1984 and featuring more than 350 flavors every year, you’re sure to find something unique, and fun, at this local institution.
There are seven standard flavor selections here that include Mexican vanilla, Belgian chocolate and sweet cream, as well as rotating flavors at every location. Toppings range from fresh strawberries to Grape-Nuts to oatmeal cookies.
You can order a sundae with whatever flavors and toppings you want, but I like asking for the Mystery Box, where you put the fate of your sundae into your scooper’s hands. When I asked for this option during a recent visit to the Arboretum location, I received a Mexican vanilla and blackberry ice cream slathered in hot fudge, nuts and whipped cream. I probably wouldn’t have picked that combination myself, and it was delicious.
Info: Multiple Austin-area locations. amysicecreams.com.