We never need an excuse to eat ice cream, but sultry Sarasota summers are a compelling reason to indulge in this cold, creamy treat. Our region is dotted with shops offering everything from soft serve to homemade; here are six of our favorite spots to get your fix.
Drive up Bradenton Beach and you’re sure to spot Joe’s Eats and Sweets. The building is awash in neon colors—blue, pink, yellow and green—and adorned with giant cones and sundaes. Kitchsy, yes, but inside you’ll find some of the best ice cream in our region—luxuriously smooth and custard-like, made from scratch in-house. Follow our advice and take your cone across the street to the beach—bonus points if you’re there at sunset.
There’s a reason there’s almost always a line at this St. Armands Circle favorite. Kilwin’s ice cream is consistently good, with a panoply of flavors to choose from. Our go-to is a scoop of butter pecan (big chunks of toasted pecans and deep buttery flavor with just a hint of maple) in a homemade waffle cone or cup, but you can’t go wrong with any choice. The scent of baking waffle cones is reason enough to walk in.
Perry and Annie Lee Hayes founded Nokomis Groves back in 1948, growing and shipping citrus across the country. Locals and tourists visit not only to pick up some citrus but to savor the orange ice cream, made from fresh Florida oranges. We can’t resist the orange-vanilla combo: a towering swirl of bright, creamy vanilla and orange soft-serve. Order at the green-painted window—cash only!—and enjoy your sweet treat on the patio. And even though citrus is out of season, the ice cream shop is open all summer long, seven days a week.
You can taste the rainbow at PopCraft, where you’ll find a delicious ice cream alternative: homemade popsicles ranging in flavor from chocolate-dipped peanut butter to caramel sea salt to raspberry rose almond. We love the peanut butter dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with flaky salt. The shop also offers vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy options—all without sacrificing flavor.
This little Siesta Key shop, located behind Captain Curt’s, churns its ice cream on-site and offers a variety of flavors, from classics like chocolate, vanilla and (green) mint chip to more nuanced creations like Kentucky honey bourbon (our pick), chocolate hazelnut and vanilla black cherry chip. Every single one is creamy, without an ice crystal in sight, and flavorful. Order a scoop or two in cup or a cone, or go all-out and get a shake or a sundae; you won’t be disappointed.
Passing through Arcadia anytime soon? Be sure to stop for a cold treat at Michoacana, a Mexican ice cream shop located right along the main throughway. With a texture perched halfway between gelato and traditional American ice cream, and with a bevy of flavors that includes dulce de leche, pistachio and more, a scoop is a frigid delight. Bring a cooler and grab a few popsicles to go, too. We’re big fans of the cactus popsicle.