At East Nashville’s Pied Piper Creamery, you can order a scoop of chocolate, vanilla, or, depending on the day, basil tomatillo. Not tempted? Then try the avocado ice cream, infused with lime juice and cracked black pepper.
“We don’t do weird ice cream just for the sake of being weird,” insists owner Jenny Piper. “But we don’t mind an unusual combination—we want our creations to be delicious first.”
That tasty sense of adventure helped Nashville place in the top three for the nation’s best ice cream, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In the America’s Favorite Cities survey—where readers rank features of 35 different U.S. metro areas—Nashville also scored near the top for affordability and live music.
These days, in the other top 20 ice cream cities, it’s not hard to find creative flavors like the Pied Piper’s: the artisan, locally sourced approach that has transformed regional craft beers and food carts has also worked its way into the ice cream industry—and into foodies’ hearts. Especially perhaps in July (also known as National Ice Cream Month), you can find an ever-changing array of ice cream out there, from goat-cheese-and-cashew-caramel in Chicago to chocolate smoked sea salt or jalapeño in San Francisco.
Granted, some frozen flourishes still fall flat during that crucial, tiny-spoon-sample phase at the counter. Piper’s most exquisite flop, she says, was chocolate wasabi. “It kind of tasted like a zesty, chocolate-dipped dill pickle,” she admits. “But if something doesn’t work, you just try another idea the next day.”
Click here for America's best cities for ice cream.
No. 1 Savannah, GA
The ice cream champion also won the survey for its lovely buildings, fall weather, and quaint atmosphere, which includes a flair for old-school ice cream. Leopold’s is a classic parlor that dates back to 1919 and makes single-batch flavors such as old-style tutti-frutti and more newfangled options such as Guinness and Japanese cherry blossom. During summer, another hot spot is the famous Sugar Shack on Tybee Island, a longtime family-owned operation with floats, frosties, and classic flavors such as piña colada and banana pudding.
No. 2 Providence, RI
Providence is the overall No. 1 eating-and-drinking city, according to readers. Foodies will love the macaron ice cream sandwiches at Ellie’s Bakery, an offshoot of renowned Gracie’s, while coffee lovers will appreciate the ice cream (coffee bean, coffee Oreo, coffee crunch) at Three Sisters. To try the city’s highly ranked street food, check out PVD Pops, a bicycle-operated pushcart selling pudding pops in flavors such as pumpkin chocolate chip and pineapple basil.
No. 3 Nashville, TN
Aside from open-mic nights, an ice cream parlor might be the finest way to mingle with Music City’s twangy locals, who ranked as the friendliest in the nation. East Nashville has the city’s hipsters, plenty of microbrews, and the most cutting edge ice cream: check out Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams—with flavors such as whiskey pecan—and the Pied Piper, which pulls off both a pear sorbet with a Cabernet reduction and the Lady Goo-Goo, a chocolate ice cream blended with marshmallows and chopped, homegrown Goo Goo Clusters.
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