Dining Picks

Portland's Best Ice Cream

Whether you’re a fan of pistachio, marionberry crisp, chocolate gooey brownie, or buckwheat honey toffee, these are our go-to scoop (and pop) shops.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton, Julia Silverman, and Matthew Trueherz

The old adage “we all scream for ice cream” couldn’t be truer in Portland, where there’s ice cream to satisfy almost any taste. Got an Italian nonna who likes to stick with the classics? Take her to Pinolo Gelato for pistachio and stracciatella. Like your ice cream James Beard chef style? Look no further than the über-rich frozen custards from Ripe Cooperative. Looking for Indian kulfi in both traditional and funky flavors? Head to Kulfi. Want to try a bona fide Portland institution, still innovating today? Wander to Salt & Straw. And if you’re plant-based, gluten-free, or lactose-intolerant, Kate’s Ice Cream is a safe haven, while many of these other shops offer friendly options, too. Read on to find your new favorite way to beat the summer heat.

Cheese & Crack


There’s only one flavor of soft serve at this hybrid wine shop–snack stop–ice cream parlor, and that is vanilla. But Cheese & Crack is anything but plain. Get your cone, filled with chocolate ganache at the bottom (take that, Drumstick!) and dusted with your choice of strawberry, matcha, chocolate-malt, espresso, or even beet powder—and add a chocolate cowboy hat if you’re feeling extra yeehaw. The sundaes are particularly indulgent. The banana pudding sundae is an always-on-offer staple, complete with Nilla wafer cookies and gooey banana cream, but the seasonal specials like toasted coconut or peanut butter Oreo will keep you on your toes and ready to come back for more. 22 SE 28th Ave —Katherine Chew Hamilton

Cloud City Ice Cream


While Portland is famous for its eccentric ice cream flavors à la Salt & Straw’s Halloween pig’s blood and Thanksgiving turkey scoops, Cloud City leans more nostalgic, with gentle touches of cheffiness. Kids and adults alike can take comfort in the sea salt cookie dough flavor that pairs plentiful, mini chocolate chip–loaded fluffy dough with delightfully simple sweet cream base—we’d venture to say it’s more dough than ice cream. The aptly named Better than Therapy combines bright, tangy lemon curd base with gluten-free ginger cookies. But our all-time favorite is the marionberry crisp, a mascarpone base with a berry swirl and crisp oat clusters. Pro tip: a split scoop doesn’t cost any extra and lets you try generous portions of two flavors, ideally in a crisp waffle cone. 4525 SE Woodstock Blvd —KCH

Eb & Bean

Irvington, Richmond, Northwest 

Founder Elizabeth Nathan sold her storefronts spanning three quadrants to a former customer almost a year ago now, and the elevated frozen yogurt concept hasn’t missed a beat. This is the alternative to the floodlit, mass-produced feel of most fro-yo stops—the yogurt here is organic and the vegan alternatives are plentiful. Try the blueberry balsamic with oat milk or the pandan caramel with coconut milk. But fro-yo is nothing without toppings, and here they come carefully crafted. No quotidian shower of off-the-shelf sprinkles; instead, you'll find crumbled oat streusel cookies from Bakeshop or cacao nibs and Jacobsen salt. Various locations —Julia Silverman

Fifty Licks

Buckman, Hosford-Abernethy, Northwest 

Some scoops from Fifty Licks

Image: Michael Novak

This Portland mini-chain, with outposts in Slabtown, Division-Clinton, and a prime spot on East Burnside opposite the Laurelhurst Theater, gets a lot of credit for being especially friendly to vegans, the gluten-free, those with celiac disease, and a myriad of other dietary restrictions that one might not generally associate with an ice cream shop. Fortunately, zero is sacrificed in taste and nothing is overly sweet and cloying. Flavors change regularly depending on what's in season, but you can always count on finding the rich, custardy yet somehow vegan Mango Sticky Rice and the get-down-to-business Chocolate AF. Various locations —JS

Kate’s Ice Cream


Kate's pistachio and rose flavors

Image: Michael Novak

Until March of this year, Kate’s was a bit like your favorite pop-up coffee roaster that doesn’t have a café. After two years of falling in love with plant-based grocery store pints and roving farmer’s market treats, vegans and the lactose- and gluten-intolerant added a safe haven to their list of ice cream parlors. With the opening of its Mississippi storefront scoop shop this spring, coconut-based favorites like walnut-bolstered marionberry cobbler and supremely pastel-colored pistachio came out of the freezer aisle and landed lovingly in house-made, gluten-free waffle cones and sandwiched between house-baked cookies. And bring your four-legged companions: Kate’s has been known to give out doggie cones to canine friends. 3713 N Mississippi Ave —Matt Trueherz



Pops from Kulfi

Imagine ice cream, but with a dense, extra-chewy texture and supercharged milky flavor, and you’ve got kulfi, a traditional Indian frozen dessert. Married couple Kiran Cheema and Gagan Aulakh started selling their handmade kulfi on a stick during the pandemic from a cart, and soon, customers started showing up with coolers to stock up every week. Some bars lean on more classic Indian flavor profiles, like the pistachio-saffron, rosewater-cardamom, the malai (plain milk), or the mango lassi; others are classic Northwest, like the marionberry cheesecake, while others are wacky dream creations like the blue spirulina-tinged Cookie Monster. The nondairy pops are particularly refreshing when the temps break 90—look out for coconut Vietnamese coffee, strawberry-mint lemonade, and jackfruit. 5009 NE 15th Ave —KCH

Lovely’s Fifty Fifty


Sarah Minnick of Lovely's Fifty Fifty

They say you’re never too full for ice cream, and that’s especially true after devouring one of Sarah Minnick’s tangy, wood-fired sourdough pizzas topped with the likes of fermented carrot and Castelvetrano olives. The organic ice cream, a strong contender for our top scoop in the city, is similarly cheffy—look out for the classic buckwheat honey toffee, the chocolate malted milk ball with tiny crunchy chocolaty flakes, and the can’t-miss salted caramel, plus a rotating cast of oddball flavors like fennel-vanilla or sour cherry buttermilk. But pizza isn’t a prerequisite—stop by for a scoop or pick up a pint to go from the case at the restaurant’s front counter. 4039 N Mississippi Ave —KCH

Ome Calli


Get your tropical fruit fix in the form of Mexican ice cream and paletas at this Beaverton ice cream shop. The bright orange sweet potato-like mamey, the creamy guava ice cream, the tangy soursop sorbet, and the sour-spicy chamoy sorbet made of chile salted plum are the best fruity scoops, though the horchata ice cream, spicy Mexican chocolate ice cream, and sunflower seed tequila are must-tries, too. Paletas come in a mind-blowing rainbow of flavors, with an entire selection devoted to spicy pops, chile pineapple to chile tamarind. They're an excellent vehicle for trying fruits you may have never seen before in real life, from tangy yellow nance to cola-like black sapote. No wonder it's a must-stop whenever we find ourselves within a stone's throw of Beaverton. 12795 SW Canyon Rd —KCH

Pinolo Gelato


Classic and seasonal flavors of gelato at Pinolo

Gelato is basically just a fancy word for ice cream, right? Let Pinolo prove you wrong with its window that proudly declares “Gelato: The Not-Ice Cream of Italy” and carefully crafted yet bold flavors from pistachio to stracciatella. (A quick reminder: Gelato has less air than ice cream, and it's also made primarily with milk rather than cream, so it also has less fat. Gelato is also served at a higher temperature than ice cream. These three factors combined means that gelato is denser, velvety-textured, and lighter, yet more intensely flavored.) This is top-tier gelato, not just for Portland but for the United States, and dare we say, Italy. While gelataio Sandro Paolini generally sticks to classic flavors—even the plain milk flavor, fior di latte, is shockingly good—he also innovates beyond what you’d typically find in the old country, ranging from the foresta flavor with pine bud tips to a local strawberry and elderflower sorbet. Sometimes, Paolini even forages his own fruit, like in a wild Mt Hood blackberry sorbet that appeared in very limited quantities last summer that was a run, don’t walk kind of situation. 3707 SE Division St —KCH

Ripe Cooperative


Strawberry shortcake frozen custard

What would it taste like if a James Beard award–winning chef made ice cream—well, technically frozen custard due to the super-rich high egg content? Find out at Naomi Pomeroy’s Ripe Cooperative, a pandemic-born hybrid market and restaurant in the former Beast space. Our own Karen Brooks is obsessed with the devil’s food cake, complete with chunks of fudgy cake to sink your teeth into, while I’ve also been impressed by a nostalgic yet cheffy blood orange dreamsicle and can’t wait to try the strawberry shortcake with Tahitian vanilla. Get it by the scoop, at the bottom of an affogato, or take whole pints home. 5425 NE 30th Ave —KCH

Salt & Straw

Various locations 

Whether you think it’s worth the hype or not, Salt & Straw is a Portland institution. Oregonians were lining up for Arbequina olive oil scoops and pear and blue cheese pints long before Salt & Straw was a must-stop for people cruising the Venice Boardwalk, or between rides at Disneyland, or on a long lunch from their Palo Alto tech jobs. Yes, Salt & Straw made it big, and it’s everywhere, but it’s also really good. Standbys like summery honey lavender and silky freckled vegan mint chocolate chip have been there for many a Portlander over the past decade, and seasonal collaborations, even if at times a bit past the threshold of deliciousness (deviled egg and balsamic marshmallow?), always make a provocative splash while supporting the community. Hint: waffle bowls aren’t explicitly advertised, but they’re the ultimate vessel for chocolate gooey brownie. —MT

Sugarpine Drive-In


Sugarpine's Larch Mountain sundae

Every time I venture into the Gorge, I’m magnetically drawn to Sugarpine, tweaking my itinerary so I can make sure to reward a long day of hiking, biking, or just river lounging with a soft-serve sundae. Despite its old-school name, the sundaes here sound like something you’d be more likely to find in inner Southeast Portland. The must-try sundae for all Sugarpine newcomers is the Larch Mountain: chocolate-vanilla swirl topped with brown butter blondies, blueberry-lavender sauce, and pine nut honeycomb crunch. From there, branch out into the custom-built sundaes if you dare, with toppings ranging from miso caramel to matcha magic shell. That said, there are plenty of accompaniments available for those who’d rather go more classic, from birthday cake crumbles to honey hot fudge. 1208 E Historic Columbia River Hwy —KCH

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