When it comes to food, Nashville may be best known for its southern-style biscuits or for its status as the birthplace of hot chicken. However, the city also contains more than a few places serving some of the best ice cream that you can hope to find. Here, we present a brief rundown of some of the best local ice cream shops in Nashville –no (national) chains allowed.
Mike’s Ice Cream & Coffee Bar
Nestled in the heart of downtown Nashville amidst the honky tonks and souvenir shops, Mike’s Ice Cream has garnered a robust following among both locals and visitors alike since it opened in 2003. Owner Mike Duguay opened the joint after moving to Nashville from Michigan and failing to find any local ice cream shops that were adequately hand-crafted and old-fashioned; since opening his shop on Lower Broadway (and, later, a second location at Sip Cafe in East Nashville), he has sought to fill this very hole. Mike’s concocts numerous handmade flavors, which range from classic (think chocolate, vanilla and pistachio) to the more inventive (such as Tennessee fudge, red velvet cake and chocolate raspberry truffle). Mike’s is a must for those searching for ice cream that is just old-fashioned and no-frills enough to paradoxically be timeless.
Elliston Place Soda Shop, located on the often-overlooked stretch of Elliston Street amid local-favorite dive bars and restaurants such as Gold Rush and Samurai Sushi, is Nashville’s oldest continuously operating restaurant in its original location. This retro-style diner has been open since 1939; take one step inside, and it’s clear that the red vinyl booths and chrome finishings are not attempts to recreate a nostalgic past but are, instead, authentic reminders of this restaurant’s nearly 80-year tenure. And while the breakfast and lunch/dinner menus are full of well-prepared takes on classic diner dishes, locals flock to this hidden gem for its ice cream. Everything from the ice cream floats to the banana splits to the ever-popular milkshakes are made the old fashioned way: with few ingredients and portion sizes hearty enough to keep you fueled (and sugar-high) all day.
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Pied Piper, located in the heart of Nashville’s perpetually-hip East Nashville neighborhood, has only been open since 2007 – but in its nine relatively short years of existence, it has already managed to generate a strong local presence. All flavors are concocted in-house by owner Jenny Piper – and these are not your average flavors, either. In fact, Pied Piper is perhaps most well known for its inventive and pun-filled creamy offerings, such as ‘A La Mode is Overrated’ (apple pie), ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita’ (key lime sorbet), ‘Commit-mint Phobe’ (peppermint with crushed Oreo), ‘I Yam What I Yam’ (sweet potato with marshmallows), and its most popular flavor, ‘Trailer Trash’ (a vanilla base with Oreo, Twix, Butterfinger, Snickers, M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, and Crunch bar pieces).
Unlike the ever-popular Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, there is nothing boutique-y about Bobbie’s Dairy Dip. This colorful walk-up on Charlotte Avenue has been satiating Nashville residents with its straightforward selection of American classics – think burgers, fries, and hot dogs – since 1951. But what Bobbie’s is really known for is embedded in its name: its ice cream. Its soft-serve cones are piled high and sold cheap (a small cone costs just $1.85). And while they may not offer the cutting-edge flavors of other local shops (although they do offer a number of inventive milkshakes), what Bobbie’s does, it does well – namely, classic cones that have been the same for decades.
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Dessert Shop, American, Pastries, Dessert
No, that is not a typo: Dairy King has been serving some of the best southern-style food in Nashville for decades. Located in South Nashville on East Thompson Lane, this small, family-style restaurant was voted ‘Best Meat and Three’ in Nashville in 2015, but those with a sweet tooth should know that much like its more nationally ubiquitous Dairy Queen counterpart, Dairy King offers a number of soft-serve ice cream dishes that are more than worth their modest price points. A large plain cone will only set you back about two dollars; a large hot fudge sundae less than three. While Dairy King is certainly off the beaten path, its authentic homestyle atmosphere is worth the extra drive.