As summer bears down, my thoughts about dreamy paletas have morphed into daydreams of ube halaya ice cream and fantasies about falooda floats, squiggly with basil seeds and dripping rose syrup. We’re lucky to have a constellation of international frozen treats here. So, to soothe our craving for something cold and sweet, a lineup of some of our favorite dessert shops. Plus, others—a few niche pastry chefs and confection shops—are turning to boutique ice cream by the pint—and even concha ice cream sandwich kits. Here’s a creamy-dreamy landscape for our sweltering times. Important note: Most of these are family-owned, small businesses; they need your support.
Snowy Village Korean Dessert Cafe
Come for bingsu, lightly sweetened traditional Korean milk ice that is not hard and crunchy like shaved ice but as delicate as a flurry of fresh powder, like milk and honey snowflakes children might dream of catching on their tongues. Top your Matterhorn with toasted soybean powder, chewy mochi, slivered almonds, and a knob of sweet red bean paste at the crest; or astringent matcha paired classically with sweetened red bean paste. Or dive into the cooling crystals under cascades of slivered strawberries and bright yellow avalanches of mango.
Popsicles from the Bishop Arts paleteria, owned by four Diaz siblings, hold big, beautiful chunks of fruit. The guava-soursop has the tiny bits of grit you find in the pink-fleshed fruit. The banana tastes like sweet roasted banana with a touch of yogurt. Rounds of banana float into view like objects under ice. Color-blocked paletas present the red, orange, white of strawberry-mango-lime, and there’s the swath of chamoy-swizzled mango. Try tart hibiscus with watermelon or refreshing jalapeno-cucumber-lime in the water-based options. And don’t miss the creamy, yogurt-based lime popsicle with crushed cookies based on the “Carlota,” the Mexican lime Charlotte dessert their mother used to make. Paletas can be dipped in chocolate from neighboring chocolatier CocoAndré.
Ked’s Artisan Ice Cream & Treats
In May of last year, Hussain Kedwaii’s business changed its moniker from Old Town Creamery, but it’s still the same ice cream shop that reflects his interest in showcasing an array of what the menu dubs “international” flavors. (And yes, we acknowledge there are now bubble waffles.) A world-spanning whirlwind tour might touch on avocado, young coconut, durian, and taro that harken to Southeast Asia; black sesame, oolong tea, and lychee reminiscent of Japan and Taiwan; cashew-fig and almond-pistachio-saffron that reflect the shop’s Indian focus. You can also happily wade into housemade kulfi, the fudgy dairy popsicles made of long-cooked, caramelized milk and a vast array of faloodas, an eye-catching, float-like concoction with rose syrup, basil seeds, and vermicelli noodles, like an Indian version of Filipino halo halo or Vietnamese chè.
Kwality Ice Cream
Kwality tends to be hopping on a Saturday night. Come for flavors specific to the Indian subcontinent, like custard apple, chickoo (known in Mexico as mamey), coconut, Alphonso mango, and rose petal. You’ll find sea salt caramel, but also paan, a flavor named after the betel leaf-wrapped after-dinner palm-size parcel that delivers whiffs of fennel seed and rose syrup. Or thandai, the mix of nuts and spices that’s an homage to a drink served during the holiday of Holi. Ice cream cakes and desserts like shrikhand (a thickened yogurt) or ras malai (creamy cheese dumplings) round things out.
Devious Desserts & Creamery
In the Filipino-owned bakery and creamery that’s just over a year old, cakes and pies line the case, but it’s with ice cream that co-owner and trained pastry chef Meriel Young has fun. She plays with turning local breweries’ beers into ice cream; flavors like Fruity Pebbles or chocolate-peanut-butter Corn Pops cereal milk reveal her penchant to play around with cereal milk; and she weaves her Filipino heritage into flavors like jackfruit, ube halaya (a thick, decadent purple-yam jam) or buko pandan, a dessert that laces young coconut and pandan leaf. Be sure to add a square of coconut-cassava cake, thick with grated cassava. (On a hot day, pair it with a refreshing sorbet like white peach-cardamom.)
BigDash Persian Ice Cream
Asmaa Khatab and Kareen AlRefaai, BigDash’s Syrian-born owners, specialize in booza, the Arabic version of ice cream, which is stretchy from its key ingredients: paddles pound gum mastic and orchid root powder to a consistency that’s more like taffy to make the frozen treat. The signature is flavored simply with rose water and topped with jewel-like whole pistachios. It’s perfect to accompany delicate pastries: baklava, sweet cheese rolls, and others, imbued with rose water, sticky with simple syrup, and encrusted with pistachios. You can buy the ice cream in rolls and slices as well.
At this soft-serve spot tucked into Mitsuwa Marketplace’s food court in Plano, they serve billowing, creamy towers of three classic flavors: the tea shop’s signature matcha, hojicha (roasted green tea, with a subtle, nutty, toasty aroma), and strikingly black sesame. The utter smoothness of the soft-serve seems to make the flavor even more intense. Though the shop specializes in the shade-grown, deep-green matcha, watch for seasonal flavors.
Azucar Ice Cream Company
At this Miami-based scoop shop in Bishop Arts, they scoop the flavors of Little Havana, so you can satisfy your craving for Cuban and otherwise Caribbean vibes. Travel to Little Havana through flavors like Abuela Maria—guava and cream cheese laced with Maria biscuits—cafe con leche, flan, and cuatro leches.
Paleteria La Mexicana
Paletas are wonderful, but so are creamy nieves (ice cream), a tradition anchored in Tocumbo, Michoacán, but spread far and wide. The nieves are particularly good at Paleteria La Mexicana on East Jefferson Avenue, where you can make an odyssey for queso, rum-raisin (bombon), or lesser-known tropical fruits like guava, nance, guanabana, and mamey.