photo by Daria Yakovleva via pixabay
It’s a long list, because this simple little dessert can spark complicated debate. Soft serve or traditional hard? Classic flavors or creative mix-ins? Rich and creamy gelato, or light and milky ice cream? And what about sorbet? The good news is, most of these places can accommodate any craving.
I know I normally selecta favorite. I am usually up to the challenge. But for this roundup, it’s more about geography. The best place for ice cream is the one that’s closest to where you are, right now. So here are my local favorites in neighborhoods throughout northern New Jersey, and a few more resources if you find yourself further afield. Happy summer!
photo by Ann via pixabay
ice cream roundup
Applegate Farm Ice Cream
616 Grove Street, Upper Montclair
As farm fresh as it gets, served straight from a barn! This is a classic summer evening spot, with teenagers dishing out scoops from a window and kids hanging out on roofs of cars lined up in the parking lot. Tons of flavors, but usually a bit of a line to give you time to decide. My favorite classic flavor to go with the classic vibe: Butter Pecan.
Beenie’s Ice Cream
38 Morris Street, Morristown
A newer option on the scene, with a minimalist setting and a unique dog-friendly approach to the location. Midnight Snack is their signature flavor — vanilla laced with chocolate-covered potato chips and Cap’n Crunch. Continuing the cereal vibe, they also have Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a sweeter, more intense cinnamon flavor than traditionally found. Beenie’s take on the popular S’mores includes real chocolate and marshmallow swirled throughout the deep graham cracker flavored ice cream. The kids loved the sugar-flavored sugar that is Cotton Candy. Overall, it’s a lighter ice cream with more of a direct focus on the flavors. And they want you to try them — a small serving easily fits two flavors in one cup.
photo by Jenn Kosar
358 Millburn Avenue, Millburn
I’m a classic girl, and sometimes a scoop of simple vanilla is the perfect thing to end a lovely summer day. Haagen Dazs is one of the best for vanilla, in my view. I also love their “dazzlers”, a mix of mint chocolate chip or cookies and cream ice cream, swirled with layers of hot fudge and extra cookie, and topped with whipped cream.
741 Route 15 South, Lake Hopatcong
Another spot with an old-school, homemade feel and rich, creamy, cow-to-table ice cream to match. A solid range of flavors including unique blends like Elephants Never Forget, made with peanut butter ice cream dotted with brownie bites and fudge swirl. They have real peanut butter for sundaes, an important feature in my view.
photo by Silvia via pixabay
411 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood
Technically a wholesale distributor, the site opens a few hours each week for drop-ins. Don’t be put off by the lack of traditional vats of ice cream behind glass. You can still sample the artisanal gelato flavors before selecting your favorite, and they have take-away cartons in sizes ranging from individual scoop to pints. I loved the lemon ricotta gelato, like sweet lemony cheesecake served ice-cold.
Mark and Julie’s Homemade Ice Cream
476 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange
My favorite spot for when I’m feeling an all out sundae, Mark and Julie’s has all the classic flavors and a great selection of toppings and mix-ins. Unlike many of the places listed here, Mark and Julie’s has indoor seating areas in the classic ice cream shop design.
photo by foodiesfeed
Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream
1790 Springfield Avenue, New Providence
Zita’s often makes the list of top spots in NJ, and the lines are there to prove it. They look like they run forever past the door, but they move fast. Zita’s menu offers up a range of both the classics and unique flavors. The signature flavor is the 91716, a mix of chocolate-covered pretzels, caramel, peanut butter, and chocolate chips surrounded by vanilla ice cream. It sounded good, but the ratio of mixin’s to ice cream was a little low for my taste. My favorite was the S’mores, full of deep graham cracker flavor.
photo by jenn kosar
A few more local favorites that I haven’t had the chance to try, but I hear are a must-visit when I’m in the area:
- Magic Fountain, with locations in both Union and Summit, adored for its soft-serve ice cream.
- Dairy Maid, with locations in Colonia and Dover, isalso known for soft-serve, with fans loving that it is offered in a range of flavors beyond the traditional vanilla and chocolate.
- Polar Cub in Whitehouse is known for a generous ratio of toppings and mix-ins to ice cream, which I love.
- Milk Sugar Love in Jersey City features ice cream made exclusively with organic milk and local produce, with a focus on chef-friendly flavors. The Star Ledger named Emma Taylor, founder, “queen of the ice cream sandwich”.
photo by Andrey Cojocaru via pixabay
Finally, if you’re in Princeton, you’re in luck. Princeton is the home of Bent Spoon (located at 35 Palmer Square West), whose gelato graces the top spots for ice cream fairly consistently in NJ. My friends in the area, who I count as ice cream connoisseurs, tell me it is “good, but more for gelato or sorbet”. When they want the best dessert in town, they head to Halo Pub (34 Hulfish Street, Princeton), or Thomas Sweet (with various locations in Princeton, Montgomery, New Brunswick and even Washington, DC) as the runner-up. Clearly I must plan a visit and taste test for myself.
I’m sure this one will spark some debate. Come on, let us have it — your favorite ice cream spot. What’s your view?