If your idea of good ice cream is soft-serve from Dairy Queen, then you’ve got a thing to learn. From 100 per cent organic cones to creamy Italian ices, we’ve got the inside scoop.
Ice Cream & Gelato
697 College, at Montrose, 416-915-0756. Launched three summers ago kitty-corner to the Sicilian Sidewalk Café, this gorgeous gelateria has atmosphere to spare. Deep coffee-coloured walls flank sleek halogen-lit glass cases stocked with a multitude of Italian ices that look as good as the joint’s hip decor. Italian deli-style sandwiches, first-rate fair trade custom blends, Dufflet cakes, and crepes, too! Best: from a revolving card of 48 house-made flavours, artfully swirled gelati like frutti di bosco (“smooth forest berry blended with layers of Berries Arabesque”), Dolce Rocher, hazelnut, white chocolate and French vanilla cappuccino; more traditional straciatella and Bolognese amareto; “not-so-classsic” rum and raisin; dairy-free vegan ices like the intense Very Berry and the slightly more health-conscious soy vanilla. Complete desserts for $5 per person, including all taxes. Average main $4. Open Sunday to Thursday 9 am to midnight, Friday and Saturday 9 am to 2 am. Licensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
78 Vaughan, at St Clair, 416-656-6959. Like something out of Willy Wonka, Theo and Dina Alben’s uptown ice cream parlour has been offering Hogtown a taste of Holland since 85. Now with a renovated rear room for those who want to hang around, and decked out with even more kitschy bric-a-brac, this hallucinogenic space sells more than 30 flavours of house-made ice cream and frozen yogurt. Wooden shoes, too! Long lineups on sweltering summer evenings. Best: Moose Droppings (Reese’s Pieces mixed with fudge, chocolate and banana); pink watermelon sherbet complete with chocolate-covered oats as seeds; seven types of cone alone: waffled Little Karfunkels, toasted almond, chocolate chip, Smarties, sprinkles, Reese’s Pieces and crushed Skor bars; Dutch waffles piled high with ice cream, seasonal fruit, toasted almond, chocolate ’n’ caramel sauce and real whipped cream; hot fudge sundaes; ready-to-flambé baked Alaska. Complete desserts for $5 per person, including all taxes. Average main $4. Open daily noon to midnight. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
Ed’s Real Scoop
2224 Queen E, at Beech, 416-699-6100. Perhaps the only foodie destination in the Beach, this primo ice cream parlour might not look like much, but the rewards are considerable. While others rely on rich butter and cream, ice-meister Ed Francis’s creations depend on all-natural ingredients and 100 per cent real fruit for flavour. Best: from a lineup of 80-some flavours – more than two dozen on offer at all times – Belgian Callebaut chocolate, Bordeaux cherry and Tahitian vanilla bean, white chocolate with raspberry ice cream, all in cups or house-made waffle cones and optionally topped with sprinkles, whipped cream and/or marshmallow sauce; “unusual flavour of the week” – pear with Parmesan, say, or sarsaparilla; house-baked apple pie, complete with buttery crust, crumbled into vanilla ice cream; sundaes topped with whipped cream and a retro maraschino cherry. Complete desserts for $5 per person, including all taxes. Average main $4. Open daily 11:30 am to 10:30 pm. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Greg’s Ice Cream
750 Spadina, at Bloor, 416-962-4734. Since launching from an Annex storefront 27 years ago, Greg Mahon’s superior ice cream parlour has only featured all-natural ingredients. Now ensconced on the ground floor of the not-that-Al-Green Theatre, he continues to draw from a repertoire of nearly 100 different varieties, 15 or so of the most popular on offer at a time. Caution: long lineups during heatwaves. Best: when available, gooey roasted marshmallow ice cream (Mahon claims he roasts the ‘mallows on sticks over a campfire round back), Japanese-inspired green tea ices, pumpkin raisin, Malt Ball Crunch, lime dacquiri, and 23 types of chocolate ice cream alone; optional toppings like hot fudge, puréed strawberries or pineapple, crushed chocolate chips, walnuts and sprinkles; take-home ice cream by the litre. Complete desserts for $5 per person, including all taxes. Average main $4. Open Sunday to Thursday noon to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday noon to midnight. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, no washrooms. Rating: NNNN
Il Gelatiere Artigianale
647 Mt Pleasant, at Hillsdale, 416-488-2663. Since opening last May, this buzz-worthy gelateria moderna has been swamped with well-heeled customers looking for their frozen fix. Sleek and sophisticated, the white-on-white space features more than 30 gelati and sorbetti daily. Confused? If it’s fruit, it’s dairy-free sorbetto. Everything else is gelato. Bonus: gluten-free cones and real whipped cream topping at no extra cost. Best: spicy Chocolato al Peperoncini, dark chocolate mixed with red chili pepper; classic stracciatella dusted with cocoa; Maria, cinnamon with walnuts; Macedonia mixed fruit salad; pompelo grapefruit; lemony limone; arguria watermelon; creamy mascarpone; to drink, imported Italian Santos espresso, latte and cappuccino; milkshakes, smoothies and slushies, too. Complete desserts for $5 per person, including all taxes. Average main $4. Open Tuesday to Thursday 10:30 am to 10:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 10:30 am to midnight, Sunday and holidays 10:30 am to 10:30 pm. Closed non-holiday Mondays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
Kensington Market Organic Ice Cream
650A Queen W, at Palmerston, 647-801-4970. Now tucked away in a garage behind Hero Burger, Brad Kurtenbach’s quirky parlour started out in even more humble digs in the back of a Kensington Market fruit stall in 2003. With a lineup that’s 100 per cent certified organic – except his mango slushie – and 30 flavours on tap, little wonder he’s the new king of local ice cream. Best: from a list of 80-some varieties, spicy dark chocolate, ground coffee and chili ripple; romantically sentimental I Love You ice – lavender with Ontario blueberry; Emotional Rescue, cardomom-scented vanilla; Vanilla Proper with milled triple-fold fair trade Mexican vanilla beans; fruity Quebecois framboise; just-like-Christmas-cake ginger chai; rose petal vanilla; licorice-like anise with black pepper; organic soft ice cream with chocolate dip. Complete desserts for $5 per person, including all taxes. Average main $4. Open daily 1 to 11 pm if the weather’s nice. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, no washrooms. Rating: NNNN
Photo By Michael Watier
Solferino is our most swellegant gelateria.
38 Wellington E, at Church, 416-364-8478. Best gelateria in town? This swellegant two-year-old downtown café serves 24 flavour-intense varieties from a repertoire of 48 alongside a short card of designer panini and dolci. Unless you enjoy crowds, visits are best undertaken off-hours, when the usually hectic space can be quite relaxing. Bonus: vintage ice cream memorabilia and bovine-themed artwork. Best: nutty pistachio gelato, free of artificial colouring or flavour; Belgian chocolate with dates; sugar-free vanilla; traditional flavours like vanilla, blood orange, cream caramel, mochaccino, passion fruit, pineapple, banana, apple and one-of-a-kind avocado; sorbetti like Andean blackberry, guava, champagne-soaked strawberry; to drink, fair trade organic coffee. Complete desserts for $5 per person, including all taxes. Average main $4. Open Monday 8 am to 9 pm, Tuesday and Wednesday 8 am to 10 pm, Thursday and Friday 8 am to midnight, Saturday 11 am to midnight, Sunday and holidays 11 am to 9 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNNN