The restaurant scene in these parts is enviable, even by big city standards. Our little section of Minneapolis is home to scads of independent, forward-thinking food craftspeople and chefs, and an enthusiastic customer base to support them (so be proud, fellow consumers). Not to toot our own horn, but we are home to both City Pages Best Restaurant 2011, Piccolo, and Best Farmers Market 2011, Kingfield.
And, when it comes to one of the most important and conversation-sparking food groups there is — ICE CREAM — we can keep our hometown heads held high. We are literally at some kind of gourmet frozen treat epicenter, and it seems to get better all the time. These four places represent some of the best ice cream and sorbet in the cities and maybe even the state. So as the weather begrudgingly tiptoes towards summer, think about a visit to one of these amazing ice cream purveyors. If you're out and about in Southwest Minneapolis, one of these parlors is bound to be nearby.
You can't beat for fresh flavors and a homey vibe. The Linden Hills location of this local chain has one of the greatest patios in town (there's a fireplace, for gosh sakes), and its Nicollet Avenue Pothole, a combo of chocolate, sea salt, fudge and chunks of Heath Bar won honors this year. They've been in the Twin Cities since 1984 and really understand how to please the people, as evidenced by the long lines in summer. It's my pick for where to take the kiddoes, because the selection of flavors, toppings, sauces and cones is made to please and sitting outside makes for easy clean-ups.
Yes, has set a new standard for pastries, bread and French sweets, but have you tried the ice cream? Look straight ahead as you enter and there's a small, but significant counter, boasting about eight unbelievably delicious varieties. The staff gladly gives samples of the often-overlooked frozen delight, and describes the care that goes into crafting each batch of coffee bourbon (my pick), caramel banana or vanilla, and once again proves 46's prowess at creating delectable treats, in several mediums.
Last, but certainly not least, is Uptown favorite, Crema Cafe. The hours can be wonky (call ahead) and the prices are not cheap, but all of those small details melt away as you tuck into your first taste. For brave ones, this place is not afraid of to bring out the savory/sweet combos, which for this eater can be a revelation. Olive oil ice cream? Yes, please. Sweet corn? Sure, why not? And, for peeps who like to keep it a little more real (or plain-old-ordinary-regular as I like to say), they've usually got the ultimate chocolate on hand, which will silence all gourmands. Plus, there's a romantic air about the interior and the patio that will seal the deal on any date.
For those willing to cross the I35 and venture slightly outside of Southwest Minneapolis, Pumphouse Creamery has a small storefront on Chicago Avenue that packs a powerful ice cream punch. With flavors like buckwheat honey (made from single-sourced honey), fresh organic banana and grapefruit sorbet, they've got enough variety and originality to appeal to both traditionalists and those looking for the next best thing. The milk and cream are from Crystal Ball Dairy in Wisconsin and the rest of the ingredients are either local, organic or from Equal Exchange, which results in a ultra-creamy, rustic experience. Sit outside on a bench and put your focus fully on this dish or cone, which won Best Ice Cream honors in 2009 and 2010.
Look for me, as I'll be out there this spring, doing my part to keep the Minneapolis ice cream industry humming. I've already been sampling scoops, perhaps in spite of the weather. I'm daring it to show its ice cream game face, as should all of you.
Pumphouse Creamery -4754 Chicago Ave. S./612.825.2021
-4321 Upton Ave. S./612.926.7916
-4552 Grand Ave. S./612.354.3257
Crema Cafe - 3403 Lyndale Ave. S./612.824.3868