Food Critics: The Best Ice Cream In Kansas City

Apr 15, 2016

This post was originally published in April 2016.

It’s been a mild winter, which means we’re getting a jump on ice cream season.

Whether it’s served in a cup or cone, ice cream (and its friends: custard, gelato, sorbet, soft serve and more) is the classic treat that feels like an indulgence.

On Friday’s Central Standard, KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best ice cream in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Betty Rae’s Ice Cream has a very intense coffee ice cream that uses Thou Mayest coffee. Be sure to try one of their homemade waffle cones; they’re soft and chewy. Friendly service, just like an old-time ice cream shop.
  • Glacé Artisan Ice Cream has among the most interesting flavors in town. My favorites include the fleur de sel caramel and the summer sorbets, which are flavored with ingredients like basil, cilantro, lime, and jalapeno. Beware: The chocolate is VERY rich. It’s hard to get through a scoop of chocolate; it’s just really, really dense and rich (which is not a bad thing).
  • Murray’s Homemade Ice Cream. You can’t beat it; Murray’s was probably the first homemade ice cream shop that I can think of. I love any of the flavors featuring chocolate chips: expressly espresso, chunky chocolate chip, ultimint mint, chocolate chocolate chip.
  • Mely’s Yogurt & Ice Cream. The ice cream is not homemade, but I love the Colombo frozen yogurt. We used to take our kids there since it was relatively healthy, then brought home quarts to stick in our freezer. They’ve got a wonderful array of frozen yogurt that aren’t necessarily your typical ones, like peppermint. It’s really good.
  • Sylas and Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream is just really good, sold old-fashioned ice cream. My favorite is the cappuccino chocolate chip; it reminds me of Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs. Miami Ice also carries Sylas and Maddy’s.
  • Poppy’s Ice Cream & Coffee House. Love the toffee coffee ice cream. I love that it’s in the old part of Lee’s Summit next to the train station; it just feels like small-town America. They also have an ice cream truck.
  • The weirdest ice cream flavor I’ve tried: I don’t know if was the strangest, but it was the most memorable. At Lidia’s, the pastry chef once made a tomato ice cream with fried basil on top. It was not an intermezzo; it was the dessert and it was really a great way to finish the meal.

Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch:

  • I think Glacé has the most incredible collection of flavors you can find in Kansas City. I like their sorbets; they’re really interesting and really creative.
  • Paciugo Gelato. I think this place is great; they’ve got wonderful flavors.
  • Murray’s Ice Cream. It’s iconic and I love the fact that for the first time, I think, in 30 years, they‘re accepting credit cards.
  • Poppy's Ice Cream. I like it because it’s homemade. There’s a high quality to it; you can always taste a Poppy’s Ice Cream. They also make custom flavors for many local restaurants. I love the coconut ice cream; it’s delicious.
  • Betty Rae's Ice Cream. I just like the fact that it’s a little neighborhood ice cream shop where they make their own ice creams; that’s very rare. It’s very friendly and the owner has a lot of imagination, he really does.
  • The weirdest ice cream flavor I’ve tried: At The American Restaurant, the pastry chef had created a tobacco ice cream. It actually evoked not a burning cigarette but certainly the flavor of tobacco. There was a tartness to it and a bite. It was not unpleasant. It wasn’t a sweet ice cream; I think it would be listed under the category of savory. It was weird but good.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

  • Betty Rae’s Ice Cream. They have interesting Asian-inspired flavors like pineapple Thai basil, cantaloupe and jasmine green tea. Their ice creams don’t seem very sweet to me, they read more creamy than tooth-achingly sweet. The next time I go in there, I am going to try “The King” (peanut butter chips in banana honey ice cream).
  • Glacé. What I love most about Christopher Elbow’s ice cream is his commitment to developing flavors with other local food and beverage companies. It makes his ice cream hyper-local. He does flavors with Boulevard Beer, The Roasterie and Jude’s Rum Cake. He makes his chocolate ice cream with his own chocolate.
  • Miami Ice. This colorful little shop is known for their flavored shaved ice, scooped ice cream, smoothies and shakes, with flavorings made with real cane sugar — no high fructose corn syrup. But the real reason, my son and I go into Miami Ice is for the soft serve custard in vanilla or chocolate. It is so hard to find soft serve these days, and this is a guilty pleasure that I can indulge in for only a couple of dollars on a cone or in a cup. They also put a dollop of the custard in the bottom of their flavored shaved ices for a Creamsicle treat.
  • Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard. You have to love this hometown favorite custard shop. The original flavor I used to get years ago was “brown bread.” They’ve stopped making it. All the flavors have turned to the candy bar; now, with hip candy bar mix-ins, I usually get the German chocolate with chocolate, caramel, pecans and coconut.
  • Aunt Jean’s Gelato. It’s tiny, it’s locally owned and the owners have a real sense of humor. They’re doing traditional ice cream flavors, but they’re also doing really weird funky ones, like dill pickle (it tastes like a Creamsicle dill pickle) and beet. Try the caramel pear, banana nut bread and pink grapefruit sorbet. Their signature flavor is Celebration Cake; I swear it has real cake batter in the gelato. It’s very dense but sweet and it tastes like birthday cake. Delicious.
  • The weirdest ice cream flavor I’ve tried: At Paciugo, I had a dark chocolate and jalapeno ice cream. It kind of sounds crazy, but it’s along the lines of chocolate and red pepper, or some sort of pepper flavor. I took a couple of bites, and the heat really started to build up. It had a lot of punch to it but the bitterness of the chocolate kind of offset it. It was very interesting; I enjoyed it.

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.