Your Guide to Ice Cream in Rhode Island
From old school creameries to artisan flavors at farmers markets, we've got the scoop.
Edited by Jamie Coelho. Written by Stephanie Blanchard, Sarah Francis, Jen McCaffery, Casey Nilsson, Elena Scotti and Ellen Welty
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Locals certainly have their favorites, whether it’s the family-run business churning out freshly made flavors or a farm-turned-ice cream haven. Loyal fans share their favorite childhood memories and nostalgic moments involving the icy, creamy stuff. Here are fifteen favorite spots that dreams are made of.
Tricycle Ice Cream
Back in middle school, I’d squander my lunch money so I could dig into the freezer case in the school cafeteria and bite into a Chipwich at recess. Two chocolate chip cookies stuck together with vanilla ice cream was my respite from long division. Back then we had no one watching what we were eating, so why not have ice cream for lunch? Tricycle Ice Cream brings back this sense of nostalgia, only in epicurean flavors like horchata ice cream sandwiched between cinnamon shortbread cookies (a playful take on churros) and maple ice cream with candied bacon on maple shortbread. The trikes (there are three now) are run by partners David Cass, a Met School teacher/Newport pedicabber/ice cream impresario, and Giovanni Salvador, a Johnson and Wales University graduate. You can find their handmade adult versions of the kids’ favorite peddled (and pedaled) by bicycle cart at farmers markets, Providence Flea and festivals, plus the treats are available for weddings, too. Kid-friendly flavors like fluffernutter and strawberry (made with berries from local farms) are hugged by vanilla or dark chocolate cookies. Cass says his favorite memories running the business relate to the pint-sized customers: “The best reaction is always from the kids who have a chocolate smile on their faces when they taste it.”
firstname.lastname@example.org, 741-3549, tricycleicecream.com –Jamie Coelho
Susanna’s Ice Cream and Sorbet at Sweet Berry Farm
It takes two to three days for a cup of Susanna’s ice cream to make its way from the kitchen to your taste buds. The handmade frozen treat starts with three very simple ingredients mixed at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown: cream from Arruda’s Dairy, pasteurized egg yolks and sugar. Depending on the season, you might savor the farm’s fresh blueberries or blackberries churned into a dense and creamy texture; or in fall, you might bite into bits of the farm’s own Cortland and Mutsu Crispin apples with cinnamon. There’s even an icy adult version pureed with fresh pear and spiked with Poire Williams liqueur.
Ice cream maker extraordinaire Susanna Williams is an academic and expert in Shakespeare who lives in Rhode Island and was born in South Devon, England. She married Newport native Herb Zornow, who also serves as chief ice cream taster. On Aquidneck Island, she had been looking for summer work outside the school year, and loved making ice cream. She’d visit Sweet Berry Farm to gather berries, striking up a relationship with owners, Jan and Michelle Eckhart, and convinced them there was a market for her homemade specialty. “It took off like a rocket,” Williams says. “Before I knew it, I was working eighty hours a week, and selling as much ice cream as I could make.”
Few people browsing inside the Sweet Berry Farm shop realize that ice cream is being made right under their feet. Below the tables of freshly baked pies and pastries, refrigerators stocked with international cheeses and tables filled with fresh fruit and vegetables exists a full basement kitchen where most of the farm’s food is prepared. At the bottom of the stairs, a hive bustles with activity as pastry chefs fill pies, cooks chop vegetables and Williams churns a batch of her famous ice cream.
With her silver curly hair pulled back in a white handkerchief, Williams explains how her specialty is made from scratch. “We don’t use artificial anything,” she says, demonstrating how the three main ingredients — the custard — go into the double boiler and are slowly heated, but never to boiling, “or else you’ll get a bunch of scrambled eggs,” she says. If she’s making vanilla, Williams splits the Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans, scrapes out the seeds and mixes them with custard to let them soak overnight. If coffee’s the flavor, she’ll steep whole beans in the mixture, then strain them out the next day. The same goes for fresh mint. But fresh fruit is added at a later point in the process.
After the custard is heated to 175 degrees, it’s strained to make sure there are no lumps, then it’s stored in a plastic bin over ice and placed in the walk-in refrigerator overnight. Fresh fruit that’s been mashed and macerated with sugar gets added the next day, and then the custard is stored again overnight to allow time for the sweet and tart berries to meld with the cream.
The final step is scooping the mixture into the ice cream machine, where it’s volumized with only 20 percent air for just five minutes. “You pour it through the top and in no time flat, the mixture is thick and creamy,” says Williams, stressing that timing is everything. “If you go thirty seconds too long, you’ll end up with butter.”
Once the mixture transforms into ice cream, it’s scooped into tubs and placed into the blast freezer, where it’s flash frozen for a more shelf-stable product. “It keeps extremely well because of its density,” she says.
Flavors are available for purchase in pints, half-pints and single servings in freezer cases at the farm store and at the Coastal Growers Farmers Market, where you can find more adventurous variations. “Sometimes I do really small runs to take to the market and they sell out and then there isn’t any more,” says Williams. “The thing I love most is inventing new flavors.”
Salted caramel swirl is the most popular and available anytime, while gooseberry elderflower, Meyer lemon and cardamom coffee ice cream and blood orange sorbet are available in early spring. Strawberry and fresh mint leaf are ready in late-June, Louisiana banana (like bananas Foster) and peach in mid-summer, and damson plum arrives in the fall. “I’m always thinking about what flavors go well together and experimenting.”
915 Mitchell’s Ln., Middletown, 847-3912, sweetberryfarmri.com/susannasicecream.html –Jamie Coelho
It must have been the year — 1969 — or the music — “Born to be Wild” — or the fact that my mother let me drive her Oldsmobile station wagon as long as a boat to school. That’s when I became a wild child, bucking the school dress code, skipping boring classes and bypassing the school cafeteria in favor of strictly forbidden off-campus lunches. At high noon, a few like-minded rebels bored with overcooked turkey roll and steam trays of limp ravioli would slide into the Olds and be off! We cruised up Glen Road in Portsmouth to our destination: the Newport Creamery on West Main Road in Middletown.
On these outings, our protein was ice cream. Maple walnut with a thick, slick chaser of fudge. Butter pecan so buttery it begged for toast. Or the ultimate liquid lunch, the Awful Awful, where if you could drink three, you’d get the fourth one free. (They still make that offer!)
For a tribe of teenage girls in matching plaid uniform skirts who tended to follow the rules, the Creamery was as radical as it got. The coffee cabinet was my liquid lunch of choice — generous scoops of coffee ice cream, coffee syrup and rich whole milk — mixed to perfection in a large silver canister yielding two-and-a-half curvaceous glasses of creamy joy.
Looking back, we could have headed to one of the many bars frequented by sailors that lined the back streets of Newport. Or, we could have pigged out on pizza. Instead, we slurped away in the Oldsmobile, drawn to the golden cow and the familiar golf course-green menu until, of course, we got caught.
Various locations, newportcreamery.com –Elena Scotti
Brickley’s Ice Cream
There are some things you can depend on. This summer, the sun will warm you. The waves will buoy you when you swim. And about four miles from Narragansett Town Beach, you will be able to spot a familiar sight on the side of Boston Neck Road: a green-and-white canopy providing shade for a clutch of picnic tables, which belong to the little white house of ice cream behind them: Brickley’s. Owned by husband and wife, Steve and Christina Brophy, for twenty-one years (fifteen at this location), the parlor is perfumed with the scent of just-made waffle cones wafting through the air. Just like last summer, you’ll have your choice of forty-eight flavors (including frozen yogurt, sugar-free ice cream and sherbet), all made in the back of the shop. In the past, Steve Brophy tried taking a couple of the flavors off the list, but heard about it from crestfallen customers — “What do you mean, you got rid of grapenut?!” — and went right back to making them.
Maybe you’ll order a classic sundae: chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream (the most popular flavor), covered in hot-fudge, under a pile of whipped cream as high as Yawgoo ski hill. Or maybe you’ll opt for a more exotic flavor in a cone: apple pie, malted milk ball or ginger. Getting ice cream is a ritual we all cherish. Brophy remembers a Jamestown resident, Maggie, who was always waiting for him each spring at the original North Kingstown location, on the day he opened his shop for the season, so that she could be his first customer of the year. And on the first 70 degree day in early spring, he says, there’s a line out the door at nine at night. So depend on it this summer: Brickley’s homemade waffle cones, and all those flavors of ice cream, just waiting for you. 921 Boston Neck Rd., Narragansett; 322 Main St., Wakefield, 789-1784, brickleys.com –Ellen Welty
The Inside Scoop
For John Bucci, owner of the Inside Scoop in North Kingstown, it’s not just about the ice cream. It’s also about providing first jobs to local youth. “My favorite part is working with the kids,” he says. “I have twenty-seven kids working in the summer and as frustrating as they may be, I enjoy teaching them what it is to run a business.”
Students from North Kingstown, Exeter and East Greenwich high schools, plus college kids from the University of Rhode Island, walk through his doors and scoop sixty-four freshly made flavors including peanut butter Oreo and sea salt caramel all summer long and during the shoulder season, too. “Hopefully when they leave here – a lot of them have been here six or seven years – they can appreciate how tough or fair I can be,” says Bucci, who also works as a CPA. “My goal is to develop them so when they graduate college they can carry that into their career.”
The Inside Scoop is a family business run for fifteen years by John and his wife, Michelle, who makes the ice cream, and their four children, three daughters and one son. The son also makes ice cream. “He’s like a bull in the summertime. He’ll get three days worth of work done in one day,” says Bucci, and even their ten-year-old daughter can run the register. From the first day of spring through November, two forty-quart machines pump out flavors ranging from vanilla and purple penguin (black raspberry ice cream with chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips) to pumpkin (always requested no matter the season). “We make about 100 of these three-gallon tubs a day in the summer,” Bucci says. “We’ll do twenty-five batches of ice cream a day between both machines.” And there’s a line waiting out the door ready to polish it off, so they can make more.
30 Ten Rod Rd., North Kingstown, 294-0091, theinsidescoopri.com –Jamie Coelho
The Ice Cream Barn
The cravings always came in the form of freshly made waffle cones filled with homemade black raspberry berry ice cream from the Ice Cream Barn. It was a hot and humid July. I was eight months along with baby, and heaping scoops blended with locally grown blueberries and strawberries, blackberries and raspberries got me through those last few uncomfortable weeks. My husband and I would perch on the tree trunks turned benches outside. I’d take a lick, and within moments, I’d feel the kicks from baby boy expressing his gratitude for sharing the treat.
The Ice Cream Barn is built on Baker Farm, an idyllic sixth-generation Massachusetts farm owned by the Baker family. The fresh milk from the cows is picked up by the Winsor SB Dairy of Johnston, pasteurized and homogenized, and then brought back to the farm and churned into flavors like salted caramel, pistachio, apple crisp (using local apples), and pumpkin patch in fall. Watch the waffle cones get pressed onto the irons and twirled into cones, the scent of vanilla wafting out the door. Tiny tasting spoons are offered before you commit, but settling on just one is not easy. I choose two.
Another summer evening almost a year later, we sit on those very same tree trunk benches watching three little girls in princess dresses dance with their dad, dripping cones in hand, twirling under the stars. Our own ten-month-old sits on my knee while an ice cream cone is guided to tiny lips and two front teeth. The black raspberry berry ice cream coats his tongue, dots his nose, drips down his face and he smiles with glee. I’d like to say it’s his first taste, but we both know he was a fan long before he was born.
289 Locust St., Swansea, Mass., 508-567-6278, theicecreambarn.com –Jamie Coelho.
The Ice Cream Machine
Details: 4288 Diamond Hill Rd., Cumberland, 333-5053, icecreampie.com
Scooping season: All year round.
Meltdown: A favorite of little leaguers, Russell and Jane Kisseberth first began making ice cream in their garage in 1977. Daughter Kim Caron and her husband, Gary, took over running the shop in 1985 with their children. The Ice Cream Machine churns out old-fashioned flavors using a recipe calling for 14 percent butterfat, which creates more than fifty flavors of rich and creamy goodness. With seasonal varieties, non-dairy sorbet, sherbet, low-fat yogurt and sugar-free ice cream, there’s a cool treat for almost everyone.
Cream of the crop: Dreamy flavors include raspberry truffle, caramel fudge, cotton candy, brownie batter and more. Have a scoop in a house-made waffle cone, or squeezed between an ice cream cookie sandwich. Craving epic decadence? We dare you to try the Diamond Hill. Named after the nearby state park, the supersized sundae features four scoops of ice cream, four toppings, whipped cream, a cherry and nuts. Don’t miss the tasty ice cream pies. Like ice cream cakes, but in pie form, they’re celebration-worthy. –Stephanie Blanchard
The Daily Scoop
Details: 230 County Rd., Barrington, 245-0100; 446B Thames St., Bristol, 254-2223, dailyscoopicecream.com
Scooping season: Late-March through mid- to late-September in Barrington; mid-May to Labor Day in Bristol.
Meltdown: Barrington natives Bob and Deb Saunders shared a mutual love for ice cream. One day, when Bob was pondering his next professional path, Deb said, "Let's learn how to make really good ice cream so we can eat it all the time." The Daily Scoop opened in Barrington in June 2000 after they completed ice cream manufacturing courses. Now two retail shops sell their homemade 16 percent butterfat ice cream, and half-gallons are also available in the shops.
Cream of the crop: The most popular varieties are coffee Oreo, vanilla and mint chip. But customers also gravitate to chocolate (the Saunders make their own cocoa paste) and fruit-based flavors. “Bob uses two flats of fresh strawberries in every batch of our strawberry ice cream,” says Deb Saunders. “And if you can make it in during peach season, you’re in for a treat. Bob buys crates of the sweetest peaches he can get his hands on. It’s a chore — scrubbing, pitting and marinating overnight — but it’s worth it!” –J.C.
Details: 1074 Hope St., Providence, 273-7230, threesistersri.com
Scooping season: All year round.
Meltdown: The origins of this East Side mainstay do, in fact, include three sisters. Michael Stern, who opened the shop in 2007, named it for his three daughters. But over time, Three Sisters took on a new meaning. Now, it also represents the three sisters of the business: ice cream, coffee and panini sandwiches. Recently, the shop added beer and wine to the menu.
Cream of the crop: It’s one of the most kid-friendly spots in Providence, and no wonder: The place serves fluffernutter ice cream, a blend of marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter. Parents can sink into a few scoops of the coffee crunch, a caffeine-packed coffee ice cream with bits of Oreo, Heath bar and chocolate chips. If that doesn’t do it, order the Papa Goulart’s, a brand-new flavor of coffee ice cream blended with Jack Daniel’s whiskey that’s named after the ice cream maker’s grandfather. A couple of scoops should make your trip to the farmers market more enjoyable. –Casey Nilsson
Like No Udder
Details: Follow the truck on Twitter at @LikeNoUdder or visit the shop at 170 Ives St., Providence, 419-8869, like-no-udder.com
Scooping season: Mid-March through mid-November for the truck; year-round at the shop, but double-check hours before you go.
Meltdown: The world’s only all-vegan, gluten-free soft serve truck whizzed onto the scene in 2010, and the shop followed in 2016. Owner Karen Krinsky is familiar with cruelty-free treats. Before Like No Udder, the Warwick resident owned the Screaming Vegan, a wholesale dessert business. Krinsky didn’t love the baker’s hours, so she honed her soft serve technique and the rest is purple, polka-dotted history.
Cream of the crop: Krinsky’s husband and business partner, Chris Belanger, recommends a classic: chocolate and vanilla swirl blanketed in peanut butter sauce. Similar to the real thing, Like No Udder’s non-dairy treat is velvety and very messy. –C.N.
Gray’s Ice Cream
Details: 16 East Rd., Tiverton; 259 Thames St., Bristol, 624-4500
Scooping season: Year round in Tiverton; Mother’s Day to Columbus Day in Bristol.
Meltdown: From the Great Depression to the Great Recession, Gray’s has seen it all with a smile and a scoop. In the early 1920s, Annie Gray began selling homemade ice cream out of the back window of her cottage. Eventually, the shingled home transformed into a bona fide ice cream parlor. Current owner Marilyn Dennis bought Gray’s in 1981 and continues the tradition with ice cream made from cows at her nearby farm. Dennis also launched a waterfront Gray’s in Bristol in 2002.
Cream of the crop: There’s only one way to test an old-fashioned creamery, and it involves a scoop of vanilla. Gray’s sets the bar high; you can taste every ingredient, from the fresh eggs to the just-churned cream to the smoky vanilla. Pair that with a homemade waffle cone and a seat on the nearby stone wall, and you’re all set up for a perfect summer day. After your last lick, grab a coffee cabinet — with homemade coffee syrup — for the road. –C.N.
Dusty’s Dairy Bar
Details: 321 Atlantic Ave., Westerly, 322-0504
Scooping season: Open before Memorial Day through Labor Day, then weekends through Columbus Day.
Meltdown: The delightfully retro dairy bar was founded more than three decades ago by a man named Dusty. (He’s since sold it, but still drops in.) Part of the entertainment complex at Misquamicut Beach, it’s next door to an arcade, across the street from Water Wizz and the perfect topper to end to a sunny, sandy day.
Cream of the crop: Order a sand pail sundae for $10: a sand pail with ice cream and whatever toppings you want. Families share it, but some kids get their own for the challenge. –Jen McCaffery
Details: 496 East Main Rd., Middletown, 846-1697, frostyfreez.com
Scooping season: April 1 to September 30.
Meltdown: This Aquidneck Island mainstay has been around since 1956. Established as a Tastee Freez with an adjoining diner, the current owners maintain the retro feel.
Cream of the crop: Celebrate Rhode Island and order the unadvertised mocha shake, made with chocolate soft serve and Autocrat coffee syrup. –J.M.
Details: 29 Market St., Swansea, Mass., 508-379-0202, eskimoking.com
Scooping season: April 1 through Columbus Day.
Meltdown: The old-timey spot boasts more than 300 soft serve variations like chocolate banana nutter and eggnog cheesecake, plus hard serve ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Cream of the crop: Our favorite is the s’mores campfire with graham cracker crumbs, marshmallow and hot fudge with vanilla soft serve. Campfire not included. –J.C.
Shady Acres Restaurant and Dairy Bar
Details: 164 Danielson Pike, Foster, 647-7019, shadyacresrestaurant.com
Scooping season: The ice cream window is open from May to October (depending on weather).
Meltdown: The restaurant opened in 1973, and the ice cream window was built soon after. Shady Acres is a step back in time. They stick with traditional flavors, with a little pistachio thrown in for good measure.
The cream of the crop: Kids love the jungle gym, a scoop of vanilla or chocolate with marshmallow, gummy bears, sprinkles and whipped cream — a bargain at $3.25. –J.M.
The Hill-Top Creamery
Details: 5720 Post Rd., East Greenwich, 884-8753, thehilltopcreamery.com
Scooping season: Mid-March through Columbus Day.
Meltdown: Fans of this outdoor outpost have been known to camp out before dawn to be first in line on opening day in March. Hard-packed flavors get creative: freedom of espresso and salted caramel chocolate pretzel.
Cream of the crop: The gigundo baseball cap sundae as well as seasonal fall faves (hello maple, pumpkin and apple). –Sarah Francis