Cool off with something sweet.
When it’s summer in the city, specifically Music City, ice cream is front-of-mind. Nashville is blessed with some fine scoopin’ parlors, and you’ll probably be seeking out at least a couple from this list of the best. First, some ground rules. We’re talking ice cream, not gelato, frozen yogurt, shaved ice, etc. While those might also be delightful treats, they don’t make us scream for ice cream. Nope, we’re talking butterfat: in a cone, a cup, a float, or a milkshake. Sometimes you just have to stick with the classics.
Since 1951, the first cone of soft serve from Bobbie’s Dairy Dip dripping down your arm has been an annual rite of spring. Forget about the swallows returning to Capistrano, Bobbie’s annual reopening after winter break is what many Nashvillians consider the official kickoff of the season, and a burger with a chilly chaser is the ideal way to welcome spring back to town.
How to order: Walk up to the window and place your order to eat at a picnic table or use Grubhub for carryout and delivery.
This weekend pop-up at the flexible restaurant space “Insert Chef Here” is the brainchild of Jeremy Barlow, an incredibly versatile chef who is as comfortable with fine dining as he is with ultra-casual street food. If you’ve already discovered the joy of dipping fast food fries into the frozen chocolate concrete that passes for a milkshake, you’re gonna love Barlow’s Fryce Cream! He offers gourmet soft serve flavors served with crispy fries that you can order dusted with exotic spice blends like “Nashville hot” or shawarma seasoning. Dip them in your ice cream or in available dipping sauces such as wasabi aioli or Barlow’s “magic sauce.” Add on a drizzle of honey peach syrup for a complete treat.
How to order: There’s a small dining area inside, but most people just walk up to order and then carry their bounty across the street to enjoy it in Sevier Park.
Since first arriving in Nashville more than a decade ago, Jeni’s has spread like mushrooms on the forest floor after a hard summer rain, expanding to nine locations around Middle Tennessee. It’s amazing what the power of selling high butterfat content frozen deliciousness will do for a company’s success. Their scoop shops almost always have a line of customers out the door waiting their turn to dive into a cup of rich, velvety ice cream featuring insane flavor combos like raspberry rose jelly donut, sweet cream biscuits and peach jam, or Boston cream pie.
How to order: Order online for local or nationwide delivery.
For those who subscribe to the maxim, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first!”, this is an excellent place to start, because dessert is pretty much all they do. The colorful and festive decor gets the party started as soon as you walk through the door, and dozens of ice cream flavors choices will widen that grin even further. The menu features whimsical riffs on classic desserts like ice cream tacos and burritos, a chocolate martini, and even a cream dog with a churro on a bun standing in for the weiner. Food should be fun, and they get that here.
How to order: Call 615-490-3864 to order ahead, but this food really doesn’t travel that well. Eat it where you get it!
The premier scoop shop across the river from downtown is Pied Piper, a long-time neighborhood fixture that makes ice cream that tastes like you churned it yourself at a summer picnic. Fortunately, they do all the work crafting flavors like red velvet Elvis, s’mores, or caramel turtle cheesecake. They also make some fantastic ice cream pies if you call in advance to order one.
How to order: Dine in or pick up pints from Hunter’s Station a little closer to the urban core. You can contact them online for special orders.
Unlike other downtown establishments that are named after celebrities that tend to chase off locals (we’re looking at you Kid Rock), Mike was a welcome addition to Lower Broad when he opened this throwback ice cream parlor in a historic building near the foot of Broadway. Hand-scooped cups and cones are just the start at Mike’s, so make sure to read the whole menu or you’ll miss out on old timey treats like egg creams, sundaes, and floats.
How to order: Order at the counter of call ahead to 615-742-6453 for carryout.
Before moving into a refurbished building next door, Elliston Place Soda Shop used to hold the distinction as Nashville’s oldest restaurant still operating in its original location. After more than 80 years in business, they deserved a bit of an upgrade, but the new dining area still exudes the retro cool vibe of the original. They’re best known for their shakes that are often smuggled into rooms in the many surrounding hospitals as a treat for a patient who is tired of cafeteria food. While it’s tough to beat the classic Neapolitan flavor trio of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, don’t miss out on other options with add-ins like Oreos, Butterfingers, or Nutter Butter.
How to order: Order online for carryout.
Whatever started the trend of over-the-top milkshakes with so many toppings that they loom over the rim of the glass, we can’t say we’re mad at it. At this cozy little shop in the L&L Market Food Hall, they create shakes that are total clickbait on the ‘Gram, even if they are pretty difficult to actually consume. With toppings atop toppings, you can turn a Gracie’s milkshake into a six-course meal, as long as that meal is dessert.
How to order: These pieces of culinary art wouldn’t survive carryout or delivery anyway, so step right up and order from the counter.
Nashville’s original extreme shake shop, Legendairy is nationally known for their photogenic ice cream treats. Served in a glass jar rimmed with chocolate, marshmallow, peanut butter, or vanilla icing, these shakes are based on classic ice cream flavors and syrup drizzles that are then tarted up with any number of sprinkles, cookie crumbles, cotton candy, brownies, donuts, cheesecake, or fruit. Moderation is not something they practice at Legendairy.
How to order: You’ll need to be on-site to place your order, but you might want to preview the menu online in advance, because it’s, well, a lot.
After years of attracting Nashville ice cream lovers to the ‘burbs to enjoy their luscious small-batch ice cream made from milk provided by local cows, Hattie Jane’s has finally opened their first location in the big city. Their stall in the massive new Assembly Food Hall is already introducing the masses to their brand of classic Southern flavors like brown butter pecan, nana puddin’, and Mulekick made with Muletown roasted coffee beans.
How to order: Hattie Jane’s isn’t taking orders online quite yet, but they intend to soon, so keep an eye on their website.
This family affair has been around for three generations, with the grandson of the original Mimi currently in charge. They haven’t changed much about the place in all those years, but the nostalgic charm is what attracts tourists to the area around Gaylord Opryland Resort anyway. The kitchen makes two dozen old-school flavors by hand every day, and they take advantage of seasonal flavors like peach and pecans to whip up specialties at the peak of freshness.
How to order: Call 615-724-1201 in advance for carryout orders.
Two friends from California looked at the ice cream market and decided they saw a gaping hole in the usual offerings: nobody was serving a real kickass ice cream sandwich. They decided to do it themselves by opening The Baked Bear, and eventually bringing an outpost to Nashville. The three-step ordering process involves choosing a cookie from a long list of options ranging from chocolate chip to red velvet, selecting from a dozen ice cream flavors to slide between those cookies and then picking either syrupy or crunchy toppings to finish it off. If you’re feeling adventurous, add the fourth step of asking them to warm it up for you.
How to order: Order online for pickup or delivery.
You don’t really know what ice cream obsession truly is until you visit a Mexican scoopery. Baskin-Robbins’ 31 flavors wouldn’t even take up the first page of the menu at La Michoacana, where rows of freezers line the walls filled with both familiar flavors and more exotic ones that are popular in Latin America. Step outside your usual comfort zone to experience flavors like passionfruit, rice and raisin, queso, and tamarind. You’ll be rewarded for your bravery with some truly unique ice creams that will expand your mind and tickle your tastebuds.
How to order: You really need to lay eyes on all those tubs full of ice creams, but you can order for delivery via DoorDash.