With summer in full swing, it’s prime time to indulge in some frozen desserts—not that Vancouverites ever need weather-appropriate excuses to enjoy a scoop or two.
The taste of cold, creamy, and sweet frozen goodness is the perfect way to cool down, and there are plenty of delicious options offered around the city. Local ice cream institutions like Earnest and Rain or Shine have now reopened their brick-and-mortar locations after offering only curbside pickup and delivery the past few months. And newer dessert establishments, such as Elephant Garden Creamery and Passione Gelato, regularly change their menus to introduce new flavours for us to enjoy.
Whether you’re looking for a classic scoop of salted caramel ice cream, pistachio gelato, or the latest milk tea soft serve with brown sugar pearls, there’s no shortage of mouthwatering frozen treats around town. Here’s where to find them.
Known for its rich and creamy ice cream made with liquid nitrogen—with popular flavours such as double Oreo and Thai milk tea—this Yaletown spot also makes delicious ice cream sandwiches. Try the crème brûlée ice cream sammie with an extra matcha dip—the slightly burnt sugar paired with vanilla bean ice cream and a crumbly cookie crust truly hits the spot every time.
Often hailed as the best gelato spot in the city, Passione Gelato uses the best ingredients to make small-batch handcrafted gelato. One lick of its mango flavour will seem like you’re eating an actual Thai mango, and its pistachio flavour has an outstanding nutty taste. But a standout is its durian flavour: almost an exact replica of the spiky Southeast Asian fruit that harnesses a unique smell (some might say a potent stench) but comes with a deliciously sweet and creamy taste.
You’ll find these addictive artisan ice popsicles in several independent Vancouver shops and cafés, and the Johnny’s Pops cart roams through different farmers markets around the city, too. Its refreshing frozen treats come in a range of flavours, including mango yogurt strawberry, blackberry cheesecake, Vietnamese coffee, creamy strawberry lemonade, and more.
Nana’s Green Tea
This Japanese dessert café specializes in a variety of matcha sweets, including soft serve ice cream, cakes, and pastries. Our favourite is the matcha shiratama parfait, which is a beautiful layered dessert made with matcha ice cream, whipped cream, mochi, red bean, cornflakes, vanilla soft serve, and matcha jelly.
Elephant Garden Creamery
Tucked away on Commercial Drive, this farmers market vendor turned brick-and-mortar shop success story churns up unique, Asian-inspired ice cream flavours. Its weekly scoop and pint lineup changes often, but guests will find popular picks such as Hong Kong milk tea, mango coconut sticky rice, Vietnamese coffee, and cookies ’n cream monster. Newer flavours such as red velvet and raspberries, and honey chrysanthemum are also available right now.
Its pastel-hued pints don’t come cheap, but there’s a price to pay for quality. This French-style ice cream parlour and café in Kitsilano is currently serving flavours such as lemon blueberry ricotta, ganache, and vegan peanut butter chocolate pretzel. Takeaway pints include matcha black sesame and milk chocolate hazelnut. If you want a sampling of multiple flavours, go for the ice cream flight that comes in four or six mini-scoops.
Everyone knows Beta5’s cream puffs and award-winning chocolate creations, but its seasonal ice cream sandwiches are back, and word on the street is they come in packs of four for sharing (with small groups) or storing in the freezer. Rotating flavours have included mango milk tea, spumoni, and strawberry matcha—the latest lineup is mint chip with a dark chocolate cookie, and key lime with a graham cookie.
Xing Fu Tang
Originally from Taiwan, this bubble-tea chain focuses on brown sugar boba drinks—a trend that has taken Vancouver by storm in the past two years. Xing Fu Tang recently rolled out a new milk-tea soft serve ice cream, which comes with the option of adding its signature brown sugar pearls. This treat has been making the rounds on social media, and the general consensus is that it can rival the actual brown sugar bubble-tea drink.
Rain or Shine
In addition to its shops in Kitsilano, Cambie Village, and at UBC, the Rain or Shine ice cream truck can be found daily at English Bay. In our humble opinion, its malted milk chocolate honeycomb flavour paired with its crispy and buttery waffle cone is the best summer treat, rain or shine. Cracked mint trails closely behind, followed by seasonal flavours like lemon squared and mango passionfruit.
Earnest Ice Cream
No introduction is needed for this local ice cream establishment. Even during a pandemic, its stores can command socially distanced lines and a devoted fan base that will drive from the suburbs for curbside pickups of its pints and ice cream sandwiches. Cherry pie is the newest flavour on its menu, and returning favourites such as toasted marshmallow and vegan lemon are popular picks, too. But let’s be honest—we will never get tired of Earnest classics like whiskey hazelnut, London fog, salted caramel, and cookies and cream.
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