I have a serious frozen concoction problem. I think it all started when I first moved to Pittsburgh during a bloody hot summer and the apartment I was renting didn't have air conditioning. And Razzy Fresh, with its mind-blowing frozen yogurt, had just opened its first Pittsburgh store two blocks away from me. Let's just say I was on a frozen yogurt meal replacement program for the majority of the summer.
Unfortunately, that first summer I was in Pittsburgh, it seemed to me that there was a dearth of frozen concoction stores in the city. Sure, everyone knew about Dave and Andy's, but it didn't seem like there were many other local options.
Well, after several more years of living in the city and much more (delicious) research for this blog, I can confidently say that Pittsburgh now has an abundance of frozen treats available. Ranging from custard, frozen yogurt, ice cream, to Italian ice, Pittsburgh's got it all.
So if you are looking for a delicious and frozen snack on a nice hot summer day, you may want to start with one of the following local favorites.
We were first introduced to Handel's by a friend, and she recommended chocolate raspberry truffle the same way we would recommend chocolate raspberry truffle- by forcing us to get it.
Even though the menu contains over 50 flavors, it is now impossible for us to visit Handel's without getting chocolate raspberry truffle. It's that good. I don't even normally like chocolate flavored ice creams because they generally taste “fake” to me, but this chocolate ice cream is no joke.
It's seriously creamy, rich, and actually tastes like real chocolate. Just beware of the chocolate mustache that this ice cream leaves around your mouth!
In general, the texture of Handel's ice creams is superb. It's incredibly creamy and never icy. And with over 50 flavors ranging from inventive Blueberry Cobbler and Spouse Like a House (malted vanilla with chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels), to traditional Chocolate or Strawberry, you're sure to find something you like.
Although they have 38 stores across the country, Handel's was started in Youngstown, Ohio, just an hour away from Pittsburgh.
The two closest Handel's locations to downtown Pittsburgh are in McCandless and West Mifflin.
Glen's Frozen Custard
Located just off of Rt. 28 in Springdale, Glen's Frozen Custard is one of the only places in the Pittsburgh area that serves this creamy cousin of ice cream. Besides custard, they have sundaes, milkshakes, ice cream sandwiches, sherbet, and even custard pints and quarts to go.
Their traditional custard flavor options include chocolate, vanilla, and a flavor of the day which on our visit was peach. They also serve a handful of fancy custard flavor options like black cherry, caramel cookie dough, mint chocolate chip, cookies and cream, and espresso bean, just to name a few.
On our visit we tried the vanilla and peach traditional custards, as well as the black cherry and caramel cookie dough custards. The texture and flavor of the two different types of custards was very apparent- the traditional flavors were incredibly smooth, rich, and ultra creamy.
The gourmet flavors were denser and tasted more like traditional ice cream. But there was one thing all the flavors had in common: they were delicious! Our dog, Tamale, also gave two paws up to the vanilla custard.
Glen's Frozen Custard is located at 400 Pittsburgh Street in Springdale. Make a trip out of it and check out Leaning Cask Brewery while you're there.
NatuRoll brings the hot new trend of rolled ice cream right to trendy Lawrenceville. The concept involves pouring ice cream batter onto a very cold metal counter right in front of you, adding mix-ins, and scraping the frozen ice cream off the counter into pretty little rolls.
You can either choose from one of the flavor combinations on the menu or create your own. And, as I have a tree nut allergy, one thing I really appreciate about this place is that they have a separate counter that's sanitized between uses that is only used for customers with allergies.
We tried the raspberry cheesecake ice cream, which has a cheesecake batter and raspberries and graham crackers mixed in. It was quite fun to watch the ice cream being made and to pick out what other things we wanted on top (we got white chocolate sauce mixed in as well as more sauce, whipped cream, raspberries, and graham crackers on top).
The verdict? At $7+, the ice cream has quite a steep price tag, but it's worth trying for the novelty. The ice cream is pretty good, not as rich or creamy as we normally like, but the mix-in and topping options help make up for it
NatuRoll is located at 4318 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
This stuff is addicting, and is even more dangerous because it is priced by weight.
You're probably familiar with the concept of this type of store: you choose your cup size, dispense whatever flavors of frozen yogurt you like into said cup, add toppings, and pay by weight.
What's somewhat unique about Razzy Fresh is that each froyo flavor is labeled as either tart or sweet. Although Razzy Fresh has some pretty delicious sweet flavors ranging from chocolate to peanut butter to cake batter, the tart flavors are what we think make Razzy Fresh stand out from other ho-hum froyo shops that are seemingly on every street corner in Pittsburgh.
he tart flavors are a perfect balance of sweet and tart, and somehow just seem to mesh better with the texture of froyo than the really sweet flavors (at least in our opinion).
Our favorite tart flavors would have to be raspberry and taro. If you've never tried taro, it's a starchy root vegetable kind of like a potato. The taro froyo at Razzy Fresh is tangy but sweet and perfectly starchy. It's very unique and incredibly addicting!
Razzy Fresh has two locations in Oakland (and as of late 2016, the Squirrel Hill location was sold but maintains similar flavors).
Millie's Ice Cream
Millie's Ice Cream in Shadyside and Market Square is close to our idea of a perfect ice cream shop- cute decor, rotating seasonal flavors, and wild/interesting flavor combinations. The standard flavors that they always have are chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel, and Vietnamese coffee, while the rotating flavors have included options like coconut lime sorbet, blueberry sorbet, and salted hazelnut to name a few.
The texture of Millie's ice creams is not super dense, but a bit lighter and airier which is quite refreshing; however, after many visits we unfortunately also have to point out that their ice creams are often inconsistent in the texture department. Likewise, the mix-ins have not been uniform at times as well (for example, a sweet potato ice cream with marshmallow consisting of one very small glob of marshmallow per large scoop).
We've had many flavors from Millie's over the years, and our favorites to date have been the blueberry sorbet with its extremely intense blueberry flavor and almost creamy texture, and the Vietnamese coffee (a staple menu item) which had a great balance of bitter, sweet, and spicy.
In fact, it may be sacrilegious to say this, but you could make the case to say that their sorbets are even better than their ice creams. We order both whenever we visit as the ice cream is generally quite good all around despite a few misgivings, but we find ourselves always settling on the sorbet as being the winner of the day almost every time we visit.
Millie's Homemade Ice Cream is located at 232 South Highland Avenue in Shadyside. Millie's opened a second location at 246 Forbes Avenue near Market Square in 2017.
Klavon's is the place that you drive by all the time on your way to and from the Strip District and say, “Gee, I should check that out sometime.”
Well, after living in Pittsburgh for several years, we drove by one day to find the shop closed. So, when we moved back to the city and found it had been reopened, we took it as a sign to stop procrastinating and check out this old time combination soda shop / ice cream parlour.
Klavon's serves ice cream from Penn State Creamery and offers extravagant sundaes as well as ice cream floats and sodas, all in a very retro building complete with old fashioned stool seating along the counter.
The menu is huge so deciding what to order was quite difficult, but I eventually settled on an ice cream soda with Peachy Paterno ice cream, peach syrup, and soda water and Jeremy ordered a cherry amaretto sundae. Peachy Paterno is one of my favorite Penn State ice creams with chunks of real peaches and a smooth, creamy texture. Ice cream floats and sodas are sort of a lost art, so it's pretty cool to see all the flavor combinations they have here. Jeremy's sundae had a generous mound of chocolate ice cream with cherries on top and a mild amaretto flavor but was a well built sundae all around!
Klavon's is located just outside of the Strip District at 2801 Penn Avenue.
Page Dairy Mart
Page Dairy Mart on East Carson St. in South Side is a classic Pittsburgh institution serving up soft serve ice cream, sundaes, milkshakes, and arctic swirls. This is a walk-up spot that's only open seasonally, and on a hot summer day you can bet the line will snake through the parking lot and around the building.
We couldn't resist trying the Yinzer sundae- a blonde brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel. The brownie was rich with white and milk chocolate chips, and pieces of Heath bar. The caramel sauce tied it all together with gooey deliciousness.
We also had to try one of the dozens of other soft serve flavors – we chose black raspberry and topped it with hot fudge. The black raspberry flavor wasn't that intense, but the soft serve itself was incredibly smooth and creamy.
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Page Dairy Mart is located at 4600 E. Carson Street just east of the main South Side business district.
Gus and Yia Yia's – Seasonal
Gus and Yia Yia's is an institution, people say, and rightly so. Located on the North Side in West Park, Gus and Yia Yia's shaved ice has been around forever, is served from an old fashioned cart, and is still shaved by hand.
It's so cheap that you can't resist getting a large and topping it with a melange of flavored syrups. Although the shaved ice is good (I mean, it's shaved ice, nothing too fancy here…), Gus and Yia Yia's is worth the trip if only just to have a chat with Gus and for the novelty of the way it is prepped.
Any ice cream shop that serves pup cups is a friend of mine (and our dog's). Antney's in Westwood/Greentree has walk-up windows for ordering, so you can bring along your pooch and treat him, too.
The texture of Antney's ice cream isn't the creamiest we've ever had, but the unique flavors and the pup cups for dogs are winning us over. Our favorite flavor so far has been banana cream pie, with an explosive banana flavor and chunks of crumbly pie crust throughout.
There are a few outside seats here, but be prepared to eat your ice cream standing up or in your car as this place can get packed, especially on weekend nights in the summer.
Antney's is located at 1358 Poplar Street in Westwood/Greentree.
Dave & Andy's
Dave and Andy's is a classic Pittsburgh ice cream shop in Oakland that's been serving up homemade ice creams, dozens of frozen yogurt flavors, and fresh waffle cones for decades. On our visit we tried a chocolate cherry frozen yogurt, White House cherry ice cream, and cinnamon ice cream.
The chocolate cherry was dense and definitely tasted more indulgent than you'd expect for a frozen yogurt. We liked the white house cherry but the texture was a bit icy. The cinnamon was our favorite- it was fluffy but creamy with a perfectly intense spiciness. Note that Dave and Andy's is cash only and an ATM is on site.
Dave & Andy's is located at 207 Atwood Street in Oakland.
The Milkshake Factory
The Milkshake Factory in South Side has sort of a chain-like feel, but it's actually a family-owned business that started as a chocolate shop and soda fountain over 100 years ago in Lawrenceville. The menu includes classic milkshakes like vanilla and chocolate, signature milkshakes like cookies and cream or salted caramel, and gourmet milkshakes like chocolate covered bacon or bananas foster.
The gourmet milkshakes sound delicious but at $7 each we decided to go for some of the signature flavors at a slightly reduced price- chocolate raspberry truffle and cookie dough. The cookie dough was very difficult to eat as we took them to go and the cookie dough pieces didn't fit in the straw.
This made the shake pretty much just a vanilla shake that ended with a pile of chocolate and dough at the bottom of the cup. We might have enjoyed this more if we could have eaten it in the shop with a spoon. The texture of the chocolate raspberry truffle shake was a bit thin but it had a rich chocolate flavor with a hint of raspberry.
The Milkshake Factory might not be our first choice for ice cream, but when the line at other nearby shops is 50 people deep and you need ice cream, it's a good spot.
Bruster's Real Ice Cream
Although Bruster's is a chain with locations all over the eastern US, their headquarters is actually right here in Southwestern Pennsylvania in Bridgewater and each store makes their own ice cream on the premises.
On our recent visit Jeremy tried a new special flavor, Cookie Craze, which was clearly geared toward kids but we still enjoyed. This one had a blue-tinted vanilla ice cream base and was packed with Oreo cokies, dino sugar cookies, and cookie dough pieces. Jeremy's other flavor choice was a chocolate raspberry truffle which was rich but still punctuated with raspberry flavor.
I chose graham central station (graham ice cream with graham cracker swirl and chocolate flakes) and black cherry which was also refreshing. While the flavors were good, the one thing we didn't care for as much was the texture of the ice cream. We prefer creamier, denser ice creams while the texture here is super light and fluffy.
Bruster's has several locations around Pittsburgh. We visited the location in Aliquippa at 2291 Brodhead Road.
Brr-Kee's Homemade Ice Cream
Brr-Kee's Homemade Ice Cream is a popular scoop shop in Oakmont, located about 20 minutes east of downtown Pittsburgh, and is known for being operated year-round.
The shop's menu boasts a number of traditional ice cream offerings ranging from scoop flavors like vanilla and chocolate brownie, to ice cream sandwiches, sundaes, and more. While the flavors rotate regularly, you'll expect to find most of the classics gracing the menu here over more obscure creations.
During my first visit, I opted for a single serving with a scoop of red raspberry and chocolate brownie (the latter at the recommendation of the owner) and was pleasantly surprised with the texture of this ice cream. It is quite creamy, a bit thick (in a good way), and is a great complement to the flavors.
Suffice it to say, if you're looking for traditional ice cream that is anything but soft-serve, you will want to check out Brr-Kee's in Oakmont!
Brr-Kee's Homemade Ice Cream is located at 539 Allegheny Avenue in Oakmont, PA.
Sugar and Spice
Sugar and Spice is an old fashioned ice cream parlor in Baldiwn complete with vintage decorations to match. Impressively, this family owned operation makes their own ice cream right on site. The menu consists of mostly classic flavors with a few twists along with ice cream sodas, sundaes, and floats.
During our recent trip we tried the black cherry, cookies and cream, and the grasshopper (mint with Oreos). The flavors and textures were definitely reminiscent of an old timey ice cream parlor- slightly eggy with just the right richness and creaminess.
In the summer there's a walk up window, and there's also a cake and candy decorating supply store attached to the ice cream parlour.
Sugar and Spice is located at 5200 Clairton Blvd on Route 51 just south of Pittsburgh and is open year round.
Leona's Ice Cream
So far in this post we've featured ice cream producers that have dedicated brick and mortar stores. You pop their address into your GPS, drive over, and enjoy a selection of treats. But we'd be doing you a disservice if we did not mention one more Pittsburgh staple ice cream producer, and it is one that has no dedicated storefront at all– Leona's Ice Cream.
Leona's specializes in making ice cream and ice cream sandwiches using local ingredients and, through a method we can't elaborate on much further, is 100% lactose free despite using dairy!
We tried a lemon blueberry ice cream sandwich at Beers of the Burgh and quickly found out that these sandwiches are massive, full of flavor, and worth your attention whether you're enjoying them with a (fruited) beer or not.
Trust us when we say this one is not to be missed. But just be warned, they're huge!
Leona's Ice Cream Sandwiches can be found at many spots throughout the city including at breweries, coffee shops, markets, and more.
Do you have a favorite local ice cream place in Pittsburgh? Comment below to let us know about it!