Last Updated on December 9, 2021 by Angie
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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. But what it did have was an ice cream store next door, and I ended up eating my fair share of ice cream during that time.
Ever since then, my quest to find the best ice cream in Pittsburgh was born, and in this one we share some of our 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.
If you haven't had your fix of custard with a stop at Glen's, you can head over to Natrona Heights or Arnold nearby for even more at Della's Custard.
We visited the Natrona Heights location and enjoyed an old fashioned walk-up ice cream shop with a half dozen or so flavors of custard soft serve (made in several conventional styles- the sundae came topped with copious maraschino cherries) as well as four or five flavors of non-dairy ice cream for their take on Dole Whips!
Simple, affordable, lovely texture, and to the point. A perfect stop for a quick summer treat if there ever was one.
Della's Custard has two locations- one at 5001 Freeport Road in Natrona Heights and one at 1729 Freeport Road in Arnold, PA.
Sam's in the Strip
Sam's in the Strip is a kind of blink-and-you'll-miss-it ice cream shop as it occupies a tiny storefront right on Penn Avenue in the heart of the Strip District. This one serves up an array of ice cream and gelato flavors which are great for a scoop in their own right but pair best with their namesake “Sammies”!
These glorious concoctions are ice cream sandwiches made with your choice of freshly made cookies and a few scoops of ice cream in the middle. For my visit, the cookie came right out of the oven and was still warm to the touch and made for a delightful pairing with the scoops of ice cream in the middle. Just be sure to eat these fast as the ice cream started melting immediately!
Sam's in the Strip is located at 2105 Penn Ave in the Strip District. Sam's is typically seasonal.
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.
Millie's Ice Cream
Millie's Ice Cream in Shadyside and Market Square is close to our idea of what a perfect ice cream shop should be- cute decor, rotating seasonal flavors, and wild/interesting flavor combinations. The standard flavors that they always have includes 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 is disappointing). For being one of the most popular and expensive ice cream shops in Pittsburgh, we simply expect more.
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 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.
Millie's Homemade Ice Cream is located at 232 South Highland Avenue in Shadyside. Millie's opened additional locations at 246 Forbes Avenue near Market Square and at 3803 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
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.
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.
Mercurio's is most widely known for its Italian wood-fired pizzas, but this popular restaurant actually started out as a gelateria in Kittanning before migrating into the city (and subsequent expansion into Fox Chapel) with a combo offering that has become a crowd favorite.
If you've ever been to Italy and are craving legit Italian gelato in Pittsburgh, this is your place. It is the closest recreation we've found to some of our favorites in Italy, and has some pretty impressive flavor choices too (during my first visit I opted for scoops of spiced hazelnut chocolate and a cherry ricotta- a rather delicious combination).
It is worth noting that this one is on the more expensive side as it is priced per ounce, and a rather small two-scoop cup ran about $3.50. Not terrible for high-end gelato, but worth highlighting all the same as the scoops may be smaller than you expect. But for gelato this good, we'll deal with the price!
Mercurio's has two locations- one in Shadyside at 5523 Walnut Street and one in Fox Chapel at 1335 Freeport Road. I visited the Shadyside location for this review.
Joe Zeppi's Frozen Treats
Joe Zeppi's is one of those ice cream spots you could drive by and completely miss if you didn't know what you were looking for. Apart from a small sign, this one is simply a walk-up window selling homemade frozen treats with a small picnic area off to the side- definitely not as flashy as other ice cream spots this list.
But for those who stop (or make the trip specifically to get ice cream) will be rewarded with an array of soft serve and scooped ice cream flavors at some really attractive prices. While we prefer scoops, whose texture is quite creamy at Joe Zeppi's, this one should also be considered for their soft serve options. They only come in conventional flavors, but can be made into cyclones with your choice of mix-ins to switch things up- a great option here!
Joe Zeppi's Frozen Treats is located at 915 Mt Royal Blvd just off of Route 8 in Glenshaw.
You likely know of Sarris Candies as Pittsburgh's famous chocolate shop carried in just about every store in the city. But did you know that their Canonsburg store also has an old-fashioned ice cream parlor complete with housemade ice cream?
We have to admit, it took us a few visits to this one before we stayed for scoops, and we regret waiting. This one is known for monster portions (two scoops is about the size of four or five elsewhere) as well as an absurd number of sundae options as well.
As we were visiting over the holidays, we opted for seasonal flavors of eggnog and peppermint stix and really enjoyed the thick and creamy texture of both as well as how the flavors stood out on their own. The peppermint was quite intense, as it always is, but the eggnog still held up to it despite conventionally a bit more subtle flavors. We cannot wait for a sundae on our next trip to go even more over-the-top!
Sarris Candies is located at 511 Adams Avenue in Canonsburg.
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.
Parkside Creamery is located in Trafford near one terminus of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, making it a perfect stop after a bike ride or run to cool down and refresh. There's quite a bit of outside seating here, and even a walk-up window so if you're biking you don't have to leave your bike out of sight.
Parkside Creamery makes their own ice cream and serves up a dozen or so different hard ice cream flavors every day, as well as chocolate and vanilla soft serve. Milkshakes, smoothies, and sundaes are also on offer.
We tried three different flavors of hard ice cream: black raspberry ripple, mocha espresso, and jurassic chunk (cookie dough with pretzels, peanut butter, chocolate chips). The mocha espresso was a little too icy and sweet while the jurassic chunk had lots of mix-ins but wasn't anything too crazy flavor wise. The black raspberry ripple was our favorite with a fairly dense and creamy texture and good black raspberry flavor.
Parkside Creamery is located at 1 Forbes Rd in Trafford, PA
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.
Janie's Homemade Ice Cream
Janie's Homemade Hard Ice Cream is located in Coraopolis, making it the perfect location for combining with drinks at Cobblehaus brewery, tacos at La Poblanita, or a bike ride on the nearby Montour Trail.
Although the shop doesn't make their own ice cream, they serve ice cream from another local shop, Betsy's in Mt. Lebanon. There were well over a dozen flavors on our visit but we restrained ourselves to a dish of two different flavors, black raspberry and blueberry cheesecake, which had delightfully creamy textures. The explosive real fruitiness of the black raspberry was delicious, and although we didn't get much blueberry flavor from the cheesecake ice cream, there were huge chunks of actual cheesecake mixed in.
We enjoyed this ice cream so much that we immediately added Betsy's on to our list of places to try!
Janie's Homemade Ice Cream is located at 1020 5th Avenue in Coraopolis.
Happy Day Dessert Factory
Happy Day Dessert Factory on Western Avenue in the North Side offers up a dozen or so hard ice cream flavors, soft serve custard, several flavors of water ice, and dairy-free soft serve made with almond milk.
During our first visit, we opted to try a couple of these great treats. On the ice cream front, we really enjoyed the smooth, creamy texture of the strawberry cheesecake. We also tried a stacker, which is a layer of custard, a layer of water ice, and another layer of custard. We chose vanilla custard and black cherry water ice and loved the combination of the cold, crunchy, fruity water ice with the creamy frozen custard although would note that the ice is definitely on the sweeter end.
As this one has a number of great frozen desserts, we look forward to returning and trying more soon!
Happy Day Dessert Factory is located at 906A Western Avenue in the North Side.
While Jerry's Custard is a fair drive for most in Pittsburgh, it is worth it for a number of reasons. First, this custard shop offers both soft served and hand-scooped custards in an array of flavors (roughly four soft serve and ten scoops). For those who like light and airy ice cream, the soft serve here is for you. But if you like thick, rich scoops, they won't let you down on this end either.
From there, you have the flavors. The soft serve included conventional chocolate and vanilla but during our visit also included more unusual flavors like salted caramel which was light and not too intense. On the scoop side we had offerings like key lime pie and blueberry cheesecake with an intense flavor in every bite- including a wealth of mix-ins with the blueberry cheesecake.
Finally, there is the price. Jerry's Custard gives generous portions for a very attractive price point. You'd be surprised to hear that our order pictured above were smalls, but even more surprised to hear that in 2020 it cost us just $5.50! A win all around.
Jerry's Custard is located at 2705 7th Street in Lower Burrell, PA
Emmerling Ice Cream
Emmerling Ice Cream in Cheswick is a walk-up and drive-through ice cream spot that serves up an array of options from scoops, to soft serve, hamburgers/hot dogs, and more.
The spot makes handmade ice cream that errs on the traditional with flavors like strawberry, vanilla, cherry, cookie dough, and others gracing the menu.
The ice cream here is on the denser side of the spectrum but offers rather nice flavors with a nice concentration of mix-ins (my cherry vanilla was loaded with cherry bits). Even better, a large two scoop bowl ran just about $3.50- a deal no matter how you look at it as far as ice cream is concerned!
Emmerling Ice Cream is located at 932 PA-910 in Cheswick, PA.
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.
Tin Man Sweets
Tin Man Sweets has been operating as a bakery for many years, first in Evans City, then sharing a location with a restaurant in Zelienople, and now with a permanent storefront in Harmony just a short drive away.
While this one could be primarily known for their baked treats and coffee, the bakery also has a pretty solid spread of gelato available for purchase as well with unique flavors like Honey Sea Salt and Bordeaux Cherry (cherry base with huge hunks of black cherries and chocolate chips) which I was able to sample during my visit.
While I would say that the gelato is a bit lighter in texture than the dense scoops you may be expecting, they come packed with a punch of flavor and can make for a great post-meal treat when in the area (especially since the scoop sizes can be on the smaller end as well- you won't feel like you're over indulging here). A nice little treat!
Tin Man Sweets is located at 100 Perry Highway in Harmony, PA.
The Snowman is a staple for those visiting Moraine State Park in the summer months, and its unique design can't be missed when turning off 79 onto 488 East.
This giant snowman is like a shining beacon of tasty, and for those who make the stop will be rewarded with shaved ice treats with numerous flavors to choose from.
But if you're like us and want something a bit different, go for the Yeti. This concoction is a mix of your preferred shaved ice flavor plus a choice of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and comes together for a rather unreal flavor texture (go for the strawberry shortcake shaved ice with vanilla, its fantastic).
Suffice it to say, this one is worth a stop after a long day playing on or around the lake!
The Snowman is located at 238 E Portersville Road (488) just east of the 79 exit. The Snowman maintains seasonal hours and has a mobile ice cream truck as well whose schedule can be found on their website.
Gilligan's Sorbet is a local producer that has been making dairy-free sorbets with fresh, highly seasonal ingredients. In fact, most of their creations just include water, fruit, and sugar alone! Despite this, the sorbet comes together with a stellar texture and incredibly vibrant fruit flavors- just like a good sorbet should be.
Like Leona's (above), Gilligan's does not have run their own shops outright and instead distributes in area markets like Mayfly in the North Side where they sell their sorbets by the scoop or in pints to go.
When you look for Gilligan's, you really never know what you are going to find any given week. Seasonal specials have included apple cider, pawpaw, peach, cherry, pickled blueberry, and more pending the time of year. Every time we see pints (at Mayfly specifically), there is always something new to try, and they always seem to be better than the last!
Do you have a favorite local ice cream place in Pittsburgh? Comment below to let us know about it!