Best Ice Cream Chains: Top 5 Spots For Delicious Cones, According To Experts

A trip to the ice cream shop isn’t just a little treat, it can be the stuff of memories. Sure, stopping at the local ice cream shop might be a quick little indulgence for some, but for others it is a place where summertime memories are made. Apart from the smile it puts on your face, ice cream is a delicious way to cool off in the hot summer months. That’s why we turned to our trusted sources to find out about the top five best ice cream chains.

Speaking of summer fun, a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults for National Ice Cream Month in July reveals that what people miss most from summertime as a child is playing outside (45%), family vacations (43%), and eating lots of ice cream (39%). The poll revealed ice cream is still a crucial part of people’s summers, as 39 percent continue to eat it — including 53 percent of respondents ages 77 and older.

People have no qualms about being playful with ice cream, either. When asked about the weirdest toppings they’ve ever tried, responses ranged from avocado, bacon bits, and green beans, to sweet pickles, ketchup and mayonnaise, and even squid ink!

Regardless of flavor, most Americans like to enjoy their ice cream in a cup with a few different toppings. The most popular topping among adults are chocolate chips; over half the poll have them with their dessert. Also making the toppings list are hot fudge, nuts, whipped cream, and caramel.

The best ice cream chains are convenient and seemingly always just around the corner. At town centers, malls, and on boardwalks; ice cream makes a day out just plain better. Let us know your favorite ice cream shops in the comments below!

strawberry ice cream on cone
Ice cream cone (Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash)

The List: Best Ice Cream Chains, According to Foodies

1. Baskin-Robbins

Also called 31 flavors, Baskin-Robbins is a popular chain that is often co-branded with Dunkin’ Donuts. “It’s likely not surprising that Baskin-Robbins tops our list. It is familiar, consistently delicious, and often at the forefronts of our minds when it comes to a destination for everything from birthday cakes to soccer after-parties. Baskin-Robbins has done an excellent job of weaving itself through the tapestry of our lives, and it would seem it’s here to stay,” details Daily Meal.

“In fact, chances are that most Americans know Baskin-Robbins as the ice cream chain that offers not one, not 10 but 31 different ice creams ranging from Rocky Road to Cotton Candy to the nutty, coffee-flavored Jamoca Almond Fudge. Even if you manage to sample everything on the permanent menu, you’ll almost always have something new to try at Baskin-Robbins thanks to its ever-rotating flavors of the month,” adds Eat This, Not That!

“And the No. 1 most craveable ice cream is Baskin-Robbins, with 66.4% of consumers choosing it above all others. ‘Best coffee ice cream when you crave that flavor,’ according to one respondent, and ‘I love the Heath Bar Crunch and some of the variations on chocolate that are available,’ said another. A self-professed chocolate freak sums up the appeal of Baskin-Robbins: ‘The chocolate ice cream is smooth and creamy. Other places have chocolate ice cream, but not like this,’” raves Restaurant Business.

2. Salt and Straw

Salt and Straw chain stores are still relatively small compared to the other operators on our list, but their quality is highly praised. “Salt & Straw has grown from a single ice cream cart to a mini-chain of scoop shops with locations in Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. Classic flavors like Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons and Chocolate Gooey Brownie are crowd-pleasers, but be sure to sample some of the rotating inventive creations,” according to Gayot.

“Salt & Straw’s scoop shops are serving up some of our favorite ice creams. Known for its extraordinary flavors that ride that line between unique and strange, you often find that the flavors taste precisely as the name calls them but, somehow, make sense as ice cream. For instance, the Salty Donut Guava and Cheese found in Florida is perfectly tart, sweet, fried, and even a little fruity. The guava pieces and donuts throughout will make you wonder if you can have ice cream for breakfast,” offers Tasting Table.

“With nearly 20 locations along the west coast, ice cream aficionados who visit Salt & Straw can choose to indulge in one of their classic flavors — like Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons, Chocolate Gooey Brownie, or Honey Lavender. If patrons are feeling a little dangerous, they can also opt to explore one of the shop’s artisan flavors-of-the-month, which have included Fish Sauce Caramel with Palm Sugar, Bone Marrow and Smoked Cherries, and Ramen. But don’t get too attached to any of these controversial concoctions because Salt & Straw is pretty serious about rotating them out every 30 days,” claims Mashed.

3. Ben & Jerry’s

Famous for their supermarket and convenience store offerings, Ben & Jerry’s also has brick and mortar stores. “Market Force Information (the folks behind this burger survey that ranked Five Guys ahead of In-N-Out) recently surveyed 7,600 consumers to find out what the best ice cream chain in the country is. Ben & Jerry’s was rated the favorite ice cream chain,” details Huffpost.

“In addition to the many delicious pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream you’ll find at the grocery store, you’ll also find ice cream shops around the country. In 1978, Ben & Jerry’s got its start with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in Burlington, Vermont, and began the legacy of the many delicious Ben & Jerry ice cream flavors,” writes Tasting Table.

“Ben & Jerry’s is the destination for hard ice cream packed with decadent, flavorful mix-ins. You can find the company’s popular pints in many grocery stores, but when you want that nostalgic experience of just grabbing a cone or cup of the frozen stuff, check out one of the brick-and-mortar Ben & Jerry’s shops sprinkled around the country,” according to Eat This, Not That!

4. Haagen-Dazs

Famous for their faux-European name and delicious flavors, Haagen-Dazs is beloved by many ice cream devotees. “With so many delicious, successful, and innovative chain ice cream shops to choose from, it may surprise you that we anointed the classic and mainstream likes of Haagen-Dazs as our top pick. Available at over 600 retail locations and countless supermarkets across the United States and beyond, the Danish-sounding yet Bronx-born ice cream company has consistently impressed us with the high-quality of their ingredients and velvety smooth texture of their products,” writes Mashed.

“When it comes to premium ice cream from chains throughout the United States, Haagen-Dazs might sit at the top of that particular list. They have sleek branding, excellent flavor choice, and a certain je ne sais quoi that will have you thinking you are eating something very, very high-end,” offers Giant Freakin Robot.

Founded by a Jewish couple in 1959, per Tori Avey, Haagen-Dazs has always been certified kosher and uses a higher percentage of butterfat than most ice cream brands. And its unique brand name? Completely made up. The name is a nod to Denmark for aiding the Jewish people during World War II, but it doesn’t actually mean anything in Danish. However, many of us choose to translate it into ‘wickedly good ice cream,’” states Daily Meal.

5. Cold Stone Creamery

The gimmick at Cold Stone is in the namesake, toppings are added to the base flavor of your choice and mixed-in on a cold stone by smiling staff. “Cold Stone Creamery is determined to spread a little happiness to its customers through its delicious variety of ice creams and treats! Their idea that everyone can escape for a ten minute vacation while enjoying one of their signature creations lets Cold Stone Creamery stand out from the crowd,” writes Gravy Analytics.

“Cold Stone Creamery is known for its signature process of preparing custom ice cream creations on a frozen granite stone. With so many mix-in options, it was difficult to order just a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a dish! The ice cream was delightfully rich, and the firm scoop held up well to the summer heat. The Cold Stone French Vanilla tasted real and authentic, rather than imitation vanilla,” adds Taste of Home.

“A little over half of respondents—50.8%—chose Cold Stone as the most craveable ice cream chain. Unique flavors seem to be a selling point here. Prime picks include the chocolate devotion with pieces of fudge brownie, apple caramel, birthday cake remix and peanut butter cup ice creams. ‘Their ice cream tastes like homemade and I love any and all the creations they have,’ notes one comment. The variety also appeals, with ice cream cakes and waffle bowls singled out,” states Restaurant Business.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.