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Sweet-toothed Seattleites have no shortage of options when it comes to fulfilling a craving for ice cream. But the newest take on the dairy freeze is not about the Molly Moons, Full Tilts and Bluebirds in the city.
Its not about gelato. Its definitely not about fro-yo. No, this is our ode to the unsung hero of frozen dairy-based desserts: simple, swirly soft serve. And while were absolutely not above swinging through that lone Seattle Dairy Queen (White Center, 10256 16th Ave. SW; 206.767.4657; dairyqueen.com), lets rejoice over the more sophisticated sweet shops that are choosing to add soft serve to the menu. Try the nostalgic treat at these spotsnot all at once, of course, lest you suffer the mother of all brain freezes.
Rachels Ginger Beer Pike Place Market, 1530 Post Alley, and Capitol Hill, 1610 12th Ave.; rachelsgingerbeer.com Rachel Marshall made a name for herself by concocting the best ginger beer this city (and in particular, local bartenders) has ever tasted. And though her signature brew can be purchased by the glass or blended into a Montana mule at the flagship Pike Place store, its doubly delicious when topped with a hefty swirl of soft-serve ice cream (with or without the whiskey). Vanilla is always on the menu and proves a natural pairing for the bright, bold ginger beer flavorsespecially the blood orange, which results in a treat that tastes like a complex Creamsicle. Last summer, Marshall introduced a second flavor, which rotates onto the menu whenever inspiration strikes, generally every six weeks or so. When the weather warms, Marshall is hoping to roll out tropical ginger beer flavors such as papaya, lychee and coconut-mango. A bonus: At the colorful Capitol Hill shop, you can also order a float or a cup with double-fried, Belgian-style fries to drag through the drippings.
Hot Cakes Capitol Hill, 1650 E Olive Way, 206.258.2591, and Ballard, 5427 Ballard Ave. NW, 206.453.3792; getyourhotcakes.comWhen Autumn Martin was planning to open Hot Cakes second iterationa light, airy shop on Capitol Hill with outdoor fire pits for DIY smoresshe decided to invest in a soft-serve machine to help out the staff, which makes many, many milkshakes (making them with traditional ice cream is, well, hard). The cups and organic waffle cones already on the extensive dessert menu were a natural fit for the vanilla-only soft serve. Plus, it gave the innovative chocolatier an excuse to create her own smoked-chocolate magic shell, a hardening chocolate topping reminiscent of childhood summers but with a grown-up, campfire-y twist. If you prefer your ice cream firm (and dairy-free), check out Martins new venture with business partner Kari Brunson of Juicebox: a plant-based creamery called Frankie and Jos, set to open this fall. Trove Capitol Hill, 500 E Pike St.; 206.457.4622; troveseattle.comMapping your way through the four quadrants of Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchis Trove is a bit like planning a day at Disneyland: Do you start with a drink, have noodles as an appetizer and then linger over barbecue? Or go big with the meat, share a bowl of noodles and enjoy a final nightcap? Whatever your plan, dont miss the walk-up ice cream truck outside the front door, which slings an ever-changing menu of inventive parfaits featuring swirly frozen custard made by pastry chef Renee Bolstad and layered with sauces, cookies and fun textural elements: nut brittle, toasted seeds, fruit compote and more. Think playful combinations such as hibiscus ice cream with honeycomb and lavender soda, or caramel custard with vanilla cake and spicy popcorn, or occasionally with unique Asian ingredients, such as five-spice and red bean. Each one is served in a small Mason-type jar marked with Troves signature Xkeep it to improvise your own at home, or return it for $1 off your next parfait.
Sugar PlumCapitol Hill, 324 15th Ave. E; plumbistro.comAnyone who has tried Makini Howells dairy-free Mac n Yease knows Plum Restaurants owner is a wizard when it comes to vegan food. It should come as no surprise, then, that her most recent openinga sliver of a sweet shop specializing in vegan ice cream and soft serve, located in the same block as Smith on Capitol Hillserves desserts just as good as (perhaps even better than) their dairy- and egg-filled counterparts. Working in her commissary kitchen, Howell makes the bases for the soft serve (vanilla, chocolate and rotating flavors such as summer berry, pumpkin, green tea and strawberry rhubarb) from soy, hemp and almond milks. The result is so creamy, youd never guess it was vegan. Fun fact: Sugar Plum, funded through Community Sourced Capital, was scheduled to open last summer, but Howell delayed her opening for a few months so she could go on tour with Stevie Wonder as his personal chef! Hopefully he likes ice cream.
Little Coney Ballard, 8003 Seaview Ave. NW; 206.782.6598Ending an afternoon at Golden Gardens with a $3 chocolate/vanilla swirl from this 1950s throwbackthe fast-foodiest of the soft-serve options on our listis one of summers simplest pleasures. Sure, theres that familiar this cant be made with real ingredients taste, but when the craving hits, does it matter? Skip the drab diner interiors and take your cone or strawberry-sauce-topped sundae outdoorsthe ice cream is good, but the views of Shilshole Bay are better. Trophy Cupcakes Wallingford, 1815 N 45th St.; 206.632.7020; trophycupcakes.comLast summer, sugar fanatics were rewarded with a treat: Trophys Wallingford location began serving soft serve alongside its menu of cupcakes. The icy offering has been gone for the winter (staff turned off the machines for the cooler months, when customers showed less interest), but assistant manager Drew Thompson gave us hope its soft serve will be back by the time you read this. Expect a decadent twist on vanilla and chocolateMadagascar bourbon vanilla bean and Valrhona chocolate are whirled into the soft-serve baseserved in a variety of ways: swirled into a cone and rolled in sprinkles or (our personal favorite) chocolate and salty pretzels; topped with espresso for an affogato; or covering a cupcake for a most indulgent dessert.