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Atlanta's Best Ice-cream and Gelato
by Virginia Willis

Ice cream has a magical quality. One lick of an ice cream cone instantly brings back memories of childhood. Remember when all of life’s happiness seemed to rest solely upon the question “one scoop or two?” and “plain or sugar cone?” Remember the splendor of melted ice cream running down your arm because you bit off the bottom of the cone? How about memories of mom wiping off sticky mouths coated in a fine mixture of ice cream and dirt?
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, the average American consumes over 22 quarts of ice cream a year. Frozen confections have long mesmerized both children and adults alike needing refreshment on a blistering day.

The history of ice cream is shrouded in unproven folklore. Fanciful stories abound from the Emperor Nero having ice brought down from the Alps to cool his drinks, Marco Polo bringing ice cream from China and Catherine de Medici introducing it to France. There is not a scrap of historic evidence to back up any of these legends.

We do know that ice cream is a smooth, sweet, cold food prepared from a frozen mixture of milk products and flavorings and eaten as a snack or dessert. The USDA requires products labeled “ice cream” to contain at least ten percent milk fat and 20 percent milk solids. Yawn.

Gelato just sounds more interesting for the simple reason that it’s Italian. “Gelato” is the Italian word for ice cream, from the past participle of gelare, which means “to freeze.” Most people think that gelato has more fat than traditional ice cream. Gelato tastes richer because less air is whipped into it and is therefore denser. In Italy, many restaurants serve gelato, but it is traditionally made in a gelateria and sold as a between-meal snack.

Sorbet is the French word for “sherbet,” which Italians call “sorbetto.” Sorbet is a smooth, creamy frozen delicacy consisting of sugar, water and often a fruit puree or fruit juice, and sometimes wine or liqueur.

. In Atlanta, there are plenty of small shops that sell hand-crafted ice cream, franchises still making an effort to produce a quality product and large corporations that make good, bad and mediocre ice creams. Atlanta is one of the nation’s ice cream hot spots with its number of ice cream outlets. Here are some of our favorite places to cool down:

Ben & Jerry's
800 Highland Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 874-3144

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is popular for unique names and innovative flavors such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey. Now owned by the super-corporation Unilever, it is still committed to using wholesome ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the environment. “Chocolate for a Change” was developed to encourage social change in Africa. Cocoa beans are a huge problem because in many parts of West Africa it’s harvested by slave labor. With “Chocolate for a Change,” Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream buys cocoa from farmers that have signed a code of conduct pledging to uphold the human rights of all workers. Ben & Jerry’s is the best place to eat ice cream and do a good deed.

Bruster's Old Fashioned Ice Cream
3857 Peachtree Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-3388
(404) 231-1195

Walking up to the small-screen window to order ice cream reminds me of walking on the Atlantic Ocean boardwalk. It’s not uncommon to see a line outside of this roadside stand on any given summer evening. Bruster's Old Fashioned Ice Cream is one of Atlanta’s most popular summer hangouts. Bruster’s started as a family-owned ice cream shop in 1989 in Pennsylvania. Today, Bruster’s is ranked among the nation’s leading franchises, and they are still managing to do it right. They make ice cream fresh daily without chemicals or preservatives. There are a couple of dozen Bruster's in the greater Atlanta area. It’s a great place for families to have a seat on the bench and enjoy a cone.

Cold Stone Creamery
133 East Court Square
Decatur GA, 30030
(404) 378-3043

The hippest new thing in ice cream involves a frozen granite slab and getting crazy with the toppings. The ice cream, yogurt and sorbets are made fresh on site at Cold Stone every day. Customers start by choosing an ice cream flavor and the various candies, nuts, fruits and/or cookies they want mixed in. The concoction is blended together on a slab chilled to 15 degrees right before your eyes. It’s not only ordering ice cream, it’s also entertainment. There are about 15 or so core flavors including French Vanilla, Double Dutch Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Butter Pecan. There are 40 mix-ins including roasted almonds, Heath Bar, strawberries and brownies. Not the place to go if you are feeling indecisive!

Jake's Ice Creams & Sorbets
676 Highland Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 523-1830

Unusual flavors, all natural ice cream and the fun atmosphere have made Jake's an Atlanta favorite. The shop is a neighborhood hangout. Inventive flavors include Brown Shugah Vanilla, the popular Honey Fig and Coffee & Donuts. There are about 40 delicious ice cream flavors to choose from, along with 17 sorbet flavors.

Orange & Scarlett's
814 Juniper St NE B-2
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 877-0040

Carved out of the exposed basement of a converted home in Midtown near Cavu and Spice is the trendy Orange and Scarlett’s. Half the space is Orange with its bagels, sandwiches, juice and yogurt. Scarlett's, the other half, offers ice cream, crêpes, desserts and coffee. This tiny cafe with low ceilings and hip décor has become a Midtown darling. Lucero Martinez-Obregon’s creative flavors of homemade ice cream include Georgia Pine made with feta cheese, honey and pine nuts as well as chocolate, pistachio and coffee.

Paolo's Gelato Italiano
1025 Virginia Ave
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 607-0055

Paolo's Gelato Italiano is real Italian gelato made by a real Italian, Paolo. Paolo is exuberant, passionate and serious about his ice cream and his shop. Virginia Highland’s is known for unique boutiques, but Paolo’s is a playground. Look for the giant ice cream cone outside. Inside, the shop contains colorful displays of imported candy, lollipops, chocolates and coffees. Paolo offers over 60 hand-crafted Italian gelato flavors including Limoncello, Almond and Panna Cotta.

What’s the Scoop
1402 N Highland Ave
Atlanta, GA 30306-3301
(404) 724-0444

Undulating waves of creamy gelato and lush fruit sorbet in stainless steel pans fill the glass case. Owned and operated by Janine and Alon Balshan of Alon’s Bakery, this minimalist Soho-style ice cream shop is sleek and clean with cool marble countertops. What’s the Scoop produces gelato and sorbet made daily on the premises. One bite and I was instantly whisked to Italy. Absolute heaven. The chocolate gelato was rich, creamy and not too hard or soft. Other flavors include dulce de leche, stracciatella and Heath Bar. Bellisima!