Tucson has many ice cream places to choose from, and we really loved their downtown, so it was a no-brainer to get a dish or two.
and I were lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Tucson, Arizona this past winter (mid-December to early January), so I made a point of seeking out homemade ice cream options in the area.
Our first planned stop was Isabella’s. Next to a fun used bookstore, Isabella’s was having their electricity redone the day we visited, so much of their ice cream wasn’t in great shape. While we can’t be sure the ice cream was their best effort, we enjoyed their service and the cute, very small ice cream parlor on our visit.
Here are the flavors we sampled:
Honey – Although it wasn’t my favorite honey of all time, this is a lovely showcase, creamy and a delicious flavor.
Salted Caramel Pecan – A nice, milky flavor, with a tanginess like buttermilk – but the flavor lacked something and took a while to hit. Pretty average.
Candy Cane – Everything you want in candy cane ice cream – except I’d have liked more pieces mixed in. Pretty great.
Lavender Vanilla – Not as strong as Jordan’s but I’m a sucker for lavender and definitely found this flavor delightful.
Full disclosure: we paid $3.25 plus tax on two 4 ounce portions thanks to a coupon from the bookstore next door, The Bookstop!
Overall thoughts: The mouthfeel on these was a bit hard, almost icy, despite the creaminess overall. The flavors were generally great though. It felt average overall, not living up to its goals, but we owe them another try on a day without a power loss!
I considered visiting the Hub, which looked great and very hipster. But time was of the essence and I chose the Screamery as my other option.
The Screamery made my list not only due to good reviews, but because they carried vegan ice cream flavors. (Thankfully those were coconut-milk based, so I could have them without cheating on elimination diet with more dairy.)
The atmosphere at the Screamery was very family-friendly and the employee who assisted us was very friendly and laid back as he told us about the grass-fed cream, pasteurized on site, used in their ice cream.
What we thought:
Coconut Fudge – Ross found this one very good. It’s a nice, very dark chocolate ice cream with a good mouth feel. It isn’t the creamiest, BUT it’s a coconut milk base and gluten-free, so it’s a great option that’s quite tasty. (Pumphouse Creamery in Minneapolis is still the winner, heads and tails over others, on coconut ice cream.)
Bourbon Brittle – This was a bit smoother and creamier than the coconut milk base; its traditional dairy ice cream. There was a bit of iciness on top. $9.73 for the two of us for their middle size – plenty but somewhat over-prices compared to what we’ve seen in other places. This flavor is very rich and sweet, starting like sugar on snow but with a darker, richer aftertaste from the bourbon. Unfortunately the brittle seemed cheap – reminiscent of baking chocolate, it was kind of chalky.
Overall: More average than we expected given the price and fancy grass-fed dairy. I was disappointed to see ice and cheap brittle used. Like Isabella’s, it strove for a lot but didn’t quite hit the mark. Some day we want to try the ice cream nachos, which look plentiful and fun.
I am wondering if Tucson will have an ice cream renaissance in a year or two. Clearly there are tons of successful businesses so there’s a real passion for local ice cream. Perhaps with a bit more time the quality will improve as they figure things out. They’re all pushing natural, local, etc, but now the taste needs to get on par with cities with better ice cream scenes. As Ross said, “It seems like the tag line was more important than the ice cream.”
Have you gotten any ice cream in Tucson? I’d love to hear about your favorite place!
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