Across Texas, you’ll find festivals, celebrations, special cocktails and menu items, and general merriment over things we’ve designated as capitals: mermaids, strawberries, peaches, kolaches, wildflowers, peanuts, horned lizards, and even walking, just to name a few. We love to capitalize on capital designations. Heck, we just added a bunch more this year. But there’s one sweet treat we still don’t have a capital for, and that’s ice cream.
Why is that when there are so many places that merit the honor of Ice Cream Capital of Texas? Aside from being home to Blue Bell, Texas is full of ice cream makers and old-fashioned ice cream shops where frozen treat connoisseurs concoct mind-blowing flavor combinations and perfect the classics. Texans also gravitate toward ice cream to cool us off in our sauna of a climate, especially during the sweltering summer months. In honor of National Ice Cream Month, we ponder the question: Which city could be our Ice Cream Capital?
The most obvious choice for Ice Cream Capital is Brenham, as it’s home to our beloved Blue Bell, which began making ice cream from excess cream produced by area farmers in the early 1900s. Today, Blue Bell has more than 50 ice cream flavors, including its latest, Dr Pepper Float, and you can visit the creamery for a self-guided tour of the visitor center, a scoop at the ice cream parlor, and a peek at production from the observation deck.
“Brenham—the birthplace and home of Blue Bell Creameries—personifies Texas,” says Lauren Lewis, public relations manager with Blue Bell Creameries. “Texans have been enjoying our ice cream for over 100 years (116 to be exact). We don’t take their loyalty for granted and work hard every day to earn it, and we can’t thank them enough.”
Of course, the company’s handling of the listeria outbreak in 2015 may ultimately disqualify Brenham, but there’s no doubt Blue Bell is still a favorite among Texans.
Plano is also a worthy contender, as it’s home to many independent ice cream shops. There’s Henry’s Old Fashioned, a Plano staple that’s been open for more than 33 years and sports the tagline “ice cream makes you pretty.” Ked’s Artisan specializes in exotic flavors like black sesame and lychee, and Hi, Sweetie has ice cream rolls, flowerpot desserts, shaved ice, and more fun treats. Milkytreats specializes in cereal toppings, with Unicorn Brownie being one of its top flavors, and OMG Gelato makes egg-free gelato and custom gelato. A newcomer in Plano, Local Creamery, cranks out unique flavors such as Yellow Rose of Texas and Texas Bluebonnet, while Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream Company inside Legacy Hall offers boozy shakes like the Margot Robbie: strawberry ice cream, tequila, and lime. (This was a flavor even before the actress became Barbie.) Sugar Pine Creamery rotates its flavors every 2 weeks, with creations like butterbeer, mangonada, and strawberry mascarpone.
“Plano is a strong candidate for the official ice cream capital of Texas due to its vibrant ice cream scene, its reputation as a culinary destination that embraces innovation, and its supportive local community,” says Nico Nguyen, co-owner of Milkytreats. “The city’s proximity to major cities and its potential to attract tourists further enhance its candidacy, plus Plano’s existing food-related events and festivals, as well as its potential for collaboration and innovation within the ice cream and food influencer community makes it an appealing choice for the title.”
However, Plano has already been named the Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas, so that might melt away any chance it has of earning another capital designation.
And then there’s Austin, a notable candidate that ranked eighth out of 50 on a recent Best Ice Cream Cities in America list from Home Bay. It’s home to one of the country’s four Museum of Ice Cream locations, where visitors can play in a sprinkle pool, learn about ice cream through multi-sensory installations, and of course, eat ice cream in numerous forms. There’s also Lick, which sources its milk and ingredients from family-owned farms. (Try the Roasted Beets and Fresh Mint for a summer treat, or the Texas Sheet Cake for a decadent treat.) Amy’s Ice Creams has been around since 1984 with more than 350 rotating flavors including their famous Mexican Vanilla, ube (purple yam), German chocolate cake, and Congress Parade (cake batter ice cream, frosted animal cookies, and rainbow sprinkles).
Still, Austin is already the capital of the entire state, so can it really be any other capital? Perhaps another city is worthy of this sweet title.
There are smaller cities and towns with mom-and-pop ice cream shops that have been delighting customers for decades. In Denton, Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream uses an ice cream machine designed in 1927, and has been open since 1998, while La King’s in Galveston has been open since 1976, featuring a working 1920s soda fountain with Purity ice cream—Texas’ first ice cream manufacturer, founded in 1889 on Galveston. In Sugar Land (perhaps they get extra points in the race just for the “Sugar” in Sugar Land?), Kilwins has been serving 32 original flavors since 1985. The list goes on and on…
So, fellow ice cream enthusiasts: where’s the cream of the crop for a new Ice Cream Capital of Texas? If you’ve got an idea, give us the scoop.