9 Tucson sweet treats to help beat the heat this summer
Summer means a few things. It means hanging by the pool, the smell of sunscreen, and blazing 100+-degree weather every day. But it also means ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream (and some frozen treats that aren't ice cream!)
Whether you like the sweet treat on a cone, with chocolate syrup and whipped cream on top, dairy-free, or in the form of shaved ice, Tucson has spots to make your heart sing.
Story by Gloria Knott/Arizona Daily Star
Popsicles at Isabella’s Ice Cream
Yes, the shop is definitely known for the ice cream made from local, sustainable ingredients. But the popsicles are definitely worth a try.
Before moving in to the brick and mortar location on Fourth Avenue, Isabella’s Ice Cream served ice cream from a traveling truck, inspired by a Ford Model T. At the time, the only treat served was ice cream. But now, Isabella’s Ice Cream also serves novelties such as fro-nuts (ice cream sandwiched in a donut), shakes, and bon-bons. And of course, popsicles.
Owner Kristel Johnson makes the popsicles herself. They’re delicate and fruity. In the past, she’s served up strawberry and cucumber popsicles. Isabella’s Ice Cream also serves 2-3 sorbet options at a time, if that’s more your jam. (210 N. Fourth Ave., 440-3583, isabellasicecream.com)
For those who can’t enjoy the dairy-filled treat that is ice cream, Cashew Cow is the place you want to be. And for those who want something vegan-friendly, Cashew Cow is the place you also want to be.
The ice cream is cashew-based, and dairy free. It’s made from scratch and comes together when cashews are soaked in water and blended with sugar and ingredients such as vanilla. The mixture is eventually frozen and turned into an ice cream texture.
It may not be made with dairy, but it sure tastes like ice cream to me.
Other fun flavors are also added to the mixture. Some of the customer favorites at Cashew Cow are Kahlua Almond Fudge, Mango Tamarind, and Maple Walnut. Owner Jennifer Newman says her favorites are Lemon Poppy Seed and Banana Chocolate Chip.
Newman, who has a background in nutrition, started Cashew Cow in 2014.
“For me, it was about finding a healthier version of ice cream,” she says, adding that making the cashew-based ice cream is certainly a process, though “a lot of love goes into it.”
And if you’re longing for more than just a scoop, Newman also makes ice cream cakes. They’re made to order with whichever ice cream flavor your heart desires. Perfect for a summer party.
I don’t think I need to explain what an Eegee is. But in case you have no clue what I’m talking about, an Eegee is the specialty at local sandwich chain Eegee’s. They’re similar to slushies, but not. And Tucsonans go crazy for them.
They come in four staple flavors: strawberry, lemon, pina colada, and skinny berry. And during June, the flavor of the month is orange dream. Pro tip: Add a scoop of ice cream for an extra 75 cents. It’s worth it. (Multiple locations, eegees.com)
Fluff shave ice and other frozen creations at Bing’s Boba Tea
Bing’s Boba Tea is most known for — you guessed it — boba tea. But it also offers slushes and snow smoothies. The slushes are flavored drinks blended with ice. The snow smoothies are similar but blended with ice and milk.
Both the slushes and snow smoothies come in more than 20 flavors, ranging from raspberry and pineapple to red bean and passion fruit. According to marketing manager David Palazuelos and the rest of the Bing’s Boba Tea team, customer favorites are taro, matcha, strawberry, and cookies and cream.
And at their location on Campbell Avenue, Bing’s Boba Tea serves fluff shave ice — shaved ice mixed with milk. The outcome lies somewhere between shaved ice and ice cream. It’s a flaky combination of the two.
Fluff shave ice is offered in four flavors, including honeydew and taro, and there is a long list of toppings such as mochi, boba, and black sesame condensed milk. (2510 N. Campbell Ave., 288-8302, and 2040 W. Orange Grove Road, Suite 104, 288-8220, bingsbobatea.com)
Halo-halo at Nick’s Sari-Sari Store
The Filipino store also has a fast-casual restaurant attached to it, which serves the delicious dessert that is halo-halo.
It could be called the Filipino version of a raspado. The bottom of halo-halo is filled with a lot of textured-goodies including chunks of fruit, gulaman (kind of a jellylike gummy texture), and beans. Every spoonful is truly a surprise.
All of those ingredients are topped with a giant scoop of shaved ice covered in sweetened condensed milk, and a pretty purple scoop of ube ice cream sits on top — ube is similar to yams, but it’s purple. (2001 S. Craycroft Road, 406-3593, on Facebook)
When the restaurant portion of Hub started serving ice cream, the staff noticed such a high demand that they decided to open a separate shop for just the cold stuff.
The restaurant still serves select flavors of ice cream, but the real party happens across the street at Hub Ice Cream Factory, where 24 flavors are offered — out of 300 rotating ones.
“My favorite part about making ice cream is that first spoonful of quality control straight out of the machine,” Executive Pastry Chef Dominique Stoller said in an email. “It is like a fluffy, creamy, sweet cloud of velvety goodness that melts all over your tongue.”
Stoller started at Hub a little over two years ago. She calls it her dream job.
“I think that when things are made fresh and from scratch, you get higher quality. People can taste the love,” she says.
As for flavors, Stoller says her favorites are S’mores, Orange Dream, and Queen Bee — a vanilla base with honeycomb toffee and dark chocolate.
Beyond scoops of ice cream, Hub offers floats, ice cream cookie sandwiches, choco-tacos, and popsicles.
Mangoyada at Juice N’ Fruit Raspados
If you don’t have a sweet tooth, order a Mangoyada. It’s the last thing from sweet.
A Mangoyada (or Mangonada) consists of shaved ice, chamoy, and chunks of fruit, usually mango. On top of that is an endless amount of Mexican candies — saladitos, rielitos, and serpentinas, to name a few. It’s sour, bold, and definitely worth trying.
Alternatively, if you want something sweeter, try a regular raspado. Typical flavors include strawberry, mango, and pineapple. (3502 S. Sixth Ave No. 100, 295-5188, on Facebook)
Okay, so maybe this story isn’t just about ice cream. You can’t forget about Italy’s favorite — gelato.
According to Pistacchio Gelato’s website (formerly known as Allegro-Gelato Naturale Italiano), gelato is a lot different than ice cream. The gelato at Pistacchio contains less than half the milk fat than ice cream. Gelato is also denser, which provides a creamier texture. It’s also served warmer than ice cream because it’s not as frozen, thus “enhancing its flavor as it melts in your mouth,” the website says.
“It seemed to us that Tucson was a great location because it’s warm, and there were not too many gelato stores,” CEO and Executive Manager Pietro Rapella, who is from Italy, said in an email. He adds that his gelato uses “fresh and natural ingredients supporting the local farmers and small businesses like us.”
Pistacchio serves up many classic flavors, but Rapella says his favorite is Stracciatella, which he says is the Italian version of chocolate chip. The shop also offers natural fruit sorbets.
The Screamery started in 2014 and has since blossomed into four locations across Tucson and one coming soon in Phoenix.
Linda and Kenny Sarnoski started The Screamery after trying a new diet, which consisted of only consuming natural and simple ingredients. At the time, they couldn’t find any all-natural ice cream choices. So, they made it themselves.
The ice cream is made with milk from grass-fed cows, cream, sugar, eggs, and whatever flavor they’re currently playing with. It’s then pasteurized, sits for 24 hours, churned, and placed in a hardening cabinet to freeze for another 24 hours.
And despite four locations in Tucson and a fifth one two hours away, the ice cream is made the same for every spot.
“I still love our ice cream,” Linda says. “I still crave it and I know that I’m eating a good, chemical-free dessert.”
Among her favorite flavors is the Sweet Cream Honeycomb, which is also a customer favorite. It’s made with local raw honey mixed into a sweet cream base.
She also loves Coffee Toffee, which is a coffee base with homemade butter toffee. She says that customers also reach for Rough At Sea — a sea salt base with a honey-butterscotch swirl, and candied nuts.
“What we try to do is stay true to old-fashioned roots of ice cream flavors,” Linda says. “That’s why we have common staples, but we also like to include fun, invented flavors to keep people interested.”
The Screamery is also serving banana splits for the summer. Get ‘em while you can.