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7 tasty ice cream spots in Northern New England

Hankering for the sweetest, creamiest taste of summer?

Here’s the scoop on some of the region’s best-loved ice cream shops. New England has produced some mega ice-cream businesses—hello, Ben and Jerry’s—but it’s little places like these that truly warm our hearts. Many have been drawing devoted customers for decades, while others have more recently added their fresh flavors to the mix.

Don’t let these perfect summer days and balmy evenings slip by without getting your licks in. And if you seek nondairy options, these ice-cream masters have got that down cold, too. Here are 7 of the best ice cream spots in Northern New England. 

1. Memories Ice Cream

95 Exeter Road, Kingston, New Hampshire. (603) 642-3737.

Memories Ice Cream

Memories Ice Cream

When Dawn Padfield noticed a few customers taking Lactaid with their ice cream and asking about dairy-free alternatives, “I knew we needed to have nondairy options,” she says. She and husband Steve handed out samples made using soy, coconut, and almond milk. “The almond milk won hands-down,” she says. Their son Alex, an ice cream alchemist, is in charge of creating the ever-changing flavors.

Soft-serve might include vanilla, pistachio, black raspberry, orange, or peanut butter. Hard “nIce creams” could be peach, blueberry, mint chip, black raspberry, chocolate, or one or two weekly specials made with the Padfields’ maple syrup or fruit from their yard. Custom “nIce cream” cakes are available, too.

2. Jordan’s Ice Creamery

894 Laconia Road (State Route 106), Belmont, New Hampshire. (603) 267-1900.

Second-generation owner Craig Jordan has trouble picking a favorite flavor from among his rotating list of hundreds, but lately he’s been partial to French Toast—French vanilla with oatmeal-cinnamon crumble and maple-syrup swirls.

In addition to plenty of tried-and-trues, Jordan scoops up such surprises as gin and tonic, maple-candied bacon, and Chicken with Waffles, featuring house-made waffle-cone batter studded with crispy pieces of fried-chicken skin. Vegans go for Jordan’s coconut milk–based nondairy flavors such as key-lime crumble, black raspberry, almond joy, blueberry, and vanilla. Overwhelmed by choice? A flight of four half-scoops is a sweet solution.

You may also like: Crave-worthy chocolate shops in Northern New England

3. Shy Guy Gelato

457 Saint Paul Street, Burlington, Vermont. (802) 355-2320.

Shy Guy Gelato

Shy Guy Gelato

Paul Sansone’s dairy-free creations “sell like hotcakes,” he says. That may be because he learned to make real-deal gelato in Italy, where he spent a year working in restaurants. To achieve a gelato-like consistency with his almond-milk recipe, however, he had to do “a lot of experimenting.” In addition to classic fior di latte, options rotate among such flavors as hazelnut, pistachio, and chocolate–peanut butter. Everything is made fresh daily. There’s always a naturally dairy-free sorbet, too, such as dark chocolate, pineapple, strawberry, or peach.

4. Sticky Sweet

119 Cumberland Avenue, Portland, Maine. 

Sticky Sweet

Sticky Sweet

A customer at Ashley and Kelley Dow’s stand at Portland’s Public Market House, where the sisters sold Thai sticky rice with warm, made-from-scratch coconut sauce, suggested topping the dessert with ice cream.

To keep the dessert dairy-free, the duo decided to make their own ice cream using coconut milk, cashews, and coconut sugar. Today, they churn out dairy-free ice cream at a production facility and scoop shop where flavors include Sea Salted Maple, Peanut Butter Fire (peanut butter, chiles, and cayenne), and Fat Vanilla Bean. “We never expected this,” says Ashley. “But we can’t imagine not doing it.” Adds Kelley, “We get to wake up every morning and make something people love.”

You may also like: Northern New England pizza spots that are worth a trip

5. Lu.Lu

185 Main Street, Vergennes, Vermont. (802) 777-3933.

“I have fun with flavors, and hope it works out,” says Laura Mack, who attributes her adventurous palate to having grown up in her family’s restaurant. Using local fruits and herbs, she churns out such hits as roasted strawberry, orange-cardamom, and chocolate with steeped fresh mint. Slumdog Millionaire blends Vermont peanut butter, yellow curry, and cayenne. The Walking Dead, suggested by a young customer, has “a ripple of fresh raspberry—for the blood, guts, and gore,” Mack says with a laugh.

Dairy-free options among the often-changing lineup include one made with almond milk and almond butter. There’s even an ice cream for dogs that has banana, peanut butter, and honey.

6. Downeast Ice Cream Factory

1 By-Way, Boothbay Harbor, Maine. (207) 315-6670;

Downeast Ice Cream Factory

Downeast Ice Cream Factory

Customers often tell Bob Bua that they cherish his 42-year-old ice cream parlor on Boothbay Harbor’s boardwalk, known as “the Pier.” “Many have been coming since childhood,” he says. “People are so pleased to find their favorites still available. It’s really a happiness store.”

Bua, who bought the business in 2018, wouldn’t dare eliminate any of the 60-plus flavors always available (although he has added dairy-free chocolate and coconut). Selections include classics—vanilla remains the top-seller—plus mouthwatering mash-ups with all sorts of candies and cookie bits. Peanut Butter Fantasy, with chocolate swirls and crushed peanut-butter cups, is a perennial hit. “They’re all someone’s favorite,” says Bua.

You may also like: Food tours: A moveable feast of Northern New England

7. CJ’s Big Dipper

150 Main Street #1, Bar Harbor, Maine. (207) 288-2128.

About 15 years ago, a friend told Jim Bence he should serve dairy-free ice cream at his then-15-year-old shop. “I admit I had to be convinced,” he says.

These days, vegan options fill an entire section of his display case. They include almond-milk ice cream in flavors ranging from Maine blueberry to almond joy with fresh coconut, almonds, and flaked dark chocolate. There’s vanilla and chocolate almond-milk soft-serve, too.

Bence also offers soymilk ice cream—“because some people have nut allergies”—and is considering making ice cream with oat milk. “We try to please everybody,” he says.

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