CROCODILE EGG ICE CREAM
Visitors to Davao City's Crocodile Park can not only treat themselves to live wildlife shows and educational exhibits featuring the titular reptiles; they can also try a frozen dessert made from their unborn offspring at Crocodile Ice Cream. That may sound morbid, but crocodile eggs have more yolk to white, making for a thicker, creamier homemade ice cream that comes in flavors reflecting local tastes, like avocado, dragon fruit, mango, pandan, and jackfruit.
THAI I-CE TEA
Where to Find It: I-CE-NY: New York, Atlanta, Denver, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia
Founded in Thailand, I-TIM-PAD expanded to more than 250 locations throughout Asia based on their signature "rolled" or "smashed" ice cream, made from fresh ingredients frozen and spread flat on a custom metal plate, then scraped into aesthetically pleasing coils of ice cream. The phenomenon expanded to the U.S. in 2015 as I-CE-NY, so now there are more than 20 stateside shops selling the latest in innovative Asian desserts, like this sundae made with Thai tea ice cream, lychee, condensed milk, and choco wafers.
Where to Find It: Cowlick's Ice Cream; Fort Bragg, California
Most of us don't generally think of mushrooms as sweet, but wild "candy cap" mushrooms do indeed have a mild candy-like taste and fragrance, which Cowlick's Ice Cream puts to good use in their regionally famous mushroom ice cream. These and other ingredients employed by the Fort Bragg institution come primarily from local farmers and businesses, in this case from the wild harvester Mendocino Mushrooms.
The Stinking Rose is a fragrant San Francisco restaurant that puts garlic in everything to great effect, even in the case of their garlic ice cream, their popular dessert topped with chocolate sauce. It's reportedly quite tasty and subtle, at least when eaten after any of the other garlic-heavy menu items.
Where to Find It: Blossom Ice Cream, Brooklyn
For an American-originated variety of rolled ice cream, look no further than Brooklyn's own Blossom Ice Cream, another shop that's able to make Thai-style ice cream rolls to order from a flavored cream base and fresh mix-in ingredients. They have many vegan and dairy-based standard offerings, including this Asian-inspired flavor made from black sesame and graham cracker.
VIETNAMESE COFFEE ROLLED ICE CREAM TACO
Sweet Rolled Tacos is a colorful ice cream shop tailor-made for the age of Instagram. Located in a Disneyland-adjacent suburb with one of the nation's highest concentration of Vietnamese Americans, they specialize in ice cream tacos with rainbow-colored waffle cone shells and ribbons of ice cream topped with candies, cookies, syrups, and other photogenic fixings. Other offerings include Honey Avocado, Rainbow Road, and S'mores Galore; or guests can create their own tacos.
Chocolate Chair is another LA-area sweet shop whose gimmick must be seen to be believed. They make their ice cream to order with your choice of base and mix-ins, then instantly freeze it with a touch of liquid nitrogen that also adds an inimitable, melt-in-your-mouth kind of consistency. They're even more famous, however, for their Dragon Breath dessert, made from fruity cereal puffs soaked in liquid nitrogen, so they release clouds of smoke that when eaten make the diner feel like a fire-breathing dragon.
Lick Me, I'm Delicious is a high-tech U.K.-based desserts company that's created a machine that emits flavored, potentially alcoholic edible bubbles, plus other futuristic candy-based contraptions that seem too far-fetched even for Willy Wonka. Unfortunately, the company is mostly confined to experimental installations for large events, so most of us won't be able to try fabulous edible mists and glow-in-the-dark ice cream made from jellyfish luminescence anytime soon.
Namjatown is an indoor theme park and one of Tokyo's more baffling destinations for Westerners (which is really saying something), known for food-centric attractions like a gyoza village and Fukubukuro Dessert shop. Here is one of the best places to try some of the bizarre ice cream flavors regularly feature throughout Japan, including oyster, tulip, beef tongue, eel, and wasabi.
Aran Donn is a common kind of traditional Irish brown bread often served with sweet butter or margarine, but it's also become a popular flavor of ice cream throughout the Emerald Isle. Murphy's Ice Cream is one producer that offers it both as pints in store and at their own two shops in Dingle, where they're also known to experiment with even stranger flavors like licorice, blue cheese & caramelized shallot, and smoked salmon (reportedly not one you'd want to try).
FERRERO ROCHER ICE CREAM ROLL SANDWICH
Seventh Heaven is Philadelphia's foremost purveyor of Thai-style rolled ice cream, named for the temperature (-7 degrees Fahrenheit) their anti-griddles are kept at to freeze their fresh ice cream. They got a bit beyond competitors with a multitude of presentations for the rolled ice cream, including in a waffle cone or as a "roll," between two mini pound cakes. The popular Ferrero Rocher flavor pays homage to the Italian chocolate-roasted hazelnut ball of same name.
NO SORROW TARO
Dahlicious is another Orange County creamery that makes rolled ice cream sundaes equally delectable and photogenic, each with its own pun-tastic title. One favorite is the No Sorrow Taro ice cream, made from the purple sweet potato-like root vegetable taro and topped with whipped cream, fruity pebbles, and pink boba pearls.
Here's one last rolled ice cream shop, just because they're so convenient for bringing unique Asian flavors and presentations to American sweet tooths. I-CE-NY may have started earlier in Asia, but Juicy Spot Café originated rolled ice cream in the Big Apple as well as the U.S., with memorable menu highlights like the Watermelon Lychee rolls topped with mochi and condensed milk.
America's favorite breakfast meat has been successfully put in just about everything, including this ice cream from Woodside Farm Creamery with actual chunky, chewy bits of bacon in the otherwise subtle flavor. You can find this and other flavors at various restaurants, scoop shops, and retail stores around the mid-Atlantic, or buy pints and scoops straight from their farm.
Cicada mating season is a rare occasion occurring every 13 years, so when it came around in 2011, one Missouri ice cream shop known for their unconventional flavors took advantage and blended the jumping insects into ice cream with brown sugar and milk chocolate. The reportedly delicious first batch sold out almost immediately, but the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health issued a warning before they could make a second. Not to worry, though — Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream still has noteworthy flavor alternatives like White Russian, Candied Bacon, and Olive Oil Blueberry.
There are two locations of Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium in New England, both selling a rotating menu of 64 hard-serve flavors, plus 12 gelatos, exclusive to their seasonal store in Acadia National Park. Their lobster ice cream is the kind of thing that could only come from New England, and proof Ben & Bill's make their treats from scratch — in this case, folding cooked lobster meat and butter straight into the ice cream. Pints can also be ordered and shipped online.
FRIED CHICKEN & WAFFLES
Premium ice cream purveyor Coolhaus sells frozen treats from two scoop shops in Los Angeles, one in Dallas, and food trucks in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, and their artisanal, predominantly organic pints and ice cream sandwiches can also now be found in more than 6,000 grocery stores. Of their many unexpected flavor combinations, one of the most popular is fried chicken and waffles, made with brown butter maple ice cream and candied chicken skins, a likely nod to the famous LA-area soul food chain Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.
Torimi Café is a bird café where patrons can sip coffee alongside several colorful avian species, which in 2013, decided to start offering a line of pet bird-flavored ice creams, in case anyone was curious how the adorable parakeet they were petting would taste in dessert form. The flavors were java sparrow, parakeet, and cockatiel and based in part on the grains said birds eat, with sunflower seeds as well as honey and other grains mixed in. Cheapism, however, could find no reliable confirmation — at least none in English — that the flavors are still available in store.
Enfleurage is not just a cosmetics and essential oil supply shop in New York's West Village; the company also runs a distillery in southern Oman, where they can hydro-distill frankincense close to the source. This led to the creation of their frankincense ice cream in 2011, a reportedly delectable and aromatic flavor with notes of pine, mint, and orange, which unfortunately has yet to make it overseas — meaning you can only sample it at the Omani distillery.
EARL GREY SRIRACHA
Little Baby's Ice Cream is probably Pennsylvania's foremost spot for ice cream innovation, offering an ever-rotating selection of small-batch Philadelphia-style flavors with 16 percent butterfat from grass-fed cows, like their Earl Grey Sriracha, dubbed a "flagship weirdo flavor," and their summertime special Cherry Hibiscus, featuring fresh cherries and hibiscus flowers. There's also a flavor archive with tantalizingly weird finds like pizza, cucumber dill, Irish potato, and jerk, as in jerk seasoning.
Big Gay Ice Cream's scoop shop and food trucks are home to a number of decadent soft-serve flavors that seem they could only have come from the mind of a sweet-obsessed child, none more-so than their Cheat-Ohs flavor, dusted with real neon-orange Cheeto dust. Originally created as a Presidents Day gag, Big Gay Ice Cream brought it back in April through Memorial Day due to popular demand. No word yet on when the bizarre flavor may be resurrected again, however.
Founded in 2002, Il Laboratorio Del Gelato now has a back-catalog of more than 300 flavors, and visitors to the shop in Manhattan can catch a glimpse of their frozen desserts being handmade in small batches through their open kitchen. They've amassed a number of singular flavors over the years, from chocolate Thai chili to grape-nuts and basil, but cheddar cheese has got to be among the oddest — not to mention a suitable, albeit fancier, substitute for any New Yorkers that missed their chance with Big Gay Ice Cream's Cheat-Ohs.
PICKLE SOFT SERVE
This recently opened Hong Kong-inspired eatery serves up six types of dumplings and three noodle dishes, and for dessert, soft-serve ice cream in two flavors — matcha green tea and pickle. The pickle flavor comes with a couple crisp pieces of spicy pickle stuck onto the swirl, and reportedly tastes milder than it sounds, creamy with a hint of cucumber and vinegar.
TAYLOR HAM & FRENCH TOAST
Windy Brow was originally operated as a dairy farm from the late 1800s, and after decades of focusing on fruit growing, dairy production resumed in 2013 under the name Crow's Brow Creamery, which uses locally sourced milk to produce a rotating selection of 14 percent butterfat. This summer they're offering a Taylor Ham and French Toast flavor as part of their "Made in Jersey" theme, made with housemade challah French toast, local maple syrup, and Taylor Ham pork roll.
Milk Bar's flagship location is a café, classroom, and curated event venue as well as a baking laboratory for the sweets sold at all their locations, like birthday cake truffles and the popular crack pie. It's hard to beat their Cereal Milk-flavored soft serve, made to taste like the cereal-sweetened milk you slurp up after finishing your cornflakes.
Like many of the most unexpected ice cream flavors, crab ice cream was invented by the Japanese, and the seafood-saturated northern island of Hokkaido is still the best place to get one's hands on an authentic scoop of the shellfish-based flavor. In addition to ice cream shops, tubs of it are also found in stores alongside other quintessentially Japanese flavors like eel, octopus, and shrimp.
For a specific ice cream shop in Hokkaido to add to your Japan itinerary, try Kita No Aisu Ya San, which roughly translates to "Ice Cream Shop of the North." Here the island's famed dairy and seafood products meet for fantastically unique flavors like sea urchin and jet-black squid ink.
You could spend all day trying free samples at Sunni Sky's Homemade Ice Cream, where they make more than 120 flavors onsite. The most memorable of them all are the two you have to sign a waiver just to taste — called "Cold Sweat" and "Exit Wound," both are legitimately spicy, the latter made from habanero peppers.
This entry is more a regional favorite than a flavor unique to one creamery location. For some reason, only Canadian consumers seem to care for tiger tail ice cream, an old-school soda parlor flavor of orange ice cream striped with black licorice. It's easily found in creameries and supermarket freezer sections throughout the Great White North, where fiercely loyal tiger tail fanatics raise a fuss whenever the flavor seems in danger of discontinuation.
Vaniglia is but one Tel Aviv creamery offering halva ice cream, a flavor made with sesame and tahini and often topped with pistachios and date syrup that's popular throughout Israel. Though it may sound not far off from eating hummus in dessert form, the delicious, distinctly Middle Eastern flavor has also been compared to Snickers ice cream.
STRAWBERRY HONEY BALSAMIC WITH BLACK PEPPER
Salt & Straw slings innovative ice cream flavors from 14 locations in and around five of the West Coast's largest cities, but they got their start from Portland's notoriously forward-thinking food culture. This peppery and acidic yet sweet flavor is one of the flagship offerings at their four locations in the Portland metro area, but they also have rotating seasonal flavors, like the summer berry-centric ones currently available, including goat cheese marionberry habanero and Oregon wasabi & raspberry sorbet.
"Hokey pokey" is a New Zealand term for honeycomb toffee, and those delicious crispy candy bits are mixed into plain vanilla to make the island nation's second most popular ice cream flavor (right after vanilla), also called hokey pokey. Interested ice cream fans can also look for the flavor at stores in Japan or other parts of the Pacific.
Founded in 1980, the Coromoto Ice Cream Shop in Venezuela has amassed a back-catalog of more than 800 flavors, though generally only 60 would be on-hand at any given time depending on available ingredients. Memorable flavors included avocado, mushrooms-in-wine, sardines, Viagra Hope (bright blue, made from honey and pollen), and the house special Pabellon Criollo, intended to taste like the traditional meal of beef, rice, beans, plantains, and cheese. Unfortunately, the shop is currently closed due to supply shortages in Venezuela.
Beer is another one of those ingredients that's invaded seemingly every other branch of culinary practice, so of course there's no shortage of creameries and pubs offering beer-flavored ice creams. Then for the sweets lover with a more refined palette, there's Atlanta's Frozen Pints, a company using local ingredients to make hopped-up ice cream flavors with as much nuance as your favorite craft brews, ranging from Honey IPA (2.4 percent alcohol by volume), Pumpkin Ale (3.2 percent ABV), and Vanilla Bock (3.1 percent ABV).
KAYA (COCONUT JAM) WITH CAVIAR
For unique ice cream flavors from a more high-end provider, head to Labyrinth in Singapore, home to Michelin Star-awarded chef LG Han's renditions of the local cuisine. There's always some unheard-of ice cream dessert on the menu, and currently it's a caviar of sturgeon eggs served with kaya coconut jam and sweet toast.
AVOCADO & OAXACAN CHOCOLATE FUDGE
This Mexican-inspired flavor is available only at Salt & Straw's southern California locations. It's made from real Golden State avocados and chocolate drinking fudge obtained through LA's acclaimed Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza, one of many eateries Salt & Straw partners with to enrich their flavor offerings in various cities.
TOASTED MISO GIANDUJA CRUNCH
Featured on multiple food-centric TV series, Jessica Oloroso is a Chicago native who founded Black Dog Gelato to bring Windy City residents authentic gelato, for which they have special FDA approval to manufacture and pasteurize their own milk base. Like Salt & Straw, they sometimes partner with guest chefs to make their most exciting flavors, like this current sweet-savory hazelnutty flavor from top chef Stephanie Izard.
Red Circle Ice Cream boasts a few unconventional flavors like their Elmo crunch — a red velvet ice cream with Oreo chunks — but more unconventional are the preparations in which they serve that ice cream. You can upgrade any scoop to enjoy it between two donuts, with a churro, as a macaroon sandwich, or as a "pufflelicious" — in other words, rolled inside a fluffy-crunchy Hong Kong-style egg waffle.
BLUE CHEESE CARAMEL SWIRL
Seemingly equally devoted to ice cream and philanthropy, Ultimate Ice Cream engages with its customers and community in a few notable ways, including the charity-sponsored flavor of the month feature. Their long-term menu boasts a few boozy flavors for adults like Oatmeal Porter as well as cheesy seasonal options like blue cheese caramel swirl and goat cheese Bing cherry.
OLD BAY CARAMEL
Old Bay Seasoning is a staple of Chesapeake Bay cuisine usually reserved for adding flavor to crab cakes or other seafood dishes, but artisanal creamery The Charmery found a way to use it in ice cream that their customers swear is near irresistible. Besides Old Bay Caramel, other unusual flavors currently on offer include mango lassi, baklava, campfire smores, and coffee & donuts.
Sweet Republic sources cream from independent Arizona-based dairy farms and makes from scratch all their waffle cones, cookies, toppings, and miscellaneous mix-ins, so customers know no artificial ingredients are going into the scoop they select. That goes for one of their most American/Southwestern of flavors, sweet corn, which shares menu space with others including banana foster, strawberry buttermilk, and blue cheese and date.
OWowCow has been repeatedly named one of the nation's, if not the world's, best ice cream shops, and it's not hard to understand why looking over their roster of flavors, many of which sound like true gourmet concoctions. There's rosewater cardamom, sunbutter & jelly, and chocolate jalapeno, plus this summer's seasonal feature called "bee food," made with golden lemon ice cream, honey, lavender, and various edible flowers, and paying tribute to the raw honey OWowCow uses in place of corn syrup for all their creations.
CURRIED PEANUT BUTTER
Lu Lu prides themselves on what they call "farm-to-spoon" ice creams, citing on their website the many local sources from which they get ingredients like eggs, cream, coffee, marshmallows, and even beer. They use these to make diverse homemade flavors that are always changing, one of the favorites being curried peanut butter.
The flavor selection at Leo's Homemade Ice Cream changes so frequently their website homepage has a "flavor cam" so customers can see what's in stock, but one of the most reliable staples is also one of their oddest — jalapeno cornbread. Customers swear by the flavor, which is made with cornbread batter ice cream and real jalapeno.
JAFFA CAKE CORNISH CREAM
Cornish ice cream is a specialty of southwestern Great Britain made with Cornish clotted cream that's now found in supermarkets throughout the U.K., but the best place to try it is still right from one of the Cornish farms themselves. Callestick Farm is one of many tourists can visit to see their free-range herd and try their award-winning ice cream in flavors like black currant and Jaffa Cake, after the popular British snack cake.
Humphry Slocombe is an ice cream chain whose menu is so full of singular flavors, it's hard picking just one to highlight. Beyond appealingly savory-sounding flavors like bacon, potato chips, rosemary, saffron, and candy cap mushroom, the closest thing they have to a signature flavor is probably their "Secret Breakfast," flavored with bourbon and corn flakes.
Creole Creamery makes good on its name by offering unique ice cream flavors reflective of New Orleans' inimitable local cuisine, like Café au Lait and Creole Cream Cheese. The Petit Four is an almond-flavored ice cream with bits of real almond cake in the mix, named for a particular style of bite-sized French confections.
ALASKA FIREWEED & HONEY
This roadside general store on the way to Alaska's Eklutna Lake has more than just camping supplies to offer; there's also an onsite ice cream shop whose distinct flavors make full use of ingredients from the Alaskan backcountry. This flavor uses honey to sweeten a rather bitter perennial plant native to the area's boreal forests.
In contrast, Dave's Ice Cream makes full use of the local flavors in another non-Continental US state, as Hawaii's only producer making ice cream from scratch. Each of the chain's location has at least 40 of their 50 total flavors on-hand at any given time, so customers have their choice between many distinctly Pacific-style ice creams like azuki bean, coconut macadamia, poha berry, and kulolo, a form of Hawaiian taro pudding.
BEECHER'S CHEESE WITH PEPPERCORN TOFFEE
Salt & Straw's recently launched Seattle locations share many flavors in common with their Portland counterparts, but many of the new flavors unique to the Emerald City come straight from tenants of Pike Place Market, like this one from Beecher's and another called Rachel's Raspberry Ginger Beer. No longer featured but also of note were some flavors from Salt & Straw's guest chef collaboration series, like ras el hanout & pickled rose petal jam, created by chef Renee Erickson of Seattle's The Walrus and the Carpenter.