Captain Dusty's

Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA

Massachusetts summers, like most New England summers, are fleeting. So when you're in Manchester for the day and the weather is that perfect 'hot-but-not-suffocatingly-humid-hot', you take advantage and hit up a North Shore staple. We're of course talking about Captain Dusty's. 

The current owners have been churning out the homemade ice cream since 1996, serving three locations along the coast. But Captain Dusty's original location in Manchester has been around forever. And it's history pervades the shop - muggy summers over decades of patrons new and old radiate from the timeworn wooden walls.  

Staff typically consist of high school to college students, but don't let their age fool you. They run a tight ship and our server knew her stuff. We didn't sample much this visit as we both just knew what we wanted walking in. Paige got Purple Cow (black raspberry frozen yogurt with white and dark chocolate chips) and Maine Wild Blueberry - their Flavor of the Moment - in a cake cone and Katherine decided on Coffee Heath Bar and Maine Wild Blueberry in a cup.  

The ice cream was creamy and classic, and the shop's homecoming energy made us nostalgic for childhood summers when you could bet the main concern was our next ice cream trip. Well, still is. Not only do their flavors hit the mark, but their portion to price ratio is one of the most generous we've yet encountered. If you're in the area, head to Captain Dusty's for a local taste of summer. 

Establishment Aesthetic: 4.00

Flavor Variety: 4.00

Product Quality: 4.25

Skoops: 4.25


Ginger's Divine Ice Cream & Pops

Culver City, CA

Somehow we had never heard of  Ginger's Divine Ice Cream. Cut us a bit of slack - it’s relatively young, having been founded in 2017 by Santa Monica native, Margaret Schniderman. It wasn't until a friend brought it up a few weeks ago, recommending their array of vegan flavors that we were drawn to try it out.   

Located in Culver City,  Ginger's is a small corner shop with low ceilings and tight dimensions. Though the space is cramped, it’s bright and sweetly arranged. We stood in the growing line, ogling in awe at the two Italian gelato style cases, displaying dozens of beauteous ice cream flavors. Still not any closer to deciding as we reached the front, our very generous server took us through the options, their ingredient breakdowns, and which ones we should definitely try before committing to our flavors. After more than a few samples, Paige selected Black Raspberry with Chips and Vietnamese Coffee in a sugar cone and Katherine went with Yuzu Boysenberry and Billionaire Brownie in a cup.

Now this ice cream is gorgeous, from hue to name. But when we actually dug in, something in taste felt lacking. In their zeal to craft such a varied flavor menu,  Ginger's doesn't seem to have achieved the bold flavor they advertise - combined with an unremarkable quality, their ice cream just doesn't hit the mark.  

Their warm ambiance and creative flavor endeavors are nothing to scoff at however, so if you're just looking for a pleasant trip, pop in for a scoop.  

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.75 

Flavor Variety: 4.25

Product Quality: 3.00  

Skoops: 3.75


The Dolly Llama

Downtown LA, CA

We can think of very few reasons for us to trek into the heart of DTLA on a scorching hot day. But a name like The Dolly Llama sounded wild - would they have Dalai Lama themed ice cream? Llama shaped decor? A Buddhist credo? Excited at the possibility of a unique culinary adventure, we made the drive. With a couple parking snafus and both of us overdressed for the weather (+ Katherine inexplicably refusing to remove her sweater), the walk around Spring St. was more of a slow melt into the pavement. Craving water more than ice cream at that point, we burst through the door. 

This place vies for top seat of most instagrammable brand and serving style - their logo is a breezy llama wearing sunglasses. There is a table chart on the back wall displaying menu options - top orders including their Bubble Waffle, Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich and OG Liege Waffle with Ice Cream. We had lovely servers who kindly ignored our disheveled appearance and walked us through the best options and their favorite flavors. Paige dove in headfirst and ordered the Dolly's Dream Bubble Waffle. Katherine - with all the confectionary options before her - got a single scoop of Ube in a cup. She really has no shame.

The servings we can confirm are enormous. Paige's waffle was folded into a tapered carton and topped with electric blue Cookie Monster ice cream, strawberries, brownie bites, Nutella sauce and whipped cream. It was a true sight to be seen. The taste of both the Cookie Monster and Ube were good, though not high quality. Though these treats might be better to look at (especially for the price), the trip was worth such kind service and the carnival-like experience that is the Bubble Waffle.

The Dolly Llama was founded in 2017 by Samuel Baroux and Eric Shomof, with a couple locations across LA and two more on the way.  And the name is not a play on words; it in fact refers to a real French llama named Dolly!

If you find yourself fading in the LA heat or just really want a massive waffle and scoop of ice cream, The Dolly Llama will abide.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.25

Flavor Variety: 3.00

Product Quality: 2.50

Skoops: 3.50


Nadamoo Scoop Shop

Austin, TX

This was a solo Paige adventure! 

When I was planning a weekend getaway to Austin, TX, Nadamoo was included in a “must-see” list from friends. I was intrigued by it’s all vegan, self-proclaimed “original coconut milk dairy-free dessert” so after a late dinner, a couple friends and I made the quick trek across the city. 

We arrived a few minutes before closing, but the servers were kind enough to help us first-timers. Their flavors perfectly matched their heart of Texas location; serving up Maple Pecan, Peach Cobbler and Strawberry & Cream along with a number of standards like Rockiest Road, Vanilla and Lotta Mint Chip. After trying a few flavors, I ordered two scoops: Chocolate Peanut Butter (which is made in-house) and Cookies & Cream. The Chocolate Peanut Butter was deliciously rich, which was a surprising hit for me. 

I typically approve of all things coconut, but most of the flavors I tried were a bit too heavy on coconut. The lack of dairy did cause the ice cream to lose most of its true creaminess as well; it was a bit more breakable than smooth. 

My favorite menu sighting - which we must go back for - is their “ice cream taco,” a true ode to what this city is all about. They serve 3 scoops with 1 topping and 1 sauce atop a gluten free taco. This is one of the many creative and fun menu items that I regret not trying. It just means Katherine and I will need to go back for more!

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.25

Flavor Variety: 4.00

Product Quality: 3.50

Skoops: 3.75


Wanderlust Creamery

Venice, CA

International travel; we all want to do it and most of us rarely do. Well, if you haven't jetted to Italy or Japan recently, Wanderlust can just about take you there - each of their flavors reflecting tastes from around the globe. Founded in 2015 by Adrienne Borlongan and Jon-Patrick Lopez, Wanderlust serves up 3 locations across Los Angeles (plus Sundays at Smorgasburg LA).

We stopped at their Venice location, a quick and quiet respite off the Lincoln drag. Strangely, our experience was clouded by perhaps the sassiest server we've yet encountered on our travels. But we did manage to forge ahead and try some great samples before making our selections.

Pleasantly surprising, Wanderlust delivers on their sweet tastebud trips. They are subtle, you'll find no mouth-puckering flavors here. And though the dominant taste is their cream base, their flavors overall prove well developed. We chose their 3 Half Scoops -- Paige settled on Abuelita Malted Crunch (malted milk, Mexican stone ground chocolate, malted milk balls, cinnamon and chili), Pretzel + Rugbraud (pretzel infused with caramelized Icelandic rye crumbs) and Ube Malted Crunch (malted milk and sweet purple yams). Katherine also went with Abuelita Malted Crunch, plus Violet Marshmellow (parma violet infused with marshmellow creme) and Strawberry Spumoni (pistaccio with vahlrona strawberry).

If you're in search of a pleasant afternoon flavor escape, venture to Wanderlust.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.25

Flavor Variety: 4.00

Product Quality: 4.50

Skoops: 4.00


Afters Ice Cream

Venice, CA

The Venice Boardwalk is not our typical hangout. It's a seedy circus of peddlers and tourists that you really only need to experience once. But when we read founders Andy Nguyen and Scott Nghiem invented the 'milky bun' when they started Afters in 2014, and they serve their ice cream in said bun, that was that. We had to check it out.

After a quick jaunt through the streets, we greeted by the Afters sign displayed over the stall,  a nice and fitting restbite from the boardwalk vibes. We had the kindest server, who guided us through the selection process, providing ample servings and flavor insight. It was clear with their serving style, brightly colored ice cream and 90's kid nostalgic toppings, Afters is an instagram eater's heaven.

In the end Paige went for a triple split scoop (OH yeah) of Dark Matter Brownie Batter with brownie chucks, Vietnamese Coffee, and Choco Monster (v): chocolate ice cream with chocolate chip cookies, oreo and fudge. Katherine felt like keeping it simple (read: lame) and just went with Triple C: vanilla ice cream with chocolate, caramel and chocolate fudge.

These flavors are not for a delicate palate. Afters churns out dense, sweeeeet ice cream which may not be refined, but gets the fun sugar job done.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.00

Flavor Variety: 3.75

Product Quality: 3.75

Skoops: 3.75