By Kristina Dorsey
What constitutes a perfect summer day in Southeast Connecticut? How about this: Bask in the sun at the beach. Take a boat on the sparkling water. Stroll along a windy boardwalk.
And definitely, top it off by getting an order of perfectly chilled and outrageously delicious ice cream at your favorite store.
Eating ice cream is a summer activity par excellence, but the real question is: what is the best ice cream in our region?
We asked readers of The Day to share their views on the subject, and they did so with great enthusiasm. (People love their ice cream.)
The following is a cross section of some of those responses, and the good news is that there are many, many wonderful places to choose from in this region.
Salem Valley Farms wins hands down. Quality of ingredients, flavors, texture, staff, repeatability, tables and value for money.
Second place, the one closest to you. There is a very good ice cream parlor in every town in New London County. From Hallmark’s to Drawbridge, and all the way to Buttonwood Fields, you can’t go wrong with a Mom and Pop operation in Southeast CT.
Honorable mention: Dairy Queen. No, it’s not “ice cream”, but the three local locations offer a good product, with pleasant staff, it’s always enjoyable and an affordable treat.
New London wouldn’t be the same without Michael’s Dairy. Since I was a child, my whole family has been enjoying their delicious ice cream. My grandchildren and I have also enjoyed their ice cream on several occasions. My all time favorite is Extreme Chocolate. Once, when I knew I was going to be lying down for a while due to an operation, we went to Michael’s Dairy and bought the whole tub of my favorite ice cream. Every day, my husband brought me a small dish to facilitate my recovery. Even when my mom was over 80, one of her favorite places to take her was Michael’s Dairy. And, whenever the family who’s moved out of town comes to visit, they always look forward to going to Michael’s Dairy. It’s been a family favorite for over 70 years!
—Nancy D. Butler
Buttonwood Farm ice cream is the best around. A friend visiting from Tennessee chose a strawberry shake and was delighted with it on the trip home to Groton, not a short drive away. The next morning, she arranged another trip to Buttonwood for her second strawberry shake in as many days.
—Frank A. Rybicki
My favorite ice cream shop is Millie’s Ice Cream Stand in Norwich. The cannoli ice cream tastes like fresh cannoli and reminds me of when I used to go to the Italian bakery with my dad as a kid. Great atmosphere, especially when they have live music. Sometimes I would hit a bucket of balls at the (Malerba) driving range next door.
Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe on Lyme St. on Old Lyme.
All ice cream is freshly made on site. The vanilla ice cream is very clean and the chocolate ice cream is full of flavor.
Moroccan rose ice cream is full of flavor, including ginger, and it also won a prize in a national ice cream competition.
Hmmmm…my favorite is either Nuts for You or maple walnut. Both are made with maple syrup and lots of nuts.
You can’t beat Tony D’s Craft Creamery (Niantic) for amazing flavor combinations and small-batch goodness!
Just had their Ginger Mango and it was superb!
Hands down, the best chocolate ice cream ON THE PLANET is Extreme Chocolate found at Michael’s Dairy. Chocolate is the only flavor for me, it’s just a matter of how many chocolate molecules you can squeeze into a fixed volume. This ice cream is hard (should be hard), creamy, with chocolate chunks and not too sweet.
If I went to the armchair, it would be my last meal. This. East. The. Best!!
My favorite ice cream place is not in New London County, but I still think it qualifies as it is the “world famous” UCONN Dairy Bar. UCDB has the best ice cream and some of the most creative flavors. Well worth the 30-45 minute ride. In addition to ice cream, visitors can also visit the state’s flagship university.
My second choice, or honorable mention, goes to Salem Farms. A very close second that could compete for the crown if only they stayed open all year.
I’d like to add my two cents into the discussion for the best ice cream around. From a distance, it’s Salem Valley Farms on Route 82 in Salem. They’ve been in business for 40 years (and I know that because I was pregnant with my firstborn when Dr. David Bingham – my OB – and his family started the business). They have the creamiest ice cream ever. Their list of flavors expands each season, with some very new flavors. When my family gets together for anything, a trip to SVF is dessert!
I would like to recommend Robin’s Ice Cream. A thriving ice cream truck business for over 35 years based in Niantic, Connecticut. They serve various locations in Connecticut including Norwich, Ledyard, Groton, etc. They sell fancy ice cream for kids of all ages. Classics like strawberry shortcake or chocolate éclair, cartoon faces like Ninja Turtle and SpongeBob, popsicles like the classic red, white and blue pop bomb. You name it and they have it. Customer service is impeccable and goes above and beyond…and did I mention they host birthday parties? You can bring the truck to a wedding or a party, which is a fantastic experience.
I would like to cast my vote for Millie’s Ice Cream in Norwich at Malerba’s Golf Range. It’s quality ice cream and they give you generous portions with good prices. It’s Buttonwood quality with better prices. We go there once a week!
Michael’s Dairy after a day at the beach is the best!
—Davana Bristol Grabel
Salem Valley, Cowlicks, Buttonwood, Michael’s, Hallmark, Uconn Dairy Bar, DQ.
—Terry Sheehan Abate
UConn dairy products. Meyers at Franklin and Hanks at Plainfield.
For hard ice cream it’s Salem Valley Farms or Michael’s Dairy or UConn. For software, it’s Dairy Queen.
— Michele Lemieux
Pop’s at Gales Ferry
There are two depending on the type of ice cream one prefers that day.
DQ at Old Saybrook…always consistent and the best “back to basics childhood” ice cream. The staff is super friendly and fast.
Salem Valley…tastes like it was churned that day and the variety of flavors with generous ingredients is vast…real ice cream that is a treat to savor.
— Dawn Holmes
My favorite ice cream parlor is Tony D’s Craft Creamery at Niantic. The ice cream is homemade and delicious, and I love the Coco Chanel ice cream, lots of coconut — it’s delicious! The portion size is worth the price which is reasonable. The staff are very friendly, the gardens clean and immaculate with beautiful flowers. Worth a look for this great addition to Niantic.
My favorite ice cream parlor is Michael’s Dairy in New London. I’ve been going there for decades. It’s not a good summer without going there for a special treat at least once. When my brother and I were very young, our aunts used to take us there for walks. Our first cousins from Ohio and Arizona come to visit and need to make an appointment to go to Michael’s. They have such creamy ice cream with LOTS of flavors and toppings. I choose strawberry or pistachio. Lots of strawberries and nuts. It’s nice to sit in their gazebo or on the rock face. Michael’s is #1 in my book!