I had three hungry middle school boys on my hands, but it wasn’t mealtime. What to do? I had a flash of brilliance. “Hey, guys. Want to be frozen treat taste-testers?” You can imagine the cheers. We set off to sample some of Austin’s warm-weather culinary gems: Amy’s Ice Creams, Sweet Ritual vegan ice cream and Sno-Beach snow cones.
Amy’s Ice Creams has been an Austin favorite since 1984, selling artisan, super-premium ice cream. Today there are 12 Amy’s locations in Austin. We visited the original at 3500 Guadalupe, parked right outside the front door, and entered the sweet-smelling space within seconds. As we gazed at the chalked menu board, the server informed us that Mexican Vanilla is the #1 seller. But with flavors from All Thai’d Up to Zilker Mint Chip, it’s obvious Amy’s has a sense of fun and variety. My tasters rated Amy’s very high on creaminess. “It’s honestly the creamiest I’ve had in my life,” declared Zac, slurping up the last bite and scrambling into the kiddie photo booth. Langley commented that the coffee ice cream was so flavorful, he was surprised the scooper didn’t check his ID! He declared the gummies on top of his scoop to have the perfect degree of chewiness. Amy’s occasionally offers free ice cream days. More about the fun at amysicecreams.com. Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30 a.m.-12 a.m.; Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m.- 1 a.m. Prices: Tiny $3.25, Small $4.15, Large $5.13
Our next stop was Sweet Ritual, specializing in gluten-free and vegan scoops at 4631 Airport Blvd. Sweet Ritual’s tagline, “Ice cream for everybody,” sums up the founders’ aim to make ice cream that even those with dietary restrictions can enjoy. Sweet Ritual says they’ve got “just the scoop” for vegans, those with allergies, and foodies. They make artisanal batches of ice cream from scratch and partner with local suppliers for their ingredients. As we walked into the cool, glass-fronted store Langley commented, “My sister is gluten-free, so she will love this.” The server patiently let us sample many flavors on paper tasting sticks. Zac worried that without milk, the product wouldn’t taste good, but he was proven wrong. He tried the peanut-butter-chocolate (“our most popular flavor,” the server said) and pronounced it to be “dense, frozen, chunky…good.” Chilton was head-over-heels in love with the peanut-butter-chocolate. “This is awesome,” he said. Everything served to customers at Sweet Ritual is compostable, so we confidently tossed our bowls and spoons into the bin on our way out to our car, parked conveniently right outside. Find out more at sweetritual.com. Hours: Sun-Thu 12-10 p.m.; Fri-Sat 12-11:30 p.m. Prices: Kid $2.95, Small $3.95, Medium $4.95, Large $5.95
Sno-Beach, another Austin original, started in 1993 and is owned by one of its earliest employees. Sno-Beach’s food truck serves up cool treats at 412 Sterzing St. (with another truck at 3402 Guadalupe). We counted 67 flavors on its menu, including unusual ones like Tiger’s Blood, Leche Quemada, Cantaloupe and Sweet Tea, as well as more traditional flavors like Orange, Cherry and Root Beer. While expertly shaving, tamping and rounding ice slivers in cups, the server told us the flavors are handmade locally. She generously flavored the boys’ snow cones and added fresh lime squeezes and sour spray (teen boys, remember?). As the boys ate their pucker-y concoctions, we learned that Tiger’s Blood and Wedding Cake are customer favorites, while Blackberry with cream is the employee choice. The most surprising flavor to us was Pickle Juice. “Yep. Full-on pickle juice!” the server said, laughing at our shocked faces. The boys sat at the picnic table next to our car, under a shade tree. They sighed in delight at their generously-sized cones. “This is going to take a while,” they happily agreed, plunging in their spoons. And I was thankful. How better to spend a perfect Austin day? Find Sno-Beach info at snobeachatx.com. Hours: Every day, Mar-Sept, 12-7 p.m. Prices: Sm $3, Med $4, Lg $5, XL $6
Jill Sayre is an Austin-based freelance writer and mother of four.