Best Ohio Ice Cream
(A Work in progress)
This is a partial reposting of my original webpage – Ice Cream Ohio (from 2001). In this PRE – Gourmand project, I plotted out the best Ice Cream spots in Ohio. I’ll be adding some more content to this over time. If there is a great ice cream spot in Ohio you don’t see here, send an e-mail to let me know.
Aglamesis Brother’s – Montgomery and Oakley
The Cincinnati suburbs have a great source for ice cream – Aglamesis Bother’s. The Oakley location, which is the quintessential ice cream parlor, has been open since 1913. It still has the original imported marble counters and soda fountain. Both Aglamesis Brothers locations are bathed in pink and well stocked with all of the traditional ice cream parlor trade items such as metal sundae dishes. There are many great treats here, throughout the year, including gourmet chocolates (made the old-fashioned way, in copper kettles), thick milkshakes with butter cookies served on the side to compliment the rich flavor, and traditional ice cream sodas. However, in the summer, customers come for a scoop of French Vanilla, Black Raspberry (when in season) or one of the other flavors which have earned high praise in dozens of books, magazines and newspapers.
3046 Madison Rd.
10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Mon – Thur
10 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. – Fri & Sat
12 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Sun
9899 Montgomery Rd.
10:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Mon – Thur
10:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. – Fri
10:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. – Sat
12:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Sun
Hours do change seasonally, call ahead to confirm.
Deersville General Store – Deersville
Time has virtually stood still at the General Store since Ohio Magazine’s last official stop for ice cream in 1983. John Sukosd is still the proprietor. Firewood, worms, and other sundries are readily available for vacationers and locals as always. However, change is inevitable. During the Summer of 1998, the old dipping cabinet died and the consequences are still felt today. In this instance, change was for the better. Whereas the old cabinet stored six varieties of ice cream the new one holds eight. Now with more room to play with, expect a few new flavors to appear. Mr. Sukosd still makes all of his ice cream, including the renowned Butter Crunch, a recipe which he inherited from the previous owner decades ago. Butter Crunch is a mix of French vanilla with vanilla cookie crumbs and other goodies added in. The traditional flavors that were standards for years have stayed, but new fangled flavors such as fat free yogurt have been added from time to time to keep things fresh. Change tastes good. (NOTE – I have not dropped by since 1999 – so call ahead).
County Rt. 2 (near SR 799); Deersville, 740/922-0831. Mon. – Sun. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
DIETSCH BROTHERS – FINDLAY
The Dietsch brothers are always busy. They have two business’ to run – they sell chocolates which loyal customers proclaim “are to die for” and ice cream which many people go out of their way to drive for. Fortunately for them, when business heats up for one product line, it cools down a bit for the other.
The original Dietsch brother was Ed, who started the business in 1926. His brothers – Roy, John and Chris assumed the reins in 1937. The current generation of Dietschs (pronounced Deech) are Jeff, Rick and Tom. These three bothers have been scooping since childhood so they know their trade. Other family members are involved in the business as well. All of the ice cream and candy are made at the West Main Cross store, four days per week and an extra half day on Saturday when needed.
Although there is a different batch of brothers conjuring up sweets at Dietsch Brothers, they still follow the same principles which made this family business a fixture in Findlay. The goal is to offer the finest product at a fair price. Quality is valued over quantity, so at the end of the day they might be out of a few types of chocolates or a bit low on a flavor of ice cream.
Demand for Dietsch delights is high year round and is not the result of elaborate marketing campaigns. On the few occasions Dietsch Brothers advertises, it is usually through a school newspaper or a promotion supporting a local event. This is a community business so word of mouth and personal experience keep people coming through the door. Working at Dietsch Brothers has been a first job for many local residents and this is a community tradition which continues to be promoted.
For those from outside of the community, making a first visit into the West Main Cross store can be a sensory overload. The unassuming exterior of the building is a plain wrapper for an inside packed with delightful delicacies. About one half of the space is devoted to gourmet candies and chocolates. The ice cream half offers 30 to 35 flavors to chose from, the usual assortment of milkshakes, sundaes, and other treats produced by a soda fountain dating back to the 1950s. The freezers stock several premade sundaes, drumsticks, pints of ice cream and varieties of ice cream balls packed like bonbons.
If you are overwhelmed by the array choices or with a desire to burn a few extra calories, take a quick stroll past the candies (counter) for a serving of history. There is a collection of Dietsch memorabilia from decades of business. This display includes antique ice cream molds, ancient scoops, vintage candy making molds, archaic candy boxes and quart containers as well as other artifacts.
Dietsch Brothers is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you might find inside. If you find yourself in Findlay, or nearby, take a lick in here.
400 W. Main Cross St., Findlay, 419/422-4474. Tues. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
1217 Tiffin Ave., Findlay, 419/423-3221. Mon. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Gibson Goodies – Wilmington
The steady flow of customers to Gibson Goodies – housed in a small, nondescript building set off from the road – is proof that if you make good ice cream, people will find it. Campers, Corn Festival revelers and locals all drop by to sample one, or several, of owner Mary Gibson’s more than 40 flavors. In addition to the standards such as vanilla or chocolate, visitors may find flavors such as Wildberry Truffle, Root Beer, Licorice and Chocolate Oreo. Gibson makes ice cream using recipes from the 1940s that were passed down by the original owner. She is the local ice-cream expert and she instructs hown town Rotarians in the art of sundae-making for the Clinton County Banana Split Festival, held annually the second weekend of June.
718 Ohio Ave., Wilmington, 937/383-2373.
Closed January and February. Summer Hours: Mon. – Sun. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
GRAETERS – CINCINNATI, COLUMBUS, DAYTON and beyond
What is so great about Graeter’s? Subjectively, it is big chunks of stuff: huge pieces of chocolate, lumps of cookie dough, large slices of fruit and other mouth-watering morsels. Objectively, it is experience and a dedication to a very labor intensive method of making ice cream. Collectively, the result is yummy.
The Graeter’s could be considered the founding family of Ohio ice cream. This Cincinnati family has been dishing it out since 1870 which makes Graeter’s the oldest continuous ice cream maker in the country. Although there have been many advances in ice cream manufacturing in the last two centuries, the Graeter’s are sticking with tradition. Their favored French Pot process is considered archaic from a business and production viewpoint. This method requires large amounts of labor and time to make small (2 – 2 1/2 gallon) batches of ice cream. This is by choice, there is no need to mess with success.
The enemy of fine ice cream is air. The Graeter’s have declared war against it. Less air in the finished flavor equals fewer ice crystals which leads to a better feel on the taste buds. The ice cream is paddled by hand instead of whipped by a machine. Hand paddling beats air out. Vertical batch freezers, a.k.a. French Pots, press the ice cream onto itself thus pushing more air out. Some air is needed to keep ice cream from becoming an icicle, so at the end of the process, Graeter’s ice cream is about 5% air compared to some commercial ice cream which can be up to 50% air. You can taste the difference.
Other differences can be seen. Graeter’s pours liquid chocolate into the ice cream which cools into large pieces. The chunks are then broken down into more manageable bites using the same paddles used to mix the ice cream. These are not chips off the block – they are blocks. When it is time for Peach ice cream, blanched peaches are prepared for mixing – not canned peaches or a flavor extract. Pieces of peach permeate through the scoop. When the fruit runs out for the season so does the flavor. All of the chocolate sauces, syrups and toppings are made from scratch for pouring into and onto the ice cream. The waffle cones are made in house as well.
The Cincinnati stores also offer gourmet chocolates, bakery items, and other goodies, so the Graeter family have their hands full in the Queen city. Good word spreads around after a century or so. For decades, other Ohio cities screamed for Graeter’s ice cream. The greatest cry came from the capital city. However, the Graeter’s home is Cincinnati and they were not going to turn over their recipes and reputation to just anyone.
In 1989, Clay Cookery and Maury Levine, friends of the family, and Dick Graeter’s fellow Alumni, opened the first Columbus area Graeter’s in Upper Arlington (and of note, Jeni or Jeni’s Ice Cream worked their in her teen years). The Graeter’s family bought the Columbus stores back around 2010 after the family decided to realign and refocus the family empire.
If you want to learn about the Graeter’s way of making ice cream head to the Bethel road store in Northwest Columbus – it features a mini Graeters museum, a viewing area of the production line, and a big, kid friendly play area.
Handel’s – Youngstown
Although there are a several Handel’s in the area, Youngstown natives generally insist pilgrims make their initial journey to the original near the corner of Market St. and Midlothian. Expect wide smiles and flavor suggestions (Chocolate Pecan) when presented with directions to this local treasure. Handel’s is a small stand, hidden in a one way alley, so if you have trouble finding it, do not worry, just keep an eye out for a parking lot full of cars. Handels frequently makes the list for national top ten ice cream spots. Bill Cosby is a famous fan who has it shipped to him and his friends all the time.
All the attention is no surpise in Youngstown, Handel’s has been a landmark for decades. In 1985, the city made this status official. Alice Handel, the original owner, was presented with a key to the city and the street name was changed from Vermont Court to Handel’s Court.
Alice Handel began making ice cream in 1945 at her husband’s gas station and business just kept booming. Mrs. Handel had many suitors vying for her ice cream stand and recipes over the years. She turned all of them down. She was in her seventies when a man approached her about selling Handel’s ice cream in grocery stores. Leonard Fisher brought his wife Merle to the meeting. This may have impressed Alice Handel because she decided to sell the whole business to him in 1985. She loved her stand and would not pass her business on to anyone who could not care for it as much as she did. She continued working at her stand until shortly before she passed away in 1987.
She chose well when she picked Leonard Fisher to preserve her work. He has shown a good handle on the business by adding multiple locations, with franchised Handel’s throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania. At one time it was determined the Handel’s Court location was among the busiest ice cream stands in the country, once serving 1,700 customers in a three hour period. Business has slowed a bit since then due to competition – now the busiest ice cream stand in town is another Handel’s.
Although the business is changing, the principles are not. Every new Handel’s retains the traditions of the original. Each one is a walk up stand which serves only ice cream. The ice cream machines, which are now specially made for the company, based on an old design, contribute to it’s unique consistency which is between hard ice cream and custard. The ice cream is made on site, every morning and scooped away all day. It does not have a chance to get completely hard, therefore it retains a smooth, soft, creamy texture. Only fresh ingredients are used. Making the ice cream requires much hands on labor. It is often a two person job to mix in all of the ingredients for one flavor. In the case of Cherry Vanilla – each cherry is placed in one at a time.
3931 Handel’s Ct., Youngstown, 330/788-0356.
Additional locations in Boardman, Columbiana, Liberty, and Pennsylvania. Open all week, 10 a.m – 10 p.m.
The first Handel’s opened in Columbus in 2002. You can find one location in Powell on Powell Road.
HARTZLER DAIRY – Wooster
The Hartzler’s farm heritage is reflected in the names of several of their 40 plus flavors: Ditch Tea Delight, Heifer Tracks, and Chicken Feed, to name a few. They also have “normal” flavors such as vanilla, for city folks. The dairy products going into their ice cream are naturally good – they come only from Hartzler (or Hartzler approved) cows, that are chemical and hormone free. This traditional approach to dairy farming produces richer cream and more butterfat than the typical bovine. The result is delightful. In addition to the farm store, near Wooster, Hartzler’s Dairy products can also be found in several northeast Ohio groceries and select natural foods stores throughout the state.
Hartzler Family Dairy
5454 Cleveland Road (Rt. 3)
Honey Hut Ice Cream Shoppe
Cleveland – Brecksville – Parma Heights
Frank Page is a man of temperature extremes – when he opened the first Honey Hut Ice Cream Shoppe in 1973, he was still a member of the Cleveland Fire Department. Mr. Page received his formative ice cream training in the army while working with a European trained chef. His premium ice cream is all natural with no additives or preservatives and includes the best ingredients money can buy, including several types of honey. The honey is used in place of sugar, with sweet results, in flavors such as Orange Blossom and Honey Pecan. Today there are four Huts in the Cleveland metropolitan area so Frank has enlisted five of his children: Brian, Bruce, Marcia, Mark and Sharon, to keep things from melting down. Bruce also designed the Honey Hut logo – a cartoon honey bee holding a double scoop of ice cream. If you see a swarm of bees heading to the hut don’t worry, they are probably lining up for ice cream too.
4674 State Rd., Cleveland, 216/749-7077 ;
6250 State Rd., Cleveland, 440/885-5055;
6677 Pearl Rd., Parma Hts., 440/843-6677;
7304 Chipewa Road – Rts. 82/21, Brecksville, 440/526-0606.
Open March 17 to early November, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. – Sun.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Jeni’s Fresh Ice Cream is gourmet ice cream for gourmands. And it is plain old great ice cream for the rest. Jeni Britton scoops out creative flavors made with the finest ingredients that can be found and about 50% of the time these are obtained locally in central Ohio. Jeni is an ice cream artisan and craftsperson. The mix of ingredients that combine in her Italian Carpigiani Gelato machine are her medium for artistic expression. Fortunately, this art is greatly appreciated and led her on the path of a successful businesswoman. Her dedication stirred her to take the respected Penn State Ice Cream short course as well as to study with an Italian gelato maker. Jeni knows ice cream. It is nice to see a sweet person and product achieve sweet success as well.
Flavors vary by season and inspiration. The quality of Jeni’s ice creams earned accolades from the national press including Gourmet, Food and Wine, various web sites, some TV programs, every local media outlet, and at least two books. Jeni’s has melted the hearts of culinary critics on both coasts and put Columbus on the culinary map for ice cream. There is strong buzz that Columbus is the ice cream capital of the country (an argument that this writer can support with scoops of objective facts and subjective tastes). Putting Columbus on the gourmet radar is due in part to the raves that Jeni’s ice cream continues to receive, which in turn is supported by a growing online ordering business to supply the demand for this treat.
OK, so maybe I sold you on the possibility that this ice cream is fantastic and worth taking a lick at. Lucky for us, we just need to drive to get our fix. For people afraid of things like candied beets, Kentucky bourbon, lavender and other exotic extracts infused in their dairy products, Jeni’s also dishes out more mundane tastes for the Midwestern palette.
One customer favorite flavor is Salty Caramel other flavors come and go based on the season and Ms. Britton’s creativity.
Depending on the season or sometimes, the day, you can expect up to 30 flavors to choose from. And most of these flavors can be ordered online for delivery in the US. However, an advantage we have here in Cowlumbus is that we can get free tastes of these ice creams before deciding on a scoop. Jeni’s also does combined half scoops to cater to those wanting to sample with abandon.
Johnson’s Ice Cream – Bexley
This family owned ice creamery has been churning out fifty flavors since 1950. There are also fountain items, miscellaneous baked goodies, and a small deli. The Bexley store is very family friendly featuring plenty of booths and tables to sit at to savor or ponder your selection. The inside is decorated with ice cream posters/thank you cards from school children that have experienced the “factory” tour and framed ice cream themed puzzles. For those in a hurry there are walk up windows to order from.
Johnson’s Vanilla ice cream is famous enough to be served at many upscale Columbus area restaurants along with some other flavors. Other options include several unique sundaes such as Tin Roof, Duster and Pecan Ball. If making a choice is too hard there are plenty of hand packed pints and quarts to take home or maybe a Turtle Ice Cream Pie or Ice Cream Log for later.
A perfect Columbus themed treat is Johnson’s Buckeyes. These are handmade round balls of peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips ice in chocolate. The end result is delicious unlike the poisonous nut it is named after.
2728 East Main Street
Bexley, Ohio 43209
Fri.& Sat. 10:00-11:00
Mitchell’s Ice Cream
26161 Detroit Rd.
Also locations in Rocky River and Solon
On my old Ice Cream Ohio website, I received so many e-mails about Mitchells that I became afraid not to mention this place. I made my first sojourn to Mitchells Labor Day Weekend 2004. My first impression was impressive. The Mitchell brothers – Mike and Pete opened the Westlake location in 1999. The Mitchells have the right approach to ice cream – they make it themselves in small batches using the best ingredients. Caramel Fudge Brownie is a fan favorite based on the feedback I get at Ice Cream Ohio. My favorite flavor was Rocky Road. Other outstanding flavors include Black Raspberry Chip and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. Mitchells has received several “Best of” awards from Cleveland newspapers and articles in regional publications. The ice cream is also available in several Cleveland area restaurants. The addition of a location near West Side Market has assured that every trip to Cleveland includes some Mitchell’s Ice Cream. I’ll take some local flack for this but Mitchell’s is better than Jeni’s.
Taggarts – Canton
Ernie Schott grew up on a dairy farm. He spent over thirty years in manufacturing, including twenty-five as a plant manager. At age fifty two, he was ready for something new but not retirement. He was given the opportunity to combine his life experiences and add some new ones in August of 1998 when he became the new owner of Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor.
One thing Ernie learned in his years of work is the importance of every staff member to the quality of the finished product. He considers himself very lucky to have his team of people at Taggarts. All of the employees decided to stay when he bought the parlor. He was also added two daughters and a son-in-law to his crew. Greg Cook, a manager and head ice cream maker, has been at Taggarts for well over a decade. He also lives in one of the apartments attached to the back of the building. Mr. Schott lives two blocks away. Home and work are more than close, they are intertwined. The employees of Taggarts are more a family than a group of workers.
Mr. Schott and company, inherited an attraction as important to Canton as the Football Hall of Fame, just down the street. There has been an ice cream parlor at the location since 1916 and it has been called Taggarts since 1926. Mr. Schott has no intention of changing a thing, in fact, one of his first acts was to plant pear trees in the front of the building to replace trees which were cut down years before.
There have been several owners of this ice cream parlor over the years, but each has served as a custodian of Taggarts traditions. Walking into the parlor is a step back into time. The original marble counter tops have withstood thousands of elbows and sundae dishes during their tenure here. The high backed, maple booths and (now antique) soda fountain were brought in by Joe Taggart when he took over in the twenties. Another previous owner, Check Hess, brought in a 1940’s era player piano. Things do not change here because customers won’t hear of it.
Nostalgia is an important side dish but customers would not keep coming back if the trip down memory lane did not include something good to eat. Taggarts offers delicious made from scratch food, made by veteran staffers using time tested recipes. However, ice cream is king here. If it can be scooped, dipped, mixed, or poured, Taggarts has it. By far, the most famous Taggarts legacy is the Bittner – invented in 1931 and named in honor of a delivery boy. This is a secret mixture of vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and pecans from a special supplier in Georgia. The end result is a dessert which has the consistency of a milkshake but is too thick to drink.
Taggarts is preparing for a new century of business by staying firmly entrenched in the past.
1401 Fulton Rd. N.W., Canton, 330/452-6844. Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fri. – Sun. 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Toft Dairy Ice Cream Parlor – Sandusky
Some people drive by the Toft Dairy on Venice Road and assume it is just a manufacturing facility. Residents living in the area or regular vacationers who spend summer weekends on this part of Lake Erie only make this mistake once. The Ice Cream Parlor located here is not a closely guarded secret. In the summer, over 3500 people may visit in one day. Toft’s ice cream is available throughout the region but the company parlor is a favorite destination for it’s famous gigantic scoops. Maybe the proximity to the Tofts ice cream supply makes the scoopers less fearful of running out. Toft’s makes sixty eight flavors and fifty one are available here for dipping at any one time. The company had the foresight to place wooden school chairs with desk arms in the back, so customers can sit and study their choices before they make a big decision.
3717 Venice Rd. – Route #6
Open everyday 8 a.m to 11 p.m. (summers) (9 a.m./ 10 p.m. off season)
Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl – Zanesville
Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl is tucked away in a residential neighborhood just off I-70. A sign out front reminds patrons not to block neighbor’s driveways. The staff is decked out in white hats, white aprons and black bow ties. The interior looks untouched since it opened at the current location in 1950. There is a timeless quality to the place. Bill Sullivan bought the business from original owner Tom Mirgon in 1984, after a dozen years of working for him. A portrait of Tom still watches out on the business from a spot just above the soda counter.
During the summer of 1998, there were many more new faces than usual when Tom’s was listed as one of ten great ice cream places in the country in USA Today . The twenty or so ice cream flavors include the standards as well as Maple Nut, a few no sugar added flavors and a couple yogurts. Seasonal flavors include pumpkin and egg nog. You can also get a good sandwich, Ben Heggy’s chocolates and Tom’s famous roasted redskin peanuts to go with your ice cream (which is often served in a big soup bowl).
532 McIntire Ave.
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday
11 a.m. to 11.p.m., Friday and Saturday
United Dairy Farmers – UDF (All Over Ohio, based in Cincinnati)
The Velvet Ice Cream, Ye Olde Mill Ice Cream Parlor – Utica
Since 1817, five different mills have stood in the stone foundation of Ye Olde Mill. This location has always served as a meeting place for friends and families in the Licking Valley. The Dager family understand the importance of tradition, they have been making ice cream in Ohio since 1914, so they chose the Mill to be the symbol of their company. Today, the Ye Olde Mill is still a destination for the community and visitors from all over. (One downside – the Mill has a tendency to burn to the ground – 1986 and 2004). During prime ice cream season the mill opens to the public for six months of fun. In addition to an ice cream parlor, the mill offers a full service restaurant, gift shop, an ice cream museum, a picnic area, and other entertainment. This is also the site of many events such as the annual Ice Cream and Buckeye Tree Festivals. If you do not have time to drop by this summer or just can’t wait, Velvet Ice Cream is available throughout Ohio, just look for Ye Olde Mill on the package.
St. Rt.. 13 (just east of Utica) Utica, 740/892-3921. Open everyday May 1st – Oct. 31st, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Weldons Ice Cream Parlor / Factory
2887 Canal Dr.
I have only been to Weldon’s a few times. It has an old style ice cream parlor feel. I will let their site do the talking. You can also visit the Weldon’s Ice Cream mobile stand at festivals, fairs, and other events in the Central Ohio area in the summertime.
Youngs Jersey Dairy – Yellow Springs
For anyone traveling along Rt. 68, the sight of red barns, farm houses, and livestock are expected as part of the scenery but it is uncommon to see hundreds of cars parked in the front yard. Such a sight could be explained as a very large family reunion or similar event however if this view is near Yellow Springs prepare to stop for a while. This is no reunion, it is a family event.
Young’s Jersey Dairy is a family entertainment destination which might have made P.T. Barnum a bit jealous. The cornucopia of attractions includes: a farm-themed eighteen hole miniature golf course, driving range, batting cages, farm animal petting area, full service restaurant at the Golden Jersey Inn, bakery, gift shop, large picnic area and a corn maze. There is another major attraction at Young’s – ice cream.
Young’s serves too much ice cream to rely on the cows on hand to provide all of their milk needs so the raw ingredients are obtained from a local dairy co-op. The grass to scoop time can be as short as one week. It takes huge quantities of ice cream to fuel all of Young’s customers in their various activities, sometimes over 3000 gallons per week. Much of the ice cream ends up in the Moovelous Milkshakes which consist of two to five dips of rich French Vanilla. All of the standard flavors are available as well as some unique creations such as Cow Patty – chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and other goodies mixed in. Young’s also supplies ice cream to a couple scoop shops in the Dayton area and the Corwin Peddler, a small store along the Little Miami scenic (bike) trail.
Dan Young, ringmaster of this array of diversions, is not the CEO of Young’s, he lists himself as CICD – Chief Ice Cream Dipper. He is assisted by fourteen second and third generation Youngs, and roughly 150 other employees engaged in making ice cream, dipping it or performimg some other activity to ensure customers are enjoying themselves. The goal of the Young family is for other families to have fun, an opportunity offered 364 days per year. (They do take Christmas Day off.)
6880 Springfield-Xenia Rd. / Rt 68, Yellow Springs, 937/325-0629. Open all week, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. (or later).