Number of flavors: 12. "That's more than enough for decisionmakers," said co-owner Carrie Gustafson with a laugh.
Top seller: Crema, its mellow taste the result of infusing cream with roasted arabica beans. "We revolve other flavors in and out," said Gustafson. "But Crema is the one that always remains."
Owner favorite: "It's kind of crazy, but we made a chocolate-bacon ice cream, and it went over really well," said Gustafson. "It was Fischer Farm bacon and Valrhona chocolate. Then we tried local organic maple syrup and that Fischer Farm bacon, and it was outstanding. It's going to be gone soon."
Critic's choice: Anything provocative, including wasabi and olive oil-pine nut. The smooth, flavor-intense sorbets are especially noteworthy.
Location: 3403 Lyndale Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-822-8189
Number of flavors: 32.
Top seller: Black Hills Gold, a combination of pralines, Oreo cookies, caramel and caramel-based vanilla ice cream. "We've been making it for about 15 years," said Gary Huffman, who opened the Grand Avenue landmark with his wife, Dawn, 25 years ago. "And it's been our No. 1 seller for probably that long."
Signature flavor: Black Hills Gold.
Owner's favorite: Black cherry.
Critic's choice: Cinnamon-punched Mexican chocolate praline, and the sublime frozen mocha bars on a stick.
Fun fact: The Huffmans' scoop shops are easily the Twin Cities' most fragrant ice cream destinations, thanks to the waffle cones that are pressed fresh all day. "We're also the originators of putting a malted milk ball in the bottom of the cone," said Gary Huffman. "It's our trademark that's often copied, but never duplicated."
Number of flavors: 32. "But we can get around 50 with the couple of freezers we have in the back," said owner Howie Walters.
Top seller: Peanut Butter Plunge, a chocolate ice cream packed with peanut butter swirls and chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. A close second is Blue Moon. "It's its own flavor," said Walters. "Ask 20 people what it tastes like, and you'll get 20 different answers. Some say it's mint, others say it's blueberries, or Trix or Fruit Loops."
Owner favorite: Key lime pie.
Signature flavor: Black licorice.
Critic's choice: The tangy rhubarb sorbet, and the campy Whoopie Pie, which tastes like the office sheet cakes you know you should avoid, but never do.
Location: 2231 11th Av. E., North St. Paul, 651-779-4400, www.hometowncreamery.com
Number of flavors: 32. "They're old Baskin-Robbins cases," said co-owner Jeff Sommers.
Top seller: Salted caramel. "We started making it a while back for a chef [Russell Klein, when he was running W.A. Frost & Co.; he now serves it at his Meritage] and we gave it a permanent spot in the cabinet this spring. We haven't done that for a flavor in a long time," said Sommers. "Anyone who comes through our store and doesn't know in advance what they're going to order is probably going to end up with Oreo."
Signature flavor: Norwegian Chai, a made-in-heaven fusion of cardamom toast from Wuollet Bakery and Togo Chai Spice blend from TeaSource.
Owner favorite: Peace Coffee. "I make it into a shake, bring it home and put a double shot of espresso on top."
Critic's choice: The fabulous ice cream sandwiches, a thick disk of frosty goodness wedged between a pair of buttery Birchwood Cafe cookies.
Fun fact: The shop's ninth People's Flavor Awards go into full swing from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, when ticket holders ($6 to $12) can sample and vote on 24 flavors, chosen from a field of more than 200 entries. Past contest winners include Mexican Chocolate Fiesta, Italian Strawberry, Hot Brown Sugar and several other perennial Izzy's favorites.
Location: 2034 Marshall Av., St. Paul, 651-603-1458, www.izzysicecream.com
Number of flavors: 12.
Top seller: Coconut. "It's not about sweetness, it's about flavor," said co-owner Raul Saud. He's absolutely right.
Signature flavor: Any of the intensely flavorful house-made paletas (ice pops).
Owner favorite: Strawberry cheesecake.
Critic's choice: The paletas, portable and edible air conditioners on a stick. They're made in 17 flavors, including a refreshing tequila/lime (also sold at Barrio in St. Paul), a slow-burn pineapple-chile and a rich and nutty walnut (literally: it's packed with ground walnuts). The bright, fruity ices in the scoop case (love that lime) are also first-rate.
Fun fact: Saud and co-owner Victor Cruzalta are Mexican natives who missed the cool treats they grew up loving. "One day we were talking about the things we missed about Mexico, and we were saying, 'How sweet would it be to have Mexican ice cream?' " said Saud. Six months later the hard-working pair -- both cook for Tim McKee and Josh Thoma at Barrio -- made their dream a reality.
Location: 77 Congress St. E., St. Paul, 651-224-4683, www.heladosypaletas lachiquita.blogspot.com
Number of flavors: 20. "Eighteen ice creams and two sorbets," said owner Barb Zapzalka.
Top seller: Sea salt and caramel with praline pecans.
Signature flavor: "A lot of people come in for the chocolate/peanut butter," said Zapzalka. "Another one that's new this year and already has a lot of followers is when I take local cherries, soak them in brandy and mix them with brownies from Fireroast Cafe."
Owner favorite: "You're going to laugh, but I really like vanilla, it's my all-time favorite," said Zapzalka. "Whenever I make vanilla, I have a bowl of it when it comes out of the ice cream maker."
Critic's choice: The divine butter pecan. Zapzalka also whips up a top-shelf root beer float, tapping a keg of honey-kissed root beer from St. Paul's Vine Park Brewing Co.
Location: 4754 Chicago Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-825-2021, www.pumphouse-creamery.com
Number of flavors: 24 (Franklin Av.) and 16 (Upton Av.)
Top seller: "It's kind of a tie, between raspberry chocolate chip and Oreo," said co-owner Mike Pellizzer. "A close third is Pavarotti, which is caramel, bananas and chocolate chip."
Signature flavor: Raspberry chocolate chip. "People tell me that they come in and try other things, but they always come back to the raspberry chocolate chip," Pellizzer said. "I hear that all the time." Pellizzer said its genesis is due to a miscommunication; a newspaper columnist described their chocolate-raspberry as "raspberry chocolate chip," and suddenly the shop was inundated with requests for an ice cream that didn't exist. "So we made it, and it turned out to be a bestseller," said Pellizzer with a laugh.
Owner favorite: Salty caramel. "We came up with it this winter, and it's really gathering steam," said Pellizzer. "The chef at Cafe Maude [Aaron Slavicek] suggested it. I told him, 'Rock salt, really?' and he said, 'Try it.' Boy, that salt-sweet combination is addicting."
Critic's choice: The chocolate sorbet, with its menacingly dark cocoa bite, and the decadent Joe's B-r-r-r Bars.
Fun fact: The shop opened in 1984 as Fratelli Ice Cream in Riverplace in Minneapolis. When brothers Mike, Tim and Todd Pellizzer moved the operation to Franklin and Hennepin a few years later, they renamed it in honor of their grandfather.
Location: 1007 W. Franklin Av., Minneapolis, 612-870-0065, and 4321 Upton Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-926-7916
Other make-their-own ice cream shops include Grandpa's Homemade Premium Ice Cream (1258 E. Moore Lake Dr., Fridley, 763-572-2078, www.grandpasicecream.biz) and Edina Creamery (5055 France Av. S., Mpls., 612-920-2169, www.edinacreamery.com).
Wisconsin's frozen custard tradition has a foothold in Minnesota with Adele's Frozen Custard (800 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior, 952-470-0035), Glaciers Cafe (3019 Minnehaha Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-746-1504, www.glacierscafe.com) and Liberty Frozen Custard (5401 Nicollet Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-823-8700, www. libertyfrozencustard.com). For gelato, drop by Amy's Classic Confections (601 Marquette Av., Minneapolis, 612-436-0016, www.amysclassic confections.com).
Shoppers at the Mill City Farmers Market (2nd St. and Chicago Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-341-7580, www. millcityfarmersmarket.org) and Kingfield Farmers Market (Nicollet Av. S. and 43rd St., Minneapolis, 612-823-4550, www.kingfieldfarmers market.org) know to factor in a pit stop at the Chef Shack for co-owner Carrie Summer's drop-dead fantastic ice creams -- small-batched, seasonally minded -- from a vivid beet formula to a tangy goat's milk vanilla.
Soft-serve fanatics should know about the plethora of flavors at Franklin Freeze (2328 E. Franklin Av., Minneapolis) and Conny's Creamy Cone (1197 N. Dale St., St. Paul, 651-488-4150, www.connyscreamy cone.com).