Pike’s Old-Fashioned Soda Shop
1930 Camden Rd., 704-372-0092
This charming South End spot draws inspiration from an old-fashioned soda shop—both in its retro décor and in its selection of sundaes, splits, floats, shakes, and malts. The house specialty is a Black Cow, a root beer float served over three scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream. You’ll need a friend and an extra straw to finish this one.
3116 N. Davidson St., 704-333-4551
8440 Rea Rd., 704-544-4545
This family-run shop has been at the forefront of the city’s fro-yo craze since it opened in 2009. The tart yogurt and creative toppings, including homemade granola, have garnered many followers, and while yogurt lovers can always stop by for the original flavor, the choices change daily. Watch the website to see when the sweet and creamy Blueberry Acai is available.
Common Market South End
1515 S. Tryon St., 704-332-7783
At this eclectic grocer and sandwich shop, you’ll find plenty of sweets—most of the candy bar variety. Skip the Snickers and grab one of Leigh Brinkley’s frozen fruit pops. The sugary Lollies, named after Brinkley’s grandmother, feature fresh fruits like blackberries, peaches, and apples mixed and frozen in locally sourced buttermilk and cream.
Various locations, yoforia.com
At Yoforia, the flavors change frequently and range from fruity honeydew or mango to the more decadent Ferrero Rocher or cookies ’n’ cream. And while the nonfat Green Tea yogurt may sound too healthful to be called a dessert, its exotic flavor and smooth texture make it an ideal sweet treat for a warm afternoon.
21 Union St., Concord, 704-784-1923,
The current owner reopened this historic creamery in 2009 and is dedicated to re-creating its original, small-town vibe. There are twenty-five tasty flavors to choose from; none are as authentically retro as the Moon Pie, made with chunks of the famed pastry and perfect for pairing with a walk down memory lane.
1601 Elizabeth Ave., 704-332-7776
When the weather is warm, you’re unlikely to find an evening when families aren’t lined up at this neighborhood ice cream shop. Its playful interior featuring bright colors and plastic tables caters to kids, while its homemade exotic ice cream flavors like green tea, ginger, and even beer are fun for adults. The velvety Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream satisfies two dessert cravings at once.
The Dairy Barn
107 S. Main St., Waxhaw, 704-843-2276
Located on Waxhaw’s historic Main Street, this barn-themed restaurant features a long row of rocking chairs and a “corral” area where children can watch television while they lick their sweet cones. The soft-serve ice cream can be hand dipped to create hard shells. Order the Chocolate Ice Cream Dipped in Cherry and bite into the rich chocolate cloaked in tart cherry for a sublime treat.
4009 South Blvd., 704-525-1720
This unfussy South End spot offers some of the best burgers, onion rings, and shakes in the city. Homemade milkshakes, so thick they require a spoon, come in a variety of flavors including classics like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Opt for an old-fashioned Cherry Shake, served frosty with soft bits of the sweet berries.
Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar
1626 East Blvd., 704-714-4888
15105A John J. Delany Dr., 704-919-2700
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, 704-359-4316
When owner Frank Scibelli decided to upgrade his milkshake selection, he hired ice cream connoisseur Kriss Harvey to create the soft serve recipe and milkshake formulas. One of the more innovative—and delicious—is the PB&J Shake,with a lip-smacking peanut butter cut by the fruit’s sweet flavor.
Rita’s Italian Ice
Various locations, ritasice.com
This Pennsylvania-based chain offers refreshing Italian ice, creamy frozen custard, and thick gelati. The ice, which comes in brightly colored flavors like a red Swedish Fish or a neon-green lime, is a summer favorite. The top seller is the Misto, a customized blend of the ice and custard. Create your own Misto with flavors like Root Beer Ice with Vanilla Custard, which tastes like an old-fashioned soda. Or ask for a fun mix-and-match suggestion.
20801 N. Main St., Cornelius, 704-892-8190
With almost fifty ice cream and yogurt flavors, it’s easy to see why this family-owned shop has been a neighborhood favorite for more than thirty years. Ice cream lovers can enjoy flavors such as a rich and complex raspberry truffle or a simple, milky vanilla. One of the newest additions to the mix, Coconut Almond Joy, has become a local favorite.
The Shake Shack
7800 Wilkinson Blvd., 704-607-5074
Bring your cash (it’s all the place accepts; shakes are $4) and a hearty appetite for cold concoctions made with Tony’s Ice Cream from Gastonia. You’ll need a spoon and straw for these babies. Each shake is mixed, poured into a large Styrofoam cup, and then topped with a scoop of the famed ice cream. Opt for simplicity and order the classic Chocolate Shake.
Smart Choice Catering
3623 E. Independence Blvd., 704-532-2800,
Yes, it’s a catering company. And yes, most of its business is mail order. But once you’ve tasted one of Chef Don Smart’s Key Lime Pies on a Stick, you’ll soon be dropping by to pick up your own. The frozen delicacy features homemade Key Lime pie cut into wedges and frozen on a Popsicle stick before being dipped into dark chocolate. You also can find the toothsome treats at area farmers markets when they’re in season.
Sticks and Cones Ice Cream Truck
This family-owned truck offers soft serve ice cream—something you’re unlikely to get from most ice cream trucks. And while the floats, cones, and sundaes are all tasty, the simple Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl Soft Serve is the perfect drip-down-your-chin treat. Follow on Twitter at @sticksandcones to see where the truck will be next.