Worth the Trip: Best Ice Cream in Minnesota

Thousands of votes came in for the best ice cream shop in Minnesota. Twin Cities Live’s Mike Marcotte tallied them up and presents the top 5 shops that are ‘Worth the Trip.’

See below for Mike’s notes on the top 5. Check out his website for a list of the honorable mentions.

1. Cullen’s Ice Cream

10905 Douglas Drive North, Champlin
12085 Hanson Blvd, Coon Rapids

  • Cullen’s received the most popular votes from Twin Cities Live viewers and receives my overall best vote
  • The Champlin shop opened in June 2014 with the Coon Rapids location opening in June 2017
  • Their cases have 48 flavors of ice cream at any given time, the most of any of the top 5 shops
    • Eight of the flavors change monthly
  • Cullen’s uses Cedar Crest Ice Cream, premium small batch ice cream made in Cedarburg, Wisconsin
  • They carry 125 flavors of pop, which can be combined with any flavor of ice cream for a soda float
  • They do make their own waffle cones in-house, putting chocolate chips in the bottom instead of malted milk balls
    • They will make over 10,000 cones in a season
  • Insider: you can split a single scoop into two flavors with no extra charge
  • Cullen’s offers dairy-free ice cream, which is made in-house (it is also vegan)
  • In addition to ice cream, Cullen’s makes their own gourmet popcorn and roasted nuts
  • The owners tell me customers drive from Minnetonka and Wayzata twice a week to get Cullen’s Ice Cream
  • Cullen’s is a seasonal shop, open from the beginning of March through October

2. Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour

3419 Saint Croix Trail, Afton

  • Selma’s is the oldest ice cream parlour in Minnesota, first opening in 1913 and receives my vote for the best ambiance
  • The current owners, the Nickerson family, purchased the bank-owned property in 2011
    • All 6 of their kids have worked there
  • Selma’s has about 35 flavors of ice cream in their cases; they are from Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, based in Madison, Wisconsin
    • Chocolate Shoppe first started in 1960 and does not sell retail, meaning you cannot buy their ice cream at any grocery store
  • While you’re there, sample:
    • Strawberry — the owners family says “don’t skip it”
    • Blueberry Cheesecake
    • This S&#! Just Got Serious — salted caramel
    • Exhausted Parent — Bourbon Spiked Espresso
    • Carrot Mango Italian Ice — dairy free
  • They have a staff member dedicated to making waffle cones
    • They will sell 400 on a busy summer day
    • They also sell their own milk chocolate and white chocolate dipped cones
  • Gluten-free sugar and cake cones, along with gluten-free ice creams, are available
  • Selma’s also makes their own cakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches and has a coffee bar
  • Selma’s is a seasonal shop, typically open from late March until October

3. What’s the Scoop?

18 Division Street E, Buffalo

  • They are the newest shop in the top 5, opening in September 2017
  • Owner Brady Elsenpeter, a Buffalo native, went from owning a car dealership to running an ice cream shop
  • What’s the Scoop? is in downtown Buffalo in a space which once was a Curves for Women workout studio
  • Their case has 40 flavors from Cedar Crest
    • They have a case solely designated for nut-free flavors
  • They make their own waffles cones and bowls in house, and their waffle cones was the best of any waffle cone in the top 5
  • They do carry gluten-free cones and have dairy-free flavors available
  • The owner’s favorite flavors:
    • Shipwreck — vanilla ice cream with sea salt caramel ribbon and almond splinters
    • Big Muddy — a rich, chocolate ice cream with brownies
    • Scotcharoo — just like the cookie!
  • Ice cream cakes are made to order, including some with Fruity Pebbles
  • What’s the Scoop? is open year-round

4. Two Scoops

1918 Second Avenue, Anoka

  • Two Scoops opened in 2010
  • They have over 100 flavors of ice cream available, with 20 in their case at one time
  • Like Selma’s, Two Scoops uses Chocolate Shoppe ice cream
  • Their most popular ice cream: Cookie Dough
  • Their sleeper hit: Strawberry
    • The owners tell me that the Chocolate Shoppe’s Strawberry ice cream has won national awards
  • They make waffle cones and bowls in-house
  • Two Scoops also makes dipped cones, sundae cones and homemade cakes
  • They specialize in chocolate malts that are heavy on the malt powder
  • Two Scoops does have at least one dairy free Italian ice and has gluten-free ice cream and cones
  • They are also home to The Tornado challenge, where you get 20 scoops of ice cream with toppings (it comes out to about 7,000 calories)
    • One individual has completed it in 6 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Two Scoops is open year-round

5. Nelson’s Ice Cream

920 Olive Street W, Stillwater
454 Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul

  • Nelson’s Stillwater location originally opened as a grocery store in 1923
  • Art Nelson bought it in the 1940s and customers to this day still call it Art’s
  • The currently owners purchased it in 2006
  • Nelson’s is known for big scoops of ice cream — and I mean big scoops — that era started in the 1960s
  • They serve both Cedar Crest and Kemps ice cream
  • Both locations carry 44 flavors
  • You should expect a line when you go to Nelson’s
    • Their manager tells me there’s typically a line at 11:00 when the Stillwater location opens
    • The best time to go is between 5:45 and 7:00 pm during the dinner lull
    • On a busy day, they will go through 450 gallons of ice cream
  • Ice cream is served by dixie cups or cones at Nelson’s
    • They do not make waffle cones
  • Nelson’s does have Rapsberry Italian Ice if you are looking for a vegan or dairy-free option
  • Gluten-free options are going to be hard to come by, but you can get ice cream in a cup
  • Heads up: they only take cash!
  • Nelson’s is a seasonal shop, typically open from the beginning of April until Halloween
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