Founded by ice cream enthusiasts Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins in 1945, Baskin-Robbins now serves tasty cold treats at more than 6,700 retail shops spread out over 50 countries. Customers glance through the glass at flavors of all color and texture, including standard bearers as well as the always-changing flavor of the month. Servers transform scoops into the classic banana split or a towering peanut-butter-cup sundae, decorated with hot fudge and Reese's peanut-butter sauce. Soft serve takes the form of cakes, parfaits, and 31 Below mix-in treats, while drinks such as strawberry-citrus Fruit Blast cools down mouths with a sweet yet icy embrace. Baskin-Robbins also offers ornate ice-cream cakes to celebrate an anniversary or successfully forging a college diploma.
Billed as "America's ice cream co-op," KaleidoScoops began doling out its signature hand-dipped ice cream at the turn of the millennium. The co-op, formed by a group of independent-minded former franchisees, now boasts several locations, reflecting the co-op's diversity with dozens of varied ice-cream flavors that include such no-sugar-added selections as amaretto almond, chocolate mint, and coffee fudge. Customers can combine flavors in specialty sundaes and banana splits or shakes, malts, and KaleidoChill coffee drinks. The shop's staff also creates supreme ice-cream cakes, and members of the KaleidoScoops' birthday club receive discounted cake rates and space-age party hats certified by NASA to prevent brain freeze.
Ice cream with a side of science. That's the specialty at Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt, where the treat-makers use -321-degree nitrogen to instantly freeze liquid into frosty scoops of ice cream or misshapen snowmen.
Each Sub Zero location specializes in completely customizable treats. Guests start by picking their premium and low fat ice cream base, custard, yogurt, non-dairy, or vegan?and then move onto flavors. Visitors choose from multiple flavors to blend together like hazelnut, Irish cream, and coffee, though specialty flavors rotate in each month as well, with mix-ins such as fresh fruit, nuts, and candy. Finally, Sub Zero makes your treat as soft or hard you please, thanks to its hand-freezing method using liquid nitrogen.
Gleaning her baking skills from her mother and grandmother, Gigi's Cupcakes' eponymous owner opened her first cupcake hub in 2008, drawing upon her entrepreneurial spirit and gift for crafting beautifully topped cupcakes. The franchised cupcakery now has 50 locations, each of which churns out 12 daily-rotating flavors that are made fresh every morning. The shop's selection of more than 40 flavors includes Canadian Maple, Southern Comfort, and Champagne—a bubbly-flavored base topped with an edible pearl. Patrons can pick out sweet treats from the daily selection or preorder them at least one day in advance online, by phone, or via singing telegram.
At Tea With Thee By Victoria, it's hard to decide on the main attraction: it could be the teas themselves, the gourmet food, or the elegant atmosphere. The teas are eclectic, ranging from a fruity cherry-ginger-orange brew to a Cold Comfort blend, designed to neutralize sniffles. The food consists of soups and salads, as well as tearoom classics: scones, finger sandwiches, and dainty sweets, which range from cupcakes to tea-infused chocolates. And the shop's flower-patterned china and three-tiered trays add a touch of understated glamour, which is only enhanced by the shop's decorations, including wintertime's Christmas trees.
A stash of more than 65 teas from around the world complements Emma's elegant atmosphere and flavorful menu, which features sandwiches, soups, salads, and a variety of delectable desserts. Pair the chicken-salad sandwich with a side of fresh fruit ($8.75), or indulge your inner herbivore with the fruit salad—a citrusy mixture of mixed greens, mandarin oranges, strawberries, kiwis, and pecans, drizzled and dressed with an orange poppy-seed dressing ($8.95). For steeped drink savants interested in the quintessential afternoon teatime experience, the cozy teahouse features four tea party options ($12.50–$22.50 per person), available from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Gather any available friends or hire some unoccupied acquaintances and enjoy a leisurely afternoon of sipping and socializing over a medley of tea-completing noshables, including finger sandwiches, scrumptious scones, and a flowing chocolate fountain—all accompanied by a pot of the teahouse's leafy brew.