There’s something extra special about classic mom-and-pop ice cream shops. They’re the ones that do soft serve and have been around long enough that you take your kid there because your parents took you. They’re a little worn on the outside, maybe, but that’s a big part of the nostalgic charm. Here are a few of the best in the Tampa Bay area.
Locals nearly rioted when word spread last fall that this South Tampa staple was for sale and might be in danger of closing. The good news is, the shop that opened in 1958 is still there under new ownership and continues selling some of the best milkshakes on earth — the strawberry, blended with real, fresh strawberries, is particularly good — and showcasing an array of toppings in jars by the window that include jellybeans and Sno Caps. For 60 years it was cash only, but began accepting cards in 2019.
Address: 3813 S Manhattan Ave., Tampa
Phone: (813) 839-5485
This small, window-service joint in the Crescent Lake neighborhood first opened in 1947 as a Dairy Queen, but became Dairy Inn in 1969 after new owners took over and didn’t want to pay DQ’s franchise fee. It actually has a fairly extensive (and inexpensive) food menu — people swear by the “almost famous” burgers and cheese-smothered tater tots — but the main attraction is the soft-serve ice creams and long list of milkshake flavors, such as chocolate marshmallow. Dairy Inn also does old-fashioned egg creams.
Address: 1201 Dr. Martin Luther King St. N, St. Petersburg
Phone: (727) 822-6971
Open since 1984, this spot by the beach has more than 100 flavors of ice cream and dozens more flavors of gelato, frozen yogurt and custard (plus recently added mini doughnuts). It also serves a selection of local craft beers, wine, burgers and flatbread pizzas. Waffle cones are housemade, and “super premium” quality ice cream (with a higher than usual fat content and “very little air”) is both certified Fresh From Florida and kosher.
Address: 6595 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach
Phone: (727) 360-4259.
For more than 30 years, this spot has been a Hernando County go-to for big portions of sweet treats. The ice cream, in flavors such as peanut butter overload, rainforest, Kahlua fudge and chocolate paradise, is housemade and workers make ice cream sandwiches with Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. Papa Clyde’s opened a second location in 2011.
Address: 1217 Kass Circle, Spring Hill
Phone: (352) 684-6001.
So much has changed in gentrifying Seminole Heights, but not the beloved soft serve at Bo’s, named for original owner Kenneth Bosanko. When the weather is right, a line will form at this window-service and drive-thru shop. Bo’s, which opened in 1954, keeps things fairly simple, and that’s what people love about it. The Thick-N-Chunkies and Upside Down Banana Splits are fan favorites. Bo’s also offers a cup of ice cream just for dogs with tiny Milk-Bones mixed in.
Address: 7101 N Florida Ave., Tampa
Phone: (813) 302-9644
Generations of sand-flecked vacationers and locals have stopped here for chocolate or butterscotch-dipped soft-serve cones on the way home from a day at Clearwater Beach. The tiny shop opened in a blessedly-prime location across from Crest Lake Park in 1953 and offers a good selection of shakes, slushes and candy blends.
Address: 1555 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater
Phone: (727) 303-0848
Some may think of this beachy institution as a candy store first. The shop, which has operated in the same tiny brick building for 68 years, has a head-spinning array of beloved, old-school and hard-to-find candy. But more than two dozen flavors of homemade ice cream have also been a big draw all along, as well as over-the-top sundaes that incorporate housemade brownies or fudge. It’s worth a visit just to see the vintage toys on display.
Address: 13711 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach
Phone: (727) 392-6803
Opened in 1969, this place is foremost a produce market and gift shop, mostly to showcase Parkesdale Farms’ fresh and locally-grown strawberries. Since being featured on the Food Network, tour buses bring people here to try the strawberry shortcake and strawberry milkshakes with freshly-chopped strawberries, and the sundae boat, which is a generous portion of vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries and whipped cream. The summer menu is a little shorter, but includes sundaes, milkshakes, parfaits and tangerine swirl ice cream, a cone or cup for $1.
Address: 3702 W Baker St., Plant City
Phone: (813) 752-0502
“Wowburgers,” hot dogs, wings and chili cheese curly fries are on the full food menu at this classic spot opened in 1985. But sundaes, from the toasted almond delite to the M&M salute to the classic banana split, are the main attraction. In an area where development and population have exploded in recent years, its nice to be able to step inside a place that feels so sweet and nostalgic.
Address: 200 S Parsons Ave., Brandon
Phone: (813) 685-1189
Old Farmer’s Creamery
Outside, it looks like a legit barn. Inside, there’s enough wood paneling to channel your uncle’s man cave in 1988. The homemade ice cream is served up in generous scoops of inventive flavors, often only available for a limited time, and dreamed up by the owner. Cash only!
Address: 2531 4th St. N, St. Petersburg
Phone: (727) 896-2827