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The best ice cream

Cup or cone, 10 scoop shops to help you lick summer's heat.

By Rachel Travers
July 19, 2009
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Bliss Brothers Dairy, a family business that’s been open since 1926, sells its farm-fresh scoops in more than 70 flavors at more than 50 locations. Going to Bliss Ice Cream, the scoops-and-sandwich shop at the dairy in Attleboro, is like visiting the mother ship. What to get: Try the Lemon-Raspberry Cheesecake or classic Vanilla. When to go: Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week (till 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday in January, February, and March). On a hot Sunday in the summer, you could see 20-plus people in line, but most of the time, there’s no wait at all. 711 Park Street, Attleboro, 508-222-2884; http://blissdairy.com

Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream in Manchester-by-the-Sea is your traditional New England small-town ice cream stand, and it’s less than half a mile from Singing Beach. Walk in through the screen door, order from the 25 to 30 flavors on the board, then sit on a bench outside and watch the world flip-flop by. (There are also locations in Beverly, Beverly Farms, and Salem.) What to get: Wildcat. It’s wildly good: butterscotch ice cream with chunks of Oreo cookie. When to go: Wind and rain are the only things that keep customers away; otherwise expect a line. Summer hours are from noon to 9 p.m. (sometimes 10) seven days a week (the other shops have different hours). 60 Beach Street, Manchester-by-the-Sea, 978-526-1663; 55 Ober Street, Lynch Park in the Cove, Beverly, 978-921-4708; 642 Hale Street (Route 127), Beverly Farms, 978-921-5311; and 143 Derby Street, Salem, 978-744-0777; captaindustys.com

Disclosure: My editor gave me this assignment after I said how happy I was about my teenage daughter’s job at Cedar Hill Dairy Joy in Weston, the seasonal (mid-March through mid-December) inland clam shack and soft-serve ice cream specialists. But I’m not the only person who loves this place: The line can stretch to more than 100 people on hot weekends. Open in Weston since 1961, Dairy Joy started a second branch in Hudson five years ago. What to get: Javaberry, a mix of creamy coffee ice cream and icy raspberry sherbet. When to go: Both shops are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week in summer. The Hudson location has indoor seating and a restroom; in the Weston shop, the only amenities are picnic tables. 331 North Avenue (Route 117), Weston, 508-423-0079, and 418 Main Street, Hudson, 978-568-1775

Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream in Inman Square is an unassuming Cambridge neighborhood shop, but the flavors are anything but modest. Open since 1983. What to get: Burnt Sugar and Gina’s Mocha Explosion (chocolate and coffee ice cream with chocolate chips and crushed Oreos) are the most popular. Seasonal Fresh Rose -- which really does taste like flowers -- Jalapeno, Ancho Chile, and Strawberry Cheddar are among the more radical. When to go: From May to September, the shop is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In cooler months, it closes a half-hour earlier, but this ice cream would sell in a blizzard. 1255 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, 617-492-7021; christinasicecream.com

So, it will spoil your supper. But the only time there’s never a wait at Four Seas Ice Cream in Centerville is weeknights between 6 and 7. (You could start with a sandwich at the shop, if you like. PB&J, tuna salad, and cream cheese with olives are among the classics on offer.) The 75-year-old scoop shop is a Cape Cod landmark, open from the weekend before Memorial Day until the weekend after Labor Day. What to get: Vanilla’s the most popular flavor, and for the daring, there’s Vanilla Chai. Penuche is based on the classic fudge flavor with pecans. When to go: Once school lets out, summer hours are from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., seven days a week. 360 South Main Street, Centerville, 508-775-1394; fourseasicecream.com

The minimalist, bucolic Kimball Farm stand in Carlisle makes for a surreal scene, with people licking ice cream cones next to oblivious grazing sheep. But in Westford, open since 1939 and where the ice cream sold in both locations is made, the scene is wacky-pastoral, with miniature golf, bumper boats in a pond, and a driving range. What to get: Kids love Cookie Dough; for adults, there’s Kahlua Crunch. In the second half of July, it’s all about Fresh Peach. When to go: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week in summer (from April to Memorial Day, and Labor Day to mid-October, the stands close at 9). 400 Littleton Road, Westford, 978-486-3891, and 345 Bedford Road, Carlisle, 978-369-1910; kimballfarm.com

It’s a teensy takeout place in Cambridge, but the bigger Waltham location of Lizzy’s Ice Cream feels like an old-style ice cream parlor -- a funky one with work by local artists on the walls. What to get: Charles River Crunch: dark chocolate ice cream with almond toffee nuggets. When to go: Stop at the Cambridge shop after a movie at the theater across the street or before a stroll through Harvard Square, but don’t expect to sit -- there’s just one table. The shops are open from noon until 11 p.m. (Cambridge) or 11:30 p.m. (Waltham) every day in nice weather, but Cambridge closes at 10 p.m. from roughly mid-October through early March. 367 Moody Street, Waltham, 781-893-6677, and 29 Church Street, Cambridge, 617-354-2911; lizzysicecream.com

Picco, a stylish pizza-and-ice-cream joint in the South End that uses organic ingredients and sources locally as much as possible, keeps it small. What to get: Caramel Swirl is one of the most popular flavors, but there’s also Malt Brownie -- malted vanilla ice cream studded with chunks of brownies. Or try an adult float -- vanilla ice cream in a glass of raspberry lambic. When to go: There can be 20 people waiting on a summer evening, but they’re fashionable South Enders, so who cares? Summer hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; between October and April, it closes at 10 p.m. 513 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-927-0066; piccorestaurant.com

You can get Shaw farm ice cream lots of places, but the summers-only stand in Dracut, on the actual Shaw Farm, offers a cows-and-all experience. What to get: Kahlua Brownie is the stand’s most popular flavor, but one look at the lovely Berry Berry (blueberry, black raspberry, and vanilla), and you may want to branch out. The adjoining farm store sells pints and quarts; the farm also does a brisk wholesale business, so you’ll find these scoops all over. When to go: Hours are from noon to 9 p.m. April 1 through November 1, and the wait can be as long as 20 minutes. 195 New Boston Road, Dracut, 978-957-1971; shawfarm.com

Toscanini’s in Central Square -- with its blond wood, retro couches, and crowds of students and professors -- is a neighborhood meeting place with a global feel. How Cambridge. You can also tell walking in that the ice cream is a serious, technical business. What to get: Try one of the chocolates: Chocolate Spanish Chili, Salted Chocolate, Belgian Chocolate, Cocoa Pudding, Black Bottom Pie . . . yes, there are more. When to go: The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, year-round, and there’s no wait at all mid-afternoon on weekdays. There are colossal lines (at least two hours) every July Fourth, but go any other day. 899 Main Street, Cambridge, 617-491-5877; tosci.com

Rachel Travers is a freelance writer in Lincoln. E-mail her at alphasoup2@aol.com.

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