Your humble Reader writers pride ourselves on our intense scrutiny and dedication to our craft. For some of us, [food writers, for instance] this includes experiencing way more than our fair share of delectable Omaha offerings to bring you what’s cutting edge, exceptional, or just plain delicious.This month, my daunting task was to bring you a list of the finest Ice Cream shops in the area. Guys. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it.I couldn’t tackle this assignment alone, and so I enlisted the help of The Reader’s unpaid interns. Bam and Jack are connoisseurs of all things sweet, and at the ripe old ages of 4 1/2 and almost 3, they have a promising future in the field. Scout is a new trainee on staff, but at only 10 months old, her palate just can’t be trusted yet. She was tasked instead with determining just how sticky each candidate was. Each establishment’s offerings were found to measure at exactly 11 units of sticky. This is an impressive measurement, if you aren’t familiar with the scale by which stickiness is gauged. She’s our resident expert, so let’s not waste any time second guessing her assessment.
Now that everyone has gotten to know each other, let’s commence with our list, shall we? Factors that were considered when choosing our establishments included responsible sourcing, quality of the ice cream base, and variety and creativity of flavor options. In no particular order, here is what we found:
Ted and Wally’s
An Omaha staple that was born in an old garage in Lincoln, Ted and Wally’s has been an Old Market landmark for more than 31 years. The establishment was a wild success before it was sold in 2000 to the brother-sister team of Joe Pittack and Jeanne Ohira. The two kept the family feel, the rich 18% butterfat base, and the made from scratch traditions in place, but added a few touches of their own. Ethical sourcing from family-owned dairies, sustainable practices and dealings with local farms and growers, and an eye on dietary restrictions. The menu was expanded to include vegan, paleo, and even agave-sweetened options as a lower glycemic load for those sensitive to sugars.It’s hard not to comment specifically on the richness of the ice cream, especially when on a mission that had me consuming more than my fair share of High Fructose Corn Syrup. The stark contrast between a chain’s offerings and Ted and Wally’s buttery, creamy, fresh scoop truly underscored the eye on quality, which hasn’t faltered in more than 3 decades of serving our community.With over 2000 rotating flavors to sample, you don’t have time to take winters off. Ted and Wally’s isn’t a summer tradition, it’s an Old Market tradition.Bam’s pick: A paleo scoop, coconut milk with maple syrup, coconut flakes mixed in.Jack’s pick: Madagascar vanilla bean with Mochi
Featured on Shark Tank for their unique business model, ECreamery has a gift and a flavor for every favor. 16 rotating flavors are available daily, with a constantly updated menu on their Website, and with those flavors, a cause close to the owner’s hearts. Each month, ECreamery selects a worthy cause and donates a portion of proceeds from a select flavor. You’ve never felt quite so good about eating ice cream.Additionally, you can personalize the packaging of any of their delicious offerings, creating a unique gift delivered right to your door. Whether you’re trying to say “I’m sorry” or “congratulations!”, there is a gift option to suit your sweet tooth. Monthly subscriptions can be purchased, as well as one-time gifts. Custom flavors can be created using their easy DIY menu, and your personalized creation can be picked up in store or delivered to your door!Bam’s pick: S’mores. This is especially fun, as he can’t say it and it comes out sounding like “formores”Jack’s pick: Biscotti Gelato
The new kid on the block has done his due diligence. Owner Brian Langbehn knows his product, and the neighborhood he serves. A sweet spot in Blackstone, the unassuming Langbehn is just waiting for an opportunity to take you by surprise. He has spent years cultivating relationships with area growers and business owners, and his elevated ice cream is testament to the care with which he treats his customers and his friends.The base of his creation comes from local dairies Burbach and Branched Oak, while the mix ins come from places like Squeaky Greens Organic farm and Archetype coffee down the street. While my children happily chomp on a cone, I begin drowning Langbehn in praise, and he instantly deflects credit to pastry chef Katie Arant and assistant Eva Krammerer. The team is cohesive and caring, and the experience is elevated by the hands that create it just as much as by the intriguing and delicious flavors they have created.Bam recommends: Sweet Corn ConeJack recommends: Cherry Crumble
Known for more than just being the only exclusively vegan restaurant in Omaha, Modern Love is notorious for their attention to quality and detail. Vegan dairy is a fickle beast, and your dish is either going to be “good, but not ice cream…” or “what on earth is this… cream of… nut? What?!” Modern Love found this standard unacceptable, and designed an exclusive line of dairy products, including the elusive perfect vegan ice cream.The boys shared a sundae, which featured chocolate and vanilla “ice cream”, salted maple caramel sauce, fudge, and peanuts.
The College World Series made Zesto’s part of generations of families’ summer tradition. No school field trip to the zoo was complete without a pocket full of sweaty quarters and a twisted cone to end the experience. For more than 60 years, Zesto’s served as a landmark, and a fun first summer job for countless teens. When the decision was made to move the World Series downtown, Zesto’s was in danger of slipping off into history books. The family owned shop resisted, and now operates establishments in Florence [8608 N. 30th] and Cherry Hills [7130 N. 102 Cir]Bam opted for a chocolate cone while Jack grinned as a twist dripped off of his chin
If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never know it was there. Located at 4002 S 24th St, the South Omaha shop is known for their accessible atmosphere, family vibe, and utterly ridiculous tacos. Generous portions of fresh avocado, smoky, spicy meats, and portions that make you wish you could fit more into your stomach. But order one less taco than you think you can eat and save that space for a sweet treat. The chocolate ice cream with cinnamon is the perfect marriage of sweet and heat, but not always on the menu. Anything they have on hand is going to be rich and delicious, and worth the risk of over eating. You’ll notice a difference from the “Dairy Chain” quality instantly, and you will never be able to go back.
The only true chain on our list, this shop has become an iconic name in ice cream since 1932. Originally just a midwestern treat, the brand now employs over 1,000 people, and Goodrich is a name known across America. While it is now mass-produced, it has maintained its old-fashioned feel, and the quality has never faltered.Bam enjoyed a butter pecan coneJack sampled everything before settling on cookie dough
Mahoney State Park [Ashland]
The ultimate in stay-cationing, Mahoney State Park at 28500 West Park Hwy is Omaha’s choice for glamping. Cabins and primo camp sites are the perfect setting for a day of horseback riding, paddle boating, fishing, a trip to the Safari Park or Strategic Air Command, and cooling down at the wave pool. You haven’t finished your day until you’ve stopped into the on-site café and ordered a hand dipped cone or hand mixed sundae. Bam struggled with just how frozen the caramel was in his dish of snickers and chocolate, but Jack made quick work of it. Choosing an alternative mix-in for his next dish set the world right, and the little shop has quickly become part of our summer tradition.
Honorable mention to the sweet spot, Christy Crème just over the bridge in Council Bluffs. Excellent service from a friendly, family owned place is always worth a mention, and a dish is worth the drive. Sweet, satisfying, and in authentic company.
Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with a few sticky co-workers, ice cream dripping off of their elbows, chocolate mustaches, smiling in the sun. Omaha is in the business of building memories. Those memories will always be sweet and delicious.