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“In a city that is as walkable and pedestrian friendly as DC, why is it so hard to get a cone of soft serve???”

by Prince Of Petworth May 30, 2017 at 1:45 pm 114 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Julian Ortiz

“Dear PoPville,

Like you and most other sane human beings, I am a lover of dessert, especially ice cream. There have been many evenings when my wife and I, after having just completed a delicious dinner, get a craving for ice cream. Not frozen yogurt, not sorbet, but dairy cream and sugar ice cream. I’m a big fan of Dairy Queen soft serve and growing up in Texas, a cone of DQ soft serve was always easily at hand. However, one night a few years back after completing said meal, my then girlfriend and I (now my wife) got a craving for ice cream. We asked the Google to find us some ice cream, and low and behold, the closest Dairy Queen is 7.5 miles away in the Montgomery Mall in MARYLAND!

In fact, I’ve only counted a handful of actual ice cream places in DC, and NONE of them are convenient to Van Ness. Yes we have frozen yogurt available, but for one, the froyo place in Cleveland Park is no more, and two, if I wanted froyo, I would get froyo. So my question is, in a city that is as walkable and pedestrian friendly as DC, why is it so hard to get a cone of soft serve???”

  • Robert

    McDonalds will sell you a soft serve cone for a buck. Not the best, but good enough.

  • LedroitTigah

    You could always go for the cones at McDonalds!

    In all seriousness, though, I think its because this city is pretty health focused.

    I do miss the Pinkberry in Dupont, though

    • Carey

      I don’t buy the “health focused” thing. There’s a proliferation of donut and cupcake shops, and most of the delicious food at all the fancy restaurants around town is extremely bad for you. And all these places are usually packed.

      • LedroitTigah

        ok, fair point.

      • Anon

        And soft serve is fairly low-calorie. I wonder if there’s less of a market here because there’s so much diversity, and something like 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. In places like New England or Utah or the Midwest most people are of Northern European descent so they can handle it, but DC has people from everywhere so fewer instances of the gene mutation.

        • Bobert

          You’re definitely overthinking this.

          • Anon

            Well I know it’s the reason I’m not crazy about ice cream, and I’m only mildly lactose intolerant.

      • ChenChen


      • KS

        Ice cream is seasonal. (Almost} no one wants it in the winter, so shops don’t do well enough to stay open year-round year after year.

  • Ross

    There’s a Baskin Robbins in Woodley Park, and I think in the summer Dos Gringos in Mt Pleasant has an ice cream shop downstairs (although I can never figure out its open hours).

    • Hill Denizen

      There’s also a Baskin Robbins at the Dunkin Donuts by Eastern Market.

      • west_egg

        …and the one in Columbia Heights.

      • jazz-cigarettes

        That Baskin Robbins no longer has a soft serve machine, as I learned to my displeasure the other evening.

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      Baskin Robbins does not have soft serve. I think the OP specifically wants soft serve.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        I haven’t been to one in years, but according to the website, BR does have soft serve. Maybe the DC locations do not, however.

  • AMDCer

    My wish for you all – that this be the largest problem you ever have to deal with in life.

    • west_egg


      • AMDCer

        It was actually a sincere wish…

  • AMDCer

    Taking another tack – perhaps the OP has hit on an untapped market – someone should open a DQ franchise (is it a franchise?)

    • Elvis’s Mom

      CARVEL please. Because Fudgie the Whale is my spirit animal.

      • dcd

        Yes, yes, yes! Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss. Also, the original flying saucers made with Carvel soft serve. A large soft serve cove with chocolate sprinkles (not what I called them growing up, but I understand that the original name has some unpleasant roots) is one of the best things about summer.

        • navyard

          I had no idea what you were talking about and the first 18 links from Mr. Google all debunk that story. But I guess I won’t use that word anymore either because some people think it’s racist. Thanks for letting me know. I guess.

        • Elkhaert

          If you are referring to jimmies, feel free to use the term. The term has zero to do with Jim Crow, that is an urban legend.


          • dcd

            I can feel free to using the terms of my youth? Excellent, thank you! (I usually don’t get sucked into nonsense like this, no idea why I latched onto this one.)

      • TX2DC

        There used to be a Carvel in Columbia Heights but it closed. I believe there is a mattress store in its former spot.

    • vramin

      DQ in general has a weak presence on the East Coast. My wife is from Minnesota and when we go to the midwest we hit up DQ all the time, but it they are thin on the ground here and also in MA where we used to live.

  • uppermostnorthwest

    Doesn’t Rita’s have soft serve? There is one in Chinatown and another on H street from my understanding.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Rita’s is frozen custard not ice cream, and it is not particularly close to Van Ness, but maybe it will work for them. Is the Baskin Robbins still in Woodley?

      • T

        Yup, Baskin Robbins is still in Woodley, along with a McDonald’s that has soft serve.

      • anon

        As someone who has actually made ice cream (from scratch), isn’t frozen custard just ice cream with eggs (you can make ice cream with milk and with or without eggs.)

        • Tsar of Truxton

          And isn’t gelato just ice cream with more milk and less cream? We don’t call it ice cream just because it has a similar base. Froyo, ice cream, gelato, and custard are all clearly similar, but different. Custard is much thicker than traditional soft serve ice cream. Maybe it is the egg. Maybe it is the process. I don’t know, but it is its own thing.

          • anon

            Sure we do – some of us, anyway – it’s all ice cream, just slightly different types of it. Gelato (which I prefer) is just Italian-style ice cream. Yes, it has less milk fat, and it also has less air whipped in, so it is more dense than ice cream – so the flavor is more intense.
            Same is true for frozen custard, which is just a form of soft serve ice cream – besides containing eggs, it also has less air whipped in, so is also more dense than soft serve ice cream that is not custard.

    • Anon H St

      Rita’s definitely has soft serve. I don’t really like it, and it’s custard rather than ice cream, but it’s there.

      It’s a long-running fantasy of mine that the H St Rita’s gets replaced with a Pitango or Dolcezza or a good ice cream place.

  • cam

    You’d be driving in Texas, though, for your soft serve, right? There’s soft serve available at Momofuku and Doi Moi (I prefer Doi Moi’s), but those aren’t regular soft serve. They’re fancy and follow a meal. If you type “soft serve ice cream ” into Yelp, there are other possibilities.

    • Hill Denizen

      Well you could get the soft serve at Milk Bar. Fancy, but to-go.

      • textdoc

        I found Momofuku’s soft-serve really disappointing, especially for the price.

  • textdoc

    I don’t think there’s really a market for soft-serve ice cream per se; the OP may have to content him/herself with the soft-serve cones at McDonald’s. There are gelato places, ice-cream places (Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs), and frozen-yogurt places, so there are certainly options for portable frozen dessert.

  • Guillermo Brown

    Kohr Bros is the best soft serve (custard actually) on the planet. I won’t take any other suggestions. Please come to D.C. !!

    • dcd

      Custard is not soft serve ice cream. See the Tsar of Truxton’s comments above.

      • Kingman Park

        Irrelevant, Guillermo Brown is preaching the truth.

    • saf

      No. Abbot’s is. Sadly, it is only in Rochester, NY.

    • Eileen

      I used to go out to White Flint just to go to Kohr Bros. Maybe they will come back when the dust settles out there.

  • Anon

    I don’t know about Van Ness, but there are several ice cream/gelato shops (not soft-serve, sorry) around town, albeit closer to downtown. E.g. Ice Cream Jubilee, Dolcezza, Dolci Gelati, Pitango Gelato, Haagen Dazs, and Larry’s in Dupont.

  • houseintherear

    I just want to say that the most AMAZING soft serve is at Union Market at the place that’s closed on Sundays, and of course I can’t remember the name. Get the swirl.

    • Ugly Betty

      Trickling Springs Creamery

      • Anon

        Omg, theres a trickling springs opening up a block from my house. I dont know if this information makes me ecstatic or terrified.

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    What does walkable and pedestrian friendly have to do with it? My hometown is neither of those and I can think of three soft serve places there off the top of my head. For whatever reason I think soft serve is mostly found in the suburbs.

    • west_egg

      I agree with your assessment. My sister lives in a suburb with four ice cream places along the mile-long “main drag.” But I think OP associates “walkable and pedestrian-friendly” because soft serve cones lend themselves nicely to an evening stroll.

      • Hill Denizen

        That brings up…our city is very pedestrian friendly, but I don’t think many people go out for evening strolls a la European countries.

        • Weindc

          We do downtown

  • anon

    Thomas Sweet, which is probably the most popular ice cream joint in the city, has soft serve.

    • Rich

      they’re also not that great anymore with the current management.

  • Ann

    Not very helpful for you in Van Ness, but if you ever find yourself on H St, Ben’s Chili Bowl has soft serve.

  • Rich

    If there was demand, Ritas might still be in Columbia heights. McD’s isn’t bad in a pinch. DQ seems not to do urban areas although they did in the past. Decent soft serve tends to be difficult to find away from a beach. Sandy’s on lake Shore Blvd. in Cleveland is my all time favorite–the vanilla extract in the frozen custard makes all the difference.

  • iwdc

    All this talk of McDonalds and no one has mentioned Chick-Fil-A Icedream (R)?!?! Definitely the best fast food soft serve (recognizing that it’s still not all that close to Van Ness, but it needed to be mentioned).

    • M

      Came here to say the same thing! There’s a Chick-Fil-A in Tenleytown now, that might be a nice evening stroll from Van Ness??

    • dcd

      I grew up in the north, have only been to Chick-Fil-A a few times, and had no idea it sells soft serve. However, I think generally that places that sell a whole bunch of things, and also soft serve (McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, etc.) generally have inferior ice cream to dedicated ice cream stores (Carvel, any independent ice cream stand in New England).

    • Anon

      Also, Nandos.

      • iwdc

        TIL Nando’s has soft serve. Life. Changed.

  • siz

    i’m not a soft serve fan myself but i freaking love ice cream and there quite simply are not enough good ice cream places in dc. tbh ice cream jubilee is terrible, although i appreciate it as an independent business. obviously we’re not on the scale of new york, but they have like 10 MUST VISIT ice cream places, not to mention the SCORES of good-but-not-great places! someone above mentioned trickling springs, and their stand in union market is by FAR the best ice cream in city limits.

    • anon

      Well, of course, because they are starting with their great milk – which I love and drink in my coffee daily. Organic, grazing, grass-fed cows (cows were made to eat grass, not grain). I have to get over there to try their ice cream on of these days. I doubt other ice cream purveyors are starting with the same kind of milk.

  • anon

    Coming from the land of dairy bars and seafood in New England, I definitely second the DC DQ wish (not quite a *real* dairy bar, but I’ll take it!). Perhaps the next franchise to enter DC a la Wawa?!

  • RIP Dickey’s. Ah, the days of walking to get a dip cone during work.

    These days, you can often find food trucks with soft serve (some do dips) on the Mall.

  • Elvis’s Mom

    I believe the Hershey’s store on 15th between I and K Streets sells soft serve.

  • RJ

    Search Google maps for “dc ice cream” and this is what comes up:


    NW DC is literally a dessert desert

  • anon

    When I was younger I used to work in a place that served soft serve. The machines were temperamental and often needed maintenance. The shop I worked in eventually went out of business, and I think it was partly due to how expensive the machines were to upkeep. If I were to open up an ice cream shop (which is a dream of mine), I would serve regular ice cream so I wouldn’t have to deal with those damn machines.

    • anon

      Maybe the machines were old. I worked in a soft serve place the summer I was 16 (more than 40 years ago) and we never had an issue with the machines back then. I do remember having to clean them out every night before closing – maybe that maintenance helped.

  • Johnny

    Get a blend-in from Thomas Sweet and thank me later.

  • Truxton Thomas

    The Wendy’s Frosty is semi-melted soft serve, so you could try that. In all seriousness, though, the city needs a DQ. I want dipped cones and Blizzards, damn it.

    • wdc

      And my 15 year old self thought their onion rings were the BEST. I’d be interested to see if that impression holds.
      I don’t think I could tell the difference between “real” soft serve, and froyo, and custard, and whatever the other options are.

      • Truxton Thomas

        I do recall them having pretty good onion rings. I was always a Heath bar Blizzard man, myself.

    • timmyp

      Nope. Not a soft serve and not good. Also only chocolate for some reason. You’re better off going to McDonald’s if you are going that route.
      Someone needs to bring over the flakey’s from Ireland. They have them in every gas station and they are amazing. How hard could that be to replicate?
      Hell, maybe I’ll bring it over. Anyone got a little capitol to burn?

      • wdc

        They make vanilla frosties. My kids like them. It’s weird.

      • Truxton Thomas

        I have had a vanilla Frosty! Not sure if that was an irregularity, but they do exist. And come on, it’s totally the same substance as a cheap McDonald’s cone—just slightly different texture. However, I wouldn’t want to soil the reputation of decent soft serve by comparing with the Wendy’s Frosty, so I regretfully retract.

      • Anon

        Oh come on Somebody catch this!! Capital. Not an arson target full of tiny lawmakers.

  • msmodular

    This is because at the end of the day we are a Gelato and Scoop Ice Cream town. I have no complaints, I can walk to both Moorenkos and Dolci from my house. I will trade soft serve for Lavender Honey and Pistachio Anise any day of the week. Never mind the proliferation of Ben and Jerry’s
    We do not know why certain frozen confections do better in certain cities. Or confections in general. DQ around here is mostly a suburban thing.
    Also whoever said bring Kohr frozen custard to DC…I would kill for that. It is one of my favorite parts of beach trips in the area.
    I think frozen custard though is more of a thing in this part of the country than soft serve. As somebody mentioned, Ritas is a thing around here in certain parts of DC. Personally I prefer the frozen custard.

  • Country Girl

    As a gal who grew up with soft serve (and mini golf) myself, Capital City Cheesecake in Takoma Park is the place to find a cheap, classic soft serve. Plus they are locally owned and very conscious establishment, so bonus.

  • LedroitTigah

    Ill be honest, the BEST soft serve in the world is (or used to be) in India, at the Amul factory.

    Second choice: DQ.


    • pstreet202

      I didn’t know Amul had ice cream but that sounds good.I loved Mother Dairy and Kwality…

  • TX2DC

    There’s a DQ in the Virginia suburbs, not too far from the Skyline Target. I sometimes stop for a Blizzard or dip cone while running errands out that way. Address is: 3527 S Jefferson St, Fairfax, VA

  • anonymous

    Larry’s in Dupont has soft-serve

    Also Nando’s soft-serve is very good!

  • MadMax

    There are dozens of things that aren’t near Van Ness, that’s the sacrifice you chose.

  • Womp womp

    YES. Often find myself in need of a soft serve fix in DC and still haven’t found a good option. McDonald’s or Chik fil A are easily accessible, but don’t offer the necessary rainbow/chocolate sprinkles (depending on mood), and the number of times I have waited in line at McD’s just to be told their ice cream machine is broken is depressing. If your craving gets to the point that you’re willing to make a trek (deep) into the suburbs, Jimmie Cone in Damascus, MD is the perfect reward.

  • KTW2011

    You can get soft serve at the Zoo, doesn’t help for a evening craving but it’s there and it’s pretty good!

  • TX2DC

    Also, Airedale has soft serve ice cream. A little pricey at $6 but there if you need a fix. http://www.airedaledc.com/menu-marquee/

  • BookaholicAnonymous

    FroZenYo (locations across from the zoo, Columbia Heights, and likely others) has soft serve ice cream in addition to frozen yogurt. Vanilla, chocolate or swirled.

  • JP

    Around Van Ness I’d say the options are Burger King soft serve or Potbelly milkshakes.

  • Ice Cream

    Sfoglina in Van Ness serves soft serve.

  • anon

    @ OP, you’re from Texas and you prefer DQ over Braum’s? BLASPHEMY!!

    *Braum’s makes everything better

  • welshie

    I second all of the options people have listed already and the WaPo just did an article about this (it’s “fancy” soft serve, but if your only gripe is it has to be soft serve (not gelato, custard, or frozen yogurt) this should help:


  • Derek

    We used to go to the Frozen Dairy Bar near Seven Corners in Northern Va when I was a kid. I remember enjoying it but I tend to prefer scooped ice cream to soft serve. I believe the Frozen Dairy Bar still exists but I probably haven’t been there since the 1980s!

    • Nose-in-a-Book

      It does indeed still exist, interior is updated and now called FDB. My understanding is it is frozen custard and they always have vanilla and chocolate, and rotate one or two every day.

  • Grant Circle

    Red Apron Burger Bar also has soft serve and toppings dressed up your way. Have a beer and walk home with soft serve.

  • Kel

    Kohr Bros was in Cleveland Park for a few years back in the mid 1990’s. It was in the little park-n-shop. If you ever find yourself out near Damascus, MD, try Jimmie Cone for great soft serve.

  • The Dude

    We need Mister Softee in this town. I’d kill for a Double Merlin after a few frames.

  • Rosette

    Since OP sounds like a big soft serve fan, I suggest making a trip out to Manassas (or pit stop from a place west like the Shenandoah) to go to Kline’s Freeze. Free standing, classic walk up soft serve (true soft serve, not ice cream) stand that’s been around for 50 years. It’s interesting to see auto dealers and strip malls that popped​ up around but sure enough Kline’s is still there.

    Kline’s Freeze


  • navyard

    There used to be a 32 below Soft Serve place on Barrack’s Row. Oh how I miss it.

  • AdMo

    Someone, please open a Dairy Queen in DC. I drive to Vienna, VA to get it sometimes…

    • jim_ed

      FWIW there’s a DQ in Rockville as well that may be closer than Vienna depending on where you’re at in the city, right of Viers Mill.
      If we’re all driving to get locally famous soft serve, then everyone needs to try Carl’s in Fredericksburg, VA. A scant hour down 95 to get the soft serve of my youth thats been around for 60 something years.

  • Boom

    If you find yourself at the new MGM Grand/Outlets in National Harbor (Oxon Hill/Fort Washington), then Hoovermales is only about a 5 minute drive and easily the best soft serve ice cream in the DC Metro area.

  • Van Ness-er

    It’s slightly more decadent, but a local, Van Ness option would be the vanilla soft-serve gelato at Sfoglina! It’s amazing, and with a caramel sauce to boot.

    I can also confirm that the Woodley Park Baskin-Robbins does offer soft serve (at least as of last summer).

  • FridayGirl

    Hopping in late but can I just say that I’m still annoyed Sweetgreen got rid of the frozen yogurt? I haven’t been back since.

  • Anonymous

    If soft-serve ice cream is hard to find here it’s because ice cream stores are relatively hard to find. It’s a seasonal business – very popular during warm weather, not so much when it’s cold. The longer the cold weather season in a particular area, the fewer dedicated ice cream stores you’ll find. I’m pretty sure that Rita’s, which sells frozen custards, shuts down for the winter. I’ve never seen one open during the cold weather season.

  • KM

    Right here in Van Ness, although you might not be able to walk in off the street and get it, Sfoglina has delicious if overpriced soft serve.

  • VP

    If we are on the topic of hard to find nostalgic ice cream products: Dippin’ Dots. My favorite part about going to Nats stadium is getting a large cup and scarfing it down like a deprived kid.

  • Nancy

    I’m with you, I’d love to have a Dairy Queen in the city. Had one in my very small hometown (no McDonald’s or other, just Dairy Queen and an A&W). A trip to DQ is quite the bit of nostalgia. Since I don’t have a car, that trip is pretty hard to manage.

  • Amanda

    Thomas Sweets on Wisconsin Ave has soft serve (plus tons of other amazing ice cream options.

  • jg

    Dear writer. You may be my spirit animal. My friend and I just had this conversation a few weeks ago. Why can’t we get a Mr. Softee up in here?

  • Kit

    Van ness clearly hit a nerve. I live in area too and miss DQ and Carvel. Is it question of real estate prices and what you need to earn to pay rent? Bc we are smart DC we should be able to figure this out. Food truck soft serve? Good Humor truck even?

  • Eileen

    The Department of Labor’s cafeteria, which at least used to be open to the public (don’t work there any more) had vanilla and chocolate (and twists) soft serve. It would not surprise me if other government/court cafeterias do, too. Does UDC have a cafeteria that’s open to the public?

    Or just buy regular ice cream, let it get soft, and stir it till it’s soft.

  • Willard_Street

    There is way too much food info here to let it linger in the comments. Any chance of a POP-sourced map of frozen delicacies?

  • Faith

    Red Apron Burger Bar in Dupont has soft serve and you can add toppings!


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