ice cream
National Ice Cream Day is Sunday, July 21. | Photo by Sara Havens

National Ice Cream Day just so happens to fall this year on Sunday, July 21 — or should we say Sundae? With extreme heat descending upon Louisville, what better time to head to your nearest corner ice cream shop — or better yet, go exploring outside your chilled comfort zones and try something new.

To help you conserve energy, we compiled this list of the Louisville area’s top ice cream spots. It was a hard job and we endured countless calories, but in the end, it was all worth it. We also found a new favorite — OK, two new favorites — that are on the outskirts but are well worth the drive.

In no particular order, let’s start with …

Dairy Kastle — 575 Eastern Parkway
Dairy Kastle
Dairy Kastle has doggie treats, too. | Courtesy of Dairy Kastle

Ever since 1976, this Eastern Parkway staple has been slinging soft serve for the masses every spring and summer.

Prices are extremely affordable, quality is premium and the amount of product you get is astounding when compared to a chain like Dairy Queen.

Plus, they have ice cream treats for your dog, which they might snap a picture of and post to their Dogs of Dairy Kastle Instagram page.

For hungry humans, they’ve got the simple twist cone — dipped or not dipped, that is the question — along with favorites like banana splits, shakes, sundaes and flurries (a Blizzard-like concoction of ice cream and candy).

80/20 at Kaelin’s — 1801 Newburg Road
80/20's Blackberry Chocolate Truffle
80/20’s Blackberry Chocolate Truffle | Photo by Sara Havens

Unless you’ve been there recently, you might not know that 80/20 has its own ice cream shop next door to the old Kaelin’s restaurant. I stopped in recently to check it out and found a cute little throwback to ice cream soda fountains of the 1950s and 1960s.

The friendly man behind the counter explained that they make their own ice cream weekly and offer about 15 to 18 different flavors on any given day. As you’ll see throughout this piece, I’m a sucker for anything blackberry, raspberry and especially black raspberry, so naturally I went with a scoop of the Blackberry Chocolate Truffle.

I like my ice cream a little melty, so after taking it outside on the comfortable porch for a brief photo shoot, it was ready to devour! The blackberry ice cream was damn near perfect — creamy yet slightly tart — and those truffles hidden throughout were a bonus each time I got one on my spoon.

I also got a sample of the Blueberry Pink Lemonade flavor, and I’ll be returning very soon for a full scoop of that one.

The Comfy Cow — five area locations
The Comfy Cow
Love the cow mascot! | Courtesy of The Comfy Cow

The Comfy Cow has been scooping up handcrafted ice cream bliss since 2009, offering a wide selection of flavors on any given day you walk into one of its five Louisville locations.

With its venerable cow mascot and the pink-black-white color scheme throughout each store, it’s the kind of place I dreamed about owning and operating when I was 6.

It’s all about the ice cream here, although they do offer sundaes and shakes as well. Some of my favorite flavors include Black Raspberry Chip, Cake Batter Up, Bourbon Ball and Georgia Butter Pecan.

Add some hot fudge to a scoop or two, and you’ve got it made in the shade.

Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen — seven area locations
Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen
Yes, yes and yes! | Courtesy of Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen

Ice cream, pie or ice cream pie? No matter what mood you’re in, you can find it at this Louisville staple, which has been in business since 1982. The company fresh-churns all of its ice creams with milk from Kentucky and Indiana grass-fed cows and does not use any off-the-shelf mixes in the goods.

And you can tell. With dozens of flavors to choose from and an equal amount of pies, cakes and cookies to pick out, the hardest part of visiting Homemade is picking out what you want.

I’ve got my favorites, naturally, and those include Rocky Road; Peace, Love & Chocolate; Smurf; and Mocha Chip. Again, drizzle a little hot fudge on top, and you won’t be disappointed with whatever flavor you choose — and that includes orange sherbet.

Dairy Del — 1516 S. Shelby St.
Dairy Del
Dipped Dairy Del bliss | Photo by Sara Havens

Dairy Del is a Germantown hidden gem — and more specifically, it sits right between the neighborhoods of Schnitzelburg, Merriwether and Shelby Park.

They’ve been serving up soft serve treats for decades and even have vegan and non-dairy options for their loyal patrons. Plus, there’s a drive-thru, which makes it very easy to swing by on your way home from work — but I wouldn’t know anything about that.

Decisions are tough here, and often I find myself debating between the standard swirl dipped cone and an Oreo flurry with chocolate ice cream and marshmallow.

(They use that sinful marshmallow cream, which makes everything thicker, sweeter and tastier.)

They, too, have treats for dogs because, well, ice cream should be for all species.

Ehrler’s — 201 E. Main St.
Ehrler's banana split
We found heaven in Ehrler’s banana split. | Photo by Sara Havens

OK, while most of the spots on this list have been around a long time, Ehrler’s takes the ice cream cake for being the oldest — dating back to 1867! Many Louisvillians grew up going to the ice cream shop, which had locations all throughout the city.

But in the last 15 years or so, you could only find their handmade ice cream at events like the Kentucky State Fair or a Louisville Bats game.

But in 2018, the company decided to once again open a brick-and-mortar ice cream parlor downtown, and now you can get your favorite flavor any day of the week. They have about eight to 10 standard flavors, from butter pecan to mint chocolate chip, and they’ll throw in a special flavor of the month, which has included rocky road and peanut butter and chocolate.

They also make amazing sundaes and banana splits if you want to do it up right.

Louisville Cream — 632 E. Market St.
Louisville Cream
Louisville Cream keeps it creative. | Courtesy of Louisville Cream

If there’s one thing this list proves, it’s that there’s always room for more ice cream in Louisville, and as proof, I offer up Louisville Cream, which began in 2014 as a passion project of local founders Darryl Goodner, Zach Hardin and Lynette Ruby.

Goodner spent his childhood concocting crazy ice cream flavors, and he got his friends to help him turn his tasty treats into reality.

LC stays busy all throughout the evening in NuLu, since it’s pretty impossible to walk by without checking out all the flavors offered on the menu, which rotate often.

Some of the standards include Bourbon Smoked Pecan, Royal Chocolate and Salted Butter Pecan, but the seasonal ones can range from Strawberry Cookies & Cream to Peanut Butter Feelings.

They’ve also figured out how to make whipped cream out of marshmallow, so you can add that onto any scoop you get and they’ll even torch it for you right before your eyes — before it heads to your thighs. Boom!

Do yourself a favor and follow them on social media — the photos they post should be illegal, especially if you’re on a diet.

Liege and Dairy Ice Cream & Waffles  — 2212A Holiday Manor Center & 12003 Shelbyville Road
Liege and Dairy
The Motherload | Photo by Sara Havens

In 2018, Louisvillian Andrew Llewellyn decided to bring home something sweet and delicious he enjoyed while traveling through Europe — liége waffles.

So he opened Liege and Dairy at Holiday Manor, and a second location in Middletown followed shortly after.

Llewellyn uses as many Kentucky Proud ingredients as he can — unfortunately, there are no Kentucky-made Oreos — and creates flavors that are both original and delicious.

I stopped in recently to conduct some thorough research and enjoyed a scoop of the Motherload, which mixes Oreos, cookie dough and chocolate bits into an entity that must have descended from the heavens. I know Dairy Queen has tried a similar concept in Blizzard form, but this treat has giant gems all throughout that keep you consuming long after your stomach tells you it’s full.

Next time I have a bad day, I’ll be heading to Liege and Dairy to seek solace.

Other fun flavors include Greatest Scoop on Earth, Chocolate Salty Balls, Papa (made with bourbon) and Vegan Cookies & Cream. And as a bonus, you can enjoy your ice cream on top of a waffle, too.

In honor of National Ice Cream Day, Liege and Dairy is selling $2 scoops at both locations all day long (noon-11 p.m.) on Sunday, July 21. Run, don’t walk, to try the Motherload.

Graeter’s Ice Cream — six area locations
Graeter's
Chips ahoy! | Courtesy of Graeter’s

Yes, I know Graeter’s is not locally owned, but it is based in Cincinnati, and that’s close enough to me when thinking about the rich nuggets of dark chocolate chips they use in most of their flavors. When half a scoop could potentially be a chip, it makes my heart skip a beat just thinking about it.

Hands down the best flavor on the menu is Black Raspberry Chip, while second place goes to Chocolate Coconut Almond Chip. And anyone who would order a plain vanilla here should be questioned by authorities.

Again, I like to add some hot fudge on top and dig in like there’s gold at the bottom.

The Widow’s Walk — 415 E. Riverside Drive in Clarksville, Ind.
The Widow's Walk
Look at that view! | Courtesy of The Widow’s Walk

If you’re looking for a perfect date night, The Widow’s Walk is right up there next to a fancy dinner at Vincenzo’s.

Not only does it offer great views on the Louisville skyline — as it sits on the waterfront in Clarksville, Ind. — but it has delicious ice cream, too!

The cozy walk-up shop offers about 23 flavors that range from Superman and Spumoni to Mocha Almond Fudge and also can whip up a shake, malt, float and something called a sherbet cooler, which combines either orange or raspberry sherbet with Sprite.

And naturally, Widow’s Walk is gifted at making one-of-a-kind sundaes (Proud Mary’s Peanut Butter Cup Sundae sounds like a winner) and banana splits.

The shop also serves as a bicycle rental if you want to burn off some of those calories before or after consumption.

Polly’s Freeze — 5242 State Road 62 in Georgetown, Ind.
Polly's Freeze
Heaven must be missing a Black Raspberry Sundae. | Photo by Sara Havens

There’s a scene in “Dirty Dancing” where Mr. Houseman apologizes to his daughter Baby — soon after the “corner scene” — for misjudging Johnny Castle’s character. “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong,” he says. And it is in this vein that I admit I’ve been terribly amiss for not checking out Polly’s Freeze every time someone swore by it.

Sure, it’s in another state and about 15 miles from downtown — but so is Middletown. So if you don’t mind the quick drive on I-64 to the Edwardsville/Georgetown exit, then you’ll be rewarded by some of the best ice cream in the area. It’s like a time warp back to 1952, when the roadside business began, and the creamy, creamy soft serve tastes just as good as it did back then — before high-fructose corn syrup came to town.

I drove over for lunch last week to — finally! — check this place out for myself after 20 years of living in Louisville. As I perused the menu, my jaw dropped to the ground when I saw Black Raspberry Sundae as one of the specialties. I remember as a kid going to the corner ice cream shop and ordering any and all things black raspberry. It’s a flavor that has disappeared off menus of late (except in ice cream flavor form), but as a sundae topping, it is one of the best!

And the Polly’s Freeze Black Raspberry Sundae rekindled all those happy feelings I had as a 7-year-old, proving that I can enjoy something that’s not saturated in chocolate. The old-fashioned stand also has everything you’d think it would have — from sundaes and banana splits to swirl cones, hot fudge cakes, parfaits and flurries.

Also, the cheeseburger and fries were damn good, too.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."