While everyone was focused on the ice rink these past few weeks, summer slipped in the back door and cranked up the thermostat. The heat is on, and there are plenty of hot days in store, so it’s time to start thinking about cold brews, icy treats and other ways to beat the heat.
But before you start chasing down the ice cream truck, we’ve put together a few ways to upgrade your cool down options. Let’s plunge right in, shall we?
Roll on into summer, Thai style
NatuRoll Creamery, Lawrenceville and Cranberry
The rolled ice cream trend, inspired by street vendors in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, is making its way across the States. The frozen rolls are made by spreading ice cream into a batter with little paddles over a very cold surface that looks like a large pizza pan. Mix-ins are chopped into the batter before it freezes and the mixture is shaved into rolls served standing up in a cup. Finally, syrups and even more toppings are added. Riding a wave of popularity, NatuRoll just opened a second location in Cranberry.
Iced coffee meets mixology
Black Forge Coffee House, Allentown
When it comes to flavorful coffee drinks, The Weedeater at Black Forge Coffee House conjures up all the tastes of summer in one cold glass mug. It’s an icy mix of espresso, cream, white chocolate and green mint all shaken together in one happy, frothy combo. It’s like the first taste of ice cream on a hot summer day, without being overly sweet. The mint adds a fresh and cool punch, and the double shot of espresso makes sure there’s some buzz in your chill. Black Forge is an independently-owned coffee house featuring Zeke’s roasted coffee and a full menu of espresso and coffee drinks, baked goods and live music in the evenings.
When you want to keep it fresh and clean
Reed & Co., Lawrenceville
Behold the simple green smoothie. It cools you down, makes you feel good, and is oh-so-good for you. Reed & Co. sticks to the basics with a perfect blend of fresh kale and spinach, dates, bananas and fresh coconut water. Just the right kind of sweet to kick up your energy without the dreaded sugar crash. This summer will be the first for neighborhood newcomer Reed & Co., which is quickly becoming a “go-to” spot for healthy grab and go options. Frequent collaborative events with local purveyors like Baby Loves Tacos are helping spread the word on how many things pair perfectly with their fresh drinks.
It’s a soft-serve summer of love
Page Dairy Mart, South Side
This roadside classic is a welcome sign of summer for Pittsburghers when it opens every season. Page’s has been serving soft serve cones with chocolate dips and sprinkles, sundaes and banana splits since 1951. One of the things that gives this city its unique character is that places like this still exist, operating just the same way they have for years. Featuring a menu packed with crowd-pleasing options, a trip to Page’s after a sweltering day is a summer tradition on the South Side.
When you want to beat the heat with a stick
Tippy Top Pops, citywide
Chef Jaqueline Wardle of Josephine’s Toast has fired up her summer popsicle business called Tippy Top Pops. Wardle’s handcrafted popsicles made with fresh ingredients will be popping up at farmers markets, parties and festivals around town all summer. She creates tasty flavors just right for summer cool downs, like strawberry-rhubarb, banana and white grape. Wardle likes to change up her flavors on a whim based on what currently inspires her. These icy pops are packed with the kind of fresh and vibrant flavors you would expect from a talented chef.
Looking to check out more locally-made gourmet popsicles this summer? Be sure to check out Sticklers, the Millvale-based makers who just made a big icy splash at the Three Rivers Arts Festival as well as local favorite, Popsburgh.
For baristas with mad talent
Arriviste Coffee Bar, Shadyside
A recent addition to the Shadyside neighborhood, Arriviste features single-origin coffees from Commonplace Coffee Co. (Pittsburgh) and Passenger Coffee Roasters (Lancaster) in a comfortable, relaxed and well-designed space. All the brewing is done with Modbar espresso machines tucked neatly under the counters like ultra-cool stereo components. The result is a clean open surface unlike any other coffee shop you have ever seen. Customers here get a better view of the barista action.
Arriviste has some perfect summer drink options at the ready, including:
The Arriviste C&T: flash-brewed coffee, tonic, and house-made lime-juniper syrup and bitters (essentially a gin & tonic with coffee replacing the gin).
The Bombay Summer: hibiscus iced tea, cardamom syrup and seltzer.
The Vezio Special: espresso, cocoa nib tea, milk and house-made bitters shaken and served over ice.
A fresh spin on an old idea
Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches, citywide
Have you tried these yet? Leona’s takes the combination of ice cream and cookies very seriously. The thin cookie part of the ice cream sandwiches you grew up with has been reimagined with creative flavors, and are thick enough to pack a lot of ice cream in between. Combos like strawberry-rhubarb between shortbread cookies and blueberry ice cream between snickerdoodle cookies are starting to grab national attention. USA Today included them in their list of the coolest ice cream sandwiches in the country. You can find them all over town this summer at places like Zeke’s Coffee, Pizzuvio, Pork & Beans, Draai Laag, B Gourmet and Pear and the Pickle, just to name a few. Leona’ s also makes their ice cream available in super cute pint-size boxes—perfect when it’s your turn to bring dessert.
So simple and yet so different
Banh Mi & Ti, Lawrenceville
Locals have already fallen in love with this shop’s menu of fresh banh mi sandwiches and Vietnamese street food. Now Banh Mi & Ti is becoming a favorite destination for bubble teas, Vietnamese iced coffees and the incredibly refreshing Nuoc Mia (sugar cane juice): a Vietnamese classic made by feeding fresh sugar cane stalks through a cold press machine and extracting the juice, then adding ice and a bit of fresh fruit. It’s sweet but not cloying, and when poured over a big glass of ice it makes a deliciously refreshing summer drink. It’s the perfect new addition to your “cool down” arsenal.
When only handcrafted ice cream will do
Betsy’s Ice Cream, Mt. Lebanon
Betsy’s has been serving up local, farm-sourced, all-natural ice cream in the heart of Mt. Lebanon since 2012. Mouthwatering flavors like salted caramel, maple walnut and creamsicle are all handcrafted with expertise. There’s also a selection of creative toppings in the shop. Want the ice cream to come to you? Betsy’s runs an ice cream CSA that will deliver four pints packed with homemade ice cream right to your door once a month for $20.
Another tasty option for handcrafted ice cream goodness is Millie’s Homemade in Shadyside. Chef Chad Townsend (Salt of the Earth, Eleven) and his wife, Lauren, have put together a creative menu of inspired flavors including rhubarb sorbet and Vietnamese coffee. Watch for a second Millie’s opening soon near Market Square.