It’s summertime in Columbia, and you know what we’re all thinking: ice cream. As it heats up in mid-Missouri, we all flock to the parlors, stands and stores for a sweet treat to share with our families and friends. Columbia is one of the biggest small towns around, which means we have a lot of hidden gems in our city just begging to be found. Enter: the girls of Y107. The three of us may be different in more ways than we can count, but we have at least one thing in common: a passion for ice cream and a desperate need to find the best local flavors Columbia has to offer. We decided to embark on a week-long, five-stop tour of local ice cream, golden spoons in hand, ready to snag a taste of summer in Columbia.
The winner? Us, probably. We got to taste amazing flavors all week long (and the calories don’t count if you’re eating them for research purposes). Each place we visited had its own flare and take on sweet summer treats. We’ve gone ahead and broken each place down for you below as a guide to what your mood and risk level (we’ll explain) may be, but just know, Columbia has some darn good ice cream.
Almost anyone in Columbia who’s been here for a while knows that Sparky’s is not afraid to challenge the traditional ice cream flavors (they once had Cicada ice cream!). When you walk into the downtown space, you immediately notice the art. All from local artists, The decor in Sparky’s is matched by all the flavors they offer. From sorbet to lavender honey, you’re in for a flavor punch no matter what you get.
I tried the Cookies and Coffee ice cream. I was a little scared of the taste because I don’t love coffee, but holy cow this was delicious! There was a hint of coffee flavor, but it was not too powerful. And talk about GIGANTIC cookie pieces. This is such a fun spin on the typical cookies and cream flavor. I highly suggest you try it!
This place really hits you with the ‘ol razzle dazzle! You could spend hours looking at the artwork on the walls. It’s pretty soft for dipped ice cream, which makes it even better because you have to eat it faster. I got classic vanilla because I think you can judge an ice cream place pretty accurately by their vanilla. It didn’t disappoint me at all, but my first love will always be their lavender honey ice cream.
When I think of ice cream in Columbia, Sparky’s is top of mind. My rule for this tour was to get the wildest flavor at each place, so needless to say I was pretty nervous to start at Sparky’s, which is known for their wild flavors. Luckily, the girls took it easy on me and I got the Rice Krispies ice cream. I was a little apprehensive because a crispy treat and ice cream didn’t quite sound like a great combo. I was wrong. It was so delicious! I even tried to go back for more later that weekend. Spoiler alert: Their flavors change quickly and often!
A hankering for soft ice cream with some of the wildest yet most delicious flavors you’ve ever tasted
Diving in headfirst, without knowing how deep the water is
This is definitely a place you could take your extended family and all of their friends. With it being outdoors where you browse, order and eat, Andy’s is peak summertime. They have a 10-plus foot sign with all their offerings — for good reason. The opportunities are endless here. The staff is there to help, though, so if you can’t decide, they’ve got your back.
WARNING: If you get the Strawberry Shortcake Sundae, you will be filled to the brim. This was such a fun treat to ring in the summer. With huge chunks of shortcake and giant strawberries, Andy’s definitely does not skimp on the toppings. By far the best Strawberry Shortcake Sundae I have ever had!
Is plain vanilla even really an option here? I got vanilla but added peanut butter and fresh raspberries. It was like if a PB&J could be ice cream. SO GOOD! I never want anything else from here.
The server had a sinister look in her eye when I asked her to give me her wildest recommendation. I got the Cherry Bash Concrete: custard, chocolate syrup, cherries and Heath bar. I had never had a Heath bar before having this treasure in my hand. The custard was nice on one of the hottest days because it didn’t melt as quickly as ice cream, and I was able to take my time with this one. You’ll need the extra time because this was heavy, but well worth the calories.
It’s mid-July and 80 degrees at 9 p.m.
White water rafting, but you have an experienced guide in the raft with you.
Colors, optimism, chemistry — ice cream perfection. When you walk in, Let’s Roll looks like a traditional ice cream parlor, but the way they serve is anything but. It has flare, flavors and about as many choices as you’d want to have. Oh, and it tastes great, too!
This was my first time having rolled ice cream and definitely not my last! Not only was the ice cream delicious but the experience was so fun! I had the Kiss the Rainbow that had fruity pebbles, sour candy and vanilla ice cream. Talk about all of my favorite things combined into one magical moment! I can’t wait to have this again!
Ok this place wins. In all categories! Our ice cream roller was named Victor and he was awesome and so nice! I stuck with vanilla — kind of — blue vanilla, with cookies mixed in! It was called Cookie Monster and it is the second-best ice cream I’ve had in my whole life. I ate the whole thing. I couldn’t help myself. Let’s Roll is the best!
I don’t know if we just lucked out and got the best server ever, or if every employee here makes it as fun to watch the ice cream be made. I had the Pink Lady which is a strawberry cheesecake flavor. Now, here’s the thing — I don’t like cheesecake, simply because of the texture of the cake itself. But, having it in ice cream form, my goodness! It was so good. This is a place you just need to experience yourself, because words won’t do it justice.
Interested in learning about the chemistry of ice cream, but the textbooks are now engineers who take the tests for you.
When you say you want to try something new, but only for the Instagram photo-op.
With Randy’s being in an alley right next to a Mexican restaurant and a pizza parlor, you’ve got to search for this place, but you will be so happy when you find it. This is a place where your options are quite literally endless. They have a huge list of concoctions for any mood you might be in for (including one for each high school in Columbia!), but you can also gamble a little with their bowl of flavors if you can’t make up your mind.
Two words come to mind when I think of Randy’s: endless options! This place has all types of delicious concoctions that you never would have thought of. I got the Colorful Kiddo that has nerds, gummy bears and rainbow sprinkles. Talk about a sugar rush — in the best kind of way!
There are entirely too many choices. Mostly because each one looked better than the last. The young lady working the counter was wonderful and so patient with our 1,730,262,539 questions. I totally derailed from my vanilla rule and picked Dirt and Worms. Best decision I’ve made all week! It was so good and big enough that I even got to take some home.
Thank heavens for patient servers. My indecisive self had a hard time when I looked at their menu. Luckily, the lady working simply asked me what flavors I enjoy and said she would take care of the rest. I said chocolate — and boy, did I receive chocolate. Chocolate custard, brownie bites and cookie dough. Yikes! It was extremely rich and decadent, but I’m not going to tell you I didn’t eat the whole thing, because I definitely did.
You want a sweet treat, but you don’t want to limit your options — at all.
You’ve taken a one-way flight to a city you’ve never been to before, alone.
The birthplace of Tiger Stripe is definitely a hidden gem. Not sure if it’s one of the most thought-of places in CoMo since it is on Mizzou’s campus, but once you find this joint, you won’t forget it. With only a few flavors, it seems that all the offerings come highly recommended. Less is most definitely more here.
I had the Chancellor’s Choice … need I say more? This vanilla-based ice cream has coconut shavings and chocolate chips and it is AMAZING! A twist that I never saw coming!
How have I never known this was here? Technically I stuck to my vanilla rule … kind of. Their vanilla was Tiger Stripe and it had chocolate swirled throughout. Oh. My. Gosh. I could have easily eaten double what I had.
I had the Chocolate Cherry Stout. Now, I don’t enjoy the taste of anything with stout in the name, so naturally I was a bit worried (there’s a theme here). However, I’ve learned an important lesson to not judge a book by its cover because this was so great! I’m not sure how they did it, but the flavors married so well together, I really didn’t want it to end.
Mood A taste of MU nostalgia and classic flavors with a twist.
Risk Level You’ve moved out of your mom’s basement, but she still lives down the street.