Skip to content

Biomedical Odyssey

Life at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Biomedical Odyssey Home A Day in the Life The Great Baltimore Ice Cream Crawl: Living in the Golden Age of Frozen Dairy

The Great Baltimore Ice Cream Crawl: Living in the Golden Age of Frozen Dairy

A gold-leaf ice cream cone with sprinkles on a white backdrop..

Nothing spells summer in Baltimore like the smell of hot asphalt, the sulfurous haze of backyard fireworks and the sweet siren’s call of a faraway ice cream truck.

But if the weather’s heating up and you’re feeling down, take a day to get outside, explore the city and experience its thriving frozen dairy dessert scene with this 10-stop, 3 1/2-mile ice cream crawl.

It’s the perfect chance to try out some weird flavors and support local businesses while discovering your new favorite ice cream shop. So grab some friends, remember to hydrate and enjoy the very best of Charm City’s ice cream, sorbet and gelato!

Begin your journey in Highlandtown, which is home to Baltimore’s only rolled ice cream shop. We took an Uber to our first stop and walked to the next six — for those of you who aren’t afraid of a little walking and a lot of ice cream, see a description of our route below.

Stop #1: Bmore Licks

When Bmore Licks opened in 2017, there were few walkable options for dessert near Patterson Park. “We loved the idea of being able to get an ice cream and stroll around the park or the pond,” says co-owner Kimberly Proctor. The shop offers over 100 different flavors of made-to-order soft serve, 30 rotating flavors of hard ice cream, and specialty desserts like snowballs and ice cream tacos. Stop by the outside service window for a dog-friendly ice cream treat before crossing the street to enjoy the park.

Neighborhood: Patterson Park (they also have a second location in Federall Hill!)
Most popular flavors: Cookie Monster (blue vanilla base with cookie dough, Oreos and chocolate chip cookies) and Blondes Have More Fun (vanilla base with butterscotch ribbons and house-made blondies)
Strangest flavors: O’s & Bro’s (creamsicle base with brownie bites and chocolate chunks) and Harbor Water (chocolate base with salted caramel swirl, Old Bay marshmallows and chocolate crunchies)
We tried: Maryland Mud and Strawberry Cheesecake

Did you know? Four of Proctor’s six siblings are in the ice cream business!

Stop #2: Taharka Brothers in Broadway Market

This ice cream shop offers a mix of the old with the new — the market first opened in 1786, but the 21st century ice cream company has its roots in social change and community activism. You’ve probably seen their hot pink, crowd-funded ice cream truck around the city, but now you can visit Taharka Brothers anytime in Fells Point. Check out this short documentary to learn more about the company’s history and mission.

Neighborhood: Fells Point (They also have a second location at R. House!)
Most popular flavor: Honey Graham
We tried: Cookie Dough and Salty Caramel

Did you know? The flavor Jazzman Blues (blueberry base with a jasmine flower swirl) is named in honor of Cornel West, who calls himself “a blues man in the life of the mind, and a jazz man in the world of ideas.”

Stop #3: Pitango Gelato

Pitango Fells Point has been churning gelato and sorbet on location since 2007. It was the first of six Pitango locations to open, and sources fresh milk, cream and eggs from an organic farm in Pennsylvania. Pitango focuses on simple flavors and high-quality ingredients, favoring single-origin chocolate and real fresh fruit over artificial colors and flavorings. Founder Noah Dan says, “All this does not mean that our product is everyone’s favorite, some people prefer blue ice cream and brambleberry crisp and there is nothing wrong with that.”

Neighborhood: Fells Point
Strangest flavor: Black sesame
We tried: Hazelnut and Passionfruit

Did you know? 87% of Pitango’s sales are to repeat customers!

Stop #4: Kilwins Chocolates & Ice Cream

The first Kilwins opened in Petoskey, Michigan, in 1947, and the company now has over 100 locations across America. Kilwins ice cream is still produced in Petoskey, but you can watch employees handcraft fudge, caramel apples, waffle cones, brittle and more in the Fells Point store. Franchise owners David and Karen Gilmore decided to open their own shop after visiting a Kilwins in Florida and falling in love with the unique ice cream. David Gilmore says, “It has a creaminess and richness of flavor because of the high butterfat content that makes it special.”

Neighborhood: Fells Point
Most popular flavors: Sea Salt Caramel, Mint Chocolate Chip and Cookies & Cream
Strangest flavor: Superman (red, yellow and blue-colored with a fruity flavor)
We tried: Toasted Coconut and Cake Batter

Did you know? The Gilmores joke that they opened the store to feed their love of Kilwins Toasted Coconut ice cream!

Stop #5: Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop

Jimmy Vaccaro opened Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop in Little Italy in 1956, and it moved to its current location in 1986. The business is family owned and operated — in fact, the entire Vaccaro family works at Vaccaro’s. The shop makes a variety of Italian desserts at its Highlandtown facility, including cannoli, gelato, rum cake, cassata cake, tiramisu and 34 different types of Italian cookies. Nicolette Vaccaro says, “The most rewarding experience for us is when we are able to make customers happy. We have customers who have been coming to Vaccaro’s for years and have made our family tradition a part of their families’ traditions.”

Neighborhood: Little Italy
Most popular flavor: Chocolate Chocolate Chip
Strangest flavor: Holy Cannoli
We tried: Baci (chocolate hazelnut) and Holy Cannoli — if you’re dining in, try four flavors of gelato with a gelato flight.

Did you know? One person makes all of Vaccaro’s gelato!

Stop #6: Lucky’s Coffee, Ice Cream and Candy

Located in the Power Plant since 2012, Lucky’s sells locally made Taharka Brothers and Glenview Farms ice cream. The women-owned and operated shop also offers soft serve ice cream, candy, cookies and Starbucks coffee. Owner Lucky Thompson says, “It is extremely rewarding to see how far we have come and know that all of the hard work has been worth it.”

Neighborhood: Inner Harbor
Most popular flavors: Cookie Dough and Coffee Oreo
We tried: Lucky Charms and Coffee Oreo

Did you know? The new Taharka Brothers flavor Lucky Charms is produced exclusively for Lucky’s!

Use your choice of transportation to travel to R. House in Remington — we took an Uber, but you may be able to catch the Homewood-Peabody-JHMI shuttle in Mount Vernon or take the Charm City Circulator from the Inner Harbor to 27th Street.

Stop #7: The Charmery

The Charmery opened in Hampden in July 2013, and owners David and Laura Alima have since launched stores at two additional locations. The shop serves homemade ice cream with a dose of Baltimore quirk. “Our shop is an extension of Baltimore — and what better way to experience a city, than through ice cream,” says Laura Alima. Be sure to grab a loyalty card to earn a spin on the “Wheel of Wonder,” because chances are, you’ll be back again soon.

Neighborhood: Hampden
Most popular flavor: Maryland Mud (chocolate base with dusted Oreos, crushed Oreos and mini M&M’s)
Strangest flavors: Old Bay Caramel and Cheese & Crackers
We tried: Whole Bean Coffee and Pink Panther Sorbet

Did you know? The large “R” in the Charmery logo is a nod to “Rx.” The original Hampden location was once a community pharmacy, and owners David and Laura Alima’s grandfathers both owned pharmacies.

BONUS Stop #8: Quinn’s Ice food truck

Quinn’s Ice offers lactose-free soft serve ice cream and milkshakes mixed with custom toppings and syrups. Co-owner Mila loves creating new treats to satisfy her customers’ cravings. She met her high school sweetheart, Denis, in Germany, and when one customer asked for a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake), she created a new sundae special with vanilla ice cream, crushed chocolate brownie, cherry topping and whipped cream. “What I love the most about owning the ice cream truck is that we have three flavors to work with — so we have to be extremely creative. The people that come to our truck get more than just ice cream by the scoop. We try to connect with every single person,” says Mila.

Most popular flavor: Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake
Strangest flavor: Vanilla soft serve with Old Bay seasoning
We tried: Chocolate soft serve with chocolate sprinkles in a raw cookie dough cup

Did you know? Quinn’s Ice is named for the owners’ daughter, Hannah Quinn, and “eis,” the German word for ice cream!


Related Content

Want to read more from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine? Subscribe to the Biomedical Odyssey blog and receive new posts directly in your inbox.