You’ve got to work fast when you’re getting a soft-serve ice cream cone on a 90-degree day: As soon as it’s in your hands, it’s melting. Maybe that race against the clock is part of soft-serve’s appeal. Or maybe it’s the frozen treat’s simplicity and ultrasmooth, airy texture. That perfect swirl can’t hurt, either.

These seven ice cream shops across the Washington area are churning out soft-serve sundaes, cones and more. Some of these are roadside stands and neighborhood institutions with decades in the business, while others are relative newcomers. But they all have soft-serve machines that can handle a twist. Bonus: Many of these local businesses offer takeout windows or picnic tables for a sweet, socially distanced outdoor stop.

D.C.

Ice cream is a family affair at the Wharf’s two-year-old Southwest Soda Pop Shop, owned by Darryl Jones and his four daughters, Brittany, Brianna, Andrea and Lena. Milkshakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches and funnel-cake fries make their way out of the walk-up window — as do plenty of vanilla and chocolate soft-serve cones. You could also catch limited soft-serve flavors such as strawberry or peach. This black-owned business recently made headlines when it raised more than $37,000 during a
GoFundMe campaign to help keep the shop afloat after the covid-19 pandemic kept customers away. Open daily. 1142 Maine Ave. SW. swsodapopshop.com.

MARYLAND

Hovermale’s in Fort Washington isn’t into change, and that’s a good thing. The cash-only Prince George’s soft-serve icon opened in 1954, and its blue-and-white stand devoted to vanilla and chocolate frozen treats retains all its ’50s glory. Besides nostalgia, fans come for the rich and creamy vanilla and chocolate swirl cones served in towering portions. Other favorite options: a dip top cone with vanilla soft-serve encased in a chocolate shell or the decadent upside-down banana split, featuring a base of vanilla soft-serve, bananas, strawberries, pineapple and chocolate syrup hiding under a cloud of whipped topping. Open Tuesday through Sunday. 9011 Livingston Rd., Fort Washington.

“Soft serve ice cream delights” are Jimmie Cone’s specialty, which means this seasonal Maryland stand sells a lot of vanilla cones covered in rainbow jimmies. The butterfat-forward business started in Damascus in 1962, and now operates a location in Mt. Airy. Vanilla and chocolate are always on tap, with rotating flavors such as strawberry, orange and black raspberry. Jimmie Cone goes beyond its namesake treat too, offering floats, flurries, sundaes, cakes and snowballs. Open daily. 26420 Ridge Rd., Damascus; 1312 S. Main St., Mt. Airy. jimmiecone.com.

The soft-serve treats made from earthy Japanese green tea look refreshing — and come in the prettiest shade of Kermit the Frog green. Opened in Rockville in 2019, the Kyoto-inspired dessert shop offers two soft-serve flavors: matcha and milk, which can be swirled (of course). From there, you can opt for a cone, cup or parfait, then add toppings such as cornflakes, sprinkles, Oreo crumbs, rice mochi or red bean. If you’re really in a spendy mood, give your soft serve the royal treatment with a gilding of edible gold leaf for an extra $2. Open daily. 33 Maryland Ave., Rockville. kyotomatcha.us.

VIRGINIA

Tom and Jean Peterson started their ice cream business 14 years ago with two soft serve machines in their carriage house/garage. Today, the neighborhood favorite in historic Clifton has branched out to offer scoops, french fries and more, though soft-serve is still a staple. Chocolate and vanilla (or twist) from the machines get dressed up with $1 toppings, including cookie dough, Heath bar, M&Ms or sprinkles and feature free whipped cream and cherries, too. The train theme extends to the “arrival” and “departure” windows for orders and pickup. Open Tuesday through Sunday. 7150 Main St., Clifton. petersonsdepot.net.

There’s no shortage of options in Alexandria for frozen desserts, but the Creamery claims to be the longest-running continually operated ice cream shop in Old Town. The family-owned business started in 1984, and the shop near the waterfront still has its old-timey charm with neon signs and subway tile. More than 30 flavors of ice cream are ready to be scooped up, but when it comes to frosty soft-serve custard, the Creamery keeps it simple with just chocolate, vanilla or a twist. Open daily. 110 King St., Alexandria. creameryalexandria.com.

Cheerful red-and-white umbrellas, red picnic tables and cow-themed graphics mark the spot at this old-school-style Manassas ice cream stand celebrating its 20th season. Chocolate and vanilla soft-serve are always on the menu, with fun rotating flavors subbing in such as coffee, strawberry, Nutella, dreamsicle or banana — and toppings include Fruity Pebbles. Life-size models in the window demonstrate exactly what you’re getting into when you order the (very) large soft-serve cone. Open daily. 8948 Mathis Ave., Manassas.
nathansdairybar.com
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