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    Sunday, March 26, 2023

    The Day's readers choose their favorite local ice cream

    A customer holds a scoop of mint chocolate chip and a scoop of brownie batter ice cream on a sugar cone at Michael’s Dairy in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    The Day's readers choose their favorite local ice cream

    By Kristina Dorsey

    Day Staff Writer

    What constitutes a perfect summer day in southeastern Connecticut? How about this: Loll in the sun at the beach. Take a boat out on the shimmering water. Stroll along a breezy boardwalk.

    And definitely, absolutely top it all off by getting an order of perfectly chilled and outrageously delicious ice cream from your favorite shop.

    Eating ice cream is a quintessential summer activity, but the real question is: what is the best ice cream spot in our region?

    We asked The Day's readers to share their views on the topic, and they did so with great enthusiasm. (People love their ice cream.)

    What follows is a representative sampling of some of those responses, and the good news is, there are many, many wonderful places to choose from in this area.


    Salem Valley Farms wins hands down. Quality of ingredients, flavors, texture, staff, repeatability, tables, and price value.

    Second place, the one closest to you. There is a really good ice cream place in every town of New London County. From Hallmark's to the Drawbridge, and up to the fields of Buttonwood, you can't go wrong if it's a Mom and Pop operation in Southeastern CT.

    Honorable mention: Dairy Queen. No, it's not "ice cream," but all three local locations provide a good product, with nice staff, it's always enjoyable and an affordable treat.

    — Rob Grabon

    New London would not be the same without Michael's Dairy. Ever since I was a small child, my entire family has enjoyed their great ice cream. My grandchildren and I have enjoyed their ice cream many times as well. My all time favorite is Extreme Chocolate. One time when I knew I was going to be laid up for a while due to surgery, we went to Michael's Dairy and bought the entire tub of my favorite ice cream. Every day, my husband brought me a small dish to make my recovery easier. Even when my mother was in her 80's, one of her favorite places for me to take her was Michael's Dairy. And, whenever family that moved out of town comes to visit, they always look forward to going to Michael's Dairy. It has been a family favorite for over 70 years!

    — Nancy D. Butler

    Buttonwood Farm ice cream tops all in the area. A friend visiting from Tennessee chose a strawberry shake and raved about it on the return trip to my home in Groton, not a short drive. Next morning, she organized another trip to Buttonwood for her second strawberry shake in as many days.

    — Frank A Rybicki

    My favorite ice cream shop is Millie's ice cream stand in Norwich. The cannoli ice cream tastes like a fresh filled cannoli and reminds me when I use to go to the Italian bakery with my father when I was a kid. Great atmosphere, especially when they have live music. Sometimes I hit a bucket of balls at the (Malerba's) driving range next door.

    — Matt Tedone

    Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe on Lyme St. on Old Lyme.

    All of the ice cream is made fresh on site. The vanilla ice cream is very clean and the chocolate ice cream is full of flavor.

    The Moroccan Rose ice cream is full of flavor, including ginger, and it also won an award at a National Ice Cream contest.

    Hummmm ... my favorite is either Nuts for You or maple walnut. Both are made with maple syrup and lots of nuts.

    — Debbie Tedford

    You can not beat Tony D's Craft Creamery (Niantic) for amazing flavor combinations and small batch goodness!

    Just had their Ginger Mango and it was superb!

    — Andrea Stevenson

    Hands down, the best chocolate ice cream ON THE PLANET is Extreme Chocolate found at Michael's Dairy. Chocolate is the only flavor for me, it's just a question of how MUCH chocolate molecules one can squeeze into a fixed volume. This ice cream is hard (gotta be hard), creamy, with chunks of chocolate and not too sugary.

    If I were going to the chair, this would be my last meal. It. Is. The. Best!!

    — Lisa Picarazzi

    My favorite ice cream place is not in New London County, but I still think it qualifies as it is the "world famous" UCONN Dairy Bar. UCDB has the best ice cream and some of the most creative flavors. It is well worth the 30-45 minute trip. In addition to the ice cream, visitors can also tour the state's flagship university.

    My second choice, or honorable mention, goes to Salem Farms. A very close second that could compete for the crown if only they stayed open year round.

    — Rob Brewer

    I'd like to add my two cents into the discussion for the best ice cream around. Hands down, it's Salem Valley Farms on Route 82 in Salem. They have been in business for 40 years (and I know that because I was pregnant with my first born as Dr. David Bingham — my OB — and his family started the business). They have the creamiest ice cream ever. Their list of flavors expands each season, with very novel flavors. When my family gets together for anything, a trip to SVF is the dessert!

    — Mary Cikatz

    I would like to recommend Robin's Ice Cream. An ice cream truck business that's been going strong for over 35+ years based out of Niantic, Connecticut. They serve various places around Connecticut including Norwich, Ledyard, Groton, etc. They sell novelty ice cream for children of all ages. The classics like the strawberry shortcake or chocolate eclair, the cartoon faces like Ninja Turtle and SpongeBob, the popsicles like the classic red, white and blue bomb pop. You name it and they have it. Customer service is flawless and goes above and beyond ... and did I mention they do birthday parties? You can have the truck show up to a wedding or party, which is a fantastic experience.

    — Andrew Kowalsky

    I would like to submit my vote for Millie's Ice Cream in Norwich at Malerba's Golf Range. It's quality ice cream and they give you generous portions with good prices. It's Buttonwood quality with better prices. We go once a week!

    — Julie Adams

    Michael's Dairy after a day at the beach is the BEST!

    — Davana Bristol Grabel

    Salem Valley, Cowlicks, Buttonwood, Michael's, Hallmark, Uconn Dairy Bar, DQ.

    — Terry Sheehan Abate

    UConn Dairy. Meyers in Franklin and Hanks in Plainfield.

    — Corinne Roberge

    For hard ice cream, it's Salem Valley Farms or Michael's Dairy or UConn. For soft serve, it's Dairy Queen.

    — Michele Lemieux

    Pop's in Gales Ferry

    — Kelly Vyr

    There are two depending on type of ice cream is preferred that day.

    DQ in Old Saybrook ... always consistent and the best "back to basics of childhood" ice cream. Staff is super friendly and quick.

    Salem Valley ... tastes like it has been churned that day and the variety of flavors with generous ingredients are extensive ... real cream ice cream that is a treat to enjoy.

    — Dawn Holmes

    My favorite ice cream place is Tony D's Craft Creamery in Niantic. The ice cream is handcrafted and delicious, and I love the Coco Chanel ice cream, lots of coconut — it's yummy! The serving size is worth the price, which is reasonable. The staff is very friendly, the grounds clean and immaculate with beautiful flowers. Worth a visit to this great addition to Niantic.

    — Kathleen Napert

    My favorite ice cream place is Michael's Dairy in New London. I've been going there for decades. It's not a good summer without going there for a special treat at least once. When my brother and I were very young, our aunts used to take us there as an outing. Our first cousins from Ohio and Arizona come to visit and have to make a date to go to Michael's. They have such creamy ice cream with LOTS of flavors and toppings. I go for either strawberry or pistachio. Lots of strawberries and nuts. It's nice to sit out in their gazebo or on the rock wall. Michael's is #1 in my book!

    — JoAnn Ballassi

    Ari Vincent, 5, of Griswold reacts as his mother, Daniela, teases him about taking a bite of his ice cream on May 21, while they and his sister, Samiah, 10, and grandfather Valentin Lungu, of New Haven, not shown, visit Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream in Griswold. The family got ice cream as a way to cool off after Ari’s soccer practice. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Ben Adams, of Blue Hill, Maine, eats his three scoops of coffee heath ice cream in a waffle cone at Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream in Griswold. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Neishaliz Melendez, 13, left, of Gales Ferry, and her mother, Gladymar, place their order May 21 while at Millie's Ice Cream at Malerba's Driving Range in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    A customer holds a cup of Cow Tracks ice cream with hot fudge and sprinkles at Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    A customer's Brownie Oreo Cupfection at Dairy Queen in Niantic.(Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    If you go

    Here is information on the venues that nabbed the most readers' raves, listed in no particular order.

    • Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream, 20 Darling Road, Salem; hours noon-8 p.m. daily

    • Michael's Dairy, 629 Montauk Ave, New London; hours 2-9 p.m. (opens at noon Sat. and Sun.)

    • Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream, 473 Shetucket Turnpike, Griswold; hours 1-9 p.m. daily (opens at noon Sat. and Sun.)

    • Millie's Ice Cream at Malerba's Driving Range, 650 New London Turnpike, Norwich; hours noon-8 p.m. daily

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