The BuzzFarmers crew dances across Rhode Island on a sugar-high for the ultimate ice cream taste test.
You can’t judge a pizza place without trying their cheese pizza, and you can’t decide who has the best ice cream in a state, without testing the vanilla. And that’s exactly what we set out to do this summer. No crazy concoctions, no hot fudge or cherry on top, just pure vanilla love. If you put heart into your vanilla ice cream, it goes unspoken that every other flavor and crazy candy concoction you put together for other flavors will follow suit. Right? Right.
In honor of National Ice Cream Month, we decided to get crazy and test out every pint of vanilla ice cream in the state we could get our hands on. We were going to find the best ice cream in RI. But let’s be honest. This test was a little unfair. How could we judge ice cream? Isn’t it all wonderful?
The answer is yes! Every ice cream in our taste test was delicious! But we had to pick a winner. And so we did!
The task of getting a pint from all nine creameries across the state, even one as small as Rhode Island, wasn’t an easy one. It was about ninety-degrees out, and each stop was a run in, and run out, and an “oh god, I hope this fits” or a “do we need another cooler? I think we need another cooler.”
By some miracle, we fit all the pints and half-gallons in the cooler we had, and made it back to the office without a pool of cardboard cups floating in melted ice cream.
We intended to include Warwick Creamery in the list, but quickly realized they’re not open to the public and it wasn’t available at Dave’s Marketplace as promised, so we threw our hands up in the air and ventured on down to Narragansett for Brickley’s.
Each of the locations were about 20-30 minutes apart so we got a nice tour of our little state and didn’t hit a lick of traffic, even driving by Newport. Yay, Tuesday!
How we sampled to find the best ice cream in RI
First, you need to see what our freezer looked like, because it’s deliciously epic.
We scooped one cup for each ice cream, with a number on the bottom that matched the number on the bottom of the corresponding ice cream carton. We filled the cups to the brim with vanilla goodness, and gave everyone new spoons to use with each cup.
We asked everybody to write down their thoughts about each one on a Post-It, so we could share them with you. At the end, we asked everybody to write their name on a Post-It and put it with the one they liked best.
Want to know who won? Keep reading!
Lincoln Creamery, Lincoln
We started at the top of the state with Lincoln Creamery. It’s been open for 30 years and has changed hands a few times. They won an award for their Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Dough ice cream at the 2015 Rhode Island Food Fights Incredible Ice Cream Throwdown but customers go ga-ga for their homespun Frozen Yogurt, made with real fruit.
Lincoln Creamery didn’t win the taste test, but it was my personal favorite. Here were some other thoughts from the team:
- This one reminds me of coffee ice cream for some reason, but it tastes awesome!
- Creamy but not as sweet as the others.
- Not as creamy – more like ice milk, less vanilla flavor.
- Tastes like buttery vanilla.
- Light, creamy, vanilla-beaney.
- Not too sweet – subtle and nice.
Ingredients: Cream, Non-fat milk, corn syrup, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, Whey, Vanilla, Mono and Diglycerides, Guar gum, Polysorbate 80 and Carrageenan
If you’d like to get a scoop yourself, Lincoln Creamery is located at 276 Front St. Lincoln, RI 02865, and is open Monday thru Sunday, 12pm to 10pm (they may close early due to weather so be sure to double check if it’s raining) and you can find them online on @LincolnCreamery, Facebook, and Instagram.
Three Sisters, Providence
Three Sisters is an organic little cafe on Hope Street in Providence, known for their homemade ice cream. When we asked locals on Twitter which places we should go, Three Sisters was at the top of the list. Three Sisters started off as Maximillans and with a new owner in 2008, Michael Stern brought Three Sisters. They’ve won a People’s C
hoice Award and also won second place in the Rhode Island Food Fights Ice Cream Throw Down with their Kulfi ice cream (cardamom, cinnamon, pistachios).
Some thoughts from the BuzzFarmers squad:
- Classic vanilla bean flavor, light and airy.
- Stronger vanilla bean than the others.
- Not too rich.
- Wonderful flavor, not as creamy but so good!
- Very fragrant – almost reminds me of a Mexican Fried Ice Cream.
- Very light cream taste. Very enjoyable.
- A little grain with a hint of cinnamon.
Ingredients: Ice Cream Base from S.B. Winsor’s Dairy in Johnston. RI Milk, Cream, Cane Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Non-Fat Milk Solids, Buttermilk Solids, Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Polysorbate 80 and Carrageenan.
Newport Creamery, Warwick
(Also in: Barrington, Coventry, Cranston, Greenville, N. Kingstown, Middletown, Newport, Warwick, Providence)
In 1940, the Rector family opened the first Newport Creamery. Newport Creamery has several locations around the state (not just Newport, although that one is pretty), and is most famous for their Awful Awfuls (aka ice cream shakes). It’s basically the most famous ice cream in the state.
Some thoughts from the BuzzFarmers crew:
- Very yummy, tastes cold. Not too vanilla-ish but in a good way.
- Tastes like vanilla cake and frosting – yum!
- A light vanilla flavor – refreshing.
- Not as rich, not as much butter fat. Light vanilla flavor.
- Nice texture, not too creamy, but I like it.
Ingredients: Cream, water, sugar, nonfat milk, corn syrup, vanilla extract, guar gum, mono and diglycerides, and xanthan gum.
Brickley’s, Narragansett and S. Kingstown
Brickley’s was founded in 1995 by Steve Brophy and his wife. They’ve won Best Ice Cream in South County multiple times awarded by Rhode Island Monthly and Best Homemade Ice Cream in Rhode Island by Yankee Magazine. Customers love for their homemade waffle cones and homemade chocolate sprinkles.
Their pints are hand-packed on the spot, which fortunately for others but not for us, are way too overpacked to close the lid. So, truth be told, we had to taste this one early to make the lid fit and prepare it for the rest of the trip.
Some thoughts from the BuzzFarmers clan:
- This one is fluffy and thick — like frozen cool-whip!
- Very sweet and creamy.
- This is subtle, so it would be great to use with toppings.
- This one is fruity – fall fruits, like apple with hints of butternut squash.
- Really deep vanilla flavor – creamy and not too sweet!
Ingredients: Vanilla extract, milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, non-fat milk, whey, polysorbate 80 and carrageenan.
If you’d like to get a scoop yourself, Brickley’s is cash-only and has two locations at 322 Main Street, South Kingstown, RI 02879 and 921 Boston Neck Road, Narragansett, RI 02882. Their hours are Sun-Thurs 12-9pm and Fri & Sat 12 to 9:30pm. You can find them online at @brickleysic and on Facebook.
Susanna’s Ice Cream, Middletown
Susanna’s Ice Cream is technically French Vanilla Bean and although we were being purists with the vanilla, Samantha doesn’t have plain labeled vanilla, this is her vanilla. And a delicious one at that. It’s sold only at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI (below). but she sells at two farmers markets on weekends, Casey Farm and Hope and Main. She has been known to sell directly to people that inquire, but Sweet Berry is the only shop she sells in.
Susanna’s Ice Cream has won awards from Rhode Island Monthly, Yankee Magazine, Serious Eats, The Bay, Town and Country and Thrillist.
Here’s what the Buzzfarmers’ team had to say:
- Tastes just like a waffle cone. Buttery thick mouth feel.
- Nice aftertaste, strong pleasant vanilla bean flavor at the back of my tongue.
- Very sweet in a very good way. I like that you can see little vanilla bean specks. I’d eat this every day.
- Ooooh! Caramelly, vanilla-y — almost a creme brulee taste.
- The epitome of vanilla bean.
- Definitely the most unique of the bunch – tastes like a waffle cone.
Ingredients: Cream, sugar, egg yolks, madagascar bourbon and tahitian vanilla beans.
If you’d like to get a scoop yourself, you can get a pint or a cone at Sweet Berry Farm (below) in Middletown, RI. You can find her on Facebook, too.
Sweet Berry Farm, Middletown
Sweet Berry Farm was founded in 1980 by Jan and Michelle Eckhart. They’ve won an award for Favorite Farm Stand 2014 and 2015. Sweet Berry Farm is one of our favorite food stands because they’re always stocked with fresh local veggies and berries when they’re in season. They also have coolers full of fresh charcuterie and cheese which we indulge in when we’re feeling rich. At Sweet Berry Farm, they serve Susanna’s Ice Cream, but they also make their own ice cream. We thought maybe Samantha just white-labeled her stuff for SBF (we’re friends now, we can call them SBF), but the ingredients were drastically different, so this is definitely a different ice cream.
- Very nice.
- Good, fairly tame.
- Classic vanilla.
- A little bit of caramel.
- The vanilla isn’t overwhelming but noticeable.
- Tastes a little like alcohol. — (editor’s note: could be the vanilla bourbon extract?)
Ingredients: Fresh RI milk, cream, corn sweetener, pure vanilla bourbon extract, and natural stabilizers.
If you’d like to get a pint, Sweet Berry Farm is located at 915 Mitchell’s Lane, Middletown, RI 02842 and open 8am to 7pm. You can find them online on Facebook.
Gray’s Ice Cream, Tiverton
Gray’s Ice Cream in Tiverton is famous in Rhody and those who grew up here have fond memories of going there for a cone and petting the cows outside. We liked their setup. You walk into the General Store, and you’re faced with a wall of ice cream. A wall of ice cream? Yes please … and thank you.
Gray’s was founded in 1923 by Annie Gray. They’ve won many awards for their ice cream including, Gourmet: One of America’s Twelve Best Ice Cream Shops (2002), Providence Phoenix Readers’ Picks: Best Ice Cream (2010), Rhode Island Monthly‘s Best of Rhode Island: Critic’s Choice (1990-2003), Best Old-Fashioned Ice Cream (1990, 1991), Best Coffee
Ice Cream (1995), Best Cabinet, All Stars, Rhode Island Monthly‘s Readers’ Poll: Best Ice Cream in Newport County (1994, 2001, 2004, 2010), Best Cabinet in Newport County (1995), Best Ice Cream in the East Bay (1999-2004), Travel + Leisure: One of America’s Nine Best Ice Cream Shops (2009).
Gray’s was Pat’s favorite, but the rest of the BuzzFarmers had some thoughts too:
- Tastes very creamy.
- This is my favorite, very creamy and vanilla.
- Mmm lots of yummy cream, almost yogurty.
- Very creamy, more subtle vanilla flavor. Very “soft” flavor.
Ingredients: Cream, milk, sugar, corn syrup, nonfat milk solids, whey solids, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, polysorbate 80, carrageenan, carob bean gum, guar gum, disodium phosphate, sodium citrate, sodium carbonate, salt.
If you’d like to get a scoop yourself, Gray’s is located at 16 East Road, Tiverton, Rhode Island 02878 and open Mon-Thu 6:30am-9pm Fri-Sun 6:30am to 10pm. You can find them online on Facebook.
The Daily Scoop, Barrington
The Daily Scoop in Barrington, was another favorite in our taste test. The Daily Scoop was founded in 1999 by Bob and Deb Saunders. They’ve had mentions in The Huffington Post and in the Boston Globe. Customers go ga-ga for their coffee oreo flavor.
- There’s something about this one.
- Very, very, very creamy. Very light on vanilla.
- Rich, creamy, nice vanilla flavor. Berries, too.
- Slightly buttery, more icy than creamy.
- Very traditional french vanilla taste.
- Most authentic vanilla flavor of all. Sweet but not too sweet, creamy but not too creamy. It’s my favorite so far!
- Really rich and creamy. Not super vanilla but really nice.
Ingredients: Cream, milk, sugar, pure vanilla, nonfat dry milk, corn syrup solids, natural stabilizers (mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, guar gum, polysorbate 80, polysorbate 65 and carrageenan), and vitamin D3.
If you’d like to get a scoop yourself, The Daily Scoop has two locations: 230 County Road, Barrington, RI and 446B Thames Street, Bristol, RI and they’re open 12pm to 9pm. You can find them online on Facebook.
Bliss Dairy, Attleboro, Massachusetts (aka Upstate Rhode Island)
Bliss is located in Massachusetts, but it’s Attleboro, aka Northern Rhode Island, so we included them. Plus, half the ice cream stands around Rhody serve Bliss so it was only fair. Rhode Island businesses support them, and so do we!
Bliss had an early start as a dairy farm in the late 1800’s when it was called Locust Grove Farm. But Bliss Bros. Dairy, Inc was created in 1924 by Thomas Kent Bliss, Sr. and Eva Palmer Bliss. They had a 15’ by 15’ ice cream stand that they built right next to their home. They’ve been recognised for their ice cream by The Boston Globe and The Sun Chronicle and customers seem to love their Coconut Almond Bar Crunch and Sugar Free Caramel Pecan.
Some thoughts from the BuzzFarmers team:
- Very creamy!
- Tastes like cherry!
- Very creamy and almondy – a bit fluffy in a good way.
Ingredients: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Skim Milk, Pure Vanilla and gelatin.
If you’d like to get a scoop yourself, Bliss is located at 711 Park Street, Attleboro, MA 02703 and open Monday thru Sunday 7am to 10pm and you can find them online on Facebook.
Oh wait, you want to know the winners?
To be honest, I have no idea how we made it around the state without the ice cream melting on a 90 degree day. Success resulted from a mix of ice, coolers, and optimism.
The downside was that we got to visit some of Rhode Island’s greatest little towns, but had to say “hi” and “bye!” super fast, so that the ice cream wouldn’t melt. It truly was a work trip! Really! Serious business!
The best ice cream in RI, by a massive majority, was Susanna’s Ice Cream with 57% of our votes. We also happen to love her simple ingredients: Cream, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian Vanilla Beans!
Other top picks were:
- Lincoln Creamery, Lincoln
- Gray’s Ice Cream, Tiverton
- Daily Scoop, Barrington
If you’d like to take the same ice cream road trip we did, here’s the map! Enjoy!