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Kentucky ice cream shops

  • L-R-soda-bar
    Elkton’s L & R Soda Bar crew relaxes with co-owner Kenny Clayton and daughters Lauren, age 12, left, and Rachel, 9. Behind them, the jukebox plays ’50s and ’60s hits, adding to the vintage atmosphere. Photo: Heather Clayton
  • L-R-soda-bar
    Elkton’s town square is home to the L & R Soda Bar and the adjoining Weathers Drugs, both owned by husband-and-wife pharmacists Heather and Kenny Clayton. Photo: Heather Clayton
  • Big-Dipper
    In 1954, customers at Owensboro’s Big Dipper ordered at the walk-up window—and they still do. Photo: Terry Osborne
  • Big-Dipper
    In 1954, customers at Owensboro’s Big Dipper ordered at the walk-up window—and they still do. Photo: Big Dipper
  • Bertie's-Ice-Cream
    Before it was Bertie’s, owner Bertie Duvall remembers coming here for ice cream as a little girl. Now the oldest restaurant in town, as Bertie’s Ice Cream it has been a Brownsville tradition since 1983. Photo: Bertie Duvall

Get the scoop on ice cream shops sprinkled across the Commonwealth

As we all know: I scream. You scream. Nearly every Kentuckian screams for ice cream. That’s especially true with rising summer temperatures. But there’s no need for a meltdown: we’re serving up all you need to know about the state’s coolest ice cream shops.

L & R Soda Bar
Nestled on the town square in Elkton, L & R Soda Bar offers a kid-friendly environment with a vintage vibe. “The tin ceiling is original to the building, there are cabinets from Weathers Drugs circa 1881, and the Coca-Cola advertising posters all are originals,” says Heather Clayton, who owns L & R with her husband, Kenny. Both pharmacists, they also own the adjoining Weathers Drugs and love the authentic, old-fashioned drugstore-plus-soda fountain combination.

Of course, it’s the delicious concoctions like the brownie sundae with its layers of hot fudge, heated brownie, and ice cream—complete with whipped topping, a cherry, and nuts—that draw local customers, as well as those from faraway places like Canada and England.

With two ice cream counters and a variety of made-fresh-daily desserts, employee Carolyn Farmer says experimenting with different flavors is fun. The menu may feature a new milkshake like banana pudding one day, or a chess bar sundae the next.

“We try to do something different, something to make it a unique place,” says Farmer.

Science Hill Dairy Mart
Barty Bullock recalls being a high school senior back in 1971. He’d grab a cheeseburger basket from Science Hill Dairy Mart on his way home from school each afternoon. But did Bullock ever think the Pulaski County restaurant—which he now owns with his wife, Joyce—would be his someday? “Not in my wildest dreams,” he says.

According to Bullock, the original restaurant on this location was probably built some time in the 1950s. He says older customers reminisce that, even then, it was a local hangout where Science Hill regulars gathered.

Today on summer evenings, families still enjoy gathering at what some simply call “Dairy Mart.” With the community park only a block away, many stop by after a game of Little League Baseball to celebrate a win or to soothe a loss with an ice cream cone. Others stop by for the ever-popular peanut butter milkshake.

“Everybody likes ice cream,” Bullock says. “I don’t know what it is; it’s just something about ice cream.”

Bertie’s Ice Cream
For 32 years, Bertie Duvall has been serving up ice cream to the folks around Brownsville. “I’ve seen it all,” Duvall says.

Something she’s seen a lot of are the community’s schoolchildren. It’s a tradition for classes to stop by Bertie’s for an end-of-school-year ice cream cone. Duvall says, “A lot of the kids grow up from eating a baby cone to a big cone.”

Duvall remembers going there when she was a little girl. “When it first opened, it was Woods Ice Cream,” she says. “It is the oldest restaurant in Brownsville.”

Even though the restaurant has undergone several name changes before finally becoming Bertie’s, Duvall has set a Brownsville record. “Not only is it the oldest restaurant in Brownsville, I have been there longer than anybody else has been in their restaurant,” says Duvall. “I’ve been there since 1983, so something’s going right.”

Freezer Fresh Dairy
“There were seven or eight girls in there when it happened, and they all came out without a scratch on them. I didn’t even think about the restaurant, really. I was just grateful they all came out alive,” says Janet Franklin, owner of Freezer Fresh Dairy in West Liberty.

Franklin is referring to the March 2012 EF3 tornado that struck the small town, demolishing Freezer Fresh. The restaurant, there since 1958, took six months to rebuild.

Though the tornado changed the restaurant’s physical structure, Franklin says the food has remained basically unchanged in the 29 years she’s owned the business.

She believes that’s why customers who grew up dining at Freezer Fresh return with their children and grandchildren to grab a sandwich or a peanut butter milkshake, which Franklin adds the restaurant is famous for. “It’s stayed the same over the years,” says Franklin. “And they like that.”

Big Dipper
Since 1954, the family-owned Big Dipper has been a shining light in Owensboro. Co-owner Robert Osborne’s dad, George, first considered purchasing a Dairy Queen franchise until someone suggested he go into business for himself. George took that advice. The rest is ice cream history.

Osborne’s dad originally sold sodas and soft-serve ice cream cones. “He said the first day he opened up, he sold $12 worth of nickel ice cream cones,” says Osborne.

What a lot of folks don’t realize is how the Big Dipper name originated. In the 1940s, according to Osborne, Parrish Avenue was home to the Starlite Drive-In. Nearby was Moonlite Bar-B-Q, back then a roadside stand. “There was the Starlite and the Moonlite, so my dad named the place the Big Dipper,” Osborne explains.

Osborne saved the Starlite’s 6-foot flashing star and recently renovated it himself to display at Big Dipper. There’s also a fresh coat of paint on the picnic tables, now more than 50 years old. “They’re the same ones my dad had first put out for people to sit at,” Osborne says.

No doubt this summer, as in summers past, customers will sit there to enjoy their Big Dipper ice cream.

Kentucky sweet spots

Belew’s Dairy Bar
15795 Highway 68 E., Hardin
(270) 493-1215
Hours: Sun., Mon., Wed., Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–­­­­­­­­ 10 p.m. Closed Tues. Open mid-April through Labor Day. In business since 1951, Belew’s serves a variety of milkshakes, soft-serve chocolate and vanilla, sundaes, banana splits, and malts. Curb service with car hops and covered pavilion dining.

Berryman’s Tastee Treat
305 E. Main St., Mt. Sterling
(859) 498-6830
Hours: Sun.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 9 a.m.–11 p.m. Family-owned since 1951; replicates a 1950s diner inside. Offers homemade soft-serve orange sherbet, chocolate, and vanilla; 10 hand-dipped gelato flavors, banana splits, parfaits, milkshakes, sundaes, and Thrillers, with flavors like orange cooler, Butterfinger, and chocolate-covered strawberry. Dine-in seating available.

Bertie’s Ice Cream
310 S. Main St., Brownsville
(270) 597-3586
Summer hours: Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Serves soft-serve vanilla ice cream, snow cones, banana splits, sundaes, milkshakes, and glaciers—Butterfinger, Oreo, Heath, and more. Walk-up and drive-through. Covered picnic area.

Big Dipper
2820 W. Parrish Ave., Owensboro
(270) 684-4806
Summer hours: Mon.–Sat. 9 a.m.—­­
11 p.m., closed Sun. Winter hours slightly shorter. Family-owned since 1954. Offers soft-serve cones, sundaes, malts, and milkshakes, including real fruit, like pineapple, peaches, and strawberries. Drive-through and walk-up.

Burger Barn Drive-In
1375 Richmond Rd., Irvine
(606) 723-5944
Open seven days a week, 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Serves banana splits, floats, sundaes, multiple flavors of milkshakes, hot fudge cake, and soft-serve chocolate, vanilla, and twist. Walk-up only.

Dairy Bar
198 South Main St., Whitley City
(606) 376-2124
Hours: Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Serves hot fudge cake, banana splits, soft-serve, a variety of sundae and milkshake flavors, pie in a cup—coconut cream or banana; and Twisters—Oreo, M&M, Butterfinger, and Reese’s. Dine in or carry-out with car hop service.

Freezer Fresh Dairy
598 Prestonsburg St.,
West Liberty
(606) 743-4497
Hours: 9 a.m.–9 p.m., open seven days a week, year-round, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. In business since 1958. Offers banana splits, milkshakes, and sundaes like strawberry, pineapple, and hot fudge; chocolate, vanilla, and swirl ice cream cones. Carry-out only.

L & R Soda Bar
44 Public Square, Elkton
(270) 265-7221
Hours: Mon.–Wed. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Two ice cream counters with nearly 35 ice cream flavors; sundaes, floats, malts, milkshakes, banana splits, and 20 toppings. New for summer—caramel crunch pretzel ice cream. Dine in or carry-out.

Science Hill Dairy Mart
6611 N. Ky. 1247, Science Hill
(606) 423-3329
Facebook: Science Hill Dairy Mart
Summer hours: Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–8 p.m. (closed for winter). Serves soft-serve vanilla and chocolate, sundaes, and 10 flavors of milkshakes—banana, pineapple, peanut butter, cherry, strawberry, and more. Covered outdoor dining, plus open-air dining with umbrellas.

Spencer’s Dairy Bar
1 Mulberry Street, Booneville
(606) 593-5152
Summer hours: 10 a.m.–10p.m., open seven days a week. Family-owned since 1945. Offers sundaes, soft-serve, banana splits, and a variety of milkshake flavors, like cherry, butterscotch, and peanut butter. Carry-out and outdoor dining.

The 49’er Dairy Dip
1705 Ky. 49, Liberty
(606) 787-4449
Facebook: The 49’er Dairy Dip
Hours: Sun. 12:30 p.m.–9 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Offerings include banana splits, sundaes, floats, 15 milkshake flavors, soft-serve chocolate, vanilla, and twist; and flavor burst ice cream—strawberry, orange, raspberry. Outdoor seating available. Voted second-place winner in Kentucky Living’s 2015 Best in Kentucky ice cream shop.

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