After weeks of intensive, weight-gaining research and an informal poll of tens of people, the results are clear. The cold, hard facts: Ice cream is delicious.
On the list of favorite things, ice cream finished second behind “stacks of money” and just ahead of “puppies.”
In a world where consensus is dead, ice cream endures as a universal pleasure. It doesn’t discriminate on age, race, political leanings, education or religion; it satisfies everyone, bikers to bookworms. It is a panacea, a nonjudgmental friend after a romantic breakup or a companion on the couch for movie night.
In fact, the only conflicts associated with the frozen treat are which and where — which flavor and where to get your licks in. Most people are brand-loyal to shops for many reasons, including proximity, tradition, nepotism, value or selection.
But, like a favorite tavern, we deem one location better than others simply because we have not explored other options.
There are nearly 100 ice-cream shops between Dracut and Lancaster, most of them make their own product, and all are open now. Here are 10.
Gary’s Ice Cream
Gary’s, at 131 Gorham St., Chelmsford, has been serving homemade ice cream for more than 45 years, and owner Gary Frascarelli said that, despite the pandemic, this has been his best year ever. “When all the traditional restaurants were forced to shut down we, and everyone in this industry, were allowed to stay open because we never had dine-in service,” he says. Gary’s is open seven days a week, noon to 9 p.m.
Cherry Hill Ice Cream
Cherry Hill offers two locations to scoop up a variety of homemade flavors. The shop at 826 Leominster Road, Lunenburg, sits amid wide-open acreage of fields with a spectacular panoramic view. Its sister stand, Cherry Hill Ice Cream Too, 53 Main St., Townsend, serves up the same menu as the mother ship. Both are open seven days a week, noon to 9 p.m.
Sugar and Ice
More for the urbanites, Sugar and Ice, 16 Branch St. Lowell, is a newer shop tucked away in a small strip of stores. Only the shop is hidden — the flavor is quite visible.Sugar and Ice is open Saturdays and Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 7:30; and Monday through Friday, 1 to 7:30 p.m.
Dr. Davis Ice Cream Stand
If it’s nostalgia that intrigues you, Dr. Davis, 67 Hollis St., Pepperell,, provides that. The shop has been serving homemade ice cream for seven decades. The name comes from the veterinarian and cow farmer who treated animals in the 1930s. The original recipe was made of cream from Doc Davis’ own cows. The ingredients have changed somewhat over the years, but the name and location are udderly the same. Customers can sit under the brightly colored sunbrella daily, from noon to 9 p.m.
Mac’s Dairy Farm
Mac’s, at 1863 Main St., Tewksbury, has one the most expansive menus in the area, including hard, soft and frozen yogurt as well as floats and malts. The cash-only shop has plenty of outdoor seating and a large lot for in-car diners. Mac’s is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday, from noon to 11 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
Kay’s Dairy Bar
For both dinner and ice cream, Kay’s, 196 State Road West, Westminster, is the one-stop shoppe. An extensive seafood menu offers a precursory selection of entrees. Kay’s is open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jay Gee’s Fun Center
For dinner, ice cream and activity,Jay Gee’s, 602 Lowell St., Methuen, is the place to be. The old-fashioned storefront belies the back acres of modern-day fun: go-karts, arcades and a plethora of games make it the perfect family getaway. Jay Gee’s is open daily, noon to 9 p.m.
A view of the river and homemade ice cream, along with a vast food menu, are what bring folks to Heritage Farm Ice Cream & Restaurant, 163 Pawtucket Blvd., Lowell. Heritage Farm has been scooping and serving since 1976 and is a short walk to the riverbank for picnickers. It also offers delivery and, although discontinued this summer due to the pandemic, Heritage hosts Classic Car Shows each week. Heritage Farm is open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Johnson’s Restaurant and Dairy Bar
ohnson’s, 164 Boston Road, Groton, is a rare treat, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner with your homemade ice cream. They are open early for those who need an ice-cream fix at 6 a.m.
Mike’s Ice Cream
Mike’s, 466 Nashua Road, Dracut, has a lengthy list of clever names for their concoctions, each one better than the last. This family favorite also has a limited food menu and offers delivery. Mike’s is open daily, noon to 9 p.m., except Sundays when you can only get your sundaes until 8:30.