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Ice Cream Natives Guide 

click to enlarge KAT ROBINSON

Want to escape the heat with a cool treat? Here are a dozen of the best places to pick up a cone, shake or sundae in Central Arkansas.

Asher Dairy Bar. By far the oldest entry on our list of ice cream must-visit locations, the original location opened back in 1929. It moved to its current location in 1931. Still serving up great soft ice cream, burgers and breakfast six days a week. 7105 Colonel Glenn Road. 501-562-1085. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Bruster's Real Ice Cream. Part of a national chain, Bruster's serves up more than three dozen different sorts of ice cream on any particular day. Specialties include a Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae, a Dirt Sundae with crumbled Oreo cookies and Gummi worms specifically for the kids, and a Banana Split with three whole scoops of ice cream plus all the toppings. Bruster's also serves up Nathan's hot dogs, chicken strips and fries. 14710 Cantrell Road Suite 14A. 501-868-9522. www.brusters.com. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Charlotte's Eats and Sweets. Best known for its famous pies, this Keo landmark serves up a variety of hand-dipped ice creams and specialties for a lunchtime crowd. Also great with a slice of cake. 290 Main Street in Keo. 501-842-2123. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

Cold Stone Creamery. This national chain takes a base flavor (everything from Sweet Cream to Chocolate Cake Batter) and adds your choice of ingredients or a combination of ingredients it calls a Creation. Cold Stone also serves up a variety of ice cream cakes and cupcakes. 12800 Chenal Parkway. 501-225-700. www.coldstonecreamery.com. Sun.-Thu. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Dairyland Drive Inn. It'd be hard to find a better milkshake on the east side of North Little Rock than the one that can be acquired at this long-time Prothro Junction staple. Still serving up good shakes and burgers from that walk-up window. 2306 Old Jacksonville Highway. 501-945-4593. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Frostop. Arguably the best root beer floats in Central Arkansas, thanks to that famed Frostop housemade root beer. What you might not know about are the fantastic shakes —which come in more than three dozen flavors, including a bevy of (non-alcoholic) liqueur flavors and some great coffee-inspired flavors as well. Heck of a hot fudge sundae. 4131 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock. 501-758-4535. www.frostopcafe.com. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Sun.

Gellattes. What goes better with cold gelato than hot coffee? Gellattes takes the unusual pairing to new heights with delicate gourmet gelatos made fresh in-house daily. The revolving flavors include Hazelnutella, Cacao de Menthe, Bellagio Chocolate Truffle and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. My comrades who have been to Italy say you can't get any closer to Italian gelato in the States. Try a Gellattes Affogato — gelato topped with a shot of espresso with whipped cream — for a true eye-opener. 14810 Cantrell Road. 501-868-5247. www.gellattes.com. 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.

Nom Noms. Avocado ice cream? Blackberry and queso? The flavors sound odd, but they're delicious and amazing at this taco stand/ ice cream parlor on Hot Springs' Central Avenue. Open just a year, the little Mexican Grill and Chill has already garnered a huge following of people willing to enjoy such flavors as Pine Nut, Rose Petal and Strawberry Jalapeno. Burritos, tacos and other south-of-the-border fare also available. 3371 Central Ave. 501-623-8588. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Purple Cow. When Central Arkansas thinks of ice cream, this is the destination. Malts, shakes, sodas, sundaes and even ice cream pie are on the menu; in addition to the restaurant's classic Banana Split, parents can look forward to a selection of (alcohol added) adult shakes. Burgers, Petit Jean hot dogs and a weekend brunch are also good bets. Three locations — 8026 Cantrell Road, 501-221-3555; 11602 Chenal Parkway, 501-224-4433; 1490 Higdon Ferry Road in Hot Springs, 501-625-7999. www.purplecowlr.com. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Salem Dairy Bar. This is exactly how a '60s style Arkansas drive-in used to be — drive-up parking, service at the window and a selection of shakes, sundaes and malt. The $4 Banana Split is one of the cheapest you'll find in the Natural State. All your drive-in favorites, including burgers and fries, dogs and sodas are here. 6406 Congo Road, Benton. 501-794-3929. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun.

Scoop Dog. Drive up or dine in at this North Little Rock dog and soda stand. It's frozen custard instead of ice cream here (the difference being eggs along with the sugar and cream) and the specialty sundaes are all named after dogs — like the Standard Poodle, the Good Old Beagle and the Chocolate Lab. The concretes are more like shakes — firm, but not stick-in-the-cup solid. A variety of hot dogs named after the cities that inspired them are also featured. 5508 John F. Kennedy Blvd. NLR. 501-753-5407. www.thescoopdog.com. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-9:30 p.m. Sun.

Scrumdiliumptuous. Harry Potter meets Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at this Sherwood ice creamery serving up slices (not scoops) of Edy's Ice Cream. You'll find dozens of different flavors and ice cream creations named after characters in the books. The $5 Scrumdiliumptuous Signature Cone with five slices of ice cream — orange sherbet, birthday cake ice cream, pistachio, strawberry and chocolate — could be the most audacious cone offered in Central Arkansas. 8000 Hwy. Highway 107 Suite 7, Sherwood. 501-835-3300. Noon-10 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 1-9 p.m. Sun.

Shake's Frozen Custard. Part of a regional frozen custard chain, Shake's does nothing but cold desserts, including a broad selection of sundaes, cones, cows and concretes. The caramel-hot fudge-pecan combination of the Shake's Bopper is a sound investment. 12011 Westhaven Drive, 501-224-0150. 1135 Hwy 65 N, Conway, 501-329-2545. www.shakesfrozencustard.com. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., noon-10 p.m. Sun.

Wink's Dairy Bar. Though the sign outside says "Wink's Malt Stand," locals know it as the dairy bar, or just Wink's. In business since 1968, this tiny joint serves up soul food, burgers and cream-heavy milkshakes to its clientele. 2900 E. Washington, NLR. 501-945-9025. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sat.

Za Za Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza Company. The juxtaposition of the best salads in the state with creamy, rich (and presumably not calorie-free) gelato is tantalizing. Za Za does gelato graciously and consistently, with a never-ending variety of cool smooth gelato that changes with the season. From autumn delights like pumpkin and peppermint to summer delicacies such as Strawberry Lemonade and Honey Lemon Basil, there's always a gelato you're going to choose to finish off your meal. The Limoncello and the Dulce de Leche can't be beat. 5600 Kavanaugh. 501-661-9292. www.zazapizzaandsalad.com. 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

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