Photos by Shannon Richardson

The summer of 2024 is supposed to be one of the hottest on record. To beat the heat, we decided to embark on something of an ice cream crawl—a quest to find the most delicious, most unique, and most visually stunning frozen treats available in Amarillo and Canyon. Our quest for cool confections carried us across the city, from tiny storefronts on the Boulevard to the Square in Canyon to food trucks parked on blistering lots.

Here are 10 of this area’s sweetest ways to beat the heat.

Before moving to the area, husband and wife Kolby and Amanda Gilleland lived in the Colorado ski country, where they had been exposed to—and fallen in love with—sugary liege waffles. When life brought the couple to the Texas Panhandle, they saw an opportunity for an ice cream-focused food truck, and decided warm waffles would be the perfect complement to the cold treat. Amanda started building a trailer from the ground up in 2022.

“Canyon watched us build the entire thing,” she says of Amarillo’s sister city. As a result, the COW trailer is almost always set up in Canyon on Sundays. Amanda pairs her ice cream with liege waffles or shareable, Asian-influenced bubble waffles. The waffles are delicious, but the real stars are her artisanal ice cream flavors. “Nothing’s artificial,” she says. “I’m really focused on making everything all natural.” That means no pink dye in the strawberry ice cream—and always, absolutely real vanilla.

Amanda’s ice cream is incredibly dense. Even paired with a hot waffle, the
melting is minimal. Commercial ice cream “whips in more air” during production, she says, but her process results in a more gelato-like density for flavors like espresso chocolate chip, peach cobbler, butter pecan or honey lavender, all prepared with a Carpigiani batch freezer. “It’s my baby,” she says of the Italian-made appliance.

B&E Recommends: The pull-apart bubble waffles with the incredible peach cobbler ice cream make for a uniquely shareable dessert.

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Eunice Trejo’s sister owns and operates a popular paleteria and ice cream shop in Perryton, so when Eunice decided to launch her own entrepreneurial endeavor in Amarillo, she knew exactly where to start. “Antojos means ‘cravings,’” she explains. She opened her spring/summer food trailer in 2018 and has built up a dedicated following across the city.

“Everything is homemade,” Eunice says. The handcrafted ice cream comes from the shop in Perryton, but Eunice takes a hands-on approach for everything else. “We don’t have any artificial colors and I choose all my fruit,” she says. 

Those fresh fruit flavors are essential to her fresas con crema (strawberries and cream, sweetened with a scoop of her popular Superman ice cream), fruit cups, or watermelon aguas frescas. “It sells out no matter what,” she says of the sweet drink. 

B&E Recommends: We caught up with Antojos in the parking lot of Conn’s
HomePlus and sampled a spectacular mango frappe, upgraded with Tajín
seasoning for a spicy kick.

facebook.com/AntojosIceCreamShop

A legendary Amarillo burger joint, Blue Sky boasts an intensely loyal clientele. But they aren’t just there for the burgers.

“I used to always stop at Dairy Queen for a Blizzard,” says Robert Cady, who has managed the I-40 location for 19 years. “But after working here, I don’t go there anymore.” That’s because the shakes at Blue Sky are nearly Blizzard-dense and as popular as anything else on the menu. 

Blue Sky began in Amarillo and has since spread to Abilene, Lubbock and Midland. Every shake is blended with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream—there’s a neon Blue Bell sign prominently displayed above the kitchen—into flavors including chocolate, mocha, peppermint, coffee and oreo cookie, with occasional seasonal specialties. Cady says the shake recipe comes directly from the specifications of the Vermillion family, who own the restaurants.

“We go through around 20 five-gallon tubs of vanilla ice cream” on a weekly basis, Cady adds. “It’s the perfect texture for shakes.”

B&E Recommends: All the shakes are good—pick your flavor based on your personal preference—but there’s something about the cookies-and-cream Oreo shake, which is Robert’s favorite.

blueskytexas.com

In the early 20th century, vendors in Tocumbo, Michoacán—an oceanside state in southern Mexico—began making ice pops using mangoes, strawberries and other fruits. Called paletas, these treats were made from fruit juices and ice cream. Today, Michoacán is still known for its countless paleterías, and many families have passed down their recipes through generations.

Some of the best frozen treats in Amarillo tie back to that authentic Mexican heritage, including La Mega Michoacana, a small Amarillo Boulevard storefront near North Grant. Bursting with colorful paletas, ice cream, aguas frescas and other delights, it brings those tastes and history to Amarillo. (The prices are very reasonable and the selection is varied enough to be overwhelming, but most of the staff doesn’t speak English.)

B&E Recommends: The coconut ice cream is perfect on a scorching summer day. Also try the mangonada—a blend of fresh mango with mango sorbet, topped with chamoy and Tajín.

facebook.com/p/La-mega-michoacana

“It puts a smile on everybody’s face,” says Priscilla Lucero, who owns and operates The Paleta Bar in Town Square with her husband, Danny. Common street foods in Mexican culture. The “bar” aspect of The Paleta Bar allows customers to start with a base pop—in flavors like mango, pistachio, coffee, coconut or fruity pebbles—then dip it in chocolate and add toppings.

“They can get fancy with it,” she says, adding that kids love being able to engage in the decision-making process. 

Before the toppings are added, most of the paletas are gluten-free.

Originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, the couple moved to Amarillo several years ago. Danny had been working for Walgreens but was ready to be his own boss, and they jumped at the chance to become franchisees for this Albuquerque-based company. They chose Town Square due to its proximity to Cinergy and West Plains High School—as well as its distance from the Boulevard, knowing that the residents of southwest Amarillo might not yet have been introduced to paletas. The location also sells fruit cups, aguas frescas, dorinachos, elote and will blend paletas into shakes.

“The community response has been amazing,” she says. “We definitely
have regulars.”

B&E Recommends: Follow the crowd and sample a taro-flavored paleta, which Priscilla says is one of their most popular flavors. This purplish root vegetable—similar to a sweet potato—has a nutty, subtly sweet flavor. 

thepaletabar.com

This family-owned fixture on Amarillo Boulevard dates back to 2003 and has since expanded to a location on Grand Street near I-40 and licensees in Borger and Perryton. Founder Augustin Andrade is a third-generation ice cream maker who grew up living above the family’s ice cream shop in Tocumbo, Michoacan—a store that’s still operated, in fact, by his brother.

“When we started, our clientele was mostly Hispanic,” he says. “But little by little, they now come from all over the place.” When Brick & Elm visited on a recent weekday, we saw a steady stream of families, students, grandparents and others dropping in for chilly treats including paletas, fresas con crema, chocolate-covered frozen bananas and hand-crafted ice cream flavors like key lime or piñon—a subtly sweet, nutty flavor that is uniquely Mexican. 

In addition to the local storefronts and licensees in the Panhandle, Andrade also prepares ice cream and paletas for clients as far away as Clovis, New Mexico, out of a production facility a few blocks away on Lincoln Street. He’s also in the process of remodeling and opening a new El Tropico in the former Donut Stop building on Amarillo Boulevard, which will have a drive-up.

Augustin didn’t always see himself getting into the family business. When he first arrived in Texas, in Plainview, “I was running away from ice cream, but I just missed it. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life,” he says.

B&E Recommends: We always love El Tropico’s piñon ice cream, but were pleasantly surprised at the blue-and-yellow “Minion” flavor. Kids will love it for the name alone, but the handcrafted banana-and-blueberry combination was truly delicious.

tropicotreats.com

Located in the center of a strip mall north of Amarillo Boulevard, this spacious treat shop offers authentic Mexican snacks and frozen treats, from elote to fresas con crema to more than 30 flavors of ice cream. This quiet business has built a sizable following in the Martin Road area.

Among those 30 flavors is the creamy, slightly tangy fresa con queso. The literal translation, “strawberry with cheese,” may be unfamiliar to some readers. An explanation: The strawberries-and-cream-cheese flavor fusion is popular in Latin America. The cream cheese adds a velvety texture that complements the bits of strawberries, creating a more complex flavor profile than standard strawberry-flavored ice cream.

In other words, it’s good.

B&E Recommends: The soft, smooth fresa con queso on a waffle cone was delicious, but don’t avoid the more colorful flavors, either. We were struck by the neon blue locura de galleta ice cream, or “cookie craze” in English. Far more indulgent than a simple cookies-and-cream approach, it uses generous chunks of cookies and cookie dough to create an equally crunchy and chewy texture.

facebook.com/elpaletontx

Cherie Scholz was deep into a career in the dairy industry when the opportunity to open Amarillo’s first gourmet popsicle business became a reality. She started with a mobile trailer in 2017 before expanding into a brick-and-mortar shop in Wolflin Village, right across from Amarillo Little Theatre. Over the past year, she has scaled back to the simplicity of her popsicle trailer.

“We’re still open. We’re just mobile now,” she says.

Having built up a loyal customer base over the years, Purple Flamingo continues to interact with customers at community gatherings and special events, from Muttfest to the Exchange Food Truck Park to special catering events. “Everyone’s really genuine,” she says of the local food truck community, which has grown exponentially since Cherie began. “Everyone wants to work with you.”

She continues to add new flavors to her menu, including the blueberry-lemonade Purple Flamingo, strawberry watermelon, cherry lime and blue coconut.

B&E Recommends: We love the raspberry-and-cream Pearl Swirl. Cookies & Cream is also a favorite.

facebook.com/purpleflamingopops

Another family-owned ice cream shop, Helados Toscana sells ice cream, snow cones, paletas and other snacks out of a humble storefront on the Boulevard. Think homemade ice cream sandwiches, paletas crusted with almond slivers and frozen bananas dipped in coconut shavings. The ice cream and water-based sorbet (nieve, or “snow”) is authentically Mexican, which means surprising flavors like tamarind, cappuccino, and whiskey almendrado (almond). 

We hear that Helados Toscana creates tiny “mini popsicles” for parties.

B&E Recommends: Temporary summer paleta flavors like lavender lemonade—which includes a sliver of lemon embedded in the popsicle—are incredibly refreshing and worth the wait.

facebook.com/heladostoscanatx

“I just liked the nostalgia of it,” says Jason Mashburn of Rockin’ Zebra Soda Shoppe on the Square in Canyon. Nostalgia fills every corner of this old-fashioned, 1950s-style soda shoppe, which has a history dating back to 1907, when it opened as Canyon’s original pharmacy. 

Mashburn’s background doesn’t exactly scream “ice cream.” He has a degree in wildlife biology and was working on a government-funded project that ended with the government shutdown of 2013. He went in search of a new career, ignoring the call of
the wild.

Already a collector of vintage signs, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to pivot toward nostalgia and purchased Rockin’ Zebra. The summer is his busiest time of year, thanks to a steady stream of travelers to Palo Duro Canyon. “Canyon is a tourist attraction,” he says, and Rockin’ Zebra’s presence on the Square makes it a prime stop.

Customers enjoy shakes and malts made from Blue Bell ice cream, banana splits, Italian sodas (phosphates) and ice cream sodas—along with diner classics like bacon cheeseburgers.

B&E Recommends: The Apple Sizzling Cream is amazing, and customers rave about the turkey-and-guac Alejandro sandwich. For the kids, Rockin’ Zebra also has a spectacular candy selection. 

facebook.com/rockinzebrasodashoppe

Sometime around the 1980s, locally owned and seasonal sno-cone shacks began popping up in parking lots during the summer months, offering an inexpensive way for locals to beat the heat. Today, Amarillo is home to at least 25 of them, according to mobile food unit permits issued by the city. The lengthy menus offer dozens of flavors—“Tiger’s Blood,” anyone?—but the easy, syrup-plus-ice combinations appeal to all ages, from kids wanting to mix and match flavors to adults delighting in the affordable nostalgia.

There’s also a social component, as several of these family-operated locations offer outdoor seating, twinkly lights and other charms, making them a popular, walkable destination in just about every neighborhood. As temperatures rise, the allure is as simple as the products are refreshing. 

 

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