Best of Columbus 2022: What’s the Tastiest Ohio Strawberry Ice Cream? We Have an Answer

Our crack team of dairy pundits puts seven Ohio ice cream brands up to a taste test.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
A scoop of Velvet Ice Cream's strawberry flavor

It’s unknown who invented strawberry ice cream, but the story goes that first lady Dolley Madison served the treat at husband James Madison’s second inauguration, back in 1813. Like Dolley, we’re fans of the seasonal frozen dessert. Central Ohio is awash in the pink stuff this time of year, so we decided to put seven Ohio ice cream brands up to a taste test. Columbus Monthly staffers and three hyper-critical pundits (aka design director Craig Rusnak’s three boys) sat down to cups of strawberry ice cream to determine one champion. Our criteria were simple: appearance, texture and taste. Characteristics like price and sourcing were not considered during our evaluations.

Here’s where the contenders ranked:

1. Graeter’s

The Cincinnati-based ice cream company snagged top honors with its Oregon Strawberry flavor, which uses strawberries from Willamette Valley. One staffer described the pale pink, subtly sweet ice cream as “delightful…rich and very decadent,” while one critic offered more cautious enthusiasm, calling it “a really nice ice cream hindered by a blah color.”

2. Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream

Second place went to the “bubble gum pink” strawberry ice cream from this growing brand founded in Youngstown in 1945. Handel’s garnered praise for its classic, fresh strawberry flavor and smooth texture. Handel’s now has two Central Ohio locations in the Hilliard area and Powell.

3. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Somewhat surprisingly, hometown superstar Jeni’s landed at No. 3 on our list. The dusty pink color of Jeni’s seasonal Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream, which uses berries from Hirsch Fruit Farm, was off-putting to some (though it indicates no or natural food coloring). Some appreciated the balance and creamy mouthfeel Jeni’s offered, while others felt it was too dairy-forward with not enough berry flavor.

4. Johnson’s Real Ice Cream

Jeni’s barely edged out Bexley-based Johnson’s and its highlighter-pink Strawberry Jamboree flavor, the chunkiest of the contenders. Some critics knocked it for lacking enough berry punch, while one called it “a little cloying.”

5. and 6. Ritzy’s and Velvet Ice Cream (tie)

Though better known for its burgers, shoestring fries and shakes, retro Ritzy’s sells ice cream pints to go. Its very pale strawberry ice cream was lauded for its flavor but knocked for its icy texture. Hailing from Utica, Ohio, Velvet offers a creamy, almost mousselike ice cream that leans into the artificial coloring—producing a bright pink. Two staffers compared the taste to cotton candy.

7. Mardi Gras Ice Cream

Described by one critic as “radioactive pink,” what Mardi Gras’ strawberry brought to the table in color, it lacked in flavor. Strawberry may not be the true strength of this family-run ice cream parlor, but we recommend its more unique flavors such as mango, guava and pista kulfi.

This story is from the July 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.