Trying to hold onto childhood memories is like attempting to keep a soft-serve swirl from dripping down the side of your cone on a scorching summer’s day. You pay attention to one area as another slips.
But, even as time passes, some memories tend to be sticky.
For me, these involve hopping up on a stool next to my grandpa as he topped the ice cream with Pepsi or piling into his trusty two-door truck for the short drive to Bruster’s.
Memories were made over butter pecan and chocolate syrup back then, and they’re being made in countless little sweet shops across the state right now.
It’s not hard to see why we all gravitate to their glass cases. Ice cream is easy to agree on. Sure, you may not see eye to eye (stomach to stomach?) on the best flavor or whether a custard is ice cream. But you’ll likely agree that you should go get some.
After all, ice cream shops are the perfect locale for family outings and first dates. And in Franklin, there’s one around every corner. So, let’s tour the town to sample some classic and locally inspired flavors—and take a few mental snapshots to savor later on.
Whit’s Frozen Custard
Your first stop is as easy a choice as the classic flavor it churns. Step inside Whit’s Frozen Custard for a scoop of Chocolate. If you’ve ever taken a pottery class, you know the satisfaction of pressing a loop tool into a block of clay—that’s what spooning into this velvety custard is like.
As you indulge under a patch of shade on Berry Farms’ manicured sidewalk, you’ll hear the soft squeak of the drive-through window and the hum of a car rolling away, its driver balancing their dessert over the steering wheel.
Andy’s Frozen Custard
Once you’re behind your own steering wheel, head to Andy’s Frozen Custard in Spring Hill. The walk-up’s shiny, jutting edges are a sharp contrast to Whit’s white panels. As you stroll under its veranda, look to your left.
Through the towering glass windows, you’ll see waffle makers on counters and thick custard sliding from its machine. When you step up to the window, the sweet, salty smell wafting on the cool air will decide your order for you: a Nutty Waffle Crunch concrete, please.
Sugar rush hasn’t hit you yet? Paletas Tocumbo has your pick-me-up. With cartoon characters painted on its front widows and colorful dairy drips on the cement out front, this shop brings vibrancy to its strip mall. And it doesn’t stop at the front door.
Choose the striped Cappuccino flavor from the stacks of artful Mexican popsicles, and grab a seat under one of the umbrellas painted on the wall. Once there’s nothing left but the wooden popsicle stick (and a caffeine buzz), we’re off to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
“Have you been to Jeni’s yet?” is a local’s opening line for good reason—and that reason is buttercream. Franklin has two locations. One is a self-proclaimed jewel box in McEwen Northside that sparkles against the crowds surrounding it, cones in hand as they rollick on the lawn and roll on spun chairs.
The other is in The Factory at Franklin. You’ll smell it before you stumble upon it—gooey add-ins mixing with crunchy waffle cones to permeate the expanse between shops. Jeni’s stand sits below a vaulted ceiling amid potted trees strung with lights, low leather couches, and joyful families. Order one of its fruity flavors (there’s even a dairy-free Lemon Bar option) and sit among the hustle and bustle to enjoy.
Once you’ve finished, follow the blinking arrows into Fork of the South General Store. Another sign, this one hot pink, will draw you over its intricately painted floor, past Southern wares and glass jars of candy, to a milkshake bar. You may be picturing a couple sidled up to a soda fountain, two straws stuck in a frosty glass—nope. Slathered with icing and candy and topped with desserts (a cupcake balances atop the Birthday Cake shake), these drinks are anything but old school, and you won’t want to share.
As you exit The Factory and drive to Sip-n-Scoop in idyllic College Grove, you’ll feel transported to your hometown’s corner store: Smoke billows from the grill pressed against the grocery storefront; locals shoot the breeze inside; and miniature models of the town perch above aisles. Head to the freezer housing gelato from Legacy Creamery and grab a Styrofoam cup of The Elvis. As your plastic spoon bends against the thick treat, bright banana mixing with chunks of peanut in homage to The King, you’ll know we’ve made it to the themed twists on our list.
Next up is Sweethaven. Charming from the second you step up to its scalloped awning, the inside is equally delightful (and it’s not just because of the sprinkle bar). Snap a photo in front of its statement wall, which reads, “I’ll stop the world and melt with you.” Then trick your senses with a Tennessee Sunset—a pop of rainbow against white, pink, and gold décor. While it may look like a sorbet, this ice cream is spicy with notes of cherry.
Now that we’ve had a nightcap, it’s time for our final stop. And what sweeter place than downtown Franklin? As you make your way along Main Street, you’ll catch alluring whiffs of perfume drifting from boutiques’ open doors; however, none are as intoxicating as Kilwins’ cones.
Bypass its bags of popcorn, caramel apples, and chocolate-covered almonds to order a scoop of Franklin Mud. As the satisfying snap of chocolate slivers meld with stringy caramel speckles on your tongue, freeze for a second. This is a memory that’ll stick.
P.S. Did I taste-test the majority of this ice cream in one weekend? Yes, yes, I did. (Sorry to my dentist and my internal organs.)