The Best Ice Cream Shop in All 50 States


No matter the time of year, nothing beats a trip to your local ice cream shop. Whether it is an old fashioned soda fountain that's been around for decades or a new, small-batch artisanal shop with gourmet flavors, an ice cream shop is a great place to make memories and enjoy a sweet treat. Here are some of the best ice cream shops in all 50 states.


Location: Mobile, Alabama

For a taste of what some patrons have called “the best ice cream in the South,” head to Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream Shoppe in Mobile. Originally owned by Edwin Widemire, it was opened in 1969 using Widemire's family recipe. Cammie Wayne got her first job there scooping ice cream at 16, and went on to purchase the shop in 1998. The ice cream shop offers up 47 different flavors, all made on location, as well as Pennsylvania Dutch milkshakes and malts, banana splits, floats, and tulip sundaes which are dubbed “an old fun food tradition for Sunday…” Another favorite amongst Alabamans is Matt’s Homemade Ice Cream in Gulf Shores, which also uses Cammie’s ice cream.


Location: Girdwood, Alaska

Seward Highway—127 miles from Anchorage to Seward—is one of just 43 locations designated an "All-American Road" (a designation saved for the most scenic in the country) by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Along this route, you’ll find Girdwood, home of The Ice Cream Shop. This year-round ice cream shop serves up over 30 flavors of hard ice cream and other treats, and you’ll be greeted by Mt. Alyeska’s slopes of wild flowers or snowy peaks, depending on when you visit.


Location: Phoenix, Arizona

MacApline's Soda Fountain and Espresso Bar

In what was formerly an old pharmacy, you’ll find MacAlpine’s, a soda fountain originally established in 1929. Grab a stool or booth and take a trip back in time with an egg cream or cherry vanilla phosphate. Besides their ice cream sodas and cheeseburgers, patrons enjoy their vintage jukebox. Once frequented by Frank Lloyd Wright, MacAlpine’s is rumored to be the place where Wayne Newton was discovered.


Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Since 2011, Loblolly Creamery has been using milk and cream from hormone-free dairy cows, fair-trade chocolate and vanilla, as well as only local, seasonal, and organic fruits and spices for their ice creams and sorbets. Popular flavors include the double vanilla and salted caramel, but these artisan ice cream makers rotate other more inventive flavors like blackberry sweet corn ice cream, buttermilk, honey green tea ice cream, and vanilla coconut sorbet.


Location: various locations in California

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has been making small-batch ice creams for nearly seven decades. The shop has been using milk and cream from grass-grazed cows and eggs from "local, organically-fed, cage-free hens"—never with preservatives, fillers, or additives—at their Old Dairy creamery since 1949. In their “manifesto” they say that they “believe that ice cream can cure a broken heart.” Clever flavors like eureka lemon & marionberries, churros con leche (with Sri Lankan cinnamon and R.R. Lochhead vanilla), and whiskey and pecan pralines (smoky Kentucky bourbon) as well as seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie and eggnog can be enjoyed in Santa Barbara, downtown Los Angeles, and Studio City. If you’re not in California, it’s okay, they also offer FedEx two-day delivery with a four pint minimum.


Location: Denver, Colorado

Little Man Ice Cream
Yelp, Annie N.

Expect long lines and the smell of homemade waffle cones at Denver’s Little Man Ice Cream. The shop itself is housed inside a 28-foot-tall cream can, inspired by Coney Island’s hot dog-shaped stands, and the staff wear vintage uniforms while serving handmade ice cream, vegan ice cream, and sorbet. They host live music and movie nights, and serve up ice cream sandwiches, shakes floats, and sundaes. But they are known for their unique flavors such as oatmeal cookies, space junkie, French toast, and Twix. Enjoy your dessert guilt-free—their Scoop for Scoop program donates a 3-ounce scoop of rice or beans to developing countries for every scoop of ice cream, and has provided scoops to nine countries on four continents since opening in 2008.


Location: Griswold, CT

This dairy farm was first started by the Button family in 1975. They constructed (from scratch) their own ice cream stand, opening Buttonwood Farm Fresh Ice Cream in 1998. Since then, they've been making their ice cream and waffle cones fresh each day for families to enjoy. Unique offerings like dark and stormy, key lime cheesecake, and cardamom lime yogurt can be enjoyed while taking in the surrounding acre of sunflowers or spending time exploring their 7-acre corn maze.


Location: Hockessin, Delaware

You’ll find Woodside Farm Creamery located in a village on the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware. Established in 1796, this was primarily a dairy farm, owned and operated by the Mitchell family for more than a century. The farm provided eggs, poultry, sheep, flowers, beef, and pumpkins before deciding to return cows to the farm in 1995 and opening their creamery in 1998.

Today, employees hold a children’s story time every Tuesday, and their herd of about 30 Jersey cows assist in making fresh small batch ice cream for cone scoops, milkshakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches and ice cream cakes. The Mitchells celebrated their 200th year of family-owned farming in 1996 and were recognized as one of the few Centennial farms in the state of Delaware. Stop in for the ice cream (available in flavors like motor oil and chocolate thunder) and spend the day watching the many sheep, goats, cats, and dogs that also live on the farm along with the herd of cows.


Location: Miami, Florida

Founded in 2011 as an “artisanal ice cream and sorbet boutique,” Azucar Ice Cream Company is a colorful shop in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The playful ice cream and sorbet flavors are made up of natural ingredients often sourced from local farmer’s markets. They offer signature flavors like platano maduro (sweet plantain), café con leche (Cuban coffee with Oreo), caramel flan, and Guinness chocolate. They also rotate seasonal flavors that include olive oil, orange zest and dark chocolate, margarita-flavored sorbet, and sweet potato ancho chile chocolate chip. If you’re not in the mood to experiment, they always have classic flavors mint chocolate chip and vanilla—so choose wisely.


Location: various locations in Georgia

Jakes Ice Cream
Yelp, Giovanna H.

Tucked inside Atlanta’s Irwin Street Market or in the upcoming East Point location, you’ll find Jake’s, with only eight flavors to choose from. Ice cream from the shop, established in 1999, are served in restaurants all over Atlanta, thanks to their creative and fun flavors. The most popular include Chocolate Slap Yo Mama, which mixes chocolate sauce with chocolate chips and Oreo cookies, and Brown Shugah Vanilla. Other flavors like Chocolate Pecan Piescream and Breakfast in Bed (cinnamon ice cream mixed with Belgian waffles soaked in bourbon pecan sauce) are sought after due to their 18 percent butterfat content—the highest you’ll find in ice cream, according to their site—and 100 percent deliciousness.


Location: Nahiku, Maui, Hawaii

Coconut Glen’s is a roadside stand serving organic, vegan ice cream all based with coconut milk in varieties like pineapple panang curry and papaya lime. Made with “love and coconuts from the jungles of Maui," Glen’s uses all local fruit and is served in a coconut shell. Getting there is half the battle—found between mile marker 27 and 28 on the Hana Highway—you’ll find his stand along the eastern shore of Maui, in the rain forest.


Location: Boise, Idaho

Expect to feel like you’re in another decade at this ice cream shop, located in Boise. Goody's features an authentic 1930s soda fountain with barstools, glass ice cream dishes, and glass candy displays that make you visitors and locals feel nostalgic for times of the neighborhood soda fountain. It also offers up handmade ice cream, chocolates, and caramel corn, as well as tons of other candy to purchase. Their slogan "Only too much is enough," is something we can all get behind.


Location: Chicago, Illinois

Bobtail Ice Cream Company opened in the Windy City in 2004, using three generations of family recipes for their shop. They’ve since added five additional Chicago stores, and one suburban shop, and claim to be the only Chicago company that makes "truly, homemade hard-pack ice cream." The shop is open year-round, offering specialty flavors like pumpkin and white chocolate peanut butter. The menu also includes hot fudge brownie sundaes, as well as Steamers (your choice of ice cream and a topping steamed with milk) and the Bobby Joe (your choice of ice cream blended with ice, espresso, and coffee).


Location: Upland, Indiana

Ivanhoes interior
Yelp, Anna O.

Ivan and Carol Slain purchased Wiley’s Drive-In in 1965, and continue to run it as Ivanhoes, with their son Mark. A full restaurant and sandwich shop, it has become well-known for having 100 different shakes and sundaes on their menu, including chocolate anonymous and peach cream pie. Students from nearby Taylor University and Indiana Wesleyan University enjoy trying to try every flavor to make their “100 Club.”


Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Beloved ice cream shop Snookies has a been a favorite among Des Moines residents for over 30 years. Folks line up in the summer to try their array of ice cream, shakes, and malts. Customers are even encouraged to bring their dogs for a free pup cone in the summer to the family business. Owner Jim Graves, who died at age 80, owned the shop with his wife Marilyn before passing it on to their daughter, who runs the store today.


Location: various locations in Kansas

Sylas and Maddy’s has made its ice cream and waffle cones fresh daily since they opened a location in Lawrence in 1997. (They added an Olathe location in 1999.) At both locations, you can enjoy Old Fashion Sundaes and banana splits, as well as unique flavors like coffee break, margarita sherbet, and peanut butter freak. They offer toppings like gummy bears, sprinkles, and Reese’s Pieces. Customers are free to enjoy desserts there, or take pints and quarts to go.


Location: Louisville, Kentucky

The Comfy Cow ice cream flavors
Yelp, Karen G.

Louisville’s The Comfy Cow opened in 2007 and was one of Southern Living’s “The South's Best Frozen Treats” in 2016. Often made from scratch with local ingredients and inspired by their Southern culinary roots, the shop offers delicious ice cream like cake “batter up,” cookie monster dough, and seasonal options like the espresso yourself. Served with various fruit, candy, nut, and sauce toppings, the ice cream products can be enjoyed on location or to go, and you can invent your own ice cream sandwiches and sundaes.


Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Angelo Brocato’s has been run by the Brocato family for over 100 years, since it first opened at the original location in 1905, and was churned by hand. It was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, but returned to its present location after rebuilding in September of 2006. They are New Orleans’ oldest purveyor of cannoli, so you can choose the famous Sicilian treat or opt for their pistachio almond ice cream or over 20 flavors of gelato.


Location: various locations in Maine

Linda Parker’s Mount Desert Island Ice Cream was founded in Bar Harbor in 2005 and has expanded to an additional Bar Harbor location, as well as in Portland, Maine. The shop creates small-batch (five gallons) flavors like The Dude (White Russian ice cream) and also offers a four scoop "flight" for those who can’t decide. Mount Desert Island was named one of the best in the country by Food & Wine magazine, but the real seal of approval came in 2010, when pictures of President Obama, enjoying his coconut ice cream, were made public.


Location: Ocean City, Maryland

An Ocean City landmark on the Boardwalk since 1939, Dumser’s Dairyland now has seven locations in the area. This 1940s-style ice cream parlor and restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, if you’re interested in some cream of crab soup, Maryland fried chicken, or a delicious cheeseburger. But it's most popular for the homemade ice cream. They have standard flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and peanut butter fudge, as well as specialty varieties like Hawaiian delight and coconut chocolate chip. They also serve ice cream sodas, dipped cones, and super sundaes like the Coco Loco which contains three dips of coconut chocolate ice cream and topped with hot fudge, marshmallows, peanuts, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.


Location: Centerville, Massachusetts

Four Seas Ice Cream interior
Four Seas Ice Cream

You'll find Four Seas Ice Cream housed in a former Blacksmith shop, just steps from the beaches of Cape Cod. The shop's homemade ice cream is now available off-season by the quart and in ice cream cakes, but the offerings are still best enjoyed as a summer treat in flavors like lemon crisp and rum and butter. Have a frappe, some cookie dough, or ice cream while enjoying this seaside shop.


Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Northern Michigan’s Moomers is a small, family-owned shop that has been serving homemade ice cream to Traverse City residents and visitors since 1998. Their Farm Creamery (opened in 2011) sells fresh milk from their cows, or you can try one of the their more than 160 flavors of ice cream, including banana bread and candy explosion. They also make custom ice cream cakes, and have soft serve, sorbet, and non-fat frozen yogurt. If you’re really hungry, try the Wholey Cow Sundae: 10 scoops of ice cream, all the toppings available, bananas, and brownies, served with an entire can of whipped cream.


Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Milkjam ice cream flavors
Yelp, Ashley C.

Managing to open up an ice cream shop in the dead of winter in Minnesota seems like a bad move, but the lines out the door of Minneapolis’s Milkjam Creamery tell another story. Owned by two brothers, this ice cream shop serves up witty flavors like the Waka Flocka Flakes ("vanilla bean w/ caramelized corn flakes & berry swirl") and Cereal Killers ("orange coriander milk with candied pebbles"). They also aim to keep half of the choices dairy-free for their lactose-intolerant customers.


Location: Hernando, Mississippi

Area 51 Ice Cream is just 30 minutes from downtown Memphis in Hernando, Mississippi. Check their Facebook page to find out which of their rotating flavors of homemade small-batch ice creams are on offer. Some recent flavors include coconut brown sugar, sweet cream, saigon cinnamon snickerdoodle, and lemon icebox. Their signature drink, The Roswell, is a take on an orange creamsicle: lemon icebox pie ice cream floated with Orange Crush soda and a swirl of grenadine.


Location: St. Louis, Missouri

ted drewes ice cream and exterior
Yelp, Julia K.

Not many ice cream shops can say that they also sell Christmas trees. You can get both at Ted Drewes. Frozen custard has been sold there for over 80 years, a post-baseball game tradition and Christmas trees have been sold for over 50. Both locations include 12 serving windows to accommodate the crowds and nearly 40 toppings to choose from. Ted Drewes is also home to The Concrete: Created in 1959, it is a malt or shake "so thick that they serve it upside down."


Location: Butte, Montana

One of Montana’s first drive-in restaurants, Matt’s Place, continues to wow locals and visitors in Butte with its classic 1930s look. Enjoy a cheeseburger and fries, milkshake, or ice cream sundae at the restaurant’s original 1936 counter. The spot was good enough to earn the James Beard Foundation’s 2016 American Classics Award, given to only five other U.S. restaurants for their "timeless appeal" and quality food.


Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Ivanna Cone—designed with the look of an old-time soda fountain with very modern flavors—has been around for more than a decade. The ice cream menu includes French toast, lemongrass ginger, and more, all homemade on site with 20-quart ice cream makers that use ice and salt. (On a summer day, they may use up to 40 pounds of salt and 400 pounds of ice.) All of the 17 rotating ice cream flavors begin with a 14 percent butterfat sweet cream vanilla base. Some signature flavors even give back to charity groups. Try the Camp Kindle, which is marshmallow ice cream with strawberries, chocolate, graham crackers, pretzels, with baby marshmallows, and your money will go toward a summer camp for kids affected by HIV and AIDS.


Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

BLVD Creamery interior
BLVD Creamery

BLVD Creamery is an explosion of color and candy within Las Vegas’s Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. This brightly lit shop has an array of flavors (like caramel sea salt and matcha green tea) and toppings, but what’s make them really special is the specialty items they offer. Aside from adult boozy milkshakes, the menu includes milkshakes made with flavored cereal milk and ice sandwiches that can be made with freshly glazed warm donuts, brownies, or cookies.


Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Since opening in 1982, Annabelle’s recipe of 16 ½ percent butterfat ice cream has been listed among America’s best. They currently have over 80 wholesale accounts across New Hampshire and a number of unique flavors. Try the chocolate chip with Kahlua, cashew caramel cluster, or seasonal flavors like caribbean coconut and peachy peach.


Location: Princeton, New Jersey

The original Victorian storefront of Thomas Sweet in Princeton, New Jersey opened in 1979. They now have four more locations across New Jersey, and one in Washington D.C. They have an array of delicious flavors and toppings, brownie sundaes and shakes, but they’re most famous for their blend-ins. For the latter, any flavor of ice cream or yogurt can be customized by blending it with three additional candies, nuts, or fruit topping to a nearly soft-serve form.


Location: various locations in New Mexico

Located in an adobe minutes from the Taos Ski Valley Resort in Arroyo Seco, you’ll find Taos Cow as well as other locations in Santa Fe. The company has been serving all-natural and hormone-free gourmet ice cream since 1993, include flavors like lavender, blueberry, and pecan nougat. They also serve breakfast and coffee, soups, salads, and other lunch items.


Location: various locations in New York

oddfellows miso ice cream in a bowl
Katie Burton

Cornbread, peanut butter & jelly, and lemon meringue are just some of the creative flavors you’ll find at Brooklyn’s OddFellows flagship shop and at the Manhattan location. The menu includes homemade ice cream, milkshakes, and “OddPockets,” which stuff ice cream into brioche bread and then heat it, along with toppings in a panini press. OddFellows donates 5 cents to a food bank in New York City for every serving sold, and offers catering as well as local delivery. Their goods can also be found at well-known locations like Saks Fifth Avenue, Mission Cantina, and Maison Premiere.


Location: Durham, North Carolina

The Parlour was once only found in its mobile scoop shop, a converted school bus that traveled around Durham serving up seasonally-inspired ice cream. A successful 2012 Kickstarter helped them raise money to build a permanent location where they make all the ice cream that 18 percent butterfat, pastries, and toppings from scratch. Try the summer corn or blueberry lavender flavors, or their most popular variety, salted butter caramel.


Location: Oakes, North Dakota

Nestled on a street in Oakes, North Dakota, you’ll find Sweets ‘N Stories, a combination of café, ice cream shop, and bookstore. Visit for flavors like coconut almond fudge, have an espresso, some lunch, or buy some of their handmade fudge.


Location: Cleveland, Ohio

interior sweet moses ice cream
Sweet Moses Soda Fountain & Treat Shop

Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop offers a variety of treats like gourmet popcorn, candies, homemade pies, root beer, and small batch ice cream using pure Madagascar vanilla and Belgian chocolate. The menu includes standard flavors like chocolate chip and cookies & cream as well as more unique offerings such as salted french caramel and bananas foster. All hot fudge and caramel sauces are made in-house, and the shop also sells phosphates, sundaes, and blueberry pie.


Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Started by a husband and wife team that expanded from an ice cream truck to its brick and mortar location in 2012, Roxy’s Ice Cream Social was named after the couple’s Great Dane, Roxy. Besides special flavors like blueberry cheesecake, banana cream, vegan cake batter, and lemon poppy seed, they also sell the Dreamsicle float, made of orange cream soda and vanilla ice cream. All varieties are made Philadelphia style without eggs on-site at the Plaza district location in Oklahoma City. (There is also another Oklahoma City location and upcoming Edmond Oklahoma location.)


Location: Portland, Oregon

Cool Moon Ice Cream Company is known for original creations, often rotating 26 flavors at a given time from a vast list of over 200 flavors. Lemon poppyseed, buttermilk marionberry, and Thai ice cream are offered alongside 11 mainstays like coffee crackle, birthday cake, and kulfi, made with pistachio, cardamom, and rosewater. All of the assortments are sweetened with cane sugar and handmade with natural ingredients.


Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bassetts Ice Cream cone
Yelp, Diana B.

Touted as “America’s oldest ice cream company” on their website, Bassetts was established in 1861. The outpost at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia has the original marble counters from the 1892 opening along with a menu offering over 30 flavors including, mocha chip, matcha, butterscotch vanilla, cinnamon, and raspberry truffle.


Location: various locations in Rhode Island

Voted one of the best ice cream parlor’s in the United States by TripAdvisor, Brickley’s homemade ice cream has expanded to two locations (in Narragansett and Wakefield) since opening in 1995. They have over 45 flavors of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbert, and sorbet. Try unique flavors like chocolate brownie, malted milk ball, or coffee Oreo.


Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Sweet Cream Company is a far and away favorite in the Palmetto State. There, customers enjoy their choice of 16 rotating flavors topping-free. (The shop doesn't offer them.) Before you make the trek, check out their Facebook page to see what's on the menu. Assortments include panna cotta with candied orange peel, blackberry sage, and maple walnut. They also have a special cookie sandwich each month, like July's graham cracker cookie topped with fudge sauce and toasted marshmallow ice cream.


Location: Spearfish, South Dakota

Leones’ Creamery opened in the Old City Hall’s sandstone building in 2014. The shop is now part of the Historic Commercial Walking Tour of Spearfish, and serves the local community with eight rotating ice cream flavors (including one that is always vegan). Customers can choose to “Scoop it Forward” and leave ice cream for friends and relatives. Recent options: vanilla black pepper, blueberry goat’s cheese, and avocado.


Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Noted in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Elliston Place Soda Shop is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Nashville, serving the city for over 75 years. You can pop in for fried chicken for lunch and stay for an ice cream cone, sundae, orange freeze, or egg cream. What’s sweeter? According to the restaurant, their location near the hospital means that the soda counter is a traditional place for new father’s to treat the older siblings of newborn babies to dessert.


Location: Houston, Texas

Fat Cat Creamery
Yelp, Michael S.

Fat Cat Creamery believes in sustainability, evidenced by their use of local ingredients and compostable packaging. (Even the spoons are environmentally friendly.) Fat Cat has five signature flavors that are offered year-round—milk chocolate stout, waterloo strawberry buttermilk, amaya coffee & cream, cat's meow milk Mexican vanilla, and chai tea coconut—but what they’re really known for are their seasonal flavors, including bourbon pecan pie and bunny bait.


Location: Springdale, Utah

Kim and Dave Watts are two retired engineers who were in search of a place to retire and work a little less. After deciding on an ice cream shop, they found a candy and ice cream shop listed for sale outside the entrance to Zion National Park while on vacation. Now, they serve ice cream, shakes, smoothies, and an assortment of chocolates and confections at Springdale Candy Company.


Location: Waitsfield, Vermont

The Sweet Spot serves French custard style ice cream using all natural and local ingredients. They offer standard flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and coffee as well as in-house seasonal flavors like blueberry crumble and peach bourbon. Stop in after skiing at nearby resorts, if you’re in need of lunch, coffee, or one of their frozen fruit pops or ice cream sandwiches.


Location: Richmond, Virginia

Bevs Homemade ice cream and cafe ice cream
Yelp, Kamille P.

Beverly Mazursky, the owner of Bev’s who is now in her 70s, returned to school at age 49 and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. A year later, she opened Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream, which always has 12 “everyday flavors” on hand. The menu also features rotating varieties like honey almond oatmeal, honey, and white chocolate mocha chip.


Location: Seattle, Washington

Two Seattle natives Colleen Wilkie and Paul Dormann opened Shug's Soda Fountain & Ice Cream in 2016 in the historic Pike Place Market. The treats use Lopez Island Creamery’s ice cream and sorbets as well as homemade sauces and toppings like Italian cherries and apple compote.


Location: Charleston, West Virginia

Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream was founded in 1997 and offers flavors like raspberry chocolate chip and coconut in a cup, cone, pint, or quart. The shop serves frozen yogurt (chocolate and vanilla or swirl) as well as fresh soups, salads, and wraps. You can also have a cappuccino milkshake or espresso freeze made using their fine coffee selection.


Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

purple door ice cream
Yelp, Tania T.

The husband and wife team behind Purple Door Ice Cream discussed opening an ice cream shop on their first date. What began as a wholesale business in 2011 eventually expanded to a retail store, where the duo makes ice cream with 14 percent butterfat. Flavors include balsamic vinegar, mango chutney, toasted oatmeal, and absinthe. They also believe in giving back through an initiative called Milk for Milwaukee, where they help provide fresh milk to local homeless shelters.


Location: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream is home to over 250 flavors of ice cream made with organic cream and fruit. Employees scoop 24 flavors a day. Stop by to try the Buzz Bomb, made with espresso, or the Wild Huckleberry, once voted the Best Dessert in Wyoming by the Food Network.

14 Facts About Celiac Disease

Going gluten-free may be a modern diet trend, but people have been suffering from celiac disease—a chronic condition characterized by gluten intolerance—for centuries. Patients with celiac are ill-equipped to digest products made from certain grains containing gluten; wheat is the most common. In the short-term this can cause gastrointestinal distress, and in the long-term it can foster symptoms associated with early death.

Celiac diagnoses are more common than ever, which also means awareness of how to live with the condition is at an all-time high. Here are some things you might not know about celiac disease symptoms and treatments.

1. Celiac an autoimmune disease.

The bodies of people with celiac have a hostile reaction to gluten. When the protein moves through the digestive tract, the immune system responds by attacking the small intestine, causing inflammation that damages the lining of the organ. As this continues over time, the small intestine has trouble absorbing nutrients from other foods, which can lead to additional complications like anemia and osteoporosis.

2. You can get celiac disease from your parents.

Nearly all cases of celiac disease arise from certain variants of the genes HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1. These genes help produce proteins in the body that allow the immune system to identify potentially dangerous foreign substances. Normally the immune system wouldn't label gliadin, a segment of the gluten protein, a threat, but due to mutations in these genes, the bodies of people with celiac treat gliadin as a hostile invader.

Because it's a genetic disorder, people with a first-degree relative (a sibling, parent, or child) with celiac have a 4 to 15 percent chance of having it themselves. And while almost all patients with celiac have these specific HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 variations, not everyone with the mutations will develop celiac. About 30 percent of the population has these gene variants, and only 3 percent of that group goes on to develop celiac disease.

3. Makeup might contribute to celiac disease symptoms.

People with celiac disease can’t properly process gluten, the protein naturally found in the grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Patients have to follow strict dietary guidelines and avoid most bread, pasta, and cereal, in order to manage their symptoms. But gluten isn’t limited to food products: It can also be found in some cosmetics. While makeup containing gluten causes no issues for many people with celiac, it can provoke rashes in others or lead to more problems if ingested. For those folks, gluten-free makeup is an option.

4. The name comes from 1st-century Greece.

A 1st-century Greek physician named Aretaeus of Cappadocia may have been the first person to describe celiac disease symptoms in writing [PDF]. He named it koiliakos after the Greek word koelia for abdomen, and he referred to people with the condition as coeliacs. In his description he wrote, “If the stomach be irretentive of the food and if it pass through undigested and crude, and nothing ascends into the body, we call such persons coeliacs.”

5. There are nearly 300 celiac disease symptoms.

Celiac disease may start in the gut, but it can be felt throughout the whole body. In children, the condition usually manifests as bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort, but as patients get older they start to experience more “non-classical” symptoms like anemia, arthritis, and fatigue. There are at least 281 symptoms associated with celiac disease, many of which overlap with other conditions and make celiac hard to diagnose. Other common symptoms of the disease include tooth discoloration, anxiety and depression, loss of fertility, and liver disorders. Celiac patients also have a greater chance of developing an additional autoimmune disorder, with the risk increasing the later in life the initial condition is diagnosed.

6. Some patients show no symptoms at all.

It’s not uncommon for celiac disease to be wrecking a patient’s digestive tract while showing no apparent symptoms. This form of the condition, sometimes called asymptomatic or “silent celiac disease,” likely contributes to part of the large number of people with celiac who are undiagnosed. People who are at high risk for the disease (the children of celiac sufferers, for example), or who have related conditions like type 1 diabetes and Down syndrome (both conditions that put patients at a greater risk for developing new autoimmune diseases) are encouraged to get tested for it even if they aren’t showing any signs.

7. It’s not the same as wheat sensitivity.

Celiac is often confused with wheat sensitivity, a separate condition that shares many symptoms with celiac, including gastrointestinal issues, depression, and fatigue. It’s often called gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, but because doctors still aren’t sure if gluten is the cause, many refer to it as non-celiac wheat sensitivity. There’s no test for it, but patients are often treated with the same gluten-free diet that’s prescribed to celiac patients.

8. It's not a wheat allergy either.

Celiac disease is often associated with wheat because it's one of the more common products containing gluten. While it's true that people with celiac can't eat wheat, the condition isn't a wheat allergy. Rather than reacting to the wheat, patients react to a specific protein that's found in the grain as well as others.

9. It can develop at any age.

Just because you don’t have celiac now doesn’t mean you’re in the clear for life: The disease can develop at any age, even in people who have tested negative for it previously. There are, however, two stages of life when symptoms are most likely to appear: early childhood (8 to 12 months) and middle adulthood (ages 40 to 60). People already genetically predisposed to celiac become more susceptible to it when the composition of their intestinal bacteria changes as they get older, either as a result of infection, surgery, antibiotics, or stress.

10. Not all grains are off-limits.

A gluten-free diet isn’t necessarily a grain-free diet. While it’s true that the popular grains wheat, barley, and rye contain gluten, there are plenty of grains and seeds that don’t and are safe for people with celiac to eat. These include quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum, and rice. Oats are also naturally gluten-free, but they're often contaminated with gluten during processing, so consumers with celiac should be cautious when buying them.

11. Celiac disease can be detected with a blood test.

Screenings for celiac disease used to be an involved process, with doctors monitoring patients’ reactions to their gluten-free diet over time. Today all it takes is a simple test to determine whether someone has celiac. People with the condition will have anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies in their bloodstream. If a blood test confirms the presence of these proteins in a patient, doctors will then take a biopsy of their intestine to confirm the root cause.

12. The gluten-free diet doesn’t work for all patients.

Avoiding gluten is the most effective way to manage celiac disease, but the treatment doesn’t work 100 percent of the time. In up to a fifth of patients, the damaged intestinal lining does not recover even a year after switching to a gluten-free diet. Most cases of non-responsive celiac disease can be explained by people not following the diet closely enough, or by having other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth that impede recovery. Just a small fraction of celiac disease sufferers don’t respond to a strict gluten-free diet and have no related conditions. These patients are usually prescribed steroids and immunosuppressants as alternative treatments.

13. If you don’t have celiac, gluten probably won’t hurt you.

The gluten-free diet trend has exploded in popularity in recent years, and most people who follow it have no medical reason to do so. Going gluten-free has been purported to do everything from help you lose weight to treat autism—but according to doctors, there’s no science behind these claims. Avoiding gluten may help some people feel better and more energetic because it forces them to cut heavily processed junk foods out of their diet. In such cases it’s the sugar and carbs that are making people feel sluggish—not the gluten protein. If you don’t have celiac or a gluten sensitivity, most experts recommend saving yourself the trouble by eating healthier in general rather than abstaining from gluten.

14. The numbers are growing.

A 2009 study found that four times as many people have celiac today than in the 1950s, and the spike can’t be explained by increased awareness alone. Researchers tested blood collected at the Warren Air Force Base between 1948 and 1954 and compared them to fresh samples from candidates living in one Minnesota county. The results supported the theory that celiac has become more prevalent in the last half-century. While experts aren’t exactly sure why the condition is more common today, it may have something to do with changes in how wheat is handled or the spread of gluten into medications and processed foods.

The Fascinating History Behind Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food on Christmas


For Jewish New Yorkers, scoring a seat at one of veteran restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld’s Chinese eateries on Christmas Day could be compared to a holiday miracle. “I think on that day we do more business than many restaurants do in three months,” Schoenfeld tells Mental Floss. “We serve all day long, we stay open all day long.”

Schoenfeld is the Jewish owner-operator of RedFarm, an Asian-fusion dim sum restaurant with two locations in New York (plus one in London), and Decoy, a West Village shrine to traditional Peking duck. While his expertise lies in Far Eastern cuisine, Schoenfeld grew up in Brooklyn and learned to cook from his Eastern European grandmother. And just like his customers, Schoenfeld and his family sometimes craved Chinese food on Christmas, eschewing homemade fare for heaping plates of chow mein and egg foo yung. The future restaurateur's grandmother kept a kosher kitchen, but outside the home all dietary laws flew out the window with the single spin of a Lazy Susan. Suddenly, egg rolls with pork were fair game, transfigured into permissible delicacies through hunger and willful ignorance.

As Gentiles feast on turkey and roast beef during the Yuletide season, why do many Jews opt for chop suey? For starters, it's convenient: Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But as historians and culinary experts tell Mental Floss, other ingredients play a part in this delicious story.

Jews developed their love for all things steamed, stir-fried, and soy-sauced after leaving the Old Country. Between the mid-1800s and the 1930s, waves of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Germany, and Greece began settling in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gritty, inexpensive neighborhood teeming with tenements, docks, and factories—and filled with synagogues and kosher butcher shops. “You started here, and then moved on," Sarah Lohman, author of Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, says.

While Jewish immigrants found community on the Lower East Side, "there was a lot of discrimination against Jews at the turn of the century,” Lohman adds. "They were often criticized not only for not dressing like Americans and not speaking the language, but also for not converting to an 'American' religion."

Right next door to the burgeoning Jewish community on the Lower East Side was the city's nascent Chinatown. Many Chinese immigrants had initially come to the U.S. to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. After its completion in 1869, these laborers faced violence and discrimination in the western states. They came to New York City seeking new business opportunities, and some opened restaurants.

By and large, Chinese restaurateurs didn’t discriminate against Jewish customers. Joshua Eli Plaut writes in his book A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewish that the Chinese, as non-Christians, didn't perceive any difference between Anglo-Saxon New Yorkers and Jewish immigrants; they accepted all non-Chinese customers with open arms.

Jewish customers embraced Chinese food in return. The restaurants were conveniently located and inexpensive, yet were also urbane in their eyes. Jews saw dining out as an American custom that they wanted to try, largely because they sought upward mobility among other Americans. According to Yong Chen, a history professor and author of Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, "[Diners] were attracted to Chinese food because, in their mind, it represented American cosmopolitanism and middle class status." And they weren't deterred by the fact that food in Chinese restaurants wasn't kosher. But they could easily pretend it was.

Dairy wasn’t a big part of Chinese meals, so Jewish diners didn’t have to worry about mixing meat and milk (a no-no in kosher diets). And non-kosher ingredients like pork or seafood were often finely chopped, drowned in sauces, or mixed with other ingredients, like rice. These elements were well disguised enough that they could pass for more permissible forms of meat. “You could kind of willfully ignore that there might be pork in there," Lohman says. "It’s like a vegetarian eating a soup that has chicken stock. If you’re a little flexible about your Judaism, you would just ‘not notice’ the pork in your fried rice.”

Chinese food was exotic and new, filled with surprising flavors, ingredients, and textures [PDF]. But for some Eastern European Jews, it also had familiar elements. Both Eastern European and Chinese cuisines shared an affinity for sweet and sour flavors and egg-based dishes. "[Chinese restaurants] had these pancakes, which were like blintzes,” says Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, and the wontons resembled kreplach (both are meat-filled soup dumplings).

The fact that the Chinese and Jews were America’s two largest non-Christian immigrant populations brought them together, Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, tells Mental Floss. Unlike, say, Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants were open on Sundays and on Christian holidays. They also lacked religious imagery, which may have made them appear more welcoming for Jews.

Combined, these factors caused the number of Chinese restaurants in urban East Coast cities to skyrocket during the early 20th century. Jews soon accounted for 60 percent of the white clientele in New York City's and Philadelphia’s Chinese restaurants, Chen writes, and Chinese restaurants would often go out of their way to cater to these clients. The eateries delivered their food to Jewish neighborhoods and to individual customers.

Yet an unwavering affection for Chinese food wasn't shared by all Jews. In an example cited by Chen and Lee, a reporter for Der Tog (The Day), a Yiddish daily newspaper in New York City, noted in 1928 that Jewish diners were in danger of drowning their culinary roots in soy sauce. To take back their taste buds, Jewish-Americans should hoist protest signs reading “Down with chop suey! Long live gefilte fish!” the journalist joked.

But Jewish cookbooks had already begun including Americanized dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung, which Chinese chefs had specially created to appeal to homegrown appetites. And as Lower East Side Jews moved to different neighborhoods, boroughs, and suburbs, Chinese restaurants followed them.

By the mid-20th century, Nathan says, Chinese restaurants had become de facto social clubs in Jewish communities. Familiar faces were always present, children were always welcome, and eating with your hands wasn’t just encouraged—it was required. Everyone left filled with food and gossip, whether it was Christmas or an ordinary Sunday evening.

Thanks to immigration patterns, nostalgia, and convenient hours of operation, this culinary custom has stuck around. “Jewish guests want to go out and eat Chinese food on Christmas,” Schoenfeld, the Manhattan restaurateur, says. “It’s become a tradition, and it’s extraordinary how it’s really grown.”

This story originally ran in 2017.