Photo courtesy of Rice Village

Dallas is getting another scoop of top-notch ice cream: Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, the small-but-growing ice cream shop chain from New York, is opening a location in the Inwood Village shopping center at 5450 W Lovers Ln. #130 in the former Gigi's Cupcakes space.

According to a release, it'll open on February 9.

“Texas has been so good to Van Leeuwen, so we are excited to open a brand new store in Dallas/Fort Worth,” says co-founder and CEO Ben Van Leeuwen in a statement.

Van Leeuwen started out as a scoop truck, founded in 2008 by Ben Van Leeuwen, Pete Van Leeuwen, and Laura O’Neill, whose French-style ice cream, with more than double the amount of egg yolks as standard ice cream, earned them notice.

They've since expanded, with 39 shops in New York, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Connecticut, and Texas. Pints and ice cream bars are available in grocery stores across the U.S., including Sprouts, Walmart and HEB, and to order for nationwide shipping from their website.

At their shops, they do scoops, milkshakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches, root beer floats, sundaes, and pints to-go.

Flavors are inventive, such as Honeycomb, Praline Butter Cake, Cookies & Cream, and Vegan Churros & Fudge.

They also go above and beyond in sourcing ingredients such as its pistachios from Mount Etna in Italy, berries from Oregon farm-partner Stahlbush Island Farms, tea from the Yunnan province of China for their Earl Grey Tea flavor, and Texas pecans for their Praline Butter Cake.

One other difference-maker has been their vegan/dairy-free options, with not only a wide range of flavors like Churros & Fudge, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Peanut Butter Brownie Honeycomb, but also the creamy texture of the ice cream itself - superior to most dairy-free ice creams.

Inwood Village is their third DFW location, joining West Village in Dallas and WestBend in Fort Worth. They also have three locations in Houston.

True to form, they'll open with a splash: The first 100 customers get a limited-edition Dallas Van Leeuwen tote bag, and the shop will offer $1 scoops from 3-5 pm

Courtesy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni's Ice Cream for Breakfast Day

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams will present their annual Ice Cream for Breakfast Day celebration. Last year's runaway hit flavor, Maple Soaked Pancakes, is returning for a limited time. The first 50 Splendid Rewards members will get a free, very limited Ice Cream for Breakfast Day mug. Visitors can also enter the giveaway for free ice cream for a year by taking a photo in your PJs at a Jeni’s shop, sharing it with the hashtag #icecreamforbreakfast, and tagging @jenisicecreams.

Jeni's Splendid Ice CreamsLower Greenville Grand Opening Party

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams will open their new scoop shop in Lower Greenville. From 7-11 pm, there will be free scoops for all and swag bags for the first 50 people in line.

Zero Gradi

Italian gelato dessert shop in downtown Dallas whips up 2 new locations

Pizza News

Award-winning Italian restaurant 400 Gradi, founded in Melbourne, Australia by famed chef Johnny Di Francesco, is expanding its DFW presence with a second location, plus two new locations of its acclaimed dessert shop/gelateria Zero Gradi.

The restaurant will open in McKinney, at District 121, a $250 million mixed-use development at the northeast corner of State Highway 121 and Alma Road, adjacent to Craig Ranch.

The original 400 Gradi is in downtown Dallas. Di Francesco -- a regular on Australian TV shows such as MasterChef Australia, The Mentor, and Everyday Gourmet -- opened the restaurant at the 2000 Ross Ave. building in 2019, also the first in the U.S.

Its authentic, Neapolitan-style ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, and flour imported from Italy, earned not only a loyal following but an award for best pizza in CultureMap's annual Tastemaker Awards in 2022.

I mean, consider the Suprema pizza with fior di latte, pumpkin, arugula, pine nuts, and goat cheese. What is not to like.

Dessert expansion
In 2021, they opened a sweet spinoff next door to their downtown restaurant: Zero Gradi, with espresso, Italian-inspired pastries, and a gelateria with traditional gelato and sorbetto.

Now there will be two more Zero Gradis:

  • McKinney, also at District 121, at 6107 Alma Rd. in McKinney, adjoining 400 Gradi, just like the original in Dallas.
  • Frisco, at the Shops at Starwood, at 6975 Lebanon Rd. #307, in a former jewelry and perfume shop called Trends. This location will be a standalone shop.

400 Gradi principal Igor Stevovic says that the expansion north was prompted by demand from customers. That included David Craig, founder of District 121, who encouraged them to join the lineup at Craig Ranch, his mixed-use development at SH-121 and Alma Road.

"It was a natural expansion because we saw many customers coming from that area," Stevovic says. "These were people traveling 30 minutes to downtown Dallas."

However, their goal is not to have a 400 Gradi on every block.

"We care about producing high quality food from scratch, with hand made pasta and pizza dough that's as authentic as possible," Stevovic says. "That's what is important to us. We're the only restaurant in the U.S. that filtrates its water to achieve same degree of softness as in Napoli."

"But we do feel like there’s an audience for a second Zero Gradi," he says. "Our gelato, pastries, and bakery products are magnificent and people downtown have shown they appreciate that tremendously."

Zero Gradi made CultureMap's list of Best Desserts for Valentine's Day 2022, where it was praised for its ice cream cakes and luscious almond croissant filled with almond custard and blueberry preserves, as well as its propensity for using pistachio nuts (instead of bottled paste) and hazelnuts from Piedmont, Italy, hailed by experts as the best hazelnuts in the world.

The shop also earned a nomination in CultureMap's 2022 Tastemaker Awards for Best Pastry Chef Lizbeth "Lizzie" Ramirez.

Construction on the Frisco shop is just beginning, with a hoped-for opening by the end of the year; McKinney opens in early 2023.

"The population in Dallas is growing exponentially, with an increasingly sophisticated palate awareness," Stevovic says. "For us, that's good, since our food has an imcomparable authenticity."


Dallas earns tragic ranking in list of best and worst ice cream cities

Ice Cream News

Dallas has never had a tradition of great ice cream, and a national survey proves that to be true. Gird thyself: According to a list of of the best (and worst) ice cream cities in America, Dallas is the ninth-worst city in the U.S.

The survey, compiled by real estate brokerage Home Bay, ranks 50 cities using factors such as the number of ice cream shops per capita, the price of a small cup or cone (using Ben & Jerry's as a benchmark), average annual temperature, and Google searches. Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, Yelp, and Google Trends.

The best
The best cities for ice cream have more shops (an average of 4.9 ice cream shops per 100,000 people), a high interest in ice cream (Google searches), and better prices, with a small cup of Ben & Jerry's averaging $4.47 versus the $4.50 residents pay in the average city.

Here's a surprise: Oklahoma City is America's best ice cream city, thanks to a high number of ice cream shops per capita as well as affordability.

The top 10 cities in the U.S. for ice cream are as follows:

  1. Oklahoma City
  2. New Orleans
  3. Las Vegas
  4. San Jose
  5. Providence
  6. Raleigh NC
  7. Salt Lake City
  8. Austin
  9. Boston
  10. Philadelphia

Way to go, Austin! At least one Texas city makes the list. This is what they say about Austin's ice cream scene:

Austin excels when it comes to appreciation of different ice cream styles. The city ranks third in our ice cream variety metric thanks to frequent searches for ice cream types and flavors. The slogan "Keep Austin Weird" is appropriate with so many locals going bananas: The city ranks first in online search interest for banana ice cream. Visitors can find two different types of banana ice cream — banana cream pie and strawberry banana — at local chain Amy's Ice Creams. Additionally, Austin has the seventh-warmest average temperature in our study, making ice cream especially appreciated as a sweet treat for relief from the heat.

And as a subset of this ice cream survey, San Antonio wins the No. 1 slot for Best Shaved Ice.

The worst
The bottom 10 cities, including Dallas, have fewer ice cream shops, higher costs, and less ice cream interest in the topic, which they judge by the number of Google searches for topics such as "ice cream near me" and "ice cream flavors."

The 10 worst ice cream cities are as follows:

  1. Memphis
  2. Riverside, California
  3. Washington DC
  4. Miami
  5. Houston
  6. Baltimore
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Sacramento
  9. Dallas
  10. Jacksonville

These cities have only 2.2 ice cream shops per 100,000 people. The average city has 3.4 shops per 100,000 people. And Dallas has only 1.4 ice cream shops per 100,000 people.

But wait! That number is due to rise, with the recent arrival of chains such as Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and Van Leeuwen, joining stalwart locals such as Botolino Gelato Artigianale on Greenville Avenue and Amorino Gelato which now has three locations in Plano, Dallas' Preston Center, and Fort Worth.

Ice cream in these worst cities is also more expensive. A small cup of ice cream averages $4.80 in the bottom 10 cities, versus $4.50 for the average city in the study.

Ice cream in Missouri and Alabama is the cheapest: $3.99 for a small Ben & Jerry's cone. Washington DC is the most expensive, at $5.35 for a cone.

Dolly Llama

Dessert shop devoted to waffles & ice cream puffs up in Uptown Dallas

Ice Cream News

The Dolly Llama celebrates its grand opening on May 28.


Luscious waffles and ice cream are coming to Uptown Dallas via The Dolly Llama, a waffle-and-ice-cream chain from Southern California making its Texas debut at 2817 Howell St. #210, in a former Smoothie Factory.

According to Trenton McKay Judson, the dessert hero who's bringing the concept to town, it's slated to open in the spring, hopefully by late April.

The Dolly Llama was founded in Los Angeles in 2017 by Eric Shomof and Samuel Baroux, a European restaurateur, who named it for a llama that lives on a farm near Baroux's home in France. Cute llama-based illustrations are key to their branding and decor.

They offer two unique waffle styles: the authentic Belgian Liege waffle and the Hong Kong Bubble Waffle, prepared with a special batter that produces a unique crispy and custard-like texture. (The Hong Kong waffle, AKA the "bubble waffle," is a popular street food with bubble-like rounds that has become popular in the past couple years. DFW has a few places, mostly in Collin County, doing bubble waffles such as Sugababy Canes, Gong Cha, Tea Town, Happy Lemon, and Kirin Court, as well as the Cauldron Ice Cream chain which has locations in Carrollton and Dallas.)

Part of the goal at Dolly Llama is to encourage the idea that you can eat waffles any time of the day, not just for breakfast.

Their waffles figure in an array of desserts, some with toppings such as strawberries & Nutella, or peanut butter & cinnamon toast crunch; and some with toppings plus ice cream.

There are ice cream waffle sandwiches, and a Build-Your-Own option, where customers can pile on unlimited toppings such as cookies, marshmallows, M&Ms, plus an assortment of sauces including Nutella, caramel, maple syrup, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter, white chocolate matcha, and sweetened condensed milk.

Ice cream flavors include vanilla, chocolate, salted caramel, matcha green tea, pistachio, horchata, plus vegan flavors including mint chip. They also do creative shakes.

The Dolly Llama currently operates three locations in the L.A. area, but is expanding in 2022 to Northern California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Dallas.

Judson has a "day job" as dean at a small school in East Texas and is also a writer, but has extensive food & beverage experience.

"I worked in the service industry in college, putting myself through school and grad school, which I really enjoyed, and wanted to get back into it," he says.

But possibly his more relevant qualification is that he love sweets?

"I love baking and always wanted to start my own sweets business," he says. "I wanted to work with a company that had good marketing and people, and great desserts, and was blown away by Dolly Llama."

He's currently awaiting delivery of a patented waffle press, coming from Belgium. "It creates these beautiful pockets, perfect for ice cream and sauce," he says.

For location, he considered the usuals — Deep Ellum, Lower Greenville, downtown Dallas — before discovering the Uptown address, which became available in October after Smoothie Factory closed.

"I liked the character of the spot, and they're building up the Quadrangle right down the street," he says. "It seemed like a good fit. There's not anything like Dolly Llama in the area, nor in Dallas. I feel like this is something people in the neighborhood will love."

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Taylor Swift wows crowd at first of three sold-out nights in Arlington

Concert Review

Friday night, pop megastar Taylor Swift brought the first of three sold out nights to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, delivering a three-hour show that spanned highlights of her illustrious career.

Called the "Eras Tour," it's part of a U.S. tour that began in March and extends through August and serves as a career retrospective, featuring tracks pulled from key albums including Lover, Fearless, and Evermore.

Swift is only 33, but already has 10 albums under her belt, and has explored a variety of genres, from country to pop to indie. The show artfully displayed her evolution as an artist, demonstrating how she has matured from teen pop star to seasoned performer able to connect with a wide demographic.

Every performer has fans but a Taylor Swift show is on another level: Virtually every one of the 70,000 people in attendance at AT&T seemed to know every song and every lyric. The audience was probably 80 percent women, lending a subtly empowering aspect.

The show was impressively staged. After openers Muna and Gayle had completed their sets, Swift's entrance was preceded by the image of a countdown clock, ticking down, setting off a wave of raucous screams.

The show cycled through albums, with Swift performing a few tracks from each, though not necessarily in chronological order. It was almost like a series of well-orchestrated mood swings, from fast-paced dance hits to the more subdued music of her 2020 album Folklore.

In between albums, the show would pause for mini-interludes, oftentimes with a video, serving as a transition and giving the stage crew time to quickly usher in a new set of props, many quite glorious.

For example, the Folklore segment featured a quaint moss-covered A-frame house, complete with a chimney wafting smoke, as she crooned to the tour debut of her hit "The 1."

During her Evermore set, a background video showed a dark, moonlight forest adorned with dark green trees reaching into the sky. Black-cloaked dancers emerged, slowly swinging glowing orange orbs as Swift crooned the haunting lyrics to her hit "Willow."

That segued into her Reputation album brought the fast-paced energy reminiscent of her 2018 tour, as she kicked it off with the rambunctious hit "…Ready For It?"

She also played the 10-minute version of "All Too Well" from the Red album, a song that was originally five minutes long but which she re-recorded in her effort to regain control of her music after her back catalog was sold behind her back.

Setlists for this tour are being posted hours after each performance, including shows in Arizona and Las Vegas, a fact that Swift playfully acknowledged.

“You think you can just scroll the setlist? You think you can just come prepared? Let it be said about The Eras Tour … there’s hijinks,” she said, before offering surprise acoustic renditions of "Sad Beautiful Tragic" and "Ours."

The final half hour closed out with hits from her latest album Midnights, including “Lavender Haze” and “Anti-Hero." There wasn't an encore, but after a sprawling three-hour set that never flagged, it wasn't needed or missed.

Leading up to the weekend, there were gloomy reports anticipating traffic issues, but many fans arrived early and entrance to the venue went smoothly with virtually no lines even an hour prior to the show.

She'll be in Arlington for two more nights, on April 1 and 2.

New adults-only roller rink skates into this week's 5 hottest Dallas headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. Hipster '80s-style roller skating rink to wheel into Dallas Design District. Roller skating is wheeling in to Dallas' Design District via Ride On, a new adult-oriented rink opening at 170 Pittsburg St., at the corner of Riverfront Boulevard, in fall 2023.

2. Busy Dallas hard rock music venue Amplified Live to close this week. A Dallas live music venue is shutting down: Amplified Live, which has been one of the city's most popular venues for live rock music shows for the past decade, has closed its doors. The final show was on March 31, featuring Exciter and Night Cobra.

3. Texas rises through the ranks of most innovative states, says new report. The Lone Star State has again taken a step up on an annual report that ranks the most and least innovative states in the country — this time cracking the top 15. Texas ranked No. 15 in personal finance site WalletHub's 2023’s Most and Least Innovative States ranking. It's a steady improvement for the state, which ranked No. 16 in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

4. Sexy and daring Magic Mike Live show comes to Frisco for one-month run. On the heels of Magic Mike's Last Dance, the first-ever tour of the stage show Magic Mike Live will make its debut in a custom-built venue at Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, May 11-June 11. The show features professionally trained dancers delivering 90 minutes of sexy and daring dance routines, acrobatics, live music, comedy, and more in front of, above, and all around the audience.

5. This is how much money you need to live comfortably in Dallas-Fort Worth, new study finds. Whether it be the price of eggs or a new car, trying to have a financially stable life in one of America’s largest metropolitan areas is becoming more and more difficult. So, how much money do you need to make to live comfortably in Dallas-Fort Worth? A new report from SmartAsset has the answer.

Tetris blocks out a taut international story about popular video game

Movie Review

The term “origin story” is typically associated with superheroes these days, but a growing trend involves filmmakers taking a look back about famous consumer products came to be. In the next few months, Air (about Michael Jordan’s initial shoe contract with Nike), BlackBerry (about the now-defunct smartphone), and Flamin’ Hot (about the popular Cheetos flavor) will be released in either theaters or on streaming services.

First out the gate, though, is Tetris, which tells the highly complicated story of how the video game made its way from the USSR to players’ fingers worldwide in the late 1980s. The protagonist of the film is Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton), a small-time video game developer who sees an opportunity when he plays the then-unknown game at an electronics show.

Understanding its potential right away, he convinces a sales rep to sell him distribution rights in Japan, where he lives with his wife and children, and where – not so coincidentally – Nintendo is located. What seems to be straightforward at first turns quickly into a quagmire, with Rogers competing against English software company Mirrorsoft for various rights, including handheld video games, as Nintendo is about launch a new system they call Game Boy.

Directed by Jon S. Baird and written by Noah Pink, the film starts out relatively lighthearted, as the ever-optimistic Rogers bounces from country to country to convince a variety of people that his plans for the game will work. But the film gets more dramatic by the minute, with the second half – taking place almost entirely in the Soviet Union - taking on the feel of an international espionage story.

The filmmakers start with the premise that everyone watching knows Tetris and the immense popularity the game has enjoyed over the years, especially right after it launched. But even if somehow you aren’t one of those people, the film does a good job showing its importance, with multiple different parties fighting for its rights in four different countries.

Is all of what’s shown true? Probably not, but as with most movies that are “based on a true story,” there’s an understanding that the filmmakers use a good amount of dramatic license. On a pure filmmaking level, the story works because it shows the passion of Rogers for his business and the number of obstacles that stand in his way. It doesn’t hurt that one of those barriers is the USSR political machine, which practically has “evil” stamped all over it.

Egerton, known for the Kingsman series and playing Elton John in Rocketman, is a delight in this role. The somewhat shlubby character offers him a chance to utilize a different type of charm, and he knocks the part out of the park. Save for Toby Jones, most of the supporting roles are filled by lesser known actors, but all are enjoyable, especially Nikita Efremov and Oleg Stefan.

Tetris the movie could be viewed as just one big ad for the game that’s still popular, now in app form for smartphones. But the way the film is made, it’s easy to look past the commercial aspect of it and just enjoy the taut storytelling and interesting performances.


Tetris is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Nikita Efremov and Taron Egerton in Tetris

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Nikita Efremov and Taron Egerton in Tetris