Nicecream Brings Breakfast Ice Cream and Made-to-Order Treats to Clarendon

Washington’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream shop debuts Saturday.

Nicecream Factory uses liquid nitrogen to make ice cream to order in Clarendon. Photographs by Melissa Romero.

An ice cream shop that would make Bill Nye proud opens in Clarendon on Saturday. Nicecream Factory, which we first discovered as pop-up outside the Science Club last summer, found a permanent home just a few blocks from the Clarendon Metro. Owners Sandra Tran and Gilbert Welsford use liquid nitrogen to quickly craft made-to-order ice cream from fresh, local ingredients. 

While the technique of using liquid nitrogen to make frozen treats is popular on the West Coast, the Arlington shop is the first of its kind in Washington. The 45-second process is visually appealing, especially for kids; nitrogen freezes the liquid base in a mixer and evaporates in a billow of vapor. More important to the couple was the resulting quality. Flash-freezing eliminates ice crystals and doesn’t incorporate as much air, while creating cups to order allows for the freshness of ingredients to shine. Done right, the result is a creamy, dense dessert.

The rest of the process is far less scientific, especially since artificial ingredients and preservatives aren’t used. Tran pours local, grass-fed milk and cream for the base, and shops for ingredients such as strawberries and sweet squash at Fairfax farmer’s markets. You’ll find five flavors each day, such as strawberry-basil, lemon, house-made caramel studded with pretzels, and chocolate with crispy bacon. The shop opens early for the breakfast crowd serving La Colombe coffee and, finally, an excuse to eat ice cream before noon. The so-called “breakfast ice cream” is made from a purée of ripe bananas and agave nectar, creating a dessert-like frozen treat without adding fat or much sugar (other options for vegan and lactose-free patrons are available, as well). Those looking for a bolder flavor can add fresh strawberries or peanut butter to the mix.

While currently in the soft opening phase, Nicecream officially debuts on Saturday at 10 for an all-day party. The first 50 customers will receive coins for a free future dessert, and the duo plans for more giveaways throughout the day.

Nicecream Factory. 2832 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. Open daily 9 to 10 (hours may vary slightly during the opening).

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.