Big Dipper Ice Cream: Great Cones…Oh Boy!


Around the age of six I had my first memorable ice cream experience. My parents took me to the local shop where, for the first time, I tasted a sugar cone filled with what has become one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations. That day I discovered that there was a world of possibility beyond the traditional scoop of vanilla or chocolate.

Growing up we were creative, topping scoops with homemade strawberry jam, canned sliced peaches or flaming Cherries Jubilee. Warm chocolate pudding cooked on top of the stove became rich and creamy hot fudge sauce. We added chocolate chips, berries or M and M’s, and nearly every concoction was topped with chopped nuts. Ice cream sandwiches could be made with freshly baked cookies. Cake layers that failed to come out of the pan in one piece were rescued by serving chunks with ice cream and chocolate sauce……then pretending it was supposed to turn out that way all along.

It’s no surprise then, that I discovered Big Dipper during a visit to Missoula a few years ago. I’m always on the lookout for great ice cream. Now when we drive into town, I let who ever I’m with know that we need to stop in before we leave. I also know I’m not alone.

While perusing Big Dipper Ice Cream’s facebook page I noticed that quite a few visitors make time for a scoop when they’re in town……and think about it when they’re not. Customers near and far share the love by posting statements like “BEST THING EVER” and “I miss you Big Dipper”. They rave about flavors that range from the traditional to the creative to the surprising. Ones like Maple Bacon, Thai Peanut Curry Satay, Lemon Custard, Mexican Chocolate, Pumpkin, Eggnog, Circus Animal Cookie, Raspberry Sorbet, Red Tea Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Thin Mint, Cardamom, Black Tea, Cotton Candy, Huckleberry and Cold Smoke. There were quite a few requests for personal favorites and ideas for new combinations, as well.

Travel and food writers have been equally affected because Big Dipper has been mentioned in some pretty impressive publications; Smithsonian Magazine, Sunset, National Geographic Traveler, Draft Magazine, Food and Wine, Mother Earth News and the Missoula Independent among them.

More than an ice cream shop, I’ve noticed that Big Dipper functions as a local meeting place, whether planned or unplanned. I’m not sure that I’ve ever driven past the corner of Fifth and Higgins without noticing the asphalt lot filled with people. Separate lines stretch long and then fold into a more general mass of customers by the time they reach the curb. People gather, mill about and crowd into groups around tables. As a visitor I watch and observe. We find out a bit more about what life is like in Missoula during the slow shuffle toward the order window or while eating out of dishes and cones afterward.  We’ve said hello, chatted, exchanged the stories of our day and found out what new flavors to expect from our neighbors in line.

We happened to take an evening walk to Big Dipper when the West Riverside fire was not more than a couple of hours old. The smelled of smoke laced the air while patrons speculated about its cause and location.

Big Dipper Ice Cream’s website says “If you can imagine a flavor…we can make it.” I believe it. I’ll be back in October. Have you considered Pumpkin Cheesecake Chocolate Chip? And by the way……I wouldn’t be writing this if the ice cream wasn’t ‘THE BEST THING EVER’.

Enjoy this Visit Missoula Blog?  Chances are you’ll like some of Margaret’s other blogs:  This Time Last Year, So Why Missoula?, Visit Missoula, and My Top Ten Things about Missoula. And, if you’re visiting Missoula, be sure to check in with Destination Missoula for more information about making your Missoula Visit GREAT!

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Margaret is a writer, photographer and mom who lives in the rainy but green Pacific Northwest. She has been a frequent visitor to Missoula and the surrounding landscape for many years and knows that a part of her lives there as well. Please stop in to find out about her visits and why she looks forward to coming back each time. Hopefully it will make you want to visit as well. You can find out what else she’s been up to, thinking about and take a look at more of her photos on her website at