Missoula: Eats: Big Dipper Ice Cream

September 9, 2017

Close up of ice cream cone with Big Dipper in background

On a hot summer’s day, is there really anything better than a crispy, vanilla-y cone full of luscious, creamy ice cream? Well, maybe a cold glass of rosé but that’s a whole other post. If you happen to find yourself in Missoula, Montana then you, my friend, are in luck. Because we have, Big Dipper Ice Cream.

Big Dipper Ice Cream

They started serving up the good stuff in 1995 and Missoulians have been elbowing each other out of the way to get to the front of the line ever since. Once they were featured on Good Morning America, the word was officially out and Missoulians then had to contend with lines of tourists as well. But, frankly, it’s worth it.

I know, I know. A lot of times, those cult-favorite institutions can get so popular that they lose sight of where they originally started. They morph into more of a tourist trap than a legitimate, can’t-miss experience, letting quality and customer service slide right down the drain.

But, thankfully, Big Dipper really is all it’s cracked up to be. They’ve stayed true to who they are: a small town ice cream shop making gloriously creamy homemade ice cream with unique flavors and serving it up with a smile. And they continue to be a local hangout.

Unique Flavors

One of the best things about Big Dipper is there is something for everyone. And I mean everyone! This is not your standard chocolate, vanilla and strawberry fare (though you can find those here too). Their standard menu includes flavors like Salted Caramel (delicious!), Espresso Heath, Cardamom and Huckleberry. You can order your cone chocoloate-dipped or try one of their mind-blowing sundaes. But one of my favorite things about strolling over for ice cream is finding out what their rotating flavors are for the evening. Flavors like Coconut Lemon Curry or Kettlehouse Stout or Caramel Brownie, you just never know what you’ll find!

When to Go

Look, here’s the deal. There’s always a line. On a summer evening, your wait could be 45 minutes or longer. Those poor kids scooping ice cream are usually there until after midnight. I really do not like lines and I especially don’t like crowds. My focus is on the dreamy and quiet aspects of locations I recommend but, here, you might want to make an exception.

Waiting in line at Big Dipper in the summer is more like a social event than an outing for ice cream. It just so happens that after the chatting and people-watching and catching up with friends who are also standing in line, someone hands you a delicious ice cream cone. On a clear night, with the stars out and a full moon shining down, it does have a sort of dream-like quality as you lick your ice-cream cone and gaze at all of the happy, smiling faces around you. Life seldom gets better than this.

But, if you just can’t face the crowds, I have two suggestions for you. 1) Come in the off-season (colder months) or 2) Stroll over at 11:00 am, throw your diet out the window and have ice cream for lunch. You’ll rarely encounter a line and you will most likely be able to walk right up. It is a known fact that many Missoulians, when passing by Big Dipper early in the day and they discover there is no line, will walk up and order ice cream whether they are hungry or not. I may or may not have done this myself…many times. I believe we’re legally required.

Location and contact info

Big Dipper is located at 631 S. Higgins in the Hip Strip area of downtown Missoula, Montana.

Their phone number is 406-543-5722 in case you want to call ahead and order a hand-packed pint or quart. Fair warning though, you will have to wait in line with the rest of the ice cream craving hoardes to pick it up.

Local tip: Orange Street Food Farm, straight down 5th St about 5 blocks on the left, carries pints of popular Big Dipper flavors (including Salted Caramel). Look for them on the end cap freezer, not in the main ice cream aisle.

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