In Defense of the Ice Cream Cone

Which team are you on: cup or cone?

ice cream cone

Photograph courtesy of Weckerly’s

Philadelphians have strong opinions. We get heated over politics and football, and even when it comes to something simple like ice cream, we have no chill.

Take cones versus cups.

When I asked friends about this, one replied “Cones are hectic AF” and another put it in fittingly Philly terms: “Fuck those soggy jawns.”

I come from a long line of cone-haters. My dad says they’re too messy and my mom balks at the extra calories. I’ve always opted for a cup. A cone felt too messy, too childish. But I’m breaking this generational curse.

A few years ago, I wrote that, considering Philly’s storied ice cream history, we need more ice cream shops. Like magic, they appeared. I’ve been happily bouncing around town getting my scoops ever since. At Best of Philly winner Cuzzy’s in Queen Village, hot and fresh waffle cones are practically made to order. The small shop smells like fresh-baked cookies. These crisp waffle cones contrast the sweet, rich ice cream. Even the cups come with a cone wedge. It’s here that I became a cone convert.

What makes cones so good? As my kindergartener put it: “Tasty. Crunchy. Waffley.” Eating an ice cream cone is nostalgic, primal, and pure fun. You bite into it with your teeth and race against drips down the sides. The last bite brings a sweet and crunchy send-off in a way that a cup and spoon can never match. It’s one-handed, plastic-free joy.

It’s not just me. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a cult-favorite brand with scoop shops in 26 cities, including Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse and Fishtown neighborhoods, tells me their cone sales nationwide have increased by 10 percent since 2019. My favorite local ice cream maker, 1-900-Ice Cream, reports that 61 percent of its customers are choosing cones, which come from the country’s top producer, Pennsylvania’s own — appropriately named — Joy Cone Co. At Dreams Ice Cream in Glenside, 65 percent go for cones. Owner Lamar Smith will even wrap them up (separate from the ice cream) for delivery.

Zooming out: Last year, an International Dairy Foods Association survey of scoop shop owners nationwide found that cones edged out cups by a few percentage points. Statistically, waffle cones rule everywhere. Though a few ice cream shop owners I spoke with actually prefer the classic, chewy-when-wet cake cone. And, after hearing from food-loving friends, I’m predicting a surge in pretzel cones in the future.

Hacks like waffle-cone bowls or a cone on top of a cup are here to help the anti-cone crowd get past the mess factor, but graduating to a full cone is the move. Slurping melting ice cream from a cone is one of those core summer memories that most of us share. And as a mom, I’m here to tell you that even chocolate ice cream washes out.

After the shit we’ve all been through in the last few years, we deserve joy. It’s why we’re turning to pure fun like the Barbie movie, over-the-top concerts, and ice cream cones. We’re ready to let go, just a little. As kids, that’s what these warm months were all about — playing, making memories, and, of course, eating ice cream.

Yeah, it might be messy. Life is messy. Get an ice cream cone and let go.