By: Adam Lapetina
Credit: Flickr/David Salafia
Back in the day, hot American Summers meant a few things: the inevitability of camp, talking cans of vegetables, and ice cream trucks playing jaunty tunes. Every time that telltale song was heard, it stimulated a flurry of decision-making instantaneously: Do I get the Sonic the Hedgehog popsicle? Or a Choco Taco? Or maybe something even better — if there is such a thing? Like it or not, there was a definite hierarchy to the offerings of any ice cream truck, and we’ve laid out the spread as obviously as a popsicle stick joke penned by a six-year-old.
Offended? Surprised? Suddenly struck with potent nostalgia and need a place to be comforted by like-minded pop-cultural veterans of the ’90s? Let us know in the comment section. And here they are, without further ado, from worst to best:
Credit: Flickr/Kyle Van Horn
Oh, boy! A popsicle that reminds me of the inevitability of my return to school! No thanks, Popsicle lobby. Plus, they don’t even actually write. Good for a simple pantomime joke and nothing more.
22. Spongebob Squarepants (and any other character)
In theory, these popsicles (the whole lot of them, from Sonic to Tweety to any one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but — c’mon — definitely Michaelangelo) would be at the top of the list. They assert that you’re knowledgeable about pop culture, they taste relatively decent, and they’re walking advertisements for Sega/Nickelodeon. But in practice, the gumball eyes are always grotesquely uneven, they all start to get as jowly as Mitch McConnell as they melt, and there’s always the sobering realization that you’re eating the flesh of your hero. Not cool.
21. Bubble Play
This is just a blood-red cherry baseball glove with a gumball in the middle. And it’s gross.
20. Klondike Bar
The epitome of a low-effort, classic ice cream treat. Literally, just vanilla coated with chocolate. Would you do anything for one? Probably not, since there are a lot of better things out there.
It’s kinda difficult to eat these, since the cone they come in is inedible, but the flavors are pretty good (strawberry, cherry, etc.), and there’s a reward at the bottom in the form of a bubblegum ball or two. It teaches patience.
Credit: Andy Kryza
18. Ice Cream Sandwich
17. Strawberry Shortcake
The Nature Valley bar of popsicles. The crunchy strawberry shortcake coating on these can be a bit dry, and is crumbly to the point of inconvenience. Still, the strawberry filling is delicious.
16. Sundae Cone
Tastes good but is also dreadfully boring — it’s a sundae. I can get one of these at any ice cream stand in America, and it’ll be almost the same price for significantly better versions of the same ingredients.
Credit: Good Humor
15. Chocolate Eclair
Given a choice between the Chocolate Eclair and the Strawberry Shortcake, I’d say that any kid with any sense will choose the Chocolate Eclair every time. Chocolate filling? Looks like a big ol’ frozen Crunch bar? I’ll take it. Still crumbly, though.
14. Toasted Almond
The third and final Good Humor crunchy popsicle is a bit of a deep cut, but it’s also their most solid offering due to its unconventional flavor — almond and vanilla ice creams surrounded by cake and almond pieces. It actually feels kinda granola-y and is probably your hippie aunt’s favorite.
The Firecracker represents a new wave of thinking in the popsicle world — multiple fruit flavors in the same popsicle! In this case, cherry, lemon, patriotism, and blue raspberry, which are a solid combo…
… and then there’s the Cyclone, which is a slightly elevated version of the Firecracker. Yeah, the layered look is cool, but c’mon — a swirl?! This thing’s fancy as hell, and the name is a lot more intimidating. Which counts for a lot in the popsicle world.
Credit: Andy Kryza
11. Rainbow Pop
What started as an idea with the Firecracker went full-blown revolution with Rainbow Pops, which have a whopping FIVE flavors in a single popsicle, stacked on top of one another like soil layers of the most delicious planet ever. Probably an archaeologist’s favorite popsicle.
10. Banana Fudgsicle
I’m a Chunky Monkey kinda guy, so I always appreciated the Banana Fudgsicle as a mix of fruity and chocolatey. However, I’m fully aware that a lot of folks don’t want banana anywhere near them, and these people I generally pooh-pooh. But I’ve conceded this for you, Jamie.
Credit: Andy Kryza
9. Snicker Ice Cream Bar
Snickers are always a treat, but imagine them even crazier, with peanut butter ice cream. Yeah. Not edible to kids with peanut allergies.
8. Lick a Color
Anyone who ever watched Ed, Edd n Eddy couldn’t help but be struck by a craving for the jawbreakers that the boys coveted so much. Well, Lick a Color is essentially the jawbreaker of popsicles, with every layer being a different fruit flavor. More recently, they’ve expanded into sour territory, pretty much cementing their position in the elite eight.
Credit: Flickr/Chris Winters
Convenient and simple. Chocolate on a stick. It doesn’t get any more elegant than that. And they’re low fat, apparently!
6. Orange Creamsicle
Oranges and cream go particularly well together, so it’s no surprise that the Orange Creamsicle is a powerhouse in the flavor department. It’s subtly sweet and refreshing on a hot Summer’s day, and you don’t feel really guilty when you eat it because it’s fruit, right? Right.
Credit: Andy Kryza
5. King Cone
The Sundae Cone’s exhibitionist sibling, the King Cone essentially has the same ingredients, except everything’s on display — you can see caramel and peanuts dotting the top of it. Also, this means that there’s ostensibly a popsicle monarchy and that you’re screwing up the line of succession by eating it, which is kinda awesome.
Credit: Flickr/Sara Jo
4. Snow Cone
What could possibly be better on a sweltering July afternoon than ice served up in a convenient, easy-to-access cone? Why, flavored ice, you philistine! Snow cones date back to the 1850s, when ice first started becoming widely available around the country due to increased access to modern transportation and storage methods. And while those things may have improved, the Snow Cone is still the weird-and-wonderful ancient frozen treat we’ve come to know and love.
3. Pop Up
Everyone remembers the Flintstones Pop Ups that heralded every ’90s Summer evening. They were the popsicle that let you set the pace of their consumption. You didn’t have to push up on the popsicle unless you were ready. They were accommodating. They were sweet. They came in a variety of flavors, including orange. They were your first love, but dammit, you grew up.
2. Choco Taco
Which brings us to the Choco Taco, the frozen treat that paved the way for the taco’s domination of every food group in the 21st century. A delicious mix of chocolate-swirled vanilla ice cream, peanuts, a sugar-cone taco shell, and a milk chocolate coating, the Choco Taco is about as Mexican as Louis C.K. (Which is more Mexican than you think.) And just like him, it can do no wrong.
Credit: Andy Kryza
Unpretentious and unabashed, the Chipwich sadly isn’t marketed under that name anymore, but it’s still the most perfect ice cream truck fare there is. Two soft chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream between them, all rolled in even more chocolate chips. It’s an ideal balance of chocolate and vanilla and cookie dough, and is probably the homiest thing you can get out of the window of a truck driven by a stranger who kids are encouraged to talk to.
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