Best Quick Service Restaurants

TripSavvy Editors' Choice Awards 2018

Levain

 Levain Bakery by Claire Cohen

Ice cream parlors, coffee shops and bakeries — these are the snack stops and pick-me-ups of a traveler's dreams. Whether you're downing Disney's famous Dole Whip, taste testing salty soft pretzels in Philadelphia, or getting a caffeine high with hipsters in Milwaukee's artsy Third Ward, there's no doubt that almost any day on the road includes one of these three pitstops. Here are TripSavvy's favorite quick service restaurants for 2018.

Ice Cream

Dakine Hawaiian Ice: Albuquerque, N.M. — featured in Albuquerque Ice Cream Shops

With 310 days of sunshine and year-round mild and dry climate that never dips below freezing in the winter months, who wouldn’t want to savor a refreshing treat from Dakine Hawaiian Ice while in Albuquerque? Pick from classics like bubble gum, cherry, strawberry, and lemon-lime or go rogue and order pickle, red-hot cinnamon, horchata, or Tiger's Blood (red berries and coconut) Hawaiian ice. House-made syrups mix well with fresh purified water to make the shaved ice and you can add toppings like ice cream, Li Hing Mui powder or sour flavoring.

Parents can feel good about purchasing treats for their tots because there is no high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, gluten or fat. While the Hawaiian ice is the main reason to go, you can also order hoagie sandwiches, smoothies, and island imports like coffee, tea, and nuts. Wendy Altschuler

The Ice Cream Sandwiches at Yolkin
Yolkin

Yolkin: London, England — featured in London's Most Instafamous Snacks

For Instaworthy ice cream, look no further than Yolkin, a tiny store in Chinatown that brings together two major food trends: ice cream sandwiches and macarons. It started life as a pop-up in Covent Garden but now has a permanent home on Rupert Street and attracts lines around the block when it opens between Thursday and Sunday. Inside it’s an Instadream of neon signs, metro tiles and a counter stocked with rainbow-colored ice cream treats with flavors like lychee and rose, apple crumble and Eton mess.

Little Man Ice Cream
Little Man Ice Cream/Facebook

Little Man Ice Cream: Denver, Colo. — featured in Denver's Best Ice Cream

It’s easy to find Denver’s best ice cream: Look for the 28-foot-tall cream can smack-dab in the middle of the Highlands neighborhood. You’ll know you’re getting close when you spot a long line of people queued up for unique flavors like salted Oreo, banana pudding or Earl Grey and cookies. While ice cream is the main act here, there’s plenty of sideshows to keep the crowds entertained, including swing dancing lessons, live music, movie nights and the occasional hula-hooping contests. On busy summer nights, an express lane with popular flavors opens up to keep the lines moving along.

Craft beer lovers (this is Denver, after all) should circle March on the calendar. That’s when Little Man infuses ice cream with beer for flavors like a porter fudge. Brittany Anas

Leon's Frozen Custard: Milwaukee, Wis. — featured in Best Ice Cream in Milwaukee

You can’t miss Leon’s. Just look for the neon sign on South 27th Street near West Oklahoma Avenue. Totally unchanged since its 1942 opening by then-proprietor Leon Schneider, this drive-in (with plenty of parking space, even if we’re no longer doing sock hops) is where to lick Milwaukee’s famed frozen custard, like ice cream but with eggs along with cream and sugar. A limited menu of three flavors—vanilla, chocolate and butter pecan; plus, a fourth on weekends—only means this “home of the world’s finest frozen custard” has nailed it.

Sundaes and Cones: New York, N.Y. — featured in NYC's Best Ice Cream Shops

Ever had wasabi — as an ice cream? While there’s no wrong flavor to choose at this charming East Village scoop shop, their true specialties lie in Asian-inspired ingredients: Thai tea, toasted black sesame, taro — and even more unusual creations, like avocado ice cream and corn ice cream. Ask for a few tastes before making your final decision — and don’t be surprised if pistachio and lavender, say, turn out to be an excellent duo. –Carey Jones

Dole Whip at Disneyland
Disneyland

Tiki Juice Bar: Disneyland, Calif. — featured in The Best Ice Cream in Disneyland

You could get juice at Disneyland’s famed Tiki Juice Bar, specifically pineapple juice, but that’s not the primary reason hordes of visitors jam the small stand. They are clamoring for pineapple Dole Whip, the addictive soft-serve delicacy that has become a park staple. No visit to Disneyland is complete without a heaping helping of the creamy concoction. Truth be told, Dole Whip is available at plenty of places beyond Mickey’s home, but somehow it never tastes as good as what cast members dish out at the Adventureland spot in front of the Enchanted Tiki Room.

For a special treat, try a Dole Whip float made with pineapple juice. Arthur Levine

Bakeries

    Cookies at Levain Bakery
     Claire Cohen

    Levain Bakery: New York, N.Y. — featured in The Best Bakeries in NYC

    There are chocolate chip cookies, and then there are Levain chocolate chip cookies. Six ounces in weight, crammed with walnuts and chocolate, super soft in the middle, they’re the most indulgent treats imaginable — and since they’re always baked fresh, the scent emanating from the bakery is downright irresistible. Levain’s other cookies, and other baked goods, are all tasty in their own right. But it’s the chocolate chip that is a rightful legend. Expect a line at the charming Upper West Side bakery, but trust that it’s worth every moment.

    If you don't have time to wait, consider checking out the other location a couple blocks away on Amsterdam Avenue between 76th and 77th streets. –Carey Jones

    Two Little Red Hens: New York, N.Y. — featured in The Best Bakeries in NYC

    Whatever dessert you need for a special occasion -- a many-layered cake for a birthday party, apple cake for Rosh Hashanah, pecan pie for Thanksgiving -- it’s worth a pilgrimage to Two Little Red Hens. An Upper East Side favorite since 1992, it’s without a doubt one of the most acclaimed bakeries in the city. Nothing overwrought, nor overly modern; the charming spot specializes in all-American desserts done right. Call ahead for a fully customized layer cake, or just wander in and settle down with a slice of their rich, buttery-crusted cheesecake, enough to create a special occasion in itself.

     –Carey Jones

    Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery: New York, N.Y. — featured in The Best Bakeries in NYC

    When former investment baker Umber Ahmad finally brought her cult-favorite online bakery to a sleek brick-and-mortar spot in the West Village—complete with Chef Tom Colicchio's seal of approval—New Yorkers got unlimited access to her fluffy brioche doughnuts, cream-filled choux, and light-as-air cheesecake. Since its opening in 2016 it has become a neighborhood staple, especially on summer days when the soft serve machine is churning. If the front room seems too loud, head to the back for a quieter hideout (there's even free wi-fi available.) –Devorah Lev-Tov

    Coffee Shops

    Songbird Coffee & Tea House: Phoenix, Ariz. — featured in Restaurants & Bars in Phoenix

    Phoenix is wrongly assumed to be a new-build city but a visit to Songbird Coffee & Tea House — tucked into a downtown historic 1904 bungalow with tall tie-back curtains and a resident cat — proves there’s tons of historical character in Arizona’s largest city. Located on Roosevelt Row, the multi-room coffee shop is near art galleries and the front yard is filled with a mix of picnic tables and Adirondack chairs to help you chill with your cappuccino. Vegan pastries from nearby Treehouse Bakery are served here, too.

    Similarly, Tempe’s Cortez Coffee Roasters’ beans are used to craft drinks while Maya Tea Company’s tea from Tucson rounds out the menu. Kristine Hansen

    Kickapoo Coffee Roasters: Milwaukee, Wis. — featured in The Hottest Indie Coffee Shops in Milwaukee

    An offshoot of this Driftless Region roaster—which also has a café in Viroqua—Kickapoo's modern-minimalist interior fits right into its artsy Third Ward digs. Since 2016, it’s been across the street from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. Sunlight pours in through walls of windows and air plants decorate one wall, with a bunch of retail items (from cool mugs to logo tees) tempting java sippers. Like most on-trend cafes, coffee can be ordered drip or pour-over. Whether sourced directly from the farm or through a co-op with its eye on supporting sustainably producers, coffee is a mix of single-origin selections as well as custom blends.