For true dessert fans, a simple ice cream cone doesn't always cut it.
They need something different. Photo-worthy. Over-the-top.
That's where these shakes, sundaes and other ice cream creations come in. These desserts are in a league all their own, sometimes literally towering over the rest.
If you're looking for a truly outside-the-box serving of ice cream, check out these shops known for their unique takes on the classic creation.
Don't forget the napkins.
Unicorn cotton candy Shake at Brownstone Pancake Factory, Brick
Including its weekly, limited edition "Insane Shake of the Week," there are always 10 over-the-top milkshakes available at Brownstone Pancake Factory – including one topped with fried Oreos, and another with pancakes, waffles and bacon.
But the crowd favorite has long been the Unicorn Cotton Candy Shake, which is the milkshake of choice for about half of all "Insane Shake" customers.
The strawberry milkshake includes vanilla icing around a Mason jar rim and is topped with a blue or red velvet cupcake, cotton candy, lollipops and colorful candy. It's often split between two and four kids, although some customers order it all for themselves.
"The thing that's great about our crazy shakes is that there are so many components to it. You're not just sipping a handspun milkshake, you're also taking a bite out of a cupcake, etc.," said owner Bobby Bournias, who also owns the restaurant's two other locations in North Jersey. (A fourth is coming to Freehold Township later this year.)
Bournias said he started doing this "crazy stuff" several years ago and is frequently inspired by flavor profiles, or even just an item he sees in the supermarket. He came up with the unicorn shake in 2016.
Many people, especially kids, are "mesmerized" as the shake makes its way to the table. But the shake is more than just a great Instagram post (although it's that, too — the family business has more than 130,000 Instagram followers).
"I pride myself on this not being just a gimmick," Bournias said. "This isn’t something we throw together. It’s something that doesn’t only look amazing, but tastes amazing, too."
Go: 979 Cedar Bridge Ave., Brick; 201-945-4800, brownstonepancakefactory.com.
Kryptonite Sundae, Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor, North Wildwood
This 1950s-themed ice cream parlor, with vintage cars as some of its seating, offers more than 35 flavors of ice cream, including dairy-free, sugar-free, low-carb and gluten-free options.
Customer favorites include salted caramel pretzel and banana, and Cool Scoops Ice Cream's dairy-free and vegan assortments.
Homemade cookie bowls are a thing here. Ice cream comes inside of a chocolate chip (or gluten-free chocolate chip) or M&M cookie.
Or how about the Kryptonite Sundae? This sweet treat has one scoop each of mint chocolate chip and pistachio ice creams, hot fudge topping, green jimmies, whipped cream and a green cherry.
Go: 1111 New Jersey Ave, 609-729-2665; coolscoops.com/
Sideshow Shake at Coney Waffle, Long Branch, Red Bank, Belmar and Asbury Park
Stroll by Coney Waffle any day of the week and you're practically guaranteed to see an Instagram-worthy dessert, given the sweet shop's menu of over-the-top ice cream and waffle creations. But the one that undoubtedly draws the most double takes — and the most customers, as sometimes hundreds are sold per day — is the Sideshow Shake.
The 2-foot-tall milkshake includes a waffle, three layers of cotton candy, an ice cream sandwich, an ice cream cone, gummy candies, a candy bar, chocolate-covered pretzels, and any other sweets Coney Waffle has in stock.
If that's not enough, upgrade to "The Big Show" with more waffles, ice cream, cotton candy and gummies.
"The ingredients can look different anytime someone comes in to get one, depending on what we have on hand and what kind of gummies we have in season," owner Joe D’Esposito said. "You very seldom will get the same shake twice."
D’Esposito introduced the Sideshow Shake, which is named after Coney Island's famous sideshow, the same year he opened his first Coney Waffle store in 2016. He wanted to "do something different and over-the-top," he said.
The shareable shake is ideal for four to five people, D’Esposito said, although people periodically eat an entire Sideshow Shake on their own. And sometimes they cross state lines to do it.
"People come specifically for this — they saw it on the internet and they might pass 20 ice cream stores on their trip here," he said. "I know of people who came from Michigan to get one. They said, 'We saw you on Instagram and we always wanted to see the Jersey Shore, so we figured we'll get this shake and see the Jersey Shore, too.' "
Go: 24 Centennial Drive in Long Branch, 848-888-3717; 13 Broad St. in Red Bank, 732-268-8933; 803 Ocean Ave. in Belmar, 732-556-6951; and 800 Ocean Ave. in Asbury Park; 732-361-3091; coneywaffle.shop.
Michael’s Carousel Waffle, The Hobby Horse Ice Cream Parlor, Ocean City
More than 42 flavors of ice cream are served in this bright, colorful parlor, which has a carousel horse outside and carousel decorations throughout.
This family-run ice cream shop and café is located in the heart of Ocean City.
Their specialty sundaes seem to be worth the trip.
How about Michael’s Carousel Waffle, made with homemade Belgian-style waffles, two scoops of your favorite ice cream, topping of choice, whipped cream and a cherry? Or try Dark Side of the Moon, made with two scoops of your favorite ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, a cherry and a homemade chocolate-dipped wafer cookie.
Then there’s Jerri’s Peachberry Sundae: Two scoops of your choice of ice cream, Georgia peach topping, red raspberry sauce, whipped cream and a cherry.
Some of the ice cream shops' most popular flavors are blueberry, peanut butter pie, cotton candy, s’mores, and red raspberry sorbet, said Michael Dukeman, whose parents, Jerri and Edward Dukeman, opened the ice cream shop nearly three decades ago. He now runs the parlor with his wife, Ciara, and their extended family.
Go: 800 Ocean Ave., 609-399-1214; hobbyhorseocnj.com/?
Octopus Sundae at Hoffman's Ice Cream, Spring Lake Heights and Point Pleasant Beach
When Adam Richman visited Hoffman's Ice Cream for an episode of "Man v. Food" in 2010 and tried the eight-scoop, eight-topping Octopus Sundae, it was the sundae's world debut: The shop created the colossal, octopus-shaped sundae for Richman's arrival.
For the next decade, anyone who finished the sundae in eight minutes got a T-shirt. Through the years, about 150 customers finished the sundae, which had whipped cream and eight different toppings atop scoops of ice cream.
Sadly, the challenge is no more. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered indoor dining, staff couldn't time customers. Once indoor dining returned, they noticed customers seemed to prefer choosing their own ice cream flavors anyway. But the sundae remains on the menu.
The octopus sundae is ideal to share among about four people, said Kim Karkovice, manager of the Point Pleasant Beach store. About 10 per week are sold in the off-season and about 40 per week in the summer.
"Most people get it to share with their families, so everyone picks their favorite flavor and favorite topping and they eat it together," Karkovice said. "If people have never gotten it before, they're always surprised at how big it is."
Go: 569 Church St. in Spring Lake Heights, 732-974-2253, and 800 Richmond Ave. in Point Pleasant Beach, 732-892-0270, hoffmansicecream.net.
Cone schmears at Skipper Dipper, Long Beach Township
Even though Skipper Dipper customers are all about the classics, co-owner Dave Powitz is always trying to think of how to put twists on the average ice cream cone. One of the 45-year-old shop's newest additions, which came to Powitz in 2019, came about thanks to his own snacking habits.
"I was putting fudge in the middle of my soft-serve, but I knew it would be too difficult for my employees to execute all of the time," he said. "My idea was to put a 'gift' on the inside of a cone so that by the time you got to the bottom of the cone, you’re like 'Oh, it’s a little surprise.' "
That surprise was what Skipper Dipper calls a cone schmear. They line the inside of an ice cream cone with toppings such as Biscoff cookie butter, peanut butter, fudge or Nutella.
Slowly, it's been catching on, which Powitz said is the way trends go at Skipper Dipper, which sees many seasonal customers vacationing on Long Beach Island.
"It's like a little bit of gooey on the inside of the cone," Powitz said. "Imagine biting into the crunch of a wafer cone and then having a peanut butter sandwich on the inside. The viscosity of the peanut butter on the inside of the crunchy cone is really fun."
Go: 9305 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach Township; 609-492-9680, skipperdipper.com.
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her stories about food, drink and fun, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: JIntersimone@Gannett.com or @JIntersimone.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Jersey Shore ice cream: Over-the-top shops to try near me