Photos by Liz Simpson

The Parlor Ice Cream Puffs
2620 Fair Oaks Blvd • Sacramento, California

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy ice cream puffs and that’s kind of the same thing,” reads a handwritten message on a chalkboard inside The Parlor, located on Fair Oaks Boulevard near Loehmann’s Plaza. With the ice cream puff, owners Lani Tran, 26, and Martin Nguyen, 33, are bringing you a whole new craving for something sweet.

Try to imagine an ice cream puff as a jelly-filled donut, but replace the jelly with ice cream and toppings. But how do you get cold ice cream inside of a warm donut without getting a melted disaster on your hands? The two dessert masterminds, foodies, business owners and siblings have this decadent dessert all figured out.

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“Well, I can’t tell you everything because there’s a little bit of magic back there,” Tran said, explaining that the donuts are precut and not hot prior to the ice cream going in. “So when we put the ice cream inside the cut donut, it’s not going to melt right away; we put it into a machine that heats it up for less than 10 seconds, so the ice cream is still nice and cold, but the outer part of the donut is melted and gooey.”

After years of brainstorming and traveling, these two siblings put their food brains together to come up with a truly delicious dessert.

“My sister and I have this thing where we try macaroni and cheese at every place and we have dessert at every place,” Nguyen said. “So it’s just been a combination of everything we have eaten and everything we have seen that inspired us to do this.”

“We are really big foodies, we go everywhere and eat everything,” Tran explained. “And one day we were like, ‘Let’s give this a shot.’ Then, it turned into what we have now.”

Only open since late July, The Parlor is already experiencing crowds and long lines of hungry people waiting outside for their gooey ice cream donut.

“It’s been pretty crazy. I didn’t expect it to be this crazy but yeah, there’s been lines out the door,” Tran said.

The unmistakable scents of freshly made donuts and creamy vanilla ice cream permeate The Parlor, while its windows are lined with rectangular, succulent-filled, white pots and its small space filled with benches, wicker chairs and white walls, making it feel cool and chic.

“Someone told us [the décor] is a combination of Pottery Barn and a warehouse,” said Martin with a huge laugh. “I guess that’s what we are going for.”

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There’s a chalkboard with open space for customers to write anything that comes to mind; surprisingly the board is mostly full of phone numbers and Instagram names. There is also a board for customer creations, where anyone can write their favorite creation and newcomers can get more ideas for custom combinations.

“The main thing we wanted to focus on was option and customizing,” Tran said. “So we had an idea of having different toppings and different flavors.”

At the counter, customers are presented with a choice of three ways to enjoy the ice cream: cup, cone, or donut. And as my server informed me, if it is your first time, “You have to go donut.”

The ice cream flavor menu is full of combinations that will make your sweet tooth ache, including Sea Salt Caramel, Wendell (vanilla with cinnamon swirls), Thai Tease (vanilla with Thai tea), Green Machine (mint with crushed Oreo cookies), Everything but the… (caramel, crunchy pretzel and fudge bits), Midnight in Paris (coffee ice cream and Nutella chocolate swirls), Choco Taco (chocolate, nuts and waffle bits) and Plain Jane (plain vanilla).

For less than $5 you can get your hands on any ice cream puff, with unlimited toppings for 50 cents.
Some of the options for toppings are the standard ice cream parlor fare such as chocolate chips or Oreos. But you might do a double take when you read the options like potato chips, bacon bits, Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms. All options to create your own ice cream puff masterpiece.

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My tastings for the night were made by the owners themselves, an opportunity to try each sibling’s personal favorite creation. Tran whipped up a warm donut stuffed with Sea Salt ice cream, bacon bits and potato chips. The bacon flavor mixed well with the salty ice cream and the chips added an extra crunch to every bite. The warm donut seemed to melt the Sea Salt ice cream fast so there was no time to waste in pigging out.

After a few bites of Lani’s creation, it was time to dive into Nguyen’s masterpiece, the Peebo. A warm, crispy donut filled with creamy vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and jelly mixed in. The Peebo has officially put the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich to shame. Why go sandwich when you can go donut?

From the looks of The Parlor’s long lines it seems like the city of Sacramento has already gone donut. So step aside frozen yogurt, gourmet cupcakes and cronuts—ice cream puffs are here to take your spot as the newest and happiest dessert craze.

The Parlor is located at 2620 Fair Oaks Blvd. and open every day from noon to 10 p.m. Check out for more info.