Sampaguita Filipino Ice Cream

Right before the end of 2022, my wife and I were lucky enough to attend a soft opening preview of Sampaguita Filipino Ice Cream (, the newest sweet spot in Orlando’s Mills 50 district, one of our most diverse dining destinations.  Located mere steps from previous Saboscrivner favorites like Poke Hana, Tasty Wok, and across the street from bb.q.Chicken, Sampaguita opened in an ideal central location in a neighborhood that features dozens of awe-inspiring Asian restaurants, tea and dessert shops, grocery stores, and other businesses.

I will note, as usual, that parking can be tricky around Mills 50, depending on your timing, but there is a convenient parking lot behind the Sampaguita/Tasty Wok/Poke Hana/Mamak/Moderne plaza on East Colonial and Shine, along with convenient back entrances to most of those, including Sampaguita.  If you can’t find street parking in the front along Colonial, don’t despair.

The inside of Sampaguita is something to behold.  The décor is gorgeous tropical paradise, inspired by the Philippines and also Miami.  I found it very comforting and relaxing inside, almost like we were on vacation at an island resort.  There are comfortable tables and booths, so you can linger with your ice cream in lovely surroundings.  The entire staff was friendly and welcoming, explaining flavors at the counter up front, offering us free samples, and checking up on us once we were seated.

Who wouldn’t want to hang out here?  I am not one of those food bloggers obsessed with ambience, being an “anti-influencer” and all (hey, that’s what they say on Reddit!), but I call ’em like I see ’em, and Sampaguita is a lovely and photogenic place.

They had 16 ice cream flavors available during the soft opening.  Here are the first twelve:

The last four flavors are all vegan:
Buko pandan
Mango float
Rotating sorbet (that means they will rotate different sorbet flavors in and out)
Coffee & biskwit
They also offered two additional flavors of soft serve ice cream (softcream) in both dairy and vegan varieties: vanilla and ube, a purple yam common in Filipino desserts, with a taste similar to vanilla or taro, if you’ve ever tried that.  You can also opt for the vanilla and taro to come swirled together, which my wife was all about.

We sampled several.  Banoffee — a banana/toffee flavor — was excellent, and so was peach mango pie, which I figured was a playful tribute to the hand-held desserts from Jollibee, the beloved Filipino fast food chain, which finally opened in Orlando earlier this year.

If you click the Sampaguita website link above (or here, for your convenience), the menu page offers much more detailed descriptions of every flavor.

You can get a variety of toppings, as well as fresh waffle cones that smell so good, or classic cake cones.

Ultimately, I went with a triple, with a scoop of three different tropical fruity flavors — my Miami upbringing coming through.  I got mango float (a vegan flavor), pineapple cake (similar to pineapple upside-down cake, with chewy cherries in there), and keso guava cheesecake, a very Miami-influenced flavor, recalling all the guava and cream cheese pastelitos you can get everywhere down there.  I opted to have my three scoops topped with a drizzle of pineapple caramel sauce, and I was in heaven.

My wife opted for a triple as well.  She asked if she could get a scoop-sized swirl of the vanilla and ube soft serve as one of her three flavors, and they kindly agreed.  Then she got choco peanut (milk chocolate ice cream with a peanut sauce swirl, a Filipino twist on the classic chocolate peanut butter combo) and the namesake Sampaguita flavor, an almond vanilla bean ice cream base with lychee jelly and a hint of jasmine, based on a favorite childhood snack of Marie Mercado, Sampaguita’s founder and co-owner.  It looked like it would be a good plain, basic flavor, but it was actually quite intense and delicious — far more almond than vanilla.

Marie visited our table to check on us, and she told us, “The Greenery Creamery [her other Orlando ice cream parlor] is an exploration of her self expression; Sampaguita is an exploration of her self identity.”  Marie wants to validate all the Asian-American kids who were teased and isolated for bringing home-cooked meals in their school lunches, rather than standard American kid foods.  The flavors of Sampaguita are a love letter to her family, her life, and her culture as a Filipina-American.  That love really comes through in every taste, every interaction, and every moment spent in Sampaguita.

It took us too long, but we returned again recently.  My wife was so enamored with the softcream that she got the vanilla and ube swirl again, this time in a fresh waffle cone that tasted better than any other ice cream cone ever, probably.  

I opted for another triple with three new flavors, even though I really loved the first ones I tried.  That top orange scoop is peach mango pie, the yellow-orange scoop on the right is soy sauce butterscotch, and the pale green is creamy buko pandan, with young coconut (buko) and pandan, a tropical plant that smells and tastes a bit like floral vanilla.  As usual, Eater wrote a really good article explaining more about the pandan plant and its place in Filipino desserts.Since you are dying to know, the soy sauce butterscotch, it tasted sweet and buttery, but there was a salty umami quality that cut through.  If it sounds like a weird or unpleasant combination, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Just think about how sea salt started getting combined with caramel all the time a few years ago, and you’ll be close to this magical combination.

I am so happy Sampaguita exists.  Marie Mercado’s ice cream dream that she shared with our city is already a smashing success, and I’m so happy to see it happening.  From the moment my wife and I first wandered in, I knew people would embrace the concept, unfamiliar flavors and all.  This is, without a doubt, my favorite ice cream parlor in Orlando, and I recommend it strongly.  Whether you crave the conventional or have an adventurous palate and live for trying new things, you will find something cool and sweet to love here — and I don’t just mean Marie and her lovely, patient staff.



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