New York City’s vast range of ice cream is sure to delight summer haters and lovers alike. From soft-serve sundaes to fruit-infused paletas, here are the best places to cool down with ice cream in the Big Apple.
Leave it to Brooklyn-based Blue Marble to handle the elemental classics, as the founders like to call them. The eco-forward brand prides itself on using ethical ingredients, like organic dairy, which get folded into those nostalgic flavors: cookies and cream, strawberry, and chocolate. Blue Marble has three year-round shops in Brooklyn, and come the warmer months, you can find carts stationed at Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg, and Governor’s Island.
Of all the places to find a soft-serve sundae, you wouldn’t expect it to be at a counter-service establishment known for salads and sandwiches. But here you’ll find chubby rounds of soft serve spiraled into paper cups. The peaches and cream is milk soft serve plunked with caramelized peaches, almond brittle, and whipped cream, while chocolate-caramel flaunts chocolate soft serve brimming with chocolate cookie crumble and salted caramel.
Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar—once just a small, colorful bakery—now boasts several locations in four cities. Here, the main attraction is the cereal milk soft serve, flecked with whole cornflakes, rainbow sprinkles, or served as is. Other flavors, like chocolate-covered pretzel, rotate in and out.
Ansel may be the cronut wizard, but the famed baker has forayed into the world of ice cream, too. At his West Village bakery, the summer-only soft serve window is open Wednesday-Sunday, and the ice cream concoctions are just as wild as the pastries. Burrata soft serve, flecked with balsamic caramel and micro basil, is funneled into a honey tuile cone, and the What-a-Melon is a slice of fresh watermelon, dotted with seed-shaped chocolate bits and filled with watermelon soft serve.
The too hip Mister Dips operates out of an Airstream trailer atop the William Vale Hotel, a haven for Dairy Dips: puffed up swirls of soft serve hidden beneath quick-hardening glazes and eclectic garnishes. Cones come in three varieties (Berry Gibbs, Chocolate P.B.D., and Banana Split Dip), along with an unparalleled view of Manhattan’s skyline.
For those looking to feel a bit tipsy after eating ice cream, there’s Tipsy Scoop, New York’s first ice-cream parlour that doubles as a bar (yes, you’ll actually be carded here). Each flavor of ice cream is influenced by an alcoholic drink and is actually infused with liquor—the ABV is just below 5%, so you’ll really taste the liquor. Scoops come in flavors like tequila Mexican hot chocolate, strawberry white sangria, and hot buttered rum.
A century ago, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda was the site of a pharmacy. Now, it’s home to an old-school soda fountain, but the old-world charm of the 1920s still lingers: wobbly stools under a counter give a perfect view of milkshakes whirring. Here, a fat menu lists outrageous sundaes (Breakfast in Bed boasts coffee ice cream, whipped cream, candied bacon bits, and maple syrup over a biscuit), floats, ice-cream sandwiches, and egg creams.
Ice cream in New York simply shouldn’t be mentioned without a nod to Mister Softee—those roaming trucks blasting an incessant cycle of your least favorite jingle. The trucks churn out soft-serve cones dunked in rainbow sprinkles and red-40 strawberry dips at an inexpensive price—a rarity in NYC’s ice-cream world.
It might seem odd that a vegetarian restaurant would be producing some of the best gelato and sorbet in New York. But it’s not too strange once you find out that owner Brooks Headley was formerly the executive pastry chef at the award-winning Del Posto. At Superiority Burger, the flavors change often and rely on the seasons; in the past, there’s been grapefruit sorbet with candy skins and labne gelato swirled with huckleberries. There are usually two flavors per day, but check their Instagram to see what’s on the board.
Big Gay Ice Cream specializes in the eccentric. The flavors are simple—vanilla and chocolate soft serve—but Big Gay puts a whimsical riff on them with some playful concoctions. The famed Salty Pimp is vanilla soft serve swirled with dulce de leche, hardened on the outside by a chocolate shell. Another is simply titled Dorothy: soft serve flecked with dulce de leche and covered under a tsunami of crushed Nilla Wafers. The Gobbler sundaes—something like pie meets ice cream meets a sundae—and milkshakes are also available.
Fany Gerson first made her name in the sweets business when she opened Dough in 2010. With oversize doughnuts under her belt, she set out to bring paletas (Mexican-style ice pops), ice cream, and chamoyadas (a mix between a spicy slushy and sorbet) to New York. Her paletas are squat, colorful popsicles, found in a variety of creamy, spicy, fruity, and filled varieties, including mango and raspberry, and roasted banana.
Although the quiet, French-American bakery only swirls soft serve during the warmer months, it’s certainly worth a stop. Flavors only come in vanilla and matcha (and chocolate in the past). But it’s easy to upgrade a still-warm waffle cone by crowning the delicate ice cream with house-made toppings like cocoa nib streusel, brownie bites, and caramel sauce.
Brooklyn-based Ample Hills Creamery quickly won over hearts and stomachs when it quietly opened its first shop in 2011. Known for its eclectic roster of uber-sweet ice cream, the kitchen is constantly coming up with over-the-top concoctions, pierced with house-made mix-ins. There’s Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, a creamy vanilla ice cream streaked with hunks of St Louis butter cake, and PB Wins the Cup (vanilla flecked with chocolate flakes and peanut butter cups), among many others. Pro tip: A roof sprinkled with Adirondack chairs sits atop the Gowanus shop.
Oddfellows certainly loves to play on the peculiar. Don’t expect a slew of classics here; it’s all about the odd blend of sweet and savory: caramelized onion, miso cherry, prosciutto melon, beet goat cheese and candied pistachio, chamomile and peach. The team boasts three locations (with two more on the way), the most recent of which fuses coffee and ice cream, offering coffee soft serve, affogatos, and cold brew on tap.
For over 100 years, Forest Hills locals have swarmed to this beloved soda fountain, spinning on wooden stools at the counter as white apron-clad servers spoon ice cream into silver tin bowls. Once you’ve selected a flavor or two, the move is to apply as many house-made toppings as possible: there are hand-whipped pillows of whipped cream, neon-red strawberry sauce, and butterscotch, among others.
MilkMade started as a subscription ice-cream service before moving to its current home in Carroll Gardens. The teeny, pinkified shop doesn’t fit more than a couple of people at a time, but that only adds to its quaint neighborhood charm. You can always find eight Signature ’Screams, as the team calls them, in the case (think Gotham Basil and Chinatown Chocolate, a super dense blend of chocolate and Chinese spices), plus a couple of monthly Signature ’Screams, which in the past have included salted popcorn and Pride Pint, a cream-based flavor studded with rainbow cake.
With so many ice cream shops itching to dabble in the exotic, it can seem difficult to find a place that just specializes in the basics. Enter Davey’s, a slim shop with a just-as-slim menu of the classics you grew up with: French vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, and peppermint chip. Order scoops simply in a cone, or opt for it to be squeezed in between two chocolate chip cookies.
In 2002, owner Jon Snyder opened a small window on Orchard Street, scooping creamy gelato made from seasonal ingredients. The operation has since expanded to two larger spaces, and the roster of simple and eccentric flavors has surpassed 300: avocado, brown sugar, juniper, cheddar cheese, and wasabi are just a few. The Lower East Side and Greenwich Village locations offer 48 rotating flavors per day, but you can always find dark chocolate, vanilla, and salted caramel (the most popular flavors) every day.
Once upon a time Van Leeuwen was merely a roving pastel ice-cream truck. Nowadays, the mini-chain has significantly expanded, boasting locations up and down Manhattan and Brooklyn (nine in all), with several more in the works. Here, dairy options run the gamut from honeycomb to cookies and cream, and even the most vegan-averse swear by the non-dairy flavors like cookie crumble strawberry jam and Planet Earth. Don’t miss out on the rotating selection of monthly flavors, which in the past have included mango matcha jasmine and royal wedding cake.
Although Morgenstern’s is still mourning the loss of its beloved coconut ash flavor, the ice-cream parlor is still dolling out a host of reinvented classics and plenty of exotic flavors. The menu doesn’t just boast a humble vanilla; instead, there’s Madagascar vanilla, bourbon vanilla, burnt honey vanilla, and rose vanilla, plus flavors like salt and pepper pine nut, burnt sage, and crême brulée, crowned with sugar and torched just like the namesake dessert. For an extra few cents, add one of the house-made toppings to the perfectly round scoops (think sesame caramel and wonderfully dense fudge).
Over the years, Ice & Vice has developed somewhat of a cult following. The avant garde shop first launched on the Lower East Side, but now boasts several pop-up locations. Here, ice cream has the tendency to channel ingredients not typically found in sweets. Tea Dance is a mixture of nilgiri tea leaf, lemon charcoal, and salted caramel, while Michelada swirls Hop Brothers’ hops into a spicy tomato lime sorbet. Flavors change quite often. There are also ice-cream pies and sandwiches, which if requested, can be crowned on a couple of ice-cream scoops.
Quench your thirst after a hike across the Brooklyn Bridge with a cone from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, an old-school shop stationed in a charming 1920s fireboat house. You won’t be the only one with that same genius idea. A line consistently snakes out the door as tourists and locals alike gaze at the streamlined selection of super creamy classics, including butter pecan, and peaches and cream. Ask for a house-made waffle cone drizzled with syrups made at the nearby River Café, then lick away while soaking in the view of downtown Manhattan.
Without Shake Shack, frozen custard simply would be hard to find in NYC. The ever-growing burger chain specializes in the stuff, blitzing custard and toppings into concretes, or keeping it simple with shakes and cones. Pay a visit to different Shake Shacks because each location hosts its own neighborhood creation, along with seasonal specialities.
For over 40 years, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory has been a family business. The sliver of a space celebrates ice-cream flavors common to China; a list of regular flavors includes red bean, ube, and almond cookie from famed Golden Fung Wong Bakery. Exotic flavors round out the menu: rocky road, mint chip, and pumpkin pie.
Ice cream at Republic of Booza is more than just a dessert: it’s a show as well. Booza, an ice cream with Middle Eastern origins, is made with mastic (a resin) that makes it stretch like crazy. Scoopers toy with the ice cream, pulling at it to showcase its elasticity, before dunking it into cones. The menu is split into three sections (classic, global, and experimental), featuring flavors like pistachio, horchata de chufa, and mint tahini chip, respectively.