{sweet and softee} Ice Cream Tour of New York City

Last week, I spent five days in New York. Since I was traveling with my gelatoholic husband, five days of travel means I was expected to sample a minimum of five ice cream places–one for each day, sometimes two. I’m not usually a big ice cream eater, but somehow, I managed to put quite a few cones and cups away. Here is a rundown of seven ice cream experiences to try in New York!

We unanimously agreed (in this case, unanimous only required two votes, but whatever) that the best ice cream in New York right now is a Salty Pimp from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. No one was as surprised as the gelatoholic, since he usually eschews soft serve. But this was no ordinary soft serve! It was special soft serve, injected with liquid dulce de leche, sprinkled with freshly cracked salt, and chocolate-dipped. Five bucks might sound steep for a soft serve, but after one bite I knew I would have paid like $500 for this thing. The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck roams around, so you can check their website or their Twitter feed to see where they are on any given day.

A close second was “now for something completely different” Mia Chef Gelateria, a brand new spot in the East 30s. It’s an odd location for such high quality gelato, and in a charming twist, it’s both made and served by the young, friendly owner. It’s so good that I’m not sure the bridge-and-tunnel partiers who hang out in Kips Bay are the right audience for these feats of frozen bliss. On the other hand, a lot of the flavors feature booze, cereal, and candy bars, so maybe the guy knows what he’s doing. Chocolate whiskey and tequila fig were standouts–and if you’ve got a little Cap’n in you, you can try the Cap’n Crunch.

I wanted to love Il Laboratorio del Gelato, but I only really really liked it. It’s a beautiful space with big windows so you can see the ice cream being made right in front of you. The fresh mint gelato was pretty fantastic–and made me realize I’ve never had mint ice cream sans chocolate chips, which is a shame–but the sorbets were underwhelming. Oh wait, I just described almost every sorbet ever, so I might be to blame for ordering it. It’s just across from Katz’s Delicatessen, so if you can stomach a pound of pastrami before your gelato, by all means, do it. The combination would let your mouth experience a perfectly representative contrast of the old Lower East Side and the new Lower East Side.

Another excellent gelato is Italian import Grom, which has started to pop up outside Italy with branches in Japan, Paris, New York, and Malibu. There are three in New York, one on the Upper West Side, one near Columbus Circle, and one in the West Village (on the site of my former favorite pizza joint, RIP.) The Grom stores change their flavors seasonally, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Their coffee bar is excellent as well.

Speaking of Italy, what about Eataly? A Torino transplant backed by Batali and Bastianich, Eataly is a temple to all that is Italian food and a wonderful place that you should visit no matter what. Since you’ll be there already, go ahead and get a gelato. They have a pretty stellar gelateria, actually, which you might guess, when you see how long the line is. (As for me, the cured meat counter is the biggest draw, but that’s another story.) For some reason, they brag a lot about how their milk comes from Rochester, but don’t let that dissuade you. Sometimes they sell out of flavors, so if you’re picky, an ice cream brunch might be in the cards for you.

On the other end of the spectrum, just across the Brooklyn Bridge is the charming Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, in Fulton Ferry Park. The setting can’t be beat–you get a great view of lower Manhattan while you enjoy your ice cream. This ice cream can only be described as “old-fashioned”–there are only eight flavors, and none of them are weird, and all of them are delicious. The wet walnuts are a personal favorite, even though “wet walnuts” just means walnuts and maple syrup.

Of course, I still have a soft spot for the original Mr. Softee trucks, and when I find one I have a hard time resisting a vanilla cone with colored jimmies. It’s like eating a piece of childhood. In summertime, they’re easy to find–just listen for that familiar jingle.

Clearly, I have to plan a trip back to try the next tier of ice cream in New York–I’ve barely touched the outer boroughs, and I know there are some good ones lurking there. Somehow we never made it to L’Arte del Gelato, nor did we try the famous frozen custard from Shake Shack,so those are both on the list for next time as well. Any suggestions for further exploration are, of course, most welcome.

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. Lora says:

    Great round up! I love the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. I had a vanilla cone coated in crushed wasabi peas that was incredible and the pistachio gelato from Eataly is pure heaven.

  2. Joe says:

    Thank you, this article reminds me that I was in New York last year too but wasn´t so lucky with the ice cream 🙂

  3. liop says:

    Hmmm…that ice cream in the photo seems so yummy!!!