Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE ice cream. For me, nothing hits the spot quite like ice cream does. I mean think about it, it is SO versatile. There’s soft serve, slow churned, milk shakes, rolled ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream bars; the list goes on and on. Then consider all of the flavor possibilities; a list that has no end. And then there’s all the ways ice cream can be served! In a cup, on a cone, with a slice of cake or pie, on top of a brownie or a cookie, nestled between a split banana… And of course, topped with sprinkles or a whole slew of other topping possibilities. Basically, ice cream is the best and I feel truly sad for you if ice cream isn’t as magical for you as it is for me.
So now that we are all on the same page and my unfailing love of ice cream has been made clear, let’s begin. While ice cream is a pretty magical thing, New York city is a pretty magical place. It was in New York City just this past year that I got to visit, yes it really is a thing, the Museum of Ice Cream. It was a traveling museum offering a truly one of a kind ice cream experience where I got to swim in a pool of rainbow sprinkles, swing on an ice cream sandwich swing, and of course eat ice cream.
It was also, just this past week, in New York City that I got to go on somewhat of a self-guided ice cream tour. I was visiting my Uncle Michael, Aunt Sharon, and cousins James and Brenna for the week and, since my Uncle Michael is almost as much of an ice cream connoisseur as I am, we of course had ice cream daily. I was in the city for 6 days, one place was so good we went twice, so I have 5 ice cream shops to share with you as rated and reviewed by myself, James, and my Uncle Michael.
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
A joint that started out serving ice cream from a food truck, Van Leeuwen has expanded to now be serving up ice cream at five locations in NYC and three locations all the way across the country in L.A. Van Leeuwen is serving ice cream made from only the finest ingredients; you won’t find stabilizers, powders, or any other artificial ingredients in their ice creams. It’s easy to tell that the finest ingredients make the finest ice cream from the moment you have your first taste. They offer a wide variety of flavors ranging from classics like Cookies and Cream and Mint Chocolate Chip to more exotic flavors like Matcha and Black Sesame Ash Chocolate Cake. They also offer a variety of vegan flavors, one of my favorites being the Vegan Cookies N’ Cream Caramel Swirl. On our first trip to Van Leeuwen, I had Vegan Cookies N’ Cream Caramel Swirl and Honey Comb in a homemade waffle cone. The waffle cone wasn’t as crunchy as your typical waffle cone might be but this turned out to be the perfect complement to the creamy ice cream. On our next trip, I had Mint Chocolate Chip and, again, Cookies N’ Cream Caramel Swirl. Over all, it doesn’t get much better than Van Leeuwen. The ice cream is wonderful, the service is outstanding (they don’t roll their eyes when I ask for my fifth sample), and the shop is beautiful. My only word of caution is that the ice cream here is very rich. One scoop is the perfect amount to satisfy an ice cream craving, but when you’re just in town for the week and there are so many delicious flavors to try, it might be better to just put on some stretchy pants and go for two scoops.
A cute little shop on the Lower East Side, Soft Swerve is serving up some not-so-typical soft serve flavors including Matcha, Ube, and Black Sesame. I wanted to check this place out because I was intrigued by the pictures of the Ube Purple Yam ice cream I had seen on Instagram. Matcha and Black Sesame were flavors I had heard of before, but Ube was a totally new concept for me. The great thing about Soft Swerve is they are more than willing to let you sample all of their flavors. Which is wonderful because it is nearly impossible to describe what Ube ice cream tastes like. What I can tell you though is this ice cream is gooood. I chose to have both the Matcha and Ube in a chocolate cone with chocolate sprinkles on top. These are definitely not your average vanilla or chocolate soft serve flavors, so be prepared to be caught off guard. They are unique and not too sweet, perfect for loading up on all of the toppings they have to offer like toasted coconut, cereal marshmallows, or a chocolate drizzle. And if you’re still hungry after your ice cream, just down the street you will find Empanada Mama where they are serving up over 40 unique varieties of empanadas. Empanada Mama also delivers 24/7, which will be important to know when the inevitable late night empanada cravings start after trying one.
Rolled Ice Cream is the new trend that is taking the ice cream universe by storm. Rolled Ice Cream, or traditionally known as Stir-fried Ice Cream, originated in Thailand and it wasn’t until 2015 that it spread worldwide. Now these rolled ice cream shops are popping up all over the country and 10 Below is just one of the many chains in NYC doing their own spin on stir-fried ice cream. The best part about 10 Below is this: unlimited toppings. You pick your base flavor, you watch them turn cream and mix-ins into freezing cold rolled ice cream right before your eyes, and then you get to go crazy with the toppings. When it comes to the toppings though, you have to be specific. They will give you anything you ask for but if you don’t specify quantities they’ll just give you the bare minimum. Let’s say you want four marshmallows: if you just ask for marshmallows, odds are they’ll just give you one. So be specific about what you want and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the promise of unlimited toppings!
Ample Hills first popped up in a little shop in Brooklyn back in 2011 and has now grown to operate out five permanent locations and two seasonal locations around the city. If you happen to find yourself down in Disney World before you make your way out to NYC, you’re in luck because they’ve even opened up shop down at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn! Ample Hills is serving up new twists on the old classics. From Peppermint Patty to Ooey Gooey Butter Cake (two of my favorites), it’s really all about the mix-ins here. While you can’t go wrong with the classic vanilla bean, most of their flavors include a variety of mix-ins from cake to cookies to candies and there wasn’t a single flavor I tried that I didn’t love. The service here is incredible too. The servers are friendly and get through orders quickly without making you feel rushed and of course are more than willing to give you lots of samples. But be warned, the more flavors you try, the harder it will be to choose!
Davey’s Ice Cream
Last but certainly not least we have Davey’s Ice Cream. Davey’s is satisfying ice cream cravings at three locations around NYC; two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. Davey’s is the kind of ice cream shop you wish was just down the street. They offer all the classic flavors with a few unique ones thrown in here and there. The service is great and the ice cream is satisfying but not overly rich so you can indulge in an extra scoop. (It was so good I forgot to take a picture before I dug in!) While Davey’s might not be serving up Ube Purple Yam ice cream like Soft Swerve, or freezing your ice cream right before your eyes like 10 Below, they are serving up seriously good ice cream. When it comes to ice cream you really can’t go wrong with the classics and Davey’s is serving them up fantastically.
Thank you for coming on my virtual tour of some of NYC’s yummiest ice cream joints. I wish you could have been there with me because you better believe the ice cream tasted even better than it looks… and it looks pretty darn good!
Peace. Love. Ice Cream.