Ice cream may have centuries-old roots, but technology and globalization are helping scoop shops push the frozen treat’s boundaries with ambitious flavors and toppings. And while it’s true that the city’s old guard delis, diners, and malt shops are slowly fading away, you can still find a few surviving in neighborhoods that have resisted gentrification. Whether you’re looking for wacky combinations, baller banana splits and sundaes, or just a scoop of plain vanilla, it’s a great time to not be lactose intolerant in New York. The city that never sleeps has quickly become the city that can’t stop, won’t stop shoveling icy desserts into its mouth. Let’s all follow suit.
10. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (1 Water Street, Brooklyn; 718-246-3963) Housed in a landmark building on the Fulton Ferry Landing pier, Mark Thompson’s modest creamery impresses with both its pointed, straightforward eggless ice creams and atmospheric views of the East River under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. The menu maxes out at eight flavors, the wildest of which is peaches and cream. Vanilla chocolate chunk is a personal favorite with its dark, irregular chips. Its location makes it a must before or after downing pies at Grimaldi’s or its kindred frenemy pizzeria Juliana’s.
9. Eggers Ice Cream Parlor (2716 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island; 718-980-6339) Old-fashioned outfits hardly come quainter than this busy Staten Island ice cream parlor with green vinyl seating, freshly whipped cream, and recipes that haven’t changed in 75 years. We love the dense vanilla peanut butter swirl and cookies and cream, which realize their potential in banana splits assaulted with hot fudge. The ice creams are so heavy they make milkshakes that are nearly golden arch thick — ask for yours with an extra scoop balanced on the rim of the glass like a lady wearing the tastiest derby hat imaginable.
8. Cones (272 Bleecker Street, 212-414-1795) The handmade Argentine-style ice cream served from this barebones West Village shop has a pronounced buoyancy that’s similar to its Italian relative gelato. There are some true gems among the nearly 25 different flavors, including dulce de leche and yerba maté, plus stunt flavors like sweet potato with brie cheese and one that mixes Johnny Walker Black whiskey with kumquats. And although it’s no longer all that rare among the city’s finer ice cream operations, Cones’ best offering may be its sweet corn ice cream, chock full of kernels and dusted with cinnamon at the shop’s behest.
7. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain (513 Henry Street, Brooklyn; 718-522-6260) Have yourself a retro chic time at this restored faux-vintage Carroll Gardens apothecary where malts and egg creams are doled out by hipster soda jerks who look and play the part. The menu changes seasonally and includes everything from pumpkin to banana chocolate chip, and even though the place froths up a solid egg cream, the thing to get here is a sundae. Choose from 11 combinations, including the Mr. Potato Head, with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, and potato chips, and the cookie monster, which finds mint chocolate chip topped with hot fudge, chocolate chip cookie crumbles, whipped cream, and blue sprinkles.
6. Eddie’s Sweet Shop (105-29 Metropolitan Avenue, Queens; 718-520-8514) This Forest Hills soda fountain has been pumping out fanciful sundaes, malts, and egg creams for over 100 years. A favorite of marijuana-and-food-loving rapper and Queens native Action Bronson, everything — from the ice creams to the marshmallow sauce — is made by hand. With its tin ceilings and antique décor, you might expect the menu to run a bit vanilla, but owner Vito Citrano satisfies fogies and foodies alike with limited run flavors like pistachio-pineapple.
5. Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream (2 Rivington Street, 212-209-7684) A pint-sized parlor serving avant-garde flavors like durian banana, deep yellow egg custard, and “black ass” licorice, the ice creams here are courtesy of pastry wunderkind Nick Morgenstern, who spent time at Daniel and Gramercy Tavern and currently consults on the menus of Goat Town and El Rey. Yes, the banana split costs nearly $20, but other fountain creations, like the hip hop-inspired royales, are exercises in decadence. For the peanut butter wolf, triple chocolate cake gets three scoops of chocolate ice cream and a drizzling of peanut butter sauce; the new God flow stuffs fluffy Japanese milk bread with raw milk ice cream and burnt honey.
4. OddFellows Ice Cream Company (175 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-599-0556) Scoopable neo-nostalgia here comes from pastry whiz Sam Mason, who left his post at wd-50 and subsequently opened a progressive restaurant, a Brooklyn bar, and an artisanal mayonnaise company before setting his sights on ice cream. Mason is a sweet-and-savory master, and it’s no surprise that the parlor’s cold cases are filled with tubs of manchego-pineapple-thyme ice cream and strawberry-tomato sorbet. Mason also gets whimsical with the sundaes, tossing cornbread with blueberries and an intense composition that uses local favorite Mast Brothers chocolate six different ways.
3. Mikey Likes It Ice Cream (199 Avenue A, 212-470-0426) Michael Cole launched his C.R.E.A.M.-y dreams on the back of a marijuana conviction, via a non-profit organization that schools ex-convicts on entrepreneurship. His East Village scoop shop combines bygone-era charm (think all-white soda jerk uniforms and an ice cream recipe from his dearly departed aunt), whimsical flavors that reference pop culture, and a special humanitarian bent: a percentage of profits is donated to school programs that benefit underprivileged youths in NYC. In addition to standards like kissing cousins (crunchy peanut butter with banana) and a rich strawberry ice cream studded with balsamic-macerated berries, Mikey pulls inspiration from everywhere. There’s been sky’s the limit, which pairs milk chocolate ice cream with butter crunch cookies in honor of Biggie, and a cognac infused ice cream for a spirits brand launch. For the remainder of June, you can enjoy the Prince-inspired Purple Rain: blueberry ice cream with berries and cheesecake chunks.
2. Ample Hills Creamery (623 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-240-3926) Brian Smith’s ice cream was so popular when he first opened that the former sci-fi writer was forced to expand his production after just four days in business. The Prospect Heights shop is still plenty busy, but it’s still able to churn out countless seasonal flavors every year. Flavors change daily thanks to a high turnover, but we love the salted crack caramel and the munchies, which takes pretzel-infused ice cream and mixes it with potato chips, pretzels, Ritz crackers, and mini M&M’s. New for Summer 2014 are bourbon butterscotch pudding and the raw deal — vanilla strewn through with chocolate shavings and brown butter cookie dough.
1. Davey’s Ice Cream (137 First Avenue, 212-228-8032) Owner David Yoo is the man behind the frosty magic at this East Village shop outfitted with a colorful, beckoning sign that’s a nod to its creator’s former life as a graphic designer. Yoo makes his ice cream from raw ingredients, and each batch requires a four-day-long production schedule. There’s the much buzzed about strong coffee, and deep, dark double chocolate, although recently we can’t get enough of the gonzo brunch flavor with brioche French toast pieces, cinnamon-maple syrup, and coffee-glazed bacon all folded into a sweet cream base. There have also been collaborations with other neighborhood businesses, including neighborhood legend Moishe’s Bake Shop, which supplied the creamery with a custom cinnamon and chocolate babka.