National Ice Cream Day is this Sunday, July 19, and although we prefer not to schedule our cravings around food holidays, ice cream is an exception — it always makes people happy, regardless of the season. But of course, summer is a scoop-shop’s time to shine. Our favorite NYC ice cream makers ply their trade using time-tested family recipes and push the icy treat’s boundaries with ambitious flavors and toppings. Whether you’re looking for gonzo ingredient combinations, sassy, saucy sundaes, and banana splits, or just a scoop of plain vanilla, it’s a great time not to be lactose-intolerant. The city that never sleeps has become the city that can’t stop churning out mind-boggling frozen desserts. Here’s where to find the best:
10. 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.
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 a profusion of dark, irregular chips. The Factory’s location makes it a must before or after downing pies at Grimaldi’s or its kindred frenemy pizzeria, Juliana’s.
8. 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 nonprofit 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, with flavor combinations like the Sky’s the Limit, which pairs milk chocolate ice cream with butter crunch cookies in honor of Biggie, and a cognac-infused ice cream that was scooped up by New York’s W hotels for their room service.
7. Ample Hills Creamery (623 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-240-3926)
Brian Smith’s ice cream was so popular when he first opened this place 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 churning out countless seasonal flavors every year, and Smith’s spread the dairy love to other Brooklyn neighborhoods, including a standalone shop at the southern edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Flavors change daily thanks to the 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. Their packed pints are also Oprah-approved, so do as the media mogul does and have your staff spoon-feed you.
6. 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 eleven 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.
5. 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 mate, 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.
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. Ice & Vice (221 East Broadway; 646-678-3687)
After two years on the NYC market circuit, owners Paul Kim and Ken Lo opened their first brick-and-mortar shop this summer, flooding the already saturated Lower East Side ice cream contingent with bonkers flavor combinations like crème fraîche swirled with rose petal jam and smoked chocolate with caramelized white chocolate ganache. The shop’s dressed in sleek black-and-white tile, which makes their colorful ice cream visually pop. Speaking of which, we’d far prefer Ice & Vice’s Movie Night over a bag of stale kernels at the multiplex — the inspired batch mixes buttered-popcorn ice cream with toasted raisins and dark chocolate.
2. 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.
1. 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 come courtesy of former pastry pro and budding restaurateur Nick Morgenstern, who spent time at Daniel and Gramercy Tavern and owns GG’s pizzeria and L.E.S. stunner 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 sundae, 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. Morgenstern also introduced an ice cream breakfast this year, including avocado ice cream spread onto sweet toast. Forget Folgers, we’ll take our morning meal with hot fudge.