Cool Off at New York's 10 Best Ice Cream Shops



In a city where fancy desserts can be found at nearly every restaurant, there's something so refreshing about a high-quality scoop of the old-fashioned good stuff: ice cream. Even in the cold tundra of winter, there's comfort and nostalgia to be found in any cone or a cup. And while it'd be nearly impossible to dream up a more perfect treat, that doesn't mean that there isn't any variation in what you can find dotted along New York's streets.

Some proprietors listed below, such as Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and Van Leeuwen, got their starts out of the back of a truck before cashing in enough rabid fans to open brick-and-mortar shops. 

Others, like Ralph's Italian Ices in Staten Island, have called the Big Apple home for almost a century. And still others have cropped up online and in Brooklyn's suburbs, bringing exciting, modern flavors to an industry that dates back to second century B.C.

Where other desserts (cough, Baked Alaska, cough) have trended and gone, ice cream is an old standby. A steady rock. An always there for you friend, whether you're happy, sad or just in the mood for a cool, creamy lick. 

Below, we take you on a sugary journey of the ten best ice cream shops in New York City. 



10
Ample Hills Creamery
Photo courtesy of Ample Hills


 

The husband and wife duo at the helm of Ample Hills opened the first location in 2011 and from there, the rest is sweet, sweet history.

Part of what makes Ample Hills' stuff so great is that it starts with high-quality ingredients like hormone-free milk from grass fed cows and organic cane sugar. The other part of the magic are the mix-ins. Mostly made in-house from scratch, they include everything from peppermint patties to pistachio brittle to brownies and more.

Though we're partial to the Gowanus spot, with its adorable rooftop seating and slightly off-beat location, the goodness can be found all around the city at one of their permanent or seasonal shops.


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New Yorkers can spot the Van Leeuwen truck from just about anywhere. What started as a pale yellow ice cream truck has now set up permanent shop at numerous locations in NYC. Each of them is equally good, though there's something special about getting great tasting, high-quality ice cream out of a truck. Luckily, there are two different ones still rolling around town.

For a fun adventure, head out on a scavenger hunt through Williamsburg or Soho to discover one (they're parked in the same spot daily, so it shouldn't be too hard). Once there, vegans will delight in scoops made with cashew and coconut milk, while purists can dig in to a creamy assortment of dairy-based choices.


8


 

Crisp, clean and stark white. If such a thing as an ice cream laboratory were commonplace, this is what you'd expect it to look like. Just down the street from Morgenstern's, il laboratorio del gelato's small batch, hand-made ice creams offer a modern take on the traditional Italian method.

With a laundry list of flavors from wasabi to fig and fresh brown turkey to lavender and honey, there's bound to be something for everyone. The lab also churns out sorbet in all colors of the rainbow, and takes flavor creation to a whole new level. Case in point: there are five apple different flavors alone!


7


 

A summer staple for nearly a century, Ralph's in Staten Island is a local legend. Though various other Ralph's have popped up all around the tri-state area, the original location holds a certain amount of nostalgic charm that can't be understated.

Once there, it'd be silly not to try the ices, though the menu can be overwhelming. Regulars swear by the old standbys: strawberry or lemon, but it's not unheard of for other favorites to sneak into the mix. If you feel like experimenting, try the pina colada, coffee or the coconut. Or better yet, take a few friends and snag more than one.


6
East Village


 

Another shop that started as an ice cream truck, Big Gay Ice Cream now has two permanent locations in New York City. Their ice cream - a collab with Ronnybrook Farm Dairy - is a take on the soft serve custard native New Yorkers grew up on.

Tall swirls stacked on top of cones are often dipped in chocolate, or covered in caramel, and adorned with fun names like the Bea Arthur or Salty Pimp. Though the two partners behind the magic have extended their brand far and wide, it's the ice cream, not the names that have won them acclaim.


5


 

Housed in the Chelsea Market, L'Arte del Gelato got its start in Sicily before crossing the pond to NYC. It's evident in their flavors that they're playing by traditional rules from the homeland, which can only serve to benefit ice cream lovers in our fair city.

Among the rotating, seasonal scoops, you'll find Italian standbys like pistachio, olive oil, mascarpone and cassata Siciliana, a blend of ricotta, candied fruit and chocolate chips.

Proper gelato typically has less fat and air than ice cream, which can exaggerate the lovely flavors. That's certainly the case at L'Arte del Gelato where the proprietors take their craft very seriously, much to the enjoyment of everyone else.


4
Lower East Side
Morgenstern's
Photo courtesy of Morgenstern's


 

Morgenstern's is what ice cream becomes when it grows up, gets a job in New York City and realizes that it needs to up its style game. With a precision focus on texture and taste, this ice cream raises the bar for all others that come after it. The menu reads like a well-traveled food journal with flavors like durian banana, cardamom lemon jam and Vietnamese coffee. If that's not your cup of tea, don't fret: Morgenstern's has also got all the classics, plus grown-up flavors like cinnamon whiskey, black coconut ash, bitter dark chocolate and black licorice. Toppings are equally exciting and include things like pickled pineapple and sesame honeycomb.


3


 

If you live east of the Mississippi, there's a chance you've spotted Blue Marble in a local grocery, but that doesn't mean you should forgo the chance to try them on their home turf. Launched in 2007 by two enterprising ladies, Blue Marble starts with organic milk from pasture-raised cows as the base of their luscious ice creams. Their flavors are "elemental," as they call them, which simply means they're straight-forward and ingredient focused. Ice cream purists will delight at the menu that includes vanilla, chocolate, cookies & cream, sea salt caramel, strawberry, Mexican chocolate, mint cookie and green tea. Keep your eyes open for seasonal faves, including the popular pumpkin.


2
Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain
Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain


 

If you're looking for a nostalgic ice cream experience, Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain will whisk you back in time when the soda pops cost a nickel and kids twirled around at countertop stools. Housed in an 1920s apothecary, the shop has a pretty amazing origin story that includes more than a dash of luck and serendipity (check their website for details). Now, thanks to a serious twist of fate, they're serving up old-school goodness from specialty sundaes and ice cream floats to housemade sodas and egg creams, a classic New York made with milk, syrup and seltzer. And yes, red-seated counter stools are in full effect.


1
Oddfellows Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Oddfellows


 

Oddfellows Ice Cream is a local fave that doesn't skimp on ingredients or process. They pasteurize their own locally-sourced, hormone and additive-free dairy for flavors that range from tried-and-true (strawberry jam, German chocolate cake) to pushing boundaries (miso peanut butter, saffron passionfruit). Because their flavors constantly change, going to Oddfellows is a bit of an adventure, but the list is long enough that everyone should find something to love. If you can't make it over to "The Parlor" location in Williamsburg, Oddfellows also has spots in the Lower East Side ("Coffee & Cream") and the East Village ("The Sandwich Shop").


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Meet Andrea Wien

Andrea Wien was bitten by the travel bug from an early age, and has lived in New York, Seattle, Cleveland and Sydney, Australia since 2007.

When she's not traveling or planning a trip, you'll...  More About Andrea

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