Nothing screams “ice cream!!!” like a sticky summer day in New York City. And while I will say without a shred of sarcasm that some of the best cones I’ve had in the city were handed down from the open window of a Mister Softee truck, there’s no denying that there are a lot of good spots for ice cream in town.
Be you in the East Village or Flushing, Williamsburg, or Harlem, there’s probably a good spot for a scoop nearby. Even the vegans and lactose-intolerant no longer have to settle for an ice pop when the weather gets hot in the city—a number of these joints make sincerely impressive non-dairy alternatives.
How many of New York’s best scoops can you eat in one day?
1. Ample Hills
When Ample Hills’ first store in Prospect Heights opened in 2011, it was so popular that it quickly sold out and had to close after just four days. Luckily, they’ve worked things out. With locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, including their factory (the largest ice-cream production facility in New York) in Red Hook, which features an interactive ice-cream museum, there’s little chance they’ll run out any time soon.
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2. Cafe Zaiya
Near Grand Central Station and craving something cold and creamy? Look no further than Cafe Zaiya (the 41st Street location) and their magnificent soft serve. They specialize in gravity-defying piles of matcha and black sesame ice cream (or better yet, a swirl of the two), and you won’t need anything more than that.
Each batch of ice cream at Davey’s takes four days to prepare (from milk and cream sourced locally in the Hudson Valley). They don’t go overboard with flavors, keeping it mostly classic like French vanilla, double chocolate, strong coffee, fresh strawberry, and roasted pistachio with some seasonal flavors tossed in for good measure. Both the East Village and Williamsburg locations will make you a sundae, ice-cream sandwich, or pie milkshake to order.
Emack & Bolio’s is one of those ice cream shops that you leave feeling like a kid on summer vacation—holding a cone the size of your face, fingers slightly sticky. Founded in the 1970s by Robert Rook, a lawyer-slash-hippie who was a constant advocate for marginalized groups like the houseless and LGBTQ+ communities, the name Emack & Bolios actually came from two of Rook’s pro bono clients. The company is bigger now, but no less whimsical. Stop by one of their three shops in the city: Brooklyn Heights, and on the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan.
This popular West Village lunch and dinner restaurant, known for its daily changing menu of regional Italian and southern French plates, recently delighted fans by launching an ice-cream program. You can get a cup of King’s ice cream to go, but it’s also quite fun to sit at the bar and order a double scoop of lemon sorbet topped with vodka.
La Newyorkina specializes in Mexican-style treats, like hand-churned ice-cream nieves de garrafa, paletas, and chamoyada, a cross between a slushie and a sorbet (their most popular flavor base is mango) topped with pickled plum juice and chile powder. With two permanent locations and seven seasonal pop-ups in Manhattan and Brooklyn, it’s not hard to find one of La Newyorkina’s cooling snacks.
Named for a North Indian term roughly translating to “cream of the crop” and literally to “milkfat,” Malai Ice Cream is worth the trek to Cobble Hill for a scoop. The ice cream—which comes in exciting flavors like orange fennel, jaggery with tamarind caramel, and red chile–chocolate—is actually eggless and churned with less air than most ice creams, making an impossibly creamy final product.
The popular Korean ice-cream store, MilkCow, is now open in Chinatown, and their giant cups of soft serve practically beg you to dig in your spoon. The ice cream—which comes in ube and “natural milk” (think fior di latte gelato as opposed to a classic vanilla)—is rich and creamy on its own, but MilkCow is also known for their unique toppings, from honeycomb to clouds of cotton candy.
Even if you have not yet eaten ice cream from Morgenstern’s, odds are you’ve seen the perfectly round scoops on Instagram. Though the Department of Health will no longer let them serve their infamous black coconut ice cream, there are still 88 other flavors (banana curry, American egg, and long pepper–raspberry to name a few) at two locations in Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side.
Known for their delightfully stretchy booza, the 500-year-old Levantine precursor to modern-day ice cream, Republic of Booza is an unmissable spot this summer, thanks to a series of collaborations with some of the city’s best restaurants. We’re talking an everything bagel booza with Black Seed Bagels, guava-plum powder sorbet with Win Son, elote booza with Tacocina, and more—all of which you can keep up with on Instagram.
The first family-owned ice-cream shop in Harlem in over three decades, Sugar Hill Creamery brings back the classic soda fountains vibes that used to call the neighborhood home. Owners Nick and Petrushka Bazin Larsen call the space “a love affair between community and food,” and take care to draw on the flavors of the neighborhood to inspire their ice creams.
This East Village hole-in-the-wall is revered for its vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) burgers, meticulous manipulation of produce, and really excellent ice cream. Just about every day, a new flavor of gelato (benne seed! date shake! lime labneh!) and a vegan sorbet (sour cherry with pits! roasted apricot with bay leaf!) goes up on the menu. Real heads know to get a scoop of each to go and take it on a walk around the neighborhood.
13. Taiyaki NYC
If you haven’t eaten soft serve out of a waffle cone in the shape of a fish, head to Taiyaki. Technically taiyaki translates to “fried fish” in Japanese, but the term actually refers to the fish-shaped pastries that can be filled with ice cream. Fill your taiyaki with azuki bean paste or custard first if you’d like, but either way the main event is their soft serve. With shops in Chinatown, Williamsburg, and Flushing, there are plenty of options.
14. Van Leeuwen
Van Leeuwen is one of the only spots where the vegan ice cream—not sorbet!—is just as good as the real deal. It's made with cashew, coconut, and cocoa butter, and sometimes oat milk instead of cashews. Since their 2008 opening as a truck selling Greenpoint-churned ice cream, they now have storefronts and trucks all over the city, from Boerum Hill to the Upper East Side.