If my Instagram feed hasn’t tipped you off on my big secret yet, I’ll tell you: I’m kind of obsessed with ice cream. Growing up, I had an ice cream cone after dinner every night at my dad’s house and to this day I insist he have ice cream stocked in the freezer whenever I’m back home. I’m not sure how my love of ice cream started, but at some point in high school I realized I really loved the stuff.
Fast forward to my big move to New York, and suddenly I had an entire city filled with mom and pop ice cream shops at my fingertips. When it comes to ice cream, I’m truly living the life here in the city. Below I’ve listed where to find some of the best ice cream in NYC. Most of these are local stores, but a few at the end are chains I adore that I can’t get back home in Indiana. Do me a favor and try not to drool while you’re reading this, slobber grosses me out.
What started as an ice cream subscription service soon became something much bigger. Though it’s primarily membership-driven, the tasting room in Carrol Garden is worth visiting. MilkMade’s flavors are all incredibly unique and are made using local, sustainably produced ingredients. They currently partner with over 100 local producers to create their signature ice creams.
Though their signature ice creams are all fab, try one of their seasonal flavors while you can. I’ve had the Cobbler Hill (cinnamon ice cream, seasonal berries, and crunchy crumble topping) and it was out of this world. The Cookie Dough Cookie flavor at their Marche Maman location is also incredible. You can tell their ice cream is made in small batches just by their taste, and their staff of “Milkmaids” are so sweet! If you’re willing to pay another $1.50, their flavored waffle cones are worth the splurge. They’re from the Konery and they’re actually packed with flavor (so make sure and pick one that complements your ice cream!).
Ample Hills is arguably the reigning champion of the NYC ice cream scene. When I moved here last August, everyone I talked to said, “go to Ample Hills!” I finally got my butt to one of their locations two weeks ago, and it went beyond my expectations. Their ice cream is extremely thick and creamy, and they have quirky names for all their flavors. Ample Hills makes their ice cream from start to finish, and even pasteurize the milk, cream, sugar, and eggs on site.
The oatmeal lace flavor is out of this world—rich but not overwhelming, with big chunks of homemade cookie mixed in. Next on my hit list is the ooey gooey butter cake flavor.
OddFellows Ice Cream Co.
I don’t typically recommend soft serve ice cream because it all kind of tastes the same to me, but OddFellows is in a different league of soft serve from what I grew up eating. I had their vanilla and tangerine swirl at their Spring Street location in SoHo, and it was out of this world. The vanilla has flecks of vanilla bean running through it, and the tangerine tastes incredibly fresh. I should note that not all locations serve only soft serve, but their soft serve is definitely worth trying if you’re in SoHo.
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
You know an ice cream shop is good when it tastes amazing on a 60-degree day in May. I first had Van Leeuwen’s ice cream on my first trip to Williamsburg and immediately fell in love. The staff are great about letting you try a lot of flavors before choosing one to buy. Their salted caramel flavor is ridiculously good and isn’t too salty, which is good for salt-haters like me. Best of all is they carry fun vegan flavors beyond just chocolate and vanilla, meaning you can come here with friends of all diets.
When it comes to ice cream, I’m a purist. I don’t want a pile of sprinkles or hot fudge sauce or anything else to mar the taste of my ice cream. I make a special exception for Melt’s ice cream sandwiches, however, because they’re actually that good. Their most popular combo is vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip walnut cookies, but I also quite like the chocolate ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies.
Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
Morgenstern’s has all sorts of oddball flavors. They carry everything from burnt sage to black coconut ash to salt and pepper pine nut. Personally, I skip these flavors and head straight to the really good stuff. The crème brulee flavor is ultra creamy and they actually torch the top of it to get that crunchy layer of sugar that’s on actual crème brulee. The strawberry rhubarb crisp is the perfect combination of tart and sweet and has crumble mixed into it. The staff here treat you like royalty, so feel free to take your sweet time deciding what to order. Just be aware that the line in the summer is long and takes forever to go through.
If you’ve been researching the NYC ice cream scene, odds are you’ve seen Taiyaki. These waffle fish cones are highly Instagrammable and are darn tasty too. Skip the regular flavors at Taiyaki and head straight to the unique ones like red bean and matcha. Their chocolate and vanilla soft serve is nothing to write home about, so don’t waste your money on flavors you can find anywhere else. Be careful though, because their ice cream melts incredibly fast!
I’m kind of cheating with these last three recommendations because they’re larger chains, but I have to give a shout out to them. Eataly is an Italian marketplace with locations worldwide, and it’s one of my favorite spots to revisit in NYC. After browsing Eataly’s tempting array of fresh pastas, cheeses, and other Italian goodies, swing by their gelato bar for some truly fab dessert. Their flavors are super rich, so stick to a smaller size.
Amorino is another larger chain with incredible gelato. If you get a cone, they make a rose for you out of your gelato and stick a macaron in the middle. My order usually involves their Speculoos or hazelnut flavors, but I rarely order the same flavor twice.
Did you really visit NYC if you didn’t hit up Shake Shack? I personally can’t finish a burger, fries, and a concrete all in one sitting, so I make special trips just for their custard. Shake Shack’s concrete are just like a Dairy Queen blizzard, but a million times better. Each location in the city has a specialty flavor unique to that store, and I’ve yet to try one I didn’t like.
This is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to ice cream in the city. Unfortunately, my stomach only has so much room in it for dessert, but I’ll keep trying new spots. Whether you live in the city or are just visiting, you need to hit up these places for the best ice cream in NYC. In a cone or a cup, a scoop or two from one of these spots will be one you won’t soon forget.
Before I sign off, I’m curious to know if you consider fro-yo ice cream. I personally don’t, but I have friends who fight me on this. Let me know! And, of course, if there are other ice cream spots in NYC I should know about, please leave a comment.