I’ll admit it — I have a major soft spot for ice cream.
In fact, I recently visited New York’s Museum of Ice Cream and had the best time playing in a pool of sprinkles, swinging on a giant ice cream sandwich, and sampling local ice cream.
And since this is my first summer in New York City, I decided to take advantage of my prime location and finally try the trendy ice cream places I’d only ever seen on Instagram.
I started in June and worked my way through the city, trying these 11 hot spots. Here’s how they stacked up.
Overall Rating: 3/10
Presentation: The ice cream itself was not very Insta-friendly. It looked like a cream-coloured blob. Although the 'drip catcher' cone sleeve was very helpful, it didn't help the cone's appearance.
Environment: The friendly staff directed the line around the block and managed crowd control with ease. Once I made it inside, I was greeted with plenty of rainbow decor.
Flavour: I really, really wanted to like this ice cream. Tons of celebs have stopped by, and the line got my hopes up. Unfortunately, I was let down in so many departments. The ice cream was not exceptional, and I struggled to catch the wafer pieces before they slid into the drip catcher. The cone was flimsy, the ice cream melted immediately, and for such a colourful place, the ice cream cone was incredibly plain.
Overall Rating: 4.5/10
Location: 95 East 10th Street, East Village
Presentation: Purple ice cream is always fun, and street art in East Village would make the perfect background for a photo opportunity.
Environment: It's a big space with some seating indoors and benches outside. The employees are approachable and accommodating.
Flavour: My order was a huge mistake. The ice cream shop takes pride in their homemade unique flavours, but the lychee and lavender fell flat. Both scoops tasted like a whipped version of ice cream and were too light. I'll have to give the place another chance, but I'll go with a more traditional order next time.
Overall Rating: 5/10
Location: 132 Allen Street, West Village
Presentation: My popsicle looked pretty average. I made the mistake of having the pop fully dipped in chocolate, instead of artistically half-dipped. In the end, I had more surface area of chocolate, so I didn't dwell on my decision too much.
Environment: Popbar is a small space with limited seating. I didn't mind taking my pop outside, but I would recommend grabbing plenty of napkins on your way out.
Flavour: The gelato fell flat. It tasted like a frozen yogurt popsicle you could purchase in your grocery store's freezer aisle. The waffle cone crumbles were tasty and the chocolate was decent, but nothing extraordinary.
Overall Rating: 5.5/10
Location: 796 9th Avenue, Hell's Kitchen
Presentation: The ice cream spilled out from the doughnut halves, so there was no way this delicious creation would photograph well. If you want a photo, snap it quick before your Holey Cream becomes ice cream soup.
Environment: The lack of tables was discouraging at this location. Attempting to eat this creation is a two-hand experience. It would have been much easier to manage if there were someplace I could put the doughnut ice cream sandwich down between bites.
Flavour: The best part of this dessert was the doughnut. Next time I would nix the ice cream completely and just order another doughnut. I don't even remember how the ice cream was -- the doughnut stole the show.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Location: 251 East 13th Street, East Village (several other locations in NYC, Toronto, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC)
Presentation: I have seen this ice cream all over Instagram, so I knew I had to stop by Milk Bar to try the famous soft serve. Choose from sprinkles, chocolate chips, or the traditional cornflakes to cover the base of the milk-flavored ice cream.
Environment: There was no line when I stopped by during my lunch break, so that was ideal. The East Village shop is tiny, and there's no seating inside the store, so I took my ice cream outside. It began to drip down the side almost immediately.
Flavour: Although all ice cream should taste like milk, this soft serve really tasted like a gallon of frozen 2% milk. If you don't like the way milk tastes, this ice cream is probably not for you. But the soft serve was creamy, and the cornflakes were surprisingly crunchy. They paired nicely with the milk-flavored ice cream and didn't turn soggy, even when the soft serve began to melt.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Location: 25 East 17th Street, Flatiron District
Presentation: Chloe's resembles a traditional frozen yogurt spot, but swaps dairy for fruit. Technically, this isn't ice cream, but this place is just as trendy and refreshing this summer.
Environment: The employees dispense the soft serve and top your fruit with more fruit pieces or sweeter toppings. They're happy to hand out samples, but every time I've been, one of the flavours was out, showing just how popular this soft serve is to New Yorkers.
Flavour: Although it sounds fun saying 'soft serve fruit,' Chloe's is a just like a smoothie, except it's served in a cup. I'd compare my Berry Wild sundae to an acai bowl. Still very tasty and, depending on your toppings, a healthy sweet treat for the summer.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Presentation: I let out an audible 'wow' when I picked up my waffle and ice cream. Whoever came up with this pairing and presentation should get an award. The waffle is easy to tear and dip into the ice cream, and it looks as amazing as it tastes.
Environment: The line is a major drawback. Wowfulls is only available at the open-air food market Smorgasburg, so everyone and their mother heads to the tent on Saturdays and Sundays. It's worth the wait once, but I'm not sure I would do it again.
Flavour: The raspberry and white chocolate was the special flavour of the week, and it did not disappoint. The hot waffle and cold ice cream was a perfect combination, but don't wait around for the ice cream to melt. When the waffle becomes soggy, the Wowfull looses its appeal, but odds are you'll be pretty full by that point.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Location: 10 Mott Street, Chinatown
Presentation: You can't find rolled ice cream just anywhere. This ice cream is easy on the eyes and tastes delicious. Pro tip: pass on the whipped cream -- it makes the rolls look less photogenic.
Environment: The line was out the door. People here really like their trendy dairy. Once you make it inside, it's definitely worth working your way up to a rolling station. You'll see liquid cream transform into solid ice cream, while being chopped and moulded on the -10° silver plates. Get your camera ready to capture the rolls taking shape and then choose your toppings for personalised Thai ice cream rolls.
Flavour: I had the cookie monster flavour which consisted of finely chopped Oreos and vanilla ice cream. I was surprised at how smooth it was and how well the rolls held up. Although the tops of the rolls began to melt, the insides were firm and really tasty. The flavour was spot-on with traditional cookies and cream. Don't hesitate to load up on the toppings -- it's a flat $7 fee for any ice cream roll selection, so go ahead and add that toasted marshmallow.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Presentation: These milkshakes steal the spotlight of any Instagram. Be sure to snap the picture quick, though -- one of the cookies was sliding down the glass right after I got my shake. The shake had a vanilla ice cream base, with two ice cream cookie sandwiches, whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, and graham cracker crumbles glued with vanilla icing around the rim.
Environment: Another ice cream place, another long line. I should be used to it by now, I suppose. I went to the Soho location, and it's so small the line is pretty much guaranteed to wrap around the block. Once inside, you'll sit at the bar (there isn't space for tables), and go back and forth on which milkshake to order.
Flavour: Each milkshake is basically three desserts in one: ice cream, cookies, and candy. Needless to say, it's difficult to finish by yourself without entering a sugar-induced coma. Everything tastes great, but it's almost too much sweetness. Emphasis on almost.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Location: 373 Broome Street, Nolita
Presentation: Look at that colour combination. The green matcha and cream vanilla coordinate perfectly with the store's pink-and-green theme.
Environment: This is every Instagrammer's paradise. Cha Cha Matcha is decked out with pink and green tables, decor, and food. You may even run into a celebrity while you're there. Gigi Hadid and Leonardo DiCaprio have been spotted at this Nolita matcha hot spot.
Flavour: I cannot believe how much I enjoyed this soft serve. The swirl option was definitely the way to go. The vanilla and matcha flavours complemented each other well and for $4, this ice cream was the cheapest of the places I visited. Unlike other grainy matcha lattes I've previously had in the city, this matcha soft serve was smooth. For someone looking to try the powdered green tea, but not wanting to fully commit, this is the way to go.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Location: 2 Rivington Street, Lower East Side
Presentation: Look at these perfectly shaped scoops -- you could not ask for a better photo opportunity. Like Beyoncé, this cone is flawless.
Environment: The line for Morgenstern's was out the door. If there's one thing I've learned this summer, it's that a line of customers is the best advertisement you could have, as people are typically drawn to New Yorker-approved hot spots. If you can find some room behind the counter, watch as employees add toppings to tubs of ice cream and roll them into impressive spherical scoops.
Flavour: The pistachio nuts overpowered the green tea flavour in the first scoop. And the second (yes, the black ice cream) didn't taste like coconut, but more like a sweet vanilla. Overall, the ice cream didn't shine in flavour, but its smooth and creamy texture would bring me back again. And yes, the black ice cream did turn my tongue black.
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