The Best Ice Cream In NYCFor a scoop of something cold, here’s where to go.
Everyone has ice cream opinions. There are purists, who only eat gelato made from the milk of a certain breed of Italian cow, and there are people who prefer a more decadent approach, like a sundae with seven toppings, and yes, one of those toppings is gummy bears.
Of course, our only option was to try them all. What a hard job to have. After countless cones of giandiua, endless cups of mint chocolate chip, and many an expertly prepared banana split, we’re confident that these are the 14 best ice cream spots in NYC.
Caffe Panna became an instant NYC classic for a reason. The quality of their ingredients (whipped cream made from imported Italian dairy, fresh fruit from the Union Square farmer’s market), and the range of weekly-rotating flavors make this place our go-to spot for a special treat. There are almost no simple options here, so expect to walk away from the walk-up window holding an accessorized cup of pistachio fig affogato or an almond Oreo sundae loosely based on Italian tri-color cookies.
photo credit: Cole Saladino
Biddrina is a gelato cart around the corner from Clinton Hill’s Locanda Vini e Olii, and it’s operated daily by the same people, weather permitting. Anything you choose from the creative, rotating flavors (turmeric and amarena cherries, crema with marmalade, plant-based halva and honey) will be a true pleasure to ingest. But the bright orange cantaloupe puts every other fruity ice cream to shame, and might even elicit an audible gasp. If every restaurant had a gelato cart outside of it, the world would be a much more delicious place.
Eddie’s Sweet Shop is the oldest ice cream parlor in New York City, and it looks the part, with chandeliers, vintage wallpaper, and a pharmacy-like candy counter. Even in the 1950s, people probably came to this Forest Hills spot and thought, “How quaint.” The ice cream is old-fashioned too: big, dense scoops of classic flavors like chocolate and vanilla chip. If you enjoy a sundae, the Banana Royal is a massive pile of ice cream topped with whipped cream and sprinkles, and it’ll make you feel as if you’re in elementary school and you just won a spelling bee.
An iconic tourist spot that’s been scooping up flavors like egg custard, red bean and coconut fudge for 40-something years, the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is still worthy of the line outside its narrow Bayard Street shop. (Two newer locations—Lower East Side and Flushing—are a little less busy.) While we love the green tea Oreo and black sesame with specks of sesame seeds, this is the kind of place where you should try new flavors every time you visit.
photo credit: MG Giugliano
There are cut-out hearts hanging from the awning above L’Albero dei Gelati, with words like “All Natural” and “No Artificial Flavors” painted on them. Naturally, Park Slope parents flock to this spot, but it’s also serving some of the best gelato in the city. On a sticky summer night you might have to stand in line behind a PTA president and a child who’s smarter than you, but the PTA gossip is hot, and the tall cone of gianduia and stracciatella at the other end will be better than whatever you had for dinner.
We don’t hand out awards for ice cream names, but if we did, Sugar Hill Creamery would probably receive some sort of recognition for flavors like Buggin’ Out, a malted vanilla ice cream with chocolate-covered Rice Krispies and raspberry coulis that is exactly what you want all over your face on a warm day in Harlem. Or you might prefer this neighborhood kid magnet’s peach cobbler, blueberry cheesecake, or strawberry with basil and lemon curd ice creams. Flavors change depending on the season, so check their website to see what’s available.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
There’s something about a hot pastry-type thing paired with cold ice cream that gives us an instant hit of serotonin, which is why we love Taiyaki. There are a few locations around the city, but the one in Chinatown is our favorite. You can either build your own combination or get a signature taiyaki, like “Straight Outta Japan”, which comes with a matcha-hojicha soft serve twist, served in a red bean taiyaki cone and garnished with rainbow mochi and a wafer cookie.
This popular spot on the LES has some of the most unique gelato flavors in the city, and we’ve yet to try one we haven't liked. Sure, you can get a really good basic hazelnut or dark chocolate here, but we highly recommend branching out. Anything that leans a little savory (cheddar cheese, beet) or spicy (pink peppercorn, tarragon) is a good bet.
This spot originally gained popularity as a destination for highly creative ice cream flavors, and that’s still what they do best. It would be a waste to wait in line for their classic varieties, which are good but not exceptional. Instead, come to Morgenstern’s if the idea of raspberry black sesame or cardamom lemon jam ice cream sounds up your alley.
photo credit: Kate Previte
If we excelled at life, we’d always have multiple pints of Malai ice cream in our freezers. A little after-dinner scoop of rose with cinnamon roasted almonds, or red chili chocolate? Let me get that for you. We haven't quite gotten there yet, but Malai’s flagship location in Carroll Gardens has an impressive pint selection for whenever we do. In the meantime, you’ll find us in this millennial pink space after eating out on Smith Street, with a cone of that rose and red chili chocolate, and maybe the masala chai too.
photo credit: Kate Previte
We always appreciate a good ice cream pun, even if it is a little overused, and we’d visit Sundaes Best in Koreatown on Sunday, or any other day, for their incredibly creamy gelato. The pink decor and neon “Love at first scoop” sign feel a little familiar, but the gelatos and sorbets, piled up in smooth, colorful waves, are delightfully inventive. You’ll find buttery gelatos in rotating flavors like miso caramel, injeolmi, and a slightly boozy makgeolli—as well as fruity sorbets in flavors like white peach and Jeju mandarin. There are mochi doughnuts too, as cute and tempting as baby teething rings.
photo credit: Willa Moore
There’s probably better ice cream in the city, but this is one of our top spots for sundaes. Once you’ve decided between the regular sundae (two scoops with two toppings) and the banana boat (three scoops with three toppings), the real work starts. You'll have to choose between 28 different toppings, and flavors that range from cookie dough and chocolate peanut butter, to black sesame and Thai iced tea. There's not a lot of seating inside, so take your sundae to an outdoor table or walk over to a bench outside St. Mark's church.
photo credit: Kenny Yang
The beachy, hot pink decor at this spot in Mott Haven is an instant mood-lifter, and so is the gelato they have on offer. You can get basic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and peanut butter, but they also have more interesting varieties like malabi and amarena. Sorbets and vegan flavors are also available, and if you order a scoop in a cup, they still stick a cone in there. Every place should do this.
A New York Post article from 1999 hangs in the window at Cones in the West Village, and we have a feeling nothing has changed about this place since then. The 32 different flavors might feel overwhelming, but think of it as a dying art that you can’t take for granted, like hailing a yellow taxi cab, or long menus at diners. You can’t really go wrong, but we like the mint chocolate chip, and once had a pleasant corn flavor. The homemade hot fudge is a very good idea, but we probably didn’t actually have to tell you that.