The Best Ice Cream In NYC
For a scoop of something cold, here’s where to go.
There's a lot of ice cream in New York City, from local spots-gone-megachain like Van Leeuwen and Ample Hills to over-the-top soft serve spots and little scoop shops that make a perfect vanilla. In our quest to find the best ice cream in NYC, we went from Sheepshead Bay to Yonkers, touring all five boroughs and even that fabled "lost borough" in search of all the frozen dairy you need to know about.
Amai Bā makes their ice cream on site, with flawless texture and flavors that pack some serious punch. We haven’t been able to stop thinking about the Monkey Business (banana and chocolate swirl with crushed macadamia nuts) and Matcha Chip since the first time we had them. Even the vanilla is better than most vanilla ice creams, with impressive depth of flavor and a creaminess that plays particularly well with espresso in the form of an affogato.
Caffe Panna became an instant NYC classic for a reason. The quality of their ingredients (like whipped cream made from imported Italian cream and fresh fruit from the Greenmarket in Union Square) and the range of flavors make this place stick out from any standard ice cream shop. There are almost no simple options here, so expect to walk away holding an accessorized cup of pistachio fig affogato or an almond Oreo sundae that’s loosely based on Italian tri-color cookies.
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It's actually kind of hard to find old-school soft serve in New York City, and that's why Marvel Frozen Dairy feels extra special. They have a several machines running at any given time, so you'll always have four classic flavors (two fro-yo and two vegan soft serve). We've tried them all, and all of them are good. In fact, we think this is some of the best vegan ice cream in NYC. They also have pre-dipped cones, flying saucers, and homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches edged in teeny tiny chocolate chips.
We only recently learned that Eddie’s Sweet Shop is the oldest ice cream parlor in New York City—but, in retrospect, this makes sense. With its chandeliers, vintage wallpaper, and pharmacy-like candy counter, this place looks as though it hasn’t changed in the past 90 years. In the 1950s, people probably came here and thought, “How quaint.” More importantly, this Forest Hills spot serves big scoops of dense, classic ice cream flavors. Their 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.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Like all of the most respected 42-year-olds you know, the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory has used its years to fine tune itself. Now there are three locations (Chinatown, Lower East Side, and Flushing), all serving flavors like Chinese egg custard, red bean, and coconut fudge. While we love green tea Oreo and black sesame that comes with specks of sesame seeds, this is the kind of place where you should try new flavors every time you visit.
Known for their over-the-top seasonal dipped cones, this Airstream trailer perched atop the William Vale hotel isn’t just an Instagram trap—it’s actually reliably great. The ice cream flavors change often, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their social media pages to see what’s new. They also make some very thick and delicious milkshakes, as well as smashburgers, fries, and chicken tenders.
We don’t hand out awards for ice cream names, but if we did, Sugar Hill Creamery’s A$AP Rocky Road would probably receive some sort of recognition. It’s stuffed with hazelnuts, marshmallows, brownies, and graham crackers, and it’s exactly what you want all over your face on a warm day in Harlem. Or, if you prefer, you can also get some peach cobbler, blueberry cheesecake, or strawberry ice cream with basil and lemon curds. 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 get a signature taiyaki or build your own. We’re big fans of the “Straight Outta Japan” combo, which comes with a matcha/hojicha soft serve twist served in a red bean taiyaki cone 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 didn’t like. Sure, you can get a really good basic stracciatella or dark chocolate situation 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 little scoop shop in Yonkers is on par with the biggest players in the NYC ice cream scene. The menu is extensive, with everything from regional favorites like Grape Nut (IYKYK) to a lemon blueberry cake flavor we haven’t been able to stop thinking about. They also make really great homemade banana pudding, if for some reason you don’t want your dessert frozen.
If you’re into brown sugar boba, then you already know about Xin Fu Tang, which makes, without question, the best and freshest boba of this style in New York. But if you only get drinks here, you’ll miss out on the actual best menu item: the brown sugar boba soft serve. It’s so good, we’ve been known to finish one, then turn around and immediately go back for another.
Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
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 salted egg yolk pineapple or cardamom lemon jam ice cream sounds up your alley.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Supermoon is known for their technically flawless, Instagram-famous viennoiserie, but their soft serve should not be overlooked. We get very excited whenever they have their signature croissant butter flavor on tap, since it literally tastes like a creamy frozen croissant. The flavors rotate often, and availability can be limited, so check their Instagram for the most up to date menu.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Ray's Candy Store
Ray’s Candy Store offers soft serve support all year round. A statement that, when said among the right company, might be enough to make a grown-ass person cry. This classic, cash-only spot off Tompkins Square Park has walls covered with newspaper articles and pictures of all the different things you can order—from ice cream served in a coffee cup to fried Oreos. Ray himself, who’s owned the place since the 1970s, will likely be there when you stop by, so make sure to wave hello.
photo credit: Carina Finn
Carvel Ice Cream
There are 15 Carvel locations in Brooklyn, but the one on Coney Island Avenue is an experience unto itself. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be struck by the old-timey facade and colorful Fudgie the Whale mural that add to the feeling that this is a local soft-serve shack rather than a franchise. They usually have at least six flavors to choose from at any given time, but pistachio is always on tap. It's usually available as a twist with cold brew, which is arguably the most compelling reason to make the trip out to this particular location. They’ll also dip and top your cone exactly how you like it, every time. The line can be long here, especially in the summer, but even hanging in the parking lot waiting to hear your number called is part of the charm.
photo credit: Kenny Yang
This Greenwich Village spot serves soft serve sundaes in mason jars, with options like their Nom Nom Cookie with blue cookies and cream ice cream, marshmallow puffs, and chocolate syrup. But the “floateas” (soft serve on top of bubble tea) are why you come here. Take a few sips of tea, then have a bite of the ice cream swirled on top. Wait until the two layers begin to coalesce, and you basically have a bubble tea milkshake. It’s a beautiful thing.