2020, obviously, had its own plans for the year. But at least two things are the same: soft serve is still delicious and your human body still requests a nice, drippy cone every once in a while (read: bi-weekly?).
These spots are the best in the city. They’re serving the type of pure, unadulterated dairy that should make Mister Softee trucks turn off their stupid music and drive in reverse. They’re all open for takeout, so all you need to do is choose which one to visit first and try not to get ice cream on your mask. Don’t ruin your day with the smell of sun-dried dairy trapped inside your mouth and nose.
Soft Swerve Ice Cream
The flavors at Soft Swerve are ube, black sesame, frozen hot chocolate, and matcha. They also have a bunch of different toppings like mochi and Cap’n Crunch. We really like the ube flavor - it’s slightly nutty. Both of their LES and Kips Bay locations are open (and the Kips Bay spot has a HK Milk Tea flavor available).
Emack and Bolio’s belongs on any list of the best ice cream in the city, regardless of hard-serve or soft serve. This Uptown institution can do most of their hard flavors in soft serve form. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can get your soft serve in a waffle cone covered in things like rice crispy treats or Oreos. P.S.A - there are locations on the UWS and UES, as well as in Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene (but the UWS and Fort Greene don’t have any soft serve).
Ice Cream House
This Kosher ice cream spot in Midwood has chocolate, vanilla, and swirl soft serve available in both dairy and non-dairy varieties. They also serve affogatos, sundaes, and ice cream with Razzles on top. If you’re closer to Flatbush or Williamsburg, Ice Cream House also has locations there.
Astoria is full of gelato and Italian ice, but there’s pretty much no place to get soft serve. Now you can go to Cream, a soft serve spot that opened on 30th Avenue in the beginning of summer 2020. Cream is only open Friday through Sunday from 4pm to 11pm. They have eight different flavors (including dulce de leche, banana, and pistachio), as well as the option for chocolate or cherry dip.
Over the summer, the team behind Wayla opened up a new restaurant in the bottom of a hotel in Nolita with a similarly cool atmosphere and similarly stunning cocktails. But unlike Wayla’s Thai dishes, Kimika serves a menu of Japanese and Italian-inspired food like rice cake lasagna and flaky, wonton-like pizzettes covered in onion jam and prosciutto. Kimika’s soft serve is topped with fried chicken skin, gooey strawberries, and tiny strawberry yogurt balls. It’s not gimmicky - it’s delicious.
Ray’s Candy Store offers soft serve support 24/7. A statement that, when said among the right company, may be enough to make a grown-ass person cry in 2020. 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. We recommend sticking with chocolate, vanilla, or swirl.
This is Leo’s first year wielding soft serve, and you should be just excited about it as we are. Their flavor rotates every week, like concord grape sorbet and caramel ice cream. While you’re here for soft serve, grab a slice of their sourdough pizza to-go - our favorite is the square one with potatoes and provola cheese.
Surreal Creamery isn’t just fun to say, it’s also fun to go to. This relatively new ice cream spot off of 2nd Avenue in Murray Hill makes elaborate soft serve that could have only been conceived with the help of some highly potent weed. For example, there’s a cookies and cream flavor the exact shade of Cookie Monster, as well as toppings like Lucky Charms and Teddy Grahams. You can also get your soft serve in a cup full of bubble tea or a sundae in a mason jar.
Fieldtrip in Harlem offers a rice milk hibiscus raspberry swirl soft serve. If the combination of those nouns isn’t enough to get your mind racing, then we unfortunately do not relate to you as a person. They’ll even bring it to your apartment (although that arguably takes some of the joy out of eating it in the sunshine). You can place your takeout or delivery order ahead of time online, or stop by their window on Lenox Avenue.
With the help of Morgenstern’s, this ramen spot on Clinton Street recently started selling ice cream sundaes. Their flavors come in the sweet cream or black sesame variety, with your choice of toppings like matcha pound cake, miso caramel, mochi, and more. An extra perk of eating at Ivan Ramen is that they have a backyard that’s hidden away from the street. Make an outdoor dining reservation or stop by for to-go soft serve.
The main reason you go to Rippers on Rockaway Beach is for the burger. But, while you’re there, you might as well get some soft serve. Also, Rippers has outdoor seating: it’s called the beach.
In addition to serving a menu of rotating vegetarian dishes, this restaurant on the Lower East Side now makes vegan soft serve from oat milk. It comes in either chocolate or vanilla, with options for toppings like tahini cookie crumble, fresh peach compote, and hot fudge. They claim to be the only place in the city making soft serve using Oatly. Whether or not that’s true, you can order some every day from noon to 9pm on Tuesday to Sunday for takeout or outdoor dining.
Uncle Louie G's
Uncle Louie G is a chain with a bunch of locations throughout Brooklyn and Staten Island. They mostly focus on Italian ice (the lemon is our favorite), and their soft serve options are just vanilla, chocolate, and swirl. So this is a good spot when everyone wants something cold and sweet, but not everyone necessarily wants ice cream. Note that not every location has soft serve - but the Bay Ridge on 3rd Avenue location definitely does.
Patisserie Chanson is a French bakery in Flatiron with a few rotating flavors of very good, very fancy soft serve. They have a black sesame kouign amann with yogurt pop rocks (in the past we’ve seen pistachio, and a strawberry one topped with basil, rhubarb, and sweet pieces of bread). There isn’t much signage or advertisement that they have soft serve, so you just have to ask.
The best option near Coney Island is right on the boardwalk at Paul’s Daughter. Get chocolate and vanilla swirl in a cone and wash off in the water after a quarter of it melts all over your hands.
Cote Korean Steakhouse has a to-go window where you can get soft serve, trays of fried chicken, and cocktails. They have outdoor tables tables set up by the window where you can hang out with your ice cream and fried chicken (along with anything else from their general takeout menu), as well as indoor dining available.
This Swedish candy store on the LES typically has chocolate and vanilla soft serve available. They’re open every day from 10am to midnight, so keep this in mind when you’re on the Lower East Side late at night and you’d like a dollop of cold sugar.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.
The Oddfellows in Dumbo has great views of the Brooklyn Bridge, beer, wine, and cider - and a rotating menu of soft serve like chocolate mint swirl (in addition to hard ice cream). They get soft serve shipments incrementally, so call ahead if you know you’ll have a temper tantrum if they don’t happen to have it the day you go.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
The soft serve at Orchard Grocer on the LES is all cashew based, and made by Modern Love, (a vegan restaurant in Williamsburg). This year, they’re serving vanilla, strawberry, and twist - but we particularly like the strawberry vanilla twist.