Summer is… different this 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 right now, 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 summer day with the smell of sun-dried dairy trapped inside your mouth and nose.
And if you want to know about the best new soft serve options around the city, we have a guide for that too.
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).
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.
This summer, Fieldtrip in Harlem has 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.
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.
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. Currently, 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.
Hunky Dory in Crown Heights recently started offering chocolate mint swirl soft serve, with mint that was grown in a local garden. They even have homemade sprinkles and meringue toppings, and 50 cents of every ice cream purchase goes to the Crown Heights community garden (Imani Garden) where the mint is from.
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 recently launched a new to-go window called “Summer Stand” that’s open from Thursday to Sunday between 4 and 8:30pm. You can stop by their spot on 22nd Street between 5th and 6th for soft serve, trays of fried chicken, and frosé. They have five outdoor 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).
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.
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.
The soft serve at Orchard Grocer on the LES is all cashew based, and made by Modern Love, (a vegan restaurant in Williamsburg). This summer, they’re serving vanilla, strawberry, and twist - but we particularly like the strawberry vanilla twist. This is the best vegan soft serve in the city.