In mid-summer when the sidewalk starts broiling, wise New Yorkers grab an ice cream, make their way to the nearest grassy knoll and transport themselves away from the metropolis for a few magical moments. To where exactly you’ll be imaginarily transported can depend on your choice of ice cream; New York, of course, isn’t short on options. The culturally diverse city offers equally assorted dessert options and in NYC, even ice cream can become international-grade haute cuisine. This top five list of ice cream vendors demonstrates the high-quality, multicultural ice cream experiences New York City has to offer, comprising some of the best ice cream restaurants in the United States today.
If you’re an indecisive foodie, the menu at Il Laboratorio del Gelato in Lower Manhattan may well give you palpitations. This ice cream shop’s small scale belies its overwhelming 200-flavor menu which offers a choice sample of 16 different recipes daily. The "gelato lab" is truly an experiment in the boundaries of ice cream flavors. Their perfectly hand-crafted, sweet ice cream comes in frankly wacky flavors: In the "how does that taste good?!" category there’s Prune Armagnac, Wasabi and even Tarragon Pink Pepper. But taste good they do, thanks to the inexplicable alchemy of gelato guru Jon Snyder.
Strong Asian flavors tempered by sweet ice cream have earned the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory its reputation as one of the best ice cream restaurants in the United States. Visitors can be any kind of ice cream fan to enjoy the creamy desserts on offer here, though. The tiny "unofficial landmark" of Chinatown has everything from specific Chinese flavors to traditional to bizarre. Ginger and green tea, strawberry and rocky road, rainbow cookie and chocolate bacon, the enormous and often off the wall menu at this revered family run ice cream joint simply can’t fail to impress. The ice cream here has a particularly refreshing hit, with a bit more ice and slightly less cream than the traditional American soft serve.
In Manhattan’s East Village the pleasantly retro Sundaes and Cones looks, feels and taste like traditionally good ice cream. All the homemade staple flavors are done well but a few original wild cards make this ice cream joint stand out from the crowd. Watermelon Sherbet, Corn and Honeydew Sorbet are just some intriguing highlights. The restaurant moved from its native Brooklyn to Manhattan in the mid 2000s, and has since diversified to include some low-fat, sugar-free options for the calorie conscious.
Salty Pimps, anyone? The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck began providing weird and wonderful flavor combinations to New Yorkers in 2009, and its popularity exploded so quickly that the team have established a brick-and-mortar location in the West Village of Manhattan to meet demand. What makes this rainbow-and-unicorn-adorned ice cream joint so unfailingly popular? Aside from the cheerful branding, the flavor combinations boast both names and concepts to rival mainstream favorite Ben and Jerry’s. The "Cocone", a cone of vanilla ice cream with toasted curried coconut, is one of the tamer menu highlights but the establishment has become known for its "Salty Pimp": a seductive cone of vanilla, dulce de leche and sea salt dipped in chocolate.
The words fresh, fun and organic encapsulate the ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery. The menu reads like a Kindergarten student’s wildest creation, and you’ll probably feel just like a kid in a candy store when you’re there. Cotton Candy, Marshmallow and Rice Krispies, and Coconut Fudge are just a few of the lively flavors that’ll blow your mind and taste buds. The colorful delights may look too good to be true, but you’ll be reassured to know that Ample Hills prides itself on using all-natural ingredients. The "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Sundae" – a signature cake topped with hot fudge, caramel and gooey walnuts – is, as the name suggests, alone worth the trip to Brooklyn.