Where to Get the Best Ice Cream in NYC

Pile on the extra scoop, you deserve it.

Rose ice cream with cinnamon roasted almonds | Photo courtesy of Malai
Rose ice cream with cinnamon roasted almonds | Photo courtesy of Malai

With ice cream truck jingles audible from most of our street-facing apartments, New Yorkers are indoctrinated to love ice cream even while flopped out on our sofas. And that’s why it’s no surprise that the ice cream options here are endless, from treats at our corner bodegas to local collabs like the recent Kraft Macaroni & Cheese flavor dividing the Internet.

With National Ice Cream Day on July 18, it’s time to celebrate the summer season with a scoop or two (or three) at some of the best ice cream spots across the city. From nostalgic places offering old-school Americana classics, to vegan options and unique flavors at long established shops that are essential to the local ice cream scene, here’s our list of where to get the best ice cream in NYC.

Ample Hills Creamery

Various locations

Founded in 2011, this local favorite makes their ice cream in a 15,000-square-foot factory in Red Hook and has nine scoop shops across the city. Their best selling flavor is the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake made with vanilla ice cream and butter cake that’s created in-house from scratch (similar to all mix-ins in each flavor). At Ample Hills Creamery, other signature flavors include PB Wins the Cup (with homemade peanut butter), and Corn to Run (with crunchy cornmeal crumble and tangy blueberry swirls).

Big Gay Ice Cream

Various locations

After starting as an ice cream truck in 2009, Big Gay Ice Cream expanded to several storefronts across the city. While the East Village location permanently closed earlier this year due to the pandemic, there are still three locations (West Village, Seaport, and Upper West Side) to enjoy their signature soft serve in classic flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, and a combo twist. In addition to weekly specials and menu offerings like the Dorothy (vanilla with dulce de leche and rolled in wafer cookies) or Strawberry Shortcake (vanilla with homemade strawberry sauce, wafers, whipped cream), order up milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches as well.

When Brooklyn Farmacy first opened its doors in 2010, one of its many goals was to offer Brooklyn’s best egg cream. Not only is egg cream available in both chocolate or vanilla, but the self-proclaimed soda “jerks” behind the counter will also serve you other delights like floats, milkshakes, and specialty sundaes with potato chips or chunks of buttermilk biscuits. Stay extra cool during the summer heat with a selection of natural sodas in flavors like hibiscus, New Orleans mead, and vanilla bean cream; along with a summery take on a frose: a rosé float made with Rooftop Reds rosé and strawberry ice cream.

This iconic, family-owned shop has been scooping up homemade ice cream in Chinatown since 1978. With locations now also in the Lower East Side and Flushing, the second generation purveyors of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory have made it easier to enjoy its regular flavors like lychee, pandan, black sesame, and more, in addition to a rotation of special appearances like cherry vanilla, jelly doughnut, and banana durian.

Eddie's Sweet Shop
Eddie's Sweet Shop | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Eddie's Sweet Shop

Forest Hills

The corner location of Eddie’s Sweet Shop has been a Queens staple serving up sweet treats in Forest Hills since 1925. Made with homemade ice cream and overflowing with toppings and syrups, enjoy classics like sundaes, banana splits, and more from a quintessential New York ice cream parlor where respect for old-school traditions is the cherry on top of every dish.

Lady Moo-Moo

Bed Stuy

Made on premise in small batches and with limited quantity, Lady Moo Moo operates out of a walk-up window in Bed Stuy every April to November. Open only from Fridays to Sundays, this year marks their sixth summer season and in addition to their classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cookies and cream, and butter pecan, a rotating set of menu items include the popular Rooftop Honey made with locally-sourced Brooklyn honey. For National Ice Cream Day, the shop is bringing back their free gumball machine this weekend for the first time since the pandemic, and anyone who draws a golden gumball gets ice cream on the house.

Malai
Photo courtesy of Malai

Malai

Carroll Gardens

This ice cream shop born out of Brooklyn offers eggless scoops inspired by Southeast Asian ingredients. Founder Pooja Bavishi started Malai in 2015 with the notion that her favorite childhood spices (like rose petal and nutmeg) could be used to create these cold delights, and has since become known for signature flavors like Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds and Masala Chai. In addition to pints, ice cream cakes and party boxes are also available for nationwide shipping.

After discovering their grandfather’s ice cream recipe book, two brothers opened Max and Mina’s in 1997. Since then, the Queens spot has been serving inventive ice cream flavors that include everything from pickles to blueberry pancakes. The duo is also known to draw inspiration from different types of cereal—for both the aesthetic of their shop and the flavors of their ice cream—with some of their latest menu offerings being Cinnamon Toast Crunch Rugelach and Strawberry Cap’n Crunch Berries.

Mikey Likes It Ice Cream

Various locations

Michael “Mikey” Cole still lives two blocks away from the East Village ice cream shop he first opened in 2013. In addition to a second store in Harlem and a shop inside Gotham West Market, Mikey Likes It’s pop-culture inspired flavors are regularly available through collaborations with cultural icons like Jay-Z or at newly opened bars like Thief in Williamsburg. Signature scoops include the Ice Ice Mikey, a blend of triple vanilla; the Foxy Brown, mocha with chocolate wafer cookies and a sea salt caramel; and the Incredible Hulk, a vegan option with spinach, kale, spirulina, and sea moss.

Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

With its flagship location on Houston Street (the LES storefront remains temporarily closed), the menu at this “new American ice cream parlor” offers up to 88 flavors, with some favorites being American Egg, Burnt Sage, Chocolate Oat, Green Tea Pistachio, and Salt & Pepper Pine Nut. In addition to cold treats, Morgenstern’s also launched a special burger program earlier this summer with a lineup of specialty burgers that founder Nick Morgenstern spent two years developing. And on Friday and Saturday nights, drop by the shop for classic sundaes at their Sundae Bar.

Ray's Candy Store

East Village

The phrase “East Village institution” is often associated with Ray’s Candy Store, a 24-hour spot where beloved owner and local legend, Ray Alvarez, can most likely be found working the night shift. Since 1974, this adult version of a candy store has been a favorite stop for barhoppers looking to scarf down on both savory and sweet treats alike. For your ice cream fix, go for a sundae or some soft serve and add on an order of the popular beignets or deep-fried Twinkies and Oreos.

Sam's Fried Ice Cream

Lower East Side

At Sam’s Fried Ice Cream, toppings aren’t the only element that enhance the ice cream experience. Here you choose from different crusts—bread crumbs, Frosted Flakes, or Oreos—for your ice cream to be breaded and deep fried in, adding a crunchy and oh-so-good layer that can then be drizzled with caramel, condensed milk, honey comb, and more. The specialty dessert spot is also taking part in the Uptown Night Market in West Harlem.

Soft Swerve

Various locations

At Soft Swerve, the ice cream here is all about a dazzling signature swirl that’s especially a big hit on Instagram. Founded in 2016 by friends (and Chinatown natives) Jason Liu and Michael Tsang, the central flavors include frozen hot chocolate, black sesame, and the popular Ube Purple Yam, in addition to options like Thai tea, Vietnamese coffee, and matcha. Choose from a set of pre-selected swirl combinations available in cones or cups in addition to NYC-inspired sundae’s with names like Woodside, Broadway, and Rockefeller Center.

As longtime Harlem residents, the husband-and-wife team behind Sugar Hill Creamery opened their popular shop in 2017 to be a place for the neighborhood to grab a seat and enjoy artisanal ice cream made from scratch. In addition to offering an array of flavors like the Chairperson of the Board (blueberry cheesecake), Nunu’s Peach Cobbler (peach with cobbler crumbler), and First Day Out (corn jalapeño with hibiscus blackberry), they also regularly host community based programs throughout the year meant to empower the Black experience while facilitating connection and storytelling. A second storefront in Hamilton Heights opened last year and products are also available for nationwide shipping.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ice cream | Photo courtesy of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

Van Leeuwen

Various locations

What started as yellow ice cream trucks roaming the city back in 2008 has grown into an empire with scoop shops nationwide and 17 alone across Manhattan and Brooklyn. Best selling flavors include cookies & cream, Sicilian pistachio, earl grey tea, honeycomb, and mint chip. Vegan products made with oat or cashew milk are also available—and for anyone who was looking to try their recent (and much hyped!) Kraft Macaroni & Cheese flavor collaboration, we, too, are totally bummed that it’s currently sold out.

With up to 75% of the African American community being lactose intolerant, sisters Courtney Blagrove & Zan B.R. initially founded Whipped Urban Dessert Lab as an ice cream option for those in search of dairy-free choices. The result is a creamy and wonderful treat made solely from oat-milk and offered in menu items like Salted Pecan (coated with crushed salted pecans) and Strawberry Shortcake (coated with strawberry crumble & strawberry sauce). And if you’re looking to avoid the perpetual long lines at the Orchard Street spot, pints of the Oat Milk Ice Crème are also available for nationwide shipping.

Tae Yoon was born and raised in Queens, and is the Editor of Thrillist New York.