Restaurants Are Upping Their Soft Serve Ice Cream Game in NYC

Quit chasing ice cream trucks.

Kimika
Kimika | Photo by Evan Sung
Kimika | Photo by Evan Sung

When a summertime hankering for a soft serve cone hits, your first instinct may be to perk your ears and listen for that iconic jingle. But beyond a perfect chocolate-and-vanilla twist with rainbow sprinkles from local ice cream trucks roaming our streets, NYC has way more to offer in the realm of soft serve.

And while places like Milk Bar and Big Gay Ice Cream have garnered nationwide soft serve followings, we aren’t talking about them either. Actually, the best soft serve ice cream in town can be found at some of the city’s top restaurants and bakeries. These spots boldly explore what can be done with this simple medium, dressing up basic twists with olive oil and flaky sea salt in addition to offering flavors like sweet seasonal melon and savory butter croissant. So quit chasing ice cream trucks and ditch the plain chocolate and vanilla—or try an upgraded gelato version instead—for these 15 restaurants and bakeries around NYC with creative summer soft serve.

Shukette
Photo by Kyle Nunez

Shukette

Chelsea

From the team behind Mediterranean favorite Shuka, this energetic offshoot has all the dips, charcoal grilled meat, and pita one would expect. In a section playfully called “the mic drop,” the restaurant’s lone dessert is oat milk soft serve. The dessert stays true to the rest of Shukette’s flavor profiles and comes in a tahini flavor topped with halva floss, hazelnuts, and in-season sour cherries.

Available for Reservations

Known for colossal fried chicken sandwiches and breakfast offerings piled high with hash browns and plenty of melty cheese, this counter spot’s motto is basically go big or go home. There are plenty of ways to go all out for dessert—including an M&M blondie milkshake and ice cream tacos—but keep it relatively simple with an order of this spot’s soft serve. The ice cream flavors include vanilla with some specials mixed in occasionally, but toppings and cones get the Comfortland treatment with options like cookies and cream hard shell, cinnamon sugar croutons, lucky charms clusters, and Oreo cookie cones.
How to order: Walk up and order

Cote

Flatiron District

At this upscale restaurant where Korean barbecue meets a swanky steakhouse, soft serve is the only dessert on the menu. At Cote, order the Butcher’s Feast—a pre-fixe option that comes with a few appetizers, ban chan, and four selected cuts of USDA Prime and American wagyu beef for $58 per person—and the meal will be finished off with a cup of vanilla soft serve drizzled with soy sauce caramel.

Hunky Dory

Crown Heights

This all-day cafe and bar may be known for casual breakfasts, perfect bar snacks, and cocktails by former bartender now restaurateur Claire Sprouse, but the star of the summer is Hunky Dory’s soft serve sorbet. This dairy-free option comes in a piña colada flavor and can be enjoyed alongside one of the spot’s signature cocktails, but boozing it up with an ice-cold shooter of Wray & Nephew overproof rum poured on top is highly encouraged.

Available for Reservations
Kimika
Photo by Evan Sung

Kimika

Nolita

Pastry chef Clarice Lam has a whole slate of stellar summer desserts including a layered tiramisu with espresso jelly, genmaicha cream, chocolate ladyfingers, candied hazelnuts, and cocoa kinako. But the soft serve at Kimika is a true standout. For brunch, the restaurant offers a vegan banana soft serve with coconut-goji berry granola, rhubarb-acai syrup, and chocolate chunks. On the dinner menu, the soft serve flavor is inspired by Yakult, a sweetened probiotic drink that’s wildly popular across Asia, and comes swirled with roasted strawberries, crispy chicken skin streusel, and strawberry pocky pearls on top.

Available for Reservations
Lilia
Photo by Evan Sung

Lilia

Williamsburg

While most know Lilia for its handmade pasta, wood-fired seafood, and highly sought after reservations, some may not know that it’s easier than one may think to get in the door. That’s because Lilia’s daytime cafe is open daily with coffee, pastries, and sandwiches in the morning making way for cocktails, antipasti, and soft serve gelato from midday into the evening. Dessert options like The Italian Job feature ingredients from the restaurant like olive oil, flaky sea salt, fennel pollen, and honey atop vanilla gelato, or keep it simple with vanilla and chocolate twist.

Available for Reservations

Pop into this Brooklyn-favorite slice shop for affordable wedges of margherita and pepperoni pizza. But after enjoying a slice streetside, head back in for some soft serve. L'industrie expanded earlier this year, making just enough room for a soft serve ice cream machine to churn out flavors like olive oil and pistachio gelato or lemon sorbet that can be finished with flaky sea salt or a drizzle of olive oil.
How to order: Walk in

Leo

Williamsburg

This hip sourdough pizza and natural wine joint is a perfect, laid-back neighborhood spot. After indulging in naturally fermented pies, natural wines by the glass or bottle, and sides like meatballs and fresh salads, be sure to add on the soft serve. Leo’s flavors rotate regularly so you never know what you’re going to get, but many of them veer toward fresh and fruity flavors like melon sorbet, grapefruit brulee, and a PB&J-inspired twist of concord grape sorbet and caramel ice cream.

Available for Reservations

Mister Dips

Multiple locations

Nothing says summer like a smash burger griddled to crispy perfection. But a soft serve cone is practically required to complete that perfect summer meal, and luckily, both are available at Mister Dips’ two locations—one overlooking the East River at Pier 17 and another out of a retro Airstream at The William Vale hotel. Alongside burgers and waffle fries, this NoHo Hospitality group fast-casual spot has plain soft serve cones adorned with cute candy eyes and speciality cones like The Chocolate P.B.D. with dark cocoa soft serve dipped in salted peanut butter with a peanut butter cup on top; and the Buttermint Crunch which features Thin Mint custard with fudge drizzle and grasshopper cookies.
How to order: Walk in

Milu
Photo by Evan Sung

Milu

Flatiron District

From longtime Eleven Madison Park alums chef Connie Chung and partners Vincent Chao and Milan Sekulic, Milu is serving up Chinese fare that harkens back to Hong Kong cafes. The menu includes rice bowls topped with soy-roasted chicken and yunnan brisket and family style options like Mandarin duck. But don’t leave without getting dessert. The restaurant offers soft serve in two creative flavors: a creamy egg tart topped with caramelized puff pastry and milk tea topped with dark chocolate pearls.
How to order: Walk in

Orchard Grocer

Lower East Side

At this all-vegan market inspired by classic NYC delicatessens, quality, creamy ice cream may be the last thing you’d expect to find. But the vegan soft serve from Orchard Grocer has become an instant hit. The ice cream is made by Modern Love, a Williamsburg restaurant that’s a favorite among vegans, and the restaurant uses creamy cashew milk for the base. Flavors rotate but past options include vanilla, blueberry, and strawberry, and it can be served in a dish or cone.
How to order: Walk in

Pasta Louise

Park Slope

This Park Slope pasta restaurant is pitched as a “pasta cafe,” meaning there’s coffee, dried pasta, and sauces available to pick up by day and there’s no pressure to sit down for a multi-course meal at any time. But whether you sip wine and share antipasti or opt for fresh pasta and all the fixings, finish off your Pasta Louise visit with homemade soft serve. Vanilla is always available alongside a rotating daily flavor, and topping options include sprinkles (which are always free), roasted peanuts, salted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and Sicilin olive oil and sea salt.

Available for Reservations

After a pandemic-related hiatus, the soft serve is back at Seed + Mill. This kiosk in Chelsea Market became the first store dedicated to sesame products in the US when it opened in 2016, so it’s only natural that in addition to jars of tahini to take home, halva to enjoy by the slice, and cake, the shop serves tahini salted caramel soft serve. Available in a cone or a dish, the oat milk ice cream can also be topped with crumbled halva.
How to order: Walk in

Sunday In Brooklyn
Photo by Eric Medsker

Sunday In Brooklyn

Williamsburg

This laid-back brunch staple has legendary pancakes topped with hazelnut maple praline and brown butter plus plenty of egg dishes, but some may not know that Sunday in Brooklyn has a slate of soft serve that can’t be missed. There are two flavor options: matcha topped with toasted coconut and honey and dark chocolate with chocolate pearls. And, of course, there’s a Sunday sundae with matcha and chocolate twist soft serve, banana brulee, rainbow sprinkles, and a cherry on top.

Available for Reservations
Supermoon Bakehouse
Thai tea soft serve | Photo by Liz Provencher

Supermoon Bakehouse

Lower East Side

This Lower East Side bakery may be known for donuts, croissants, and the signature cruffin available in unique, ever-changing flavors, but when those options inevitably fly off the shelf (and they do), don’t miss the soft serve. Just like the other confections from this otherworldly bakery, Supermoon Bakehouse’s flavors rotate weekly, but past options have included buttered croissant, Thai tea, and raspberry lychee rose. Get there early because this summer treat is bound to sell out too.
How to order: Walk in

Liz Provencher is an associate editor at Thrillist. You can follow her on Twitter and see what she eats on Instagram.