Ice cream equals self care if you’re living your life correctly, and New York City is one of the best places to spoil yourself. I’m always grateful for the breadth and depth of choices I have when visiting from California — it may have contributed to the second home feeling I have when I’m out there. Here are some pretty cool places to go in those frequent life moments when only ice cream will make it better.
Ample Hills Creamery
There are multiple locations of Ample Hills Creamery (and some are seasonal), but I love the Gowanus location in Brooklyn on Nevins Street, which boasts a scenic outdoor eating area upstairs. Here you can choose to go either straitlaced or wild with both your flavors and your cones; there are waffle cones, pretzel cones and even cones that are studded with chocolate chips or miniature M&Ms. The parlor itself has a charming retro feel even though it’s only been open for a couple of years. It’s the type of place where ice cream can be the big event it is supposed to be. The name is pretty cheeky but it’s really a more-than-suitable place for all ages.
Big Gay Ice Cream
The proprietors of Big Gay Ice Cream have teased California with some guest cameos (often with my homies at San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe) and I hope that one day they will set up permanent shop on the West Coast. It’s been great to see them thrive in NYC; there are two locations in the East and West Village, a Shake Society in the Meatpacking District and now a young Philadelphia outpost. I’m an old school Golden Girls fan so my go-to there is usually a Bea Arthur, a soft serve cone with vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche and vanilla wafers. Soft serve melts quickly, therefore making the calories magically disappear. Proud o' you, Big Gay Ice Cream. Thank you for being a friend.
Mikey Likes It Ice Cream
Billed as the “world’s first pop culture inspired premium ice cream brand,” Mikey Likes It is a tiny but mighty East Village shop where flavors and frozen treats are named after icons like Pink Floyd, Foxy Brown and Milli Vanilli. More importantly, there’s no skimping on the full fat flavor, though you can go “Nice & Smooth” with one of their coconut water, soy milk or almond milk shakes and lighten it up. This place flies under the radar but is worth checking out. I gotta meet Mikey some day.
Okay, Morgenstern’s on the Lower East Side is more than a little precious to me. There’s a whole apothecary-type feel to the parlor that made me give it a side hard-eye when I first walked in the door. But I really can’t hate on the topping game here: Rather than soggy inclusions, your flavors often include toppings that are added to order. There was one time that I ordered Fernet ice cream (because I’m from San Francisco) and that wasn’t a good idea at all, but this is a place to have fun and try something new. Don’t let the hipster vibe put you off.
Located in both Williamsburg and the East Village, a typical flavor lineup at OddFellows might include a seasonal sorbet like butternut squash, a meaty ice cream like Canadian bacon and maple, and an international homage like an Indian saffron and cardamom kulfi. The place has a lighthearted feel but the flavors are definitely serious. It’s a go-to for me when I want to pick up something unusual to bring to someone’s house for dinner.
I write stories and books for myself and other people (shh!), and have nearly a quarter century of bylines in publications ranging from Associated Press to Zagat.