Besides the Red Sox/Yankees rival, I don’t think New Yorkers have too many problems with Bostonites and vice versa. Okay, the baseball thing is a big deal, I get it. But judging from the number of Emack & Bolio shops around the city, I don’t think us Yanks have too many issues eating their ice cream.
Or maybe the fact that this is an ice cream chain from Boston flew under the radar until now. I sure hope I haven’t ruined it for the Emack & Bolio guys because the truth is these shops fill a much needed void in the city.
Considering ice cream is a family and kiddie treat, you’d be surprised at how few parlors in the city actually cater to the little ones. I mean, I don’t think I’ve seen one cartoon cow mascot. New Yorkers are so busy with our organic, natural ice cream or our innovative flavors such as Bacon or Purple Potato that I think combinations called Chocolate Moose and Grasshopper Pie have been long overdue.
As soon as I walked in to Emack & Bolio’s Soho location on Houston Street, I got very nostalgic. I had memories of my grandmother taking me to Baskin Robbin’s and of studying the case of ice cream cakes and looking at all the funky colors and cool flavors and oftentimes the funky colored flavors. I never did get those Superman and Smurf flavors. I mean, really, and you thought Bacon was a weird ice cream flavor!?!
Emack & Bolio’s brings back that sense of childhood wonder and as I spent just about ten minutes in the store, a number of children were chaperoned in and I could tell it was the highlight of their entire day. And why wouldn’t it be when they offer chocolate dipped cones studded with any candy combination you can imagine?
But these stores (there are three in NYC) aren’t just for the kids. They’re also dressed up as if in a hippie jungle (or at least in a Vermont college town). There’s definitely something in here that smells like Ben & Jerry’s – maybe it’s all the psychedelic menu colors or their pledge to use only the finest, freshest, quality ingredients. So it seems like a hip liberal parent could feel just as much at home here as their easy-to-please offspring. But to be honest, it did feel like maybe they were trying just a tad too hard to appeal to everybody.
Everywhere I turned there was something else being offered – ice cream cakes, fruit smoothies, T-shirts, fresh squeezed lemonade, handmade chocolates, fresh coffee, speciality sodas. I got a brain freeze just by looking.
So when I finally oriented myself to check out their menu, I have to admit it was rather difficult to concentrate. And almost all the flavor names required a translation. I started with the Killer Hash, which was a very chocolately ice cream with peanut brittle and marshmallow. The Grasshopper Pie was available as both an ice cream and a low fat yogurt. It was creme de menthe ice cream with Oreo pieces and chocolate chips. The mint was certainly from an extract but not as mentholy as I had expected.
Now normally I get a small with two flavors so I can taste as much as possible. But Emack & Bolio’s only allows one flavor. I could understand if it’s a small scoop, but the kid kept loading on the ice cream so I was a bit perturbed I had only the one flavor to work with.
It was a bright black raspberry ice cream with dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and blueberries. Sounded awesome. And it was pretty good. No escaping the full-fat premium mouthfeel of this stuff and it was definitely on the sweet side.
But I liked the use of both types of chocolate chips – the bitter dark chocolate helped mute the sweetness just a bit. The blueberries were not fresh fruit, but rather blueberry candies of some sort, and the ice cream itself was dense and thick, but still creamy. Reminiscent of the stuff we would buy at stores or at chain ice cream parlors when I was little. Which makes sense because Emack & Bolio’s has already made its mark in five states.
And just like the theme of these shops, the ice cream had a lot going on. All in all, I liked the cone and it brought back sweet memories (and cavity concerns) of being a child. And Emack & Bolio’s is surprisingly one of the few shops in the city that has been able to pull that off. So what if the shops are a little cluttered and unfocused? So what if the ice cream tends to be a little sweet? And so what if this all started in the home of the Red Sox? Can’t we all just get along and eat ice cream???
Is Emack & Bolio’s the best ice cream in NY? It’s both a little too corporate and sporadic for me, but any shop that can bring back childhood feelings by selling fresh tasty ice cream has to get a 7 out of 10 in my book.
|EMACK & BOLIO’S|
|73 West Houston Street (between Wooster and West Broadway)
|389 Amsterdam Avenue (between West 78th and West 79th Street)
Upper West Side
|1564 First Avenue (between 81st and 82nd Street)
Upper East Side