My ice cream journey left me a bit saddened. I think the truth is that there’s no really great ice cream in this city. New York has a huge ice cream history, but today, we get overshadowed by ice cream-heavy states like Vermont, Wisconsin, even Ohio.
Many of the ice cream shops in the city don’t actually make their own product – they hire a dairy farm upstate or in New Jersey to do it for them. Sure, it’s homemade, but it’s not homemade at home if you know what I mean. Many restaurants, of course, make their own ice cream but I had to limit this search to shops and trucks that specialize in frozen dairy treats. Otherwise, it would take years and years to taste all the possible ice cream in restaurants across the city.
I imagine most would agree with me when I say that purity of flavor and smoothness of texture are the most important factors in determining the best ice cream anywhere. Unfortunately, I tasted some granulated and icy cones, some that were a bit gummy and chewy, and others that reeked of artifical flavors.
Perhaps the most exciting were the ones that re-invented the summer staple by doing things like adding creative toppings (Big Gay Ice Cream), making totally fresh new flavors (Guerilla Ice Cream), or bringing ice cream back to its roots – whether that means from Italy (Grom) or from Asia (Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory).
And while I really liked the ice cream at places like Screme and Sundaes & Cones, I think it comes down to two when talking about the best. And both have rather different takes on gelato: Il Laboratorio del Gelato and Cones.
Il Laboratorio has had a strong hold on the market for restaurant ice cream for a while now, but they also offer customers tastes of their inventive flavors (like basil and pink peppercorn tarragon) in the Lower East Side. Their ice cream is probably the most intensely flavored of all I’ve tried in New York. Cones comes from two Argentinian brothers and features interesting flavors (like corn and maté tea), along with classic ice cream shop options – not to mention seasonal fruit sorbets.
Both spots showcase delicious creamy textures and authentic rich flavors – through old time favorites and creative new concoctions. And what’s even more exciting and iconically New York, they both make their own ice cream right on premises. Limited spacing be damned!