Taiyaki soft serve ice cream
Photograph: Courtesy Taiyaki

The best soft serve ice cream for kids in NYC

Soft serve ice cream is a taste of summer that's a treat all year long. We round up the best in New York City!

By Oliver Strand
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If you want to reward the kids, use a little soft power: Make a trip to one of the best soft serve ice cream spots in NYC when they're on their best behavior. Along with the best ice cream shops and the best milkshakes in NYC, soft serve is a warm-weather treat you can enjoy any time of the year.

Still, soft serve ice cream is exactly what you want when the mercury rises. Our list will guide you to the best in town on one of those sweltering summer days when you spend some time splashing around one of the city's best water playgrounds for kids or beaches for kids.

Soft Serve Ice Cream

Soft Serve Dominique Ansel
Soft Serve Dominique Ansel
Photograph: Courtesy Dominique Ansel Kitchen

1. Dominique Ansel Kitchen

Restaurants French West Village

Dominique Ansel's second location doesn't have Cronuts (boo!), but there is soft serve ice cream, and it's some of the best in the city. The towering watermelon soft serve peeking out from a real slice of watermelon has become an iconic image of summer. But don’t spit out the seeds: They’re high-quality handmade chocolate—the dessert hidden within the dessert!

Soft Swerve
Soft Swerve
Photograph: Courtesy Soft Swerve

2. Soft Swerve

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Lower East Side

Ube, also known as purple yam, has a sweet, custardy flavor, and it’s the basis of many East Asian desserts. Soft Swerve uses fresh purple yam to concoct a velvety ice cream that tastes a bit like white chocolate and looks like something out of science fiction. See what other unique flavors the shop has available for hungry visitors. 

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Taiyaki
Taiyaki
Photograph: Courtesy Taiyaki

3. Taiyaki

Restaurants Japanese Little Italy

Ice cream and fish might not sound like a palatable pair, but it sure works for this ice cream shop that started in Little Italy and now has locations in Chinatown, Williamsburg and Flushing. Taiyaki's distinctive fish-shaped waffle cones (taiyaki translates to “fried fish”) are filled with delicious ice cream. Try flavors like black sesame or matcha on top of red bean custard filling and underneath toppings like sprinkles, crushed Oreos and wafers. 

Mister Dips Soft Serve Burger
Mister Dips Soft Serve Burger
Photograph: Courtesy The William Vale/Noah Fecks

4. Mister Dips

Restaurants Hamburgers Greenpoint

There are so many tasty treats to be found at the Mister Dips airstream in Vale Park, the public green space up on the William Vale’s roof in Williamsburg. Go ahead and get your burgers and waffle, but be sure to save room for a round of Dairy Dips, the signature soft-serve compositions. Might we suggest the Barry Gibbs, a sweet-cream soft serve with a strawberry shell and wafer crumbles? (Psst: Be on the lookout for a Manhattan location coming soon!)

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Big Gay Ice Cream Douglas Quint
Big Gay Ice Cream Douglas Quint
Photograph: Donny Tsang

5. Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

Restaurants Ice cream parlors East Village

Believe the hype: Ice cream truckers Doug Quint and Bryan Petroff have transformed what was once a scrappy enterprise into a mini-empire with five NYC locations. Soft serve concoctions such as the Salty Pimp, a vanilla ice cream dip cone with dulce de leche and a sprinkle of sea salt, is worth the wait—and wait you will.

Mah-Ze-Dahr soft serve
Mah-Ze-Dahr soft serve
Photograph: Courtesy Mah-Ze-Dahr

6. Mah-Ze-Dahr

Restaurants Bakeries West Village

You know it's summer when Mah-Ze-Dahr rolls out the soft-serve. You could argue that pastry chef Umber Ahmad perfected soft serve recipe—toppings like candied hazelnuts or rainbow sprinkles just adds to the yum.

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Made Nice soft serve milk and honey
Made Nice soft serve milk and honey
Photograph: Evan Sung

7. Made Nice

Restaurants American Flatiron

The soft serve flavors at Made Nice change with the seasons, but Milk & Honey is always on the menu. The milk-based soft serve has a light, clean flavor that’s brightened with honey brittle, shortbread, meringue, sea salt and buckwheat honey. It’s complex—and super yummy!

milk and cream
milk and cream
Photograph: Courtesy Milk & Cream

8. Milk & Cream Cereal Bar

Restaurants Little Italy

In case you didn't know, Milk & Cream Cereal Bar has soft serve. What sets it apart? The cereal that’s mixed right into the ice cream! Our advice? Ask for extra napkins.

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soft serve ice cream
soft serve ice cream
Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + melati411

9. Chloe's Soft Serve Fruit

Restaurants Coffee shops Union Square

This vegan soft serve spot uses frozen bananas as a base—not only is it healthier than traditional frozen custard, it has all the creamy texture you want from soft serve. Pick a flavor that's swirled in to order, and you'll have a tough time believing that it's just fruit. Consider it a guilt-free pleasure.

Milk Bar
Milk Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Milk Bar

10. Milk Bar

Restaurants Cafés Prospect Heights

Christina Tosi's Milk Bar empire is built on cereal milk soft serve, and for good reason: It's delicious. Milk Bar now has locations all over the city, which means you're never more than a few minutes away from a perfect soft-serve treat. 

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11. Culture: An American Yogurt Company

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Park Slope

If you haven’t thought about fro-yo since the Pinkberry craze died down, this Park Slope outfit will get you back on the bandwagon in a hurry. Its superlative version starts with tangy house-made yogurt, produced on-site by combining antibiotic- and hormone-free local milk with a proprietary yogurt culture. It’s sweetened and frozen to create three rotating soft-serve flavors; order them straight up or in delicious sundaes like the Key Lime Pie, which deploys tart lime custard and crumbled graham crackers.

summer 2016
summer 2016
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Mister Softee

Doo-doo-doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo can only mean one thing: It's hot out, and a Mister Softee has strategically parked where you and the kids can't avoid it. If the Mister Softee jingle is the sound of summer, the dip cone is a taste of NYC.

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new york ice cream
new york ice cream
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. New York Ice Cream

Yankees vs Mets, Central Park West vs Fifth Ave—add New York Ice Cream vs Mister Softee to the pantheon of NYC rivalries. For years, Mister Softee was the undisputed ice cream king of the city's streets, but upstart New York Ice Cream's purple-themed trucks are an increasingly common sight. Why the bad blood? Originally, New York Ice Cream was called Master Softee—probably just a coincidence.

dairy queen soft serve
dairy queen soft serve
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Dairy Queen

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Greenwich Village

At its first Manhattan outpost, the fast-food chain offers its trademark Dilly bars, GrillBurgers and justifably famous Blizzards, including an exclusive Big Apple version made with apple pie chunks.

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15. Besfren

This cafe close to the Empire State Building claims that a visit is like "hopping into a pastry fairy tale," and with flavors like matcha and taro, we're bound to agree.

More fun for kids

cowgirl_burgers_pair_wagtouicz_02.jpg
cowgirl_burgers_pair_wagtouicz_02.jpg
Paul Wagtouicz

Hamburgers

Restaurants Soul and southern American West Village
Hamburgers
By Michelle Wakefield (Cowgirl)

Cowgirl, 519 Hudson St at W 10th St
(212-633-1133, cowgirlnyc.com)

For the kids:
Burger ingredients:

4oz Pat LaFrieda Angus ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 slice cheddar cheese
1 sesame-seed bun
Frozen French fries or Tater-Tots, prepared as directed

Directions:
For the burger:

Heat grill pan or outdoor grill on high. Season ground beef with salt and pepper, and form into a patty. Lightly oil grill grate, and cook the patty for four minutes. Flip the patty, and cook for three more minutes. Add one slice of cheddar cheese, and cook for two more minutes for medium doneness. Remove patty from the grill, and cover it loosely with foil on a plate. Place bun on the grill, and toast for about one minute. Assemble burger and garnish as desired. Serve with French fries or Tater-Tots.

For the adults:
S & H Burger ingredients:

8oz Pat LaFrieda Angus ground beef
Frozen Tater-Tots, prepared as directed
1 hamburger bun of your choice
1 jalepeño pepper, sliced and seeded
Chile con queso ingredients:
1 lb Velveeta, melted
6oz Rotel tomatoes
Cumin
Chili powder

Cowgirl's coleslaw ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
2 tbsp dill-pickle juice
4-5 cups shredded red and/or green cabbage and carrots

Directions:
For the burger:

Same patty forming and grill instructions as above. Cook for approximately five minutes per side for medium doneness. Same patty removal and bun toasting instructions as above. Assemble the burger, and top with chile con queso, jalepeno and sliced Tater-Tots. Serve with Cowgirl coleslaw (below).

For the chile con queso:
Melt Velveeta in microwave per instructions on package. Mix with Rotel tomatoes. Add cumin and chili powder to taste.

For Cowgirl's coleslaw:
Combine mayonnaise, lemon, white vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and pickle juice. Mix well. Dress shredded cabbage and carrots with mixture, and toss.
ditch_plains_lobster_mac_pair_wagtouicz_01.jpg
ditch_plains_lobster_mac_pair_wagtouicz_01.jpg
Paul Wagtouicz

Mac and cheese

Restaurants Seafood West Village
Mac and cheese
By Marc Murphy (Ditch Plains)

Ditch Plains, 29 Bedford St at Downing St
(212-633-0202, ditch-plains.com)


For the kids:
Mac and cheese ingredients:

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp rosemary
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ quart milk
½ quart heavy cream
½ lb diced white American cheese at room temperature
½ lb grated Swiss cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup grated Parmesan at room temperature
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 lb elbow pasta cooked al dente in salted water, drained well and cooled

Directions:
For the mac and cheese:

In a medium saucepan, heat milk and heavy cream. Melt butter over medium heat; add rosemary and sauté briefly. Whisk in flour until incorporated; stir about five to six minutes, making sure it doesn't brown. Add milk and heavy cream; whisk until incorporated. Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes. Add American, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, and whisk until they melt (do not boil). Remove sauce from heat, and puree until smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in elbow pasta and serve immediately.

For the adults:
Extra ingredients:

½ oz lobster roe
1 tbsp truffle butter
8oz picked lobster meat
1 cup panko bread crumbs, seasoned and toasted in sauté pan

Directions:
For the mac and cheese:

Same as kids' mac-and-cheese recipe. After pureeing cheese mixture, add lobster butter (below), and whisk until emulsified. In a saucepan over low heat, add lobster meat to cooked, drained and cooled pasta, and coat with sauce while heating through. Top elbow pasta with toasted breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.

For the lobster butter:
In a small mixing bowl, macerate lobster roe with a whisk.
Add softened butter, and mix until emulsified.
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sweet_chick_fried_chicken_pair_wagtouicz_02.jpg
sweet_chick_fried_chicken_pair_wagtouicz_02.jpg
Paul Wagtouicz

Chicken and waffles

Restaurants Soul and southern American Williamsburg
Chicken and Waffles
By John Seymour (Sweet Chick)

Sweet Chick, 164 Bedford Ave at North 8th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347-725-4793, sweetchicknyc.com)


For the kids:
Chicken ingredients:

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts
½ cup buttermilk
1 tbsp honey
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups cornflakes, crushed
Salt and pepper

Waffle ingredients:
Note: This recipe requires a waffle iron
10oz flour
¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp + tsp baking powder
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
15oz milk
5oz melted butter
2 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar

Cordon bleu sauce ingredients (optional):
1 tbsp shallots, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3oz ham, diced

Cordon bleu sauce ingredients (optional):
2 tsp thyme leaves, picked and chopped
1 cup Gruyére cheese, shredded
½ tsp cornstarch
¼ cup chicken stock

Directions:
For the chicken fingers:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix buttermilk and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Cut chicken into -inch strips. Pour buttermilk mixture over chicken, and toss to coat. Let chicken marinate for 30 minutes. Dredge marinated chicken strips in seasoned flour, dip in egg mixture, then roll in cornflakes. Arrange chicken strips on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, until chicken fingers are golden brown and chicken is cooked through.

For the waffles:
Combine flour, salt and bakery powder into a bowl. Add yolks, milk and melted butter, and whisk all six ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites to a soft peak. Add sugar; whip to a stiff peak. Gently fold whites into the same bowl as other ingredients. Brush the inner surface of the waffle iron with butter. Pour enough batter in your waffle maker to lightly cover the surface of the iron. Cover and cook for five minutes.

For the cordon bleu sauce:

Sweat shallots in olive oil over medium-low heat until soft. Add ham and thyme, and cook until ham is lightly browned. Meanwhile, toss Gruyère with cornstarch and set it aside. Add chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Whisk in Gruyère ¼ cup at a time until cheese is melted and sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper, and serve on the side.

For the adults:
Chicken ingredients:

6 lbs chicken (pieces of your choice)
1 quart buttermilk
2 quart flour
½ cup cornstarch
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp salt + 1 tbsp pepper

Brine ingredients:
1 gallon water
1 cup sweet tea
¾ cup salt
¼ cup pepper
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder

Directions:
For the fried chicken:

Combine brine ingredients. Brine chicken for 24 hours. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine flour, cornstarch, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper to make dredge mixture. Coat chicken with flour mixture, and shake off excess. Coat chicken pieces with buttermilk. Dredge again in flour mixture and set aside. In a large pan, heat vegetable oil to 300 degrees F. Fry chicken pieces for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.

For waffles:
Same as kids' recipe.

For cordon bleu sauce:
Serve over hot fried chicken.
bell_book_and_candle_grilled_cheese_pair_wagtouicz_01.jpg
bell_book_and_candle_grilled_cheese_pair_wagtouicz_01.jpg
Paul Wagtouicz

Grilled cheese

Restaurants American creative West Village
Grilled Cheese
By John Mooney (Bell Book & Candle)

Bell Book & Candle, 141 W 10th St between Greenwich Ave and Waverly Pl
(212-414-2355, bbandcnyc.com)


For the kids:
Sour dough and Monterey jack grilled cheese ingredients:

2 pieces of sour dough bread
4 ounces of sliced Monterey jack cheese
1 whole egg
½ ounce of clarified butter

Directions:

Brush one side of each sour dough with clarified butter. Place 2 slices Monterey jack in between the two unbrushed slices of bread to form a sandwich. Using a circle cutter, cut a hole in the middle of the sandwich. Place in a skillet on medium heat. When the bread is golden brown place on one side. Drizzle a little clarified butter in the center and crack the egg into the hole. Cook for two minutes and flip over. When bottom is equally brown to the top remove from pan and serve.

For the adults:

Sour dough and raclette grilled cheese ingredients:
2 pieces of sour dough bread
4 ounces of sliced raclette
1 poached egg (see below)
Drizzle of white truffle oil
½ ounce of clarified butter
5 chives sliced

Directions:
Place one small sheet of plastic wrap in cup. Crack an egg into the plastic, drizzle with white truffle oil and tie off with a twist tie. Poach in simmering water for 3 minutes. Brush one side of each sour dough slice with clarified butter. Place in a skillet on medium heat. Place the slices of cheese evenly on top of the bread. When the bread is golden brown place the skillet in a broiler until the raclette bubbles. Remove from the skillet and place the bread together to make a sandwich. Cut in half 2 times, corner to corner. Place the egg on top of the sandwich. Garnish with sliced chives and serve.
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bubbys_fritatta_pair_wagtouicz_05.jpg
bubbys_fritatta_pair_wagtouicz_05.jpg
Paul Wagtouicz

Frittatas

Restaurants American Tribeca
Frittatas
By Ron Silver (Bubby's)
Bubby's, 120 Hudson St at Moore St
(212-219-0666, www.bubbys.com)


For the kids:
Apple, Bacon + Cheddar Frittata ingredients:

2 tbsp butter
½ Spanish onion, diced
1 firm apple, peeled, cored, and sliced (Jonagold, Mutsu or Cortland)
4 slices thickly cut bacon, cooked and chopped
4 eggs, scrambled well
salt and pepper
3oz grated cheddar
¼ cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 10" sauté pan, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook until translucent. Add the apple and cook until softened. Add the bacon. Add the eggs and milk, then the salt and pepper. Add the cheese in a mound in the center of the eggs. Put in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes until eggs are firm. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

For the adults:
Spinach Three-Cheese Frittata ingredients:

1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly
2 tbsp butter
½ Spanish onion, diced
salt and pepper
A pinch of nutmeg
4 eggs, scrambled well
¼ cup milk
1oz grated Gruyere
1oz brie
1oz grated parmesan

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Steam the spinach by putting a tablespoon of water into a sauté pan on medium heat. Add the spinach and stir until completely wilted. Place in colander, and run under cold water. Squeeze out all the water and chop it up, setting it aside. Heat a 10" sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and melt. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add the spinach and sauté until hot. Season with salt and pepper, and add the nutmeg. Next, add the eggs and milk. Add the cheese in a mound in the center of the eggs. Place in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes until eggs are firm. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
buttermilk_channel_sloppy_joe_pair_wagtouicz_01.jpg
buttermilk_channel_sloppy_joe_pair_wagtouicz_01.jpg
Paul Wagtouicz

Sloppy joes

Restaurants American Carroll Gardens
Sloppy Joes
By Jon Check and Ryan Angulo (Buttermilk Channel)

Buttermilk Channel, 524 Court St at Huntington St
(718-852-8490, buttermilkchannelnyc.com)


For the kids:
Turkey sloppy joe ingredients:
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1lb ground turkey
8oz sweet pepper jelly, finest quality
8oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 cinnamon stick

For the coleslaw:
1 cup shredded green cabbage
½ cup shredded red cabbage
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 table spoons prepared mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt to taste

Directions for the coleslaw:
Combine all ingredients and let marinade for a half hour before serving.
Directions for the sloppy joe:
Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a medium hot pan and brown the ground turkey, 5-10 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until tender. Add the pepper jelly, crushed tomatoes and seasoning and simmer for 20 minutes. Removed cinnamon stick. Spoon onto toasted sesame seed buns and top with the cole slaw and store bought pickles (optional).

For the adults:
Duck sloppy joe ingredients:

1 small onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 # ground duck breast meat
½ cup golden raisins, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp picked and chopped thyme
1 tbsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground clove
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp ancho chili puree (store-bought)
1 8oz can crushed tomatoes

Celery root slaw ingredients:
1 small head celery root, peeled and julienned
1 Asian pear, thinly sliced in half-moons
1 tbsp prepared mayonnaise
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 cup watercress leaves

Directions:
Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a medium hot pan and brown the meat, 5-10 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until tender. Add the chopped raisins, herbs, spices and ancho puree and cook 3-5 minutes until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Spoon the mixture onto toasted sesame seed buns and top with the slaw and watercress leaves.

For the slaw:
Marinade the celery root and pear with the vinegar and mayonnaise and a pinch of salt 20 minutes before serving.
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