New Yorkers don’t discriminate when it comes to our love for ice cream, from classic scoops to ice cream sandwiches, but we do have a particularly sweet spot for delicious soft serve. Cooling down with a picturesque cone from the city’s best bakeries and finest ice cream shops is one of the best things to do in the summer in NYC. Whether you’re in the mood for festive toppings, a dipped cone or a chocolate-vanilla swirl, here’s where to find the best soft serve ice cream in New York.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best ice cream in NYC
Best soft serve ice cream in NYC
Pastry chef Christina Tosi’s Cereal Milk soft serve—the frozen, whipped equivalent of the milk left over at the bottom of a bowl of corn flakes—is so famous that it’s literally trademarked. And with good reason: the cool, smooth ice cream’s flavor is spot-on and not overly sweet. Another winner? Tosi’s Coke Float flavor, topped with an adorable gummy cola.
This funky-and-fabulous truck-turned-brick-and-mortar has delighted dessert lovers since 2009, serving up irresistibly-named cones (the Salty Pimp, the Bea Arthur) that are as tasty as they are playful. You can’t go wrong with a classic Pimp: vanilla soft serve swirled with dulce de leche, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt.
The only place in the city where you can find Midwestern-style frozen custard, burger titan Shake Shack doesn’t disappoint when it comes to dessert: its soft serve is smooth, dense and not too sweet. Vanilla and chocolate are always available, but keep an eye out for rotating weekly flavors such as miso caramel, peanut brittle and blackberry.
The talents of the king of the Cronut seem to know no bounds, whether he’s working with delicate croissant dough or constructing a giant s’more with shards of milk chocolate and crispy speculoos cookies. His excellent soft serve is no exception: veering into savory territory in flavors such as salt and pepper caramel and burrata, the dense, creamy ice cream has equally delicious toppings, like a crispy potato gaufrette.
About as far from mass-market ice cream truck cones as you can get, this cute West Village shop churns artisan soft serve from New York State goat milk. Tangier and funkier than cow’s milk and also slightly less sweet, the goat milk makes a creamy frozen treat whose uniqueness is accented by chef-owner Sophia Brittan’s use of unusual flavorings including piney, gummy mastic and toppings like a chocolate sauce laced with fragrant tonka beans.
At chef Michael White’s East Village pizzeria, there’s only one dessert option: fior de latte soft serve gelato. And with a dessert this good—the ice cream is wonderfully lush in texture, with a delicate milky flavor—you only need one. OK, to be fair, the soft serve comes in a variety of sundaes; we love the Crackerjack, with peanut crumble, rosemary caramel popcorn, roasted peanuts and caramel sauce.
The soft serve from this East Village dessert bar—which offers a range of signature pastries, from tiramisu mochi to green tea brownies—is pretty good, but it’s the toppings and accoutrements that make it stand out. Get the vanilla bean ice cream piled into a sugary, flaky churro cone, or inside a chocolate-glazed eclair, or layered with sliced bananas and chunks of buttery, toasted biscuits.
This Korean-Japanese spot in the West Village is known for its marinated meats grilled tableside, but sweets-lovers are in for a treat here, too. For dessert, Takashi’s home-spun Madagascar vanilla soft serve is pillowy with a pure vanilla flavor that’s complemented by the restaurant’s excellent roster of toppings: chewy rice-flour dumplings, sweet azuki beans, green tea syrup or all of them together ("the works").
With locations in the East Village and Midtown, this Japanese bakery is much-loved for its selection of tasty snacks including onigiri, bento boxes and house-baked breads. But the number one customer favorite by far is Zaiya’s excellent soft serve, available in matcha, black sesame, or, even better, a swirl of the two. The matcha is dark and strong, the sesame nutty and sweet, and together they’re a summer dream.
Want the full scoop on ice cream in NYC?
On an unassuming side street in the Fulton Mall district of Downtown Brooklyn, the traditional street food of Shanghai comes alive at Yaso Tangbao. The venerable Chef Zongxing Tu—former executive chef of Joe’s Shanghai—serves as the ‘yaso’ (uncle) to three twenty-something partners from Nanxiang, who sought to bring the chef’s famous xiao laong bao steamed soup dumplings to an area poised for rapid growth. It’s a clear fit, as the casual, counter-order eatery is ideal for the constant stream of workers from the nearby municipal buildings to grab a filling, low-cost lunch. But the word is out among locals, as well; all of the restaurants’ seven long, wooden communal-seating tables were occupied at 7 p.m. on a recent Sunday evening. Chef Zongxing is sort of a big deal among fans of Chinese dumplings, so be sure to start your meal with the blue crab and pork soup dumplings ($6.95), which shimmy on the special spoon provided for their enjoyment. Gently bite off the orange-hued tip, and a fresh burst of briny Maryland blue crab broth rushes onto your palette. Sip it up to get to the ground pork filling. A few seats down, a little blonde girl cries out as some of her succulent broth escapes; she desperately lifts the bamboo steamer over her spoon in an attempt to catch it. Don’t skip the pan fried pork baos ($5.65), tangerine-sized rolls of soft white dough with a juicy pork filling in a tiny reservoir of broth, topped with black sesame seeds and a pleasant sheen of grease. Anothe
Venue says: “Try Yaso Tangbao's signature Soup Dumplings and tasty Noodle Soups!”