Indulging in a great dessert in NYC is an art, one the locals have perfected. Sometimes all it takes is an ice cream sandwich and an apartment with air conditioning, or a satisfying taste of the best dessert in NYC—or just a sweet moment alone with a pastry at a French bakery. NYC is an epicenter of all the most tasty treats, light and airy soft serve ice cream included. Whether you’re in the mood for toppings or a chocolate-vanilla swirl, or a chocolate dipped cone, 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
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.
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.
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.
At chef Michael White’s East Village pizzeria, there&rsquo 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.
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 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").
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.
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.
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At many restaurants, the wine list can feel like an afterthought. At chef Jesse Schenker’s The Gander, it sets the tone for the entire meal. Once you settle into the cozy yet impressively large dining room, you’re presented with the most extensive wine list you’ve ever seen. With more than 650 bottles ranging in price from $55 well into the thousands, the thick binder can seem overwhelming to the layman. Thankfully, the staff will be more than happy to help you make a decision. The dinner menu is much more trim, offering a selection of snacks, small plates and larger dishes that are meant to be shared. Some starters, like the brisket tots ($13), seemed like elevated bar food. The fried pucks of beef and potato needed the spicy mustard for moisture, but hit the spot nonetheless. Others, like the sea trout tartare ($16), seemed to be something more. The tender morsels tasted refreshing and light, especially when served on a strip of fried trout skin, crispy as a chicharron. On a recent visit, the large plates skewed toward intensely savory, meaty dishes—ideal comfort foods. The duck breast with port wine sauce arrived medium rare, with beautifully rendered, crispy skin ($30). A hot pot of short rib, oxtail and andouille sausage was similarly well executed: the tender beef melted in the mouth, while the slices of carrots and potatoes remained al dente even after being submerged in an ultra savory broth ($28). As if you needed more, The Gander has plenty of tempting desserts o
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