Editor's note: In 2006 New York magazine published an indispensable guide to ice cream sandwiches in New York City. While that guide set a solid bar, much has changed in the last two years. To update that list for the summer of 2008, we sent Sugar Rush correspondent Kathy YL Chan out to find the best ice cream sandwiches in New York City. Here is her report. --Zach
Tips and tricks for making the best sandwiches at home.
In the last seven days I've eaten more ice cream sandwiches than I care to confess, all in an attempt to find our city's ten best ice cream sandwiches. I searched and I ate--from the Lower East Side to the West Village, from DUMBO to Park Slope, from market to restaurant to ice cream shop, even at a department store. Oh man, did I eat. Chocolate-flecked vanilla sandwiched between brownies, crisp chocolate chip cookies packed with strawberry ice cream, creamy scoops of gelato tucked into brioche buns: Nothing was left untouched. Some were bigger than my fist, while others were just about the size of a silver dollar. This city offers ice cream sandwiches in more forms than you dare imagine, but it's for the best—there's something for everyone. After the jump, our ten favorites, in no particular order.
Our ten favorites, in no particular order.
Ronnybrook Farm Dairy
They aim to please at Ronnybrook Dairy in the Chelsea Market, eagerly offering samples of their "farm fresh" ice cream—ginger crème brulee and hazelnut are your best bets. Cookie options range from peanut butter to chocolate chip, and a notable raisin oatmeal. Assembled on the spot, the sandwiches have the perfect cookie to ice cream ratio that's so easy to do, yet rarely come across: a perfect 50:50. The real success, though, is found in the ice cream frozen at the right temperature and a cookie that manages to be crisp, but not hard, and thus easy to bite in without fear that ice cream will gush out the other end. 75 9th Avenue, New York NY 10011 (b/n 15th and 16th; map); 212-741-6455; chelseamarket.com
Come for the beer (both by the bottle and on tap) but don't leave without a handful of gelato sandwiches made with Il Laboratorio gelato and Bierkraft's own fudgy chocolate brownies. Come on a good day and you might find a few of the cherry blondies with dark chocolate gelato or brownie with peanut butter gelato alongside the classic vanilla chocolate chunk gelato on brownie. Don't say you weren't warned in advanced; the sandwich is large and to eat one alone will leave you uncomfortably full. Though, with that said, all in moderation, including moderation...especially with desserts! 191 5th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11217 (near Berkeley Place; map); 718-230-7600; bierkraft.com
They don't do the gelato sandwiches for takeout at this West Village classic, but slide up to a bar seat at Otto and order the flavor of your choice neatly spooned onto a golden buttery brioche with the top hollowed out. The portion size is just satisfying without overkill. Gelato flavors change with season—notable current favorites are the peppermint chocolate chip and crème fraiche—but classics such as olive oil and an ever smoky dark caramel are the way to go. 1 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10003 (near 8th Street; map), 212-995-9559, ottopizzeria.com
L'Arte del Gelato
For a more substantial version on brioche, head to L'Arte del Gelato, located but a few blocks away from Otto. The owners are quite proud of their products, and justly so, for they offer a plethora of quality gelato, most notable the luxuriously rich pistachio and a chocolate-banana flavor, unmatched by any other in this city. The brioche bun is less buttery and far more filling that Otto's—it could easily double for a light breakfast or lunch. They'll gladly tuck up to two flavors of your choice into the soft brioche—ask the helpful staff behind the counter for combination suggestions, or simply pick your two favorites, you can't go wrong. 75 7th Avenue South, New York NY 10014 (near Barrow Street; map); 212-924-0803; lartedelgelato.com
One Girl Cookie
The sandwiches at this charming BoCoCa bakery are lilliputian to say the least. Combine One Girl Cookie's popular whoopie pies—a meltingly tender half-cookie, half-cake creation in your choice of pumpkin or chocolate—with a tidy scoop of Il Laboratorio's ricotta gelato and you've found yourself the most unusual and surprisingly delicious combination yet. Bonus points for the adorable, hard candy-esque parchment wrapper—every little thought counts. 68 Dean Street, Brooklyn NY 11201 (near Smith Street; map); 212-675-4996; onegirlcookies.com
Milk & Cookies
The charm in this West Village cookie shop is limited to its décor. The service at Milk & Cookies was snotty if not downright condescending. We waited a solid five minutes before the cashier found time away from her nails to charge us for the sandwich, and the gelato had all but oozed out of the cookies by then. But the soft cookies (including chocolate-mint and white chocolate-macadamia nut), still warm from the oven, combined with Il Laboratorio's gelato, made it all worthwhile. Choose from among the suggested cookie-and-gelato combos or craft your own. The gelato to cookie ratio is severely skewed—10% gelato, 90% cookie—but the cookies are so addictive that you won't mind in the least. 19 Commerce Street, New York NY 10014 (near Bedford Street; map); 212-243-1640, milkandcookiesbakery.com
Lord & Taylor's Signature Café
Nestled on the 6th floor of a classic Manhattan department store, next to this season's hottest Ralph Lauren bikinis, is Larry Forgione's Signature Café. Skip the appetizers, ignore the entrees, and head straight for dessert: toasted pound cake sandwiches. Flavors change with the day—it could be strawberry on vanilla cake for Monday, and chocolate on chocolate the next. Either way, welcome the flavor of the day with an open mind and reap the rewards of a tower of ice cream tightly pressed between two crisp, toasty slices of pound cake, right off the panini grill. It's a sublime combination—the chill of frozen ice cream against the pound cake's warm crunch. 424 5th Avenue, 6th Floor, New York NY 10018 (near 38th Street; map); 212-391-3015
How Sweet It Is
How Sweet It Is is the only purveyor on this list that offers ice cream sandwiches in mini and regular sizes, catering to your appetite. The sandwiches are pre-assembled with house-made cookies and Capogiro gelato (the majority of other shops who outsource use Il Laboratorio gelato). We especially enjoyed the creamy pistachio gelato sandwiched between two thin coconut macaroons, though the bestseller is the snickerdoodle cookies with Thai tea gelato. Can't decide on just one? Get the mini version of two different flavor sets for the price of one regular. 157 Allen Street, New York NY 10002 (b/n Stanton Street and Rivington Street; map); 212-777-0418; howsweetitispastry.com
Those who must stay in Manhattan can get their fill of Jacques Torres' ice cream sandwich on King Street, but it's worth making a trip to the original DUMBO location—that way you can follow up dessert with a few more sweets from Almondine and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. The ice cream flavors come in a rotating variety; we saw chocolate, strawberry, and a particularly sumptuous roasted banana ice cream on our most recent visit. All of the preassembled ice cream sandwiches are made with his signature chocolate chip cookie, which is crunchy and has a high chocolate ratio; it's a bit too crisp to eat without ice cream oozing out the sides, but it's terrific on its own. 66 Water Street, Brooklyn NY 11201 (b/n Main Street and Dock Street; map); 718-875-9772; mrchocolate.com
The Chocolate Room
Just two minutes walk over from Bierkraft in Park Slope, The Chocolate Room offers a rotating duo of ice cream sandwiches in addition to successful line of chocolate cakes, custard and puddings. The cookies are that right kind of crumbly crisp that works so well with ice cream, much akin to Ronnybrook Dairy. Preset flavor combination range from an everyday strawberry ice cream sandwiched between dark chocolate cookies, to a more unusual banana rum ice cream with chocolate & peanut butter cookies, but they're always well thought through and portioned for an excellent three-bite dessert. 86 5th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11217 (near Prospect Place; map); 718-783-2900; thechocolateroombrooklyn.com
Largest in size: Jacques Torres and Bierkraft
Smallest in size: How Sweet It Is, The Chocolate Room, and One Girl Cookies
On Brioche: L'Arte del Gelato and Otto
On Brownie: Bierkraft
On Pound Cake: Lord & Taylor
Pre-assembled: Jacques Torres, One Girl Cookies, How Sweet It Is, and Bierkraft
Unusual Flavors/Combinations: One Girl Cookies and How Sweet It Is
In Brooklyn: Bierkraft, Jacques Torres, and The Chocolate Room
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