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There's no time of year that's not perfect for an ice cream sundae. In the last few weeks, I've been chasing sundaes down all over town in order to find the best of what our city has to offer.
We focused exclusively on restaurant offerings, excluding takeout shops like Blue Marble and Sundaes and Cones—which will get their own roundup in the future. As for the ice cream sundae itself? We sought out traditional sundaes: ice cream, whipped cream, hot fudge, and toppings. Restaurants like BLT Prime and Otto may turn out fantastic concoctions—chocolate-chestnut sundaes, and olive oil copettas—but that's a completely different ballgame.
After the jump, the top three classic ice cream sundaes in New York City.
This was the first of many sundaes consumed on our journey, but it stayed at the top of our list—for both taste and visual satisfaction. $10 buys a sundae enough to feed two. Each component is perfect on its own, but together, the result is something that's truly hard to beat.
The whipped cream is so thick that if it was whipped for a few more seconds, it might have ended up as butter. Whipped cream goes by the name "schlag" here, and if they sold it by the pound, I would eagerly purchase it for personal home use. It holds up to the equally thick hot fudge. Vanilla ice cream from the reliable Haagen Dazs. There are crushed walnuts, a cherry, and a milk chocolate cow—so cute we cooed over it for just a minute—to finish. Get in all one bite, and it all comes together—the crunch of walnuts, sinking into the fudge-laced cream, a glorious mouthful, all bound by vanilla ice cream.
Peter Luger Steakhouse
Pearl Oyster Bar
Many people compare the sundae at Pearl's with nearby Mary's Fish Camp. But the one at Pearl's is both significantly better and significantly cheaper: $7 compared to $12 at Mary's. The hot fudge at Mary's hardens and solidifies in one hard-to-break mass the minute it hits the ice cream; Pearl's holds a soft, flowing consistency. They keep it clean and pure, only three components: vanilla ice cream, fudge, and a finish of whipped cream, one gentle unsweetened quenelle. Not a single nut or cherry to be found.
The fudge is thoughtfully distributed throughout, a bit at the bottom, streaked along the sides of the glass and then a final pour over vanilla ice cream. It's may seem like a small thing, but having the fudge equally distributed along top, middle and bottom significantly improves the sundae-eating experience—making it effortless, and all the more enjoyable.
Pearl Oyster Bar
At Keen's, thinly sliced almonds come scattered atop the loosely whipped cream. Whereas the Luger's whipped cream it's hard to scoop, Keen's keeps their on the lighter end—though the effect is no less decadent. They use ice cream (one scoop chocolate, one vanilla) from Haagen Dazs as well.
Don't write off the crisp wafer that tops off the sundae ($10); it's sweetened just slightly and has a texture somewhere between traditional wafers and mille-feuille. The fudge is downright buttery and the most smooth-flowing of the trio. The sundae as a whole gives off a luxurious, rich vibe, making for gorgeous mouthfuls. The "fanciest" of them all, some would say.
Take note: you don't have to sit for a whole steak dinner to indulge. Grab a seat at the bar and just order the sundae. It left me swooning.