Best Ice Creams of the Upper West Side
by Megan Bungeroth, Annie Denes, Whitney C. Harris, Jon Lentz, Adel Manoukian and Amanda Woods
In honor of the scorching heat and National Ice Cream month, we scouted out a half-dozen frozen treat purveyors on the Upper West Side to find out who’s got the best sweet and cold desserts. Going off the beaten path of national chains, our tasters sampled an array of types—ice cream as well as gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt—as well as flavors both classic and wacky to give our readers the inside scoop. But we want you to decide who’s got the very best frozen treats; vote for your favorite at nypress.com/best-ice-cream-uws.
Screme Gelato Bar
2030 Broadway, 212-362-2111,
One scoop coconut gelato; $5
Brain Freeze: 5
Melt Factor: 1
This gelateria uses whole milk instead of the usual cream gelato is made with, a good note for those conscious about their weight. The tiny café holds a minimal amount of flavors that occasionally change and are all unique. If you want a refreshing mojito, look no further: The place has a virgin mojito sorbet. It tastes identical to the drink, with flecks of spearmint leaves. Other interesting flavors include butter cookie, chocolate chip cookie, Snickers and Madagascar vanilla. Screme’s most popular flavor is the chocolate sorbet, probably because it tastes like ice cream but with fewer calories. Their coconut flavor had a nice hint of vanilla. Better save this place for a hot day, as the ice cream is very chilly—yet still creamy as it melts in your mouth. Take your gelato to go; the place has limited seating and no tables.
Emack and Bolio’s
389 Amsterdam Ave., 212-362-2747, emackandbolios.com
Small salted caramel chocolate pretzel ice cream; $4.50
Brain freeze factor: 3
Melt Factor: 4
Emack and Bolio’s is a tiny shop, but that didn’t stop many customers, young and old, from stopping in on a Sunday afternoon to grab a few bites of their award-winning ice cream. Emack and Bolio’s has received a Best Dessert in New York City title and a Fruit Smoothie of the Week designation, among others. We tried the salted caramel chocolate pretzel ice cream—though it may seem unusual to combine the sweet and the salty, this is a must-try. The flavors of the chocolate-covered pretzel and the caramel swirl mix well together, and the creaminess of the ice cream doesn’t take away from the pretzel’s crunchiness. No need to worry about melting—this ice cream remained solid and cold, yet perfectly creamy, several minutes into eating it. Try the shop’s popular “Sundae in a Slice,” which looks like a pizza slice, made with a brownie crust, vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge and marshmallow. If you’re visiting with a group, be sure to try the Emack Attack, a gigantic 20-scoop sundae.
2165 Broadway, 212-362-1837, grom.it/eng
One scoop each of dark chocolate, tiramisu and espresso bean gelato; one scoop of pink grapefruit sorbet; $8.25
Brain Freeze: 5
Melt Factor: 4
The stark, clinical aesthetic of this Italian gelato emporium stands in odd contrast to the earth-hugger vibe the company brags about on the wall, proudly proclaiming their organic farm sourcing and recyclable and compostable materials. The flavors, too, belie the cold setting in their ingenuity and similarity to their namesakes. The dark chocolate gelato tastes exactly the way a premium chocolate bar would if it were somehow melted and frozen at the same time, with just a hint of bitterness. It’s best enjoyed along side a creamy, sweet flavor like tiramisu. The espresso gelato delivers a welcome jolt, and the egg-custard-based Crema di Grom flavor is delicious, if a bit too rich for a whole heaping cup. The sorbet selection is fantastic if only for its verisimilitude—the pink grapefruit is spot on and incredibly refreshing.
1900 Broadway, 212-595-0303,
Pistachio-black cherry swirl, one scoop; $3. Dark chocolate and blue lemonade, one scoop of each; $6
Brain Freeze Factor: 5
Melt Factor: 4.5
Start to finish, Épicerie Boulud is everything you would expect from Daniel Boulud. The décor is clean and modern, with the sleek gelato counter accessable from the sidewalk. The staff was friendly and, most importantly, the gelati were well-executed—creamy, flavorful and made with fresh ingredients. The pistachio-black cherry swirl, one of the most popular options, had the right balance of sweetness and nuttiness. Most surprising was the value. At $3 a scoop, you receive a sizeable portion of excellent gelato at the same price as an ice cream bar from a street vendor, making Épicerie Boulud well worth the trip.
325 Amsterdam Ave., 646-861-1281, 16handles.com
10.7 oz of a Chocolate Love Affair-Coffee Break-Cookies & Cream blend, topped with brownie bites, cheesecake bites, chocolate-covered pretzels, cookie crumbs, Reese’s Pieces and milk chocolate caramel chunks; $6.05
Brain Freeze Factor: 4
Melt Factor: 3
If you’re a control freak when it comes to frozen treats, rest assured: 16 Handles allows you to be the master of your own dessert destiny. This self-serve, pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt paradise lets you decide what, how much and in what delicious design your cold concoction is prepared. Not one to normally mix and match, I flew “off the handle” and combined three froyo flavors with myriad toppings, creating a symphony of chocolate, caramel, peanut butter and beyond. If you’re a fruit fanatic, 16 Handles offers green apple tart and pomegranate raspberry, begging to be topped with blackberries, kiwi, mango and more. But the urge to indulge needn’t be tempered—nutrition info is displayed above each flavor. Plus, without having to wait for some college kid to muscle your scoops into a cup or cone, you’re in and out of the store faster than you can calculate the calories.
Momofuku Milk Bar
561 Columbus Ave., 347-577-9504,
Pink lemonade soft-serve; $4.50. Pretzel milk shake; $6.
Brain Freeze Factor: 4
Melt Factor: 4
Momofuku Milk Bar, known for its inventive baked goods and addictive pastries, also serves a limited menu of soft-serve ice cream and milk shakes. Sadly, the Upper West Side outpost of the much-talked about East Village original did not live up to the hype. The pink lemonade soft-serve was far too sweet and tart, tasting more like a powdered mix than real lemons and sugar.
The pretzel milkshake, made with cereal milk soft serve, pretzels, salt and chocolate, was too thin and tasted like a melted fudge pop, with just a hint of the cereal milk flavor.
Don’t forget to vote at nypress.com/best-ice-cream-uws!
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