BAY RIDGE — Although just about every American comfort food has undergone reinvention at the hands of creative New York chefs, there are some places where the traditional ice cream parlor remains lovingly preserved.
As they churn out floats, sundaes and egg creams, year in and year out, these establishments have defied the odds of survival for your average mom-and-pop eatery, maybe because they offer something generations young and old will never tire of — sugar.
There is also something about an ice cream parlor that is perfectly in line with the artisanal craze of modern times. The purveyor of Cobble Hill’s Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, Peter Freeman, pointed out that an ice cream parlor serves up the kind of customizable, hand-crafted product that we have come to crave.
“One of the reasons concepts from earlier times in American history are becoming more relevant is because they were good ideas,” the Carroll Gardens resident said. “[Ice cream parlors] were fun and they made you feel like you were a part of something as opposed to something like McDonald’s where it’s like a machine. It’s much more personal and it’s an experience that’s tailored to your individual needs or desires.”
To help you on your hunt for old-school creameries, DNAinfo New York rounded up a sampling of the best ice cream spots around town:
Hinsch’s — This 65-year-old staple of Bay Ridge has had its share of turbulence, having switched ownership twice in the last three years. Now helmed by the Moudatsos family, who own several diners in Staten Island, the luncheonette and ice cream parlor is getting remodeled. The classic 1950s look of the place will be preserved as will menu items like lime rickeys and ice cream floats.
“[Customers] like the back-in-the-day thing,” co-owner Lee Moudatsos explained. “The older people think they’re back in the 50s. People say that’s how it originally was. And even the young crowd likes it too. It’s something new to them.”
Eddie’s Sweet Shop — The milkshakes at this 45-year-old Forest Hills ice cream parlor are legendary. Much of the interior has gone unchanged since the Citrano family bought the establishment in 1968 and all of the ice creams and syrups are made on the premises. Summer flavors available now include pistachio pineapple, peach and blueberry — all served up in generous portions.
Egger’s Ice Cream Parlor — The two Egger’s Ice Cream Parlors on Staten Island are owned separately, but they sell the same Egger’s product: delicious, locally produced ice cream. The Westerleigh location on Forest Avenue still features classic items like penny candy and egg creams. Both locations are considered institutions on the island and have been home to many a celebration for generations of Staten Islanders.
Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain — This Carroll Gardens ice cream shop is only a few years old, but the bones of the place date much further back. It’s a restored 1920’s apothecary founded by Freeman, who merely aspired to “not to f—k it up” and ended up far surpassing his goal. Now a fixture in the neighborhood, the Farmacy serves the neighborhood customers all the classic staples of a soda fountain with locally sourced ingredients. Freeman’s favorite is the egg cream, which contains neither egg nor cream, but is made with syrup, seltzer and milk.
“I’m a pusherman of the egg creams just because it’s a really affordable, healthy treat,” he said. “It’s a great alternative to buying a soda or buying something that’s packaged. It’s made right before your eyes. It’s simple, it’s sweet and it’s New York. Besides maybe the Waldorf Salad, name something that’s from New York City, I mean, really from New York City.”
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory — Though only a little over 10 years old, this ice cream maker boasts two locations in its namesake borough. And while its Greenpoint location is a cozy spot, the Brooklyn Heights location makes a trip for ice cream much more than a sweets-seeking mission. Right under the Brooklyn Bridge, this ice cream parlor makes its home in a fire boat house on the Fulton Ferry Pier. Sit out on its back porch to enjoy the view of the bridge with a cone of creamy sweetness.
Ronnybrook Milk Bar — Perhaps the most distant relative to the old-school ice cream parlor on this list is the Ronnybrook Milk Bar in Chelsea Market. Featuring product from the Ronnybrook Dairy Farms, the spot’s décor is largely comprised of stacked antique milk crates that are anywhere from 60 to 70 years old and collected from all over the United States. While the crates are meant to reference a time gone by, manager Aylon Hadar insists that sentimentality has nothing to do with his milk bar's charm.
“I wouldn’t say ice cream is all about nostalgia,” he said. “Ice cream just makes people happy.”