This summer, the Museum of Ice Cream opened in Gansevoort Market, allowing visitors to swim in sprinkles and selfie with a scoop in front of ice cream inspired accouterments. Unfortunately the museum doesn’t delve into the history surrounding ice cream or ice cream in the neighborhood. However, thanks to some quick research and our friends at Jeremiah’s Vanishing, we here at Greenwich Village Society were able to find plenty of information on ice cream in the Village past.
In 1970, New York magazine restaurant critic Gael Greene wrote an article titled “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ice Cream But Were Too Fat To Ask,” the name taken from Dr. David Reuben’s book “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).” In it, Greene goes on to describe the ice creams of the time, everything from the brands we know (Haagen Das, Baskin Robbins, Carvel), to ones that have disappeared (Yum Yum), their compositions, textures, tastes, and even the ice cream landscape of NYC (“[Baskin Robbins] has made cautious inroads into the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens . . . but not yet Manhattan.”). She boldly declares “Grownups who never eat ice cream are instantly suspect,” as well as discusses the surprising politics between the ice cream manufacturers and the market (“Ice cream makers have been backed against the wall by supermarket muscle, their own merchandising traditions and the public’s indifference to quality.”).
Although Greene discusses a lot of background information on the ice cream world, she also goes into the manufacturers and varieties that existed in NYC at the time, a few of which were located in the Village. She starts with a place called The Camel’s Hump that once existed at 130 West Third Street. This venue specialized in “Arabic” ice cream, “apricot and pistachio—almost solid fruit or solid nuts, glued together by clotted cream and perfume-scented gum Arabic.” The texture and taste she describes as “Rich, chewy, unusual and sublime.”
Another venue she discusses is The Ice Cream Connection, which was located at 24 St. Marks Place. Definitely ahead of its time, TICC was a place “for a butterfat high on soothing, digestible goat’s milk ice cream, sweetened with organic honey.” Alongside the niche fare, TICC had a tongue and cheek approach to their product, naming some flavors after popular varieties of drugs at the time. “…Acapulco Gold—peach studded with “hash” (flaked chocolate)—and Panama Red—”hash” plus maraschino and Burgundy cherries in a cherry cream, 25 cents for a generous dip, 5 cents extra for sprinkles.” However, despite being an out-there option, the goat’s milk was a bit of an overwhelming flavor, “How does goat’s milk ice cream taste? I tried peach. The first taste is peach. The second taste is goat.” For a more subtle goat’s milk ice cream, Greene suggested going to Health E Snack at 133 West Third Street. There, “[the] goat taste is more subtle in the papaya ice cream shake,” while patrons can get “goat’s milk ice cream by the scoop, 35 and 50 cents, in a wheat-germ cone.”
Greene doesn’t only talk about the ice cream manufacturers but also talks about some of the parlors that had once been in the city. At 27 Eight Street was Mr. Waffles, a venue Greene described as “bit forlorn and tacky but the menu is promising.” This promising menu included: “intoxicating peach brandy royal sundae, $1.25; strawberry blond and Gibson girl, $1; seventeen sodas, including Hoboken and sarsaparilla; parfaits, including coconut Hawaiian and tin roof with salted Spanish peanuts. The $1 black cherry parfait comes in a thin metal cylinder: two tiny scoops of ice cream, some blobs of aerated cream, and sweet, sweet lovely black cherry sauce.”
These days there is no shortage of ice cream spots in the Village, whether you’re looking for standard (Big Gay Ice Cream Shop), gelato (Amorino, Grom), something that won’t interfere with dietary restrictions (Van Leeuwen, Rice Cream Shop), and even Goat’s Milk (Victory Garden). It is clear by reading Greene’s article that she was seeking out unique and captivating ice cream experiences in NYC. As she says earlier in the piece, “In these harsh and uncertain times, as the establishment cracks and institutions crumble, it is no wonder we reach out to ice cream. It is a link to innocence and security, healing, soothing, wholesome . . . the last of the eternal verities.” By these standards it is no surprise that a few spots in the Village appear, offering everything from the traditional, to the unusual and exotic and, much like the neighborhood, having something for everyone.
If you have any memories of these ice cream places we discussed, or of other ones that no longer exist in exist in the Village, please comment below and let us know!