Following in the tradition of our matzoh ball and gelato tours, and many other insufficiently documented food free-for-alls, Lisa and I set out to find the best ice cream sandwich in Manhattan.
Unlike the matzoh ball and gelato tours, there was one single winner.
No caveats; Melt won.
Essex Market, 120 Essex St b/t Rivington St & Delancey St
Nestled in a corner of the delightfully diverse Essex Market, Luca & Bosco’s makes an ice cream sandwich between a pair of thin chocolate brownies. Their sandwich was great, but has two significant weaknesses:
- They pre-make their sandwiches; if you’re not crazy about the flavor of the day, then you’re out of luck.
- They are less than a five minute walk from Melt.
They do good work, but if I’m ever near them and looking for an ice cream sandwich, then Melt will always get our money. It’s no contest.
132 Orchard St, b/t Rivington St & Delancey St
If you need to know what direction to face when praying to the ice cream sandwich god, it’s in the direction of Orchard Street, just north of Delancy Street. This tiny refrigerated nook of a storefront has by far the best ice cream sandwich we have ever tasted, or really expected to taste.
The staff exhibited a level of care and passion that eclipsed all of the other places we visited. Their enthusiasm also translated into results. Their variety of cookies and ice creams are artfully paired, and given cute names like the Morticia (Crackly Chocolate Cookie + Malted Chocolate Rum Ice Cream) and the Sweetpea (Vanilla Cakey Cookie + Strawberry Ice Cream), both of which were incredible. They even told us to wait to eat the Sweetpea because it was better after a slight thaw.
I’m sure there are ice cream sandwich joints out there that have a product on-par with Melt, but I would be truly stunned to find one that is measurably superior.
178 Mulberry St, b/t Kenmare St & Broome St
M’o Gelato makes an ice cream sandwich panini. It’s not kind of a panini; it’s a full-on, cooked in a panini press panini, with bread that tastes more like donut (which is a good thing).
It wasn’t bad. It had that fried ice cream vibe without the crunch. I think the trouble with it stems from gelato having a higher melting point than ice cream. It didn’t hold up well, and the breading overpowered the gelato.
At their recommendation we had ours filled with Nutella gelato. It was the right choice for the sandwich, but we’re not going to rush back for another helping.
116 W Houston St, b/t Thompson St & Sullivan St
Payard’s sandwiches are made with macaron cookies. I’m a macaron fan, so I was excited. Lisa is lukewarm on the recently trendy fancy oreo. Both of us left disappointed.
The pre-selected flavor combinations weren’t singing to us, and the ones we had didn’t wow us. The macaron cookie didn’t do anything special when teamed with ice cream. Meh.
All of that being said, Payard’s macaron ice cream sandwiches came in heavily branded, strange to open, custom designed packaging… So if that sort of thing floats your boat, then by all means pay Payard a visit.
19 Commerce St, b/t S 7th Ave & Bedford St
Milk & Cookies was the heartbreak of the day. It turns out that our former favorite ice cream sandwich joint has some ill-conceived flavor combinations… And both of the sandwiches we ordered were less-than-stellar.
They have some great flavors, and I wish we had ordered them.
796 9th Ave, b/t 52nd St & 53rd St
Holey Cream’s deal is that they make your ice cream sandwich in a donut. You pick your donut, you pick your ice cream, you pick your glaze, and you pick your topping. It’s gluttonous, over-the-top, and so very unnecessary… and if ordering one of these things doesn’t fill you with an overwhelming feeling of patriotism, then nothing will ever make you feel like an American.
The kicker is that this is a damn good ice cream sandwich. It’s huge, bring a friend… or three.
Bareburger (honorable mention)
The night before our ice cream sandwich tour we had dinner at Bareburger. They have a great Chipwich-style ice cream sandwich. It’s surprisingly well-executed and yummy.
The big minus for Bareburger is that they insist on dosing their ice cream sandwich in mediocre chocolate sauce. Tell them to hold that shit.
Unlike our previous tours, nearly all of the ice cream sandwiches we ate were made from noticeably different components. Cookies, brownies, macarons, donuts, and paninis… The variety of sugary, starchy goodness was a pleasant surprise.
If you’re looking to explore the wide world of ice cream sandwiches, there are a lot of interesting options, and none of them are bad. With the notable exception of Holy Cream, all of these places are in close proximity to one another.
That made for an easy tour, but it also means that as good as most of these places are, we’re going to Melt for our ice cream sandwich fix.
(Photos by Ken Liu)