New Yorkers walking by Domino Park Saturday night couldn’t help but pause as they peered into the window of OddFellows Ice Cream Co., many pulling out their phones to document the scene.
Usually closed at midnight, the shop was packed, the room a mix of an under-30 crowd that traveled far and wide: bodies sweating, bumping up against each other, while DJs played songs with a bass strong enough to feel vibrations from the sidewalk. The biggest difference from any other club? People were grinding as they balanced a blood orange ice cream in a cone topped with rainbow sprinkles in their hands — an ice cream social unlike any other.
For those in the know, last Saturday was the 13th edition of Sundae Sauuce at OddFellows, which first started in 2021. It’s an event series that takes various forms — led by founder Travis George — with the goal of “breaking bread,” between artists and fans, according to its website. Or rather, scooping ice cream with music as the topping. “It’s a win-win for us,” said Mohan Kumar, co-founder of OddFellows. He felt that given George’s passion for up-and-coming artists and his big social media reach, he was the right person to do these types of shop takeovers. Plus, Kumar added, the Domino Park location got its liquor license and the events are a way for the ice cream shop to make money after its regular hours.
Many areas of nightlife are concentrated on getting drunk, but the Sundae Sauuce dance party offers scoops of ice cream as the proverbial red Solo cup — in other words, by orchestrating DJ sets in a space that also sells ice cream after-hours, the event series allows those less interested in drinking to have not only a prop to hold, which might field some anxieties in social gatherings, but also an indulgence of their own, according to an attendee named Jalen D. “Alcohol is out,” she said adding that she doesn’t drink. She found the premise of the party, and other events aiming for fun without the pressure of alcohol, to be refreshing. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of drinking involved, as White Claws, and other beverages for purchase, were passed around, but people were also focused on dancing and meeting each other more than anything else.
George says that he modeled the parties after the roving nightclub Boiler Room’s underground ethos. Though plenty of bars regularly host pop-ups that are culinary-minded and experimental, Sundae Sauuce is one of a handful of parties that pair a single-food item with a DJ set with the purpose of providing an experience a little more silly than your average club. It’s in company with spots like XPizza, a pizzeria and “multidisciplinary platform” curiously located near the South Street Seaport, of all places, where you can dance to some actually good DJs, and be in bed by 10 p.m. if you want to, preferably with a slice in hand.
Throughout the night at Sundae Sauuce, partygoers — a mix dressed in jerseys, perhaps just for the look, and crop tops — turned iPhone flashlights on against the glass display case to read the available ice-cream flavors in the dark. After they got their orders, in flavors like cookies and mint, kitchen sink (with potato chips), or a version with maple, they pushed their way into the crowded middle of the room, where the scoops dripped onto their sweaty bodies, while others exchanged sample licks. People who ordered cups, rather than cones, faired better with control.
“Most of the orders come in at the front of the night,” said Lamar, who has worked all of the Sundae events at the shop. He said there’s not necessarily a single scoop customers tend to order at night, but agreed the move was likely one with caffeine, like the coffee crunch. Lamar remarked at how “respectful” everyone who had attended the events had been so far. (Earlier in the night, a DJ shouted into the mic, reminding everyone to tip well).
One regular, Nyisha Plaza, said she had come all the way from Westchester for the event. After finding it on Instagram last fall, she went to check it out for herself and managed to make a group of friends she still keeps in touch with. She’s been several times since, but what’s kept her coming back, beyond the set list, is “a safe place where people can be themselves outside of working, outside of everything happening in the world,” she said. “They can just come here and have fun without any pressure.” And dance on the tables, if you so choose.
While George’s online presence (Sundae Sauuce has around 20K followers on TikTok) might be read as a bit corny in instances, it’s clear that it’s nevertheless working for this group. By the end of the event on May 6, 120 people had stopped by the one-room ice cream parlor. Siàn, a guest visiting New York by way of London for just a few days, made a point of bringing her group of friends to the event, which she had found online, because as she said, it seemed to be a “unique and special experience,” unlike anything in nightlife back home. Was it worth it? So far so good, she said.
As the night wrapped around 2 a.m., just a block away a Mister Softee truck was closing down. All it was missing was a disco ball and a playlist made by a Soundcloud artist.