Those who gravitate toward sweet over savory should get quite the thrill devouring desserts throughout the East Village and Alphabet City. Quality, indie, locally born ice cream shops abound, while Asian dessert fans can choose from a Kyoto-style teahouse, a popular Taiwanese chain with over 100 dishes to deliberate over, or a homemade mochi haven, to name just a few worthy area picks. A self-guided crawl of just a couple of the 18 highlights ahead will definitely induce a spectacular sugar high (and possibly a cavity or two in the process).Read More
18 Outstanding Desserts in the East Village
Iconic Italian pastries, a Vietnamese sundae, and excessive amounts of ice cream
1. Milk Bar East Village
It’s hard to go wrong with any of Christina Tosi’s whimsical treats, like cookies, cake truffles, and crack pie. The cereal milk soft serve — an idea born at Momofuku Ko — is extraordinarily popular, for good reason. But don’t overlook the corn cookie: it’s the essence of fresh cornbread in a sweeter, denser, less crumbly format. The cake truffles are an easy-to-share office birthday dessert crowd pleaser, while the crack pie is extremely sweet but, yes, addictively good. While this is the O.G. location, it’s now become an empire with across the country. Tosi’s reach expands even further, thanks to cookbooks, cookie mixes, and other ambitious big-picture plans for Milk Bar.
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2. Sundaes and Cones
The flavors at Sundaes and Cones will please both traditionalists and more adventurous types. Choose from seasonal rosters of options that might include lavender, red velvet, wasabi, sesame, honey ginseng, and black sesame. Or, play it safe with classics like mint chocolate chip, vanilla, and cookies and cream. Founder Royce Chan ran a popular ice cream shop in Sunset Park before relocating his creamy creations to the East Village in 2009. In addition to scoops, there are fanciful cakes, too.
3. ChikaLicious Dessert Bar
Dessert diehards will adore the elaborate tasting menus filled exclusively with sweets at this longtime East Village spot. Dessert choices rotate daily, including options like warm chocolate tart with pink peppercorn ice cream and red wine sauce. The three-course prix fixe menu includes an amuse, dessert of choice and petits fours for $18, with wine, port, and champagne pairings at an additional cost. Across the street is the more casual, affordable ChikaLicious Dessert Club, known for its churro cones, which also has outposts in Seoul and Bangkok.
4. Veniero's Pastry
Bustling Italian pastry shop Veniero’s dates back to 1894 and is an institution of both the East Village and NYC at large. It’s a strong option for take-out, particularly for holiday or family gatherings that necessitate a big box of pastries; just go early or be prepared to wait around Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. But to really soak up Veniero’s charm and understand why it’s a truly good NYC tourist trap, opt for table service to linger in the stained glass-filled space over a cappuccino and some sfogliatelle and cannoli to share. It’s open until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.
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5. Spot Dessert Bar
For wacky and whimsical sweets, consider Spot Dessert Bar on St. Mark’s Pl. Confections include a baked Alaska ice cream cone filled with mango and raspberry sorbet and swathed in meringue that’s torched to order, and an oozing green creation called a matchava, pictured here. There are locations in Flushing and K-town, too.
6. Mikey Likes It Ice Cream
Michael “Mikey” Cole opened an ice cream shop in 2014, spurred by finding a vanilla ice cream recipe at his aunt’s house. Many flavors are pop culture-inspired, like “Ice Ice Baby” (triple vanilla), Pink Floyd (double strawberry and cheesecake), and Brady Bunch (banana pudding, Vienna fingers, crushed vanilla wafers). Another highlight: the Southern Hospitality, with pecan-flavored ice cream, praline pecans, and hunks of pecan pie. Hillary Clinton paid a visit to the ice cream shop in 2016 during her presidential run; Jay-Z has also been a customer. There’s also a location in Harlem.
7. Cha-An Teahouse
This Kyoto-style teahouse has been nestled in a second-floor space, serving up exquisite sweets and teas since the early aughts. The delicate, meticulous Japanese desserts include its signature, a black sesame creme brûlée, matcha tiramisu, and green tea parfait. They’re served a la carte or as a set afternoon tea menu for $48, with tea, dainty sandwiches, and a range of sweets. Don’t sleep on the mochi options, particularly those nodding to steeped flavors like green tea and Earl Grey. In warmer weather, try the seasonal hand-shaved ice, with toppings like peach compote and puree.
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8. Mama Fina’s NYC House of Filipino Sisig
Head to this casual counter-serve spot for Filipino sweet treats, like halo-halo shaved ice and turon (sugared plantains in egg wrappers). This is a dessert pick that deserves dinner before: A savory feast of sizzling sisig, a crispy sitr-fry with fillings like pork belly or squid, is the ideal prelude to a refreshing pile of halo-halo. The original location is in Elmwood Park, New Jersey.
9. Meet Fresh 鮮芋仙
Meet Fresh, a popular Taiwanese dessert chain, opened up its inaugural NYC location on Cooper Square in January 2018 to long lines of sweets fiends. Here, you’ll find a lengthy menu with more than 100 dishes on offer, from boba tofu pudding to hot almond soup. The chain, which was started by siblings, has over 100 locations in Taiwan as well as a handful of outposts stateside, in Asia, and Australia.
10. Davey's Ice Cream
This cute ice cream shop, opened by owner David Yoo in 2013, has a creamy, mostly classic roster that includes roasted pistachio, strong coffee, and speculoos chocolate, plus seasonal rotating flavors. Sundaes, ice cream sandwiches made to order, and milkshakes, including a pie milkshake with peanut butter pie or a seasonal pie, are on the menu, too. There’s also a Williamsburg location, which opened in 2015.
11. Moishe's Bake Shop
New York, NY 10003
This Hungarian bakery whips up excellent strudel, babka, and rugelach; for a less sweet but still delicious option, grab some Challah bread, too. It’s also one of the city’s finest spots for hamentashen: the triangular cookies, traditionally eaten during Purim, are made with a closely-guarded cookie dough recipe and available with fillings like poppy seed, apricot, prune, raspberry, or chocolate. Note that they’re closed Saturdays to observe Shabbat.
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12. Superiority Burger
Brook Headley’s famous veggie burgers certainly aren’t the only pull at Superiority Burger: the ice cream and gelato at the vegetarian (and very vegan friendly) fast food joint is just as beloved — and for good reason, considering Headley’s background as a pastry chef. Expect flavors like vanilla labne gelato, polenta gelato, preserved fig and rhubarb sorbet, plus “fancy dessert” specials like griddled whole wheat focaccia pudding with Meyer lemon candy and coconut gelato. Other worthy meals to preface the frozen teats with: spicy burnt broccoli salad and a meat-free sloppy joe.
The honey butter chips are the deliriously good sweet treat to order, as evidenced by the fact that they make cameos on practically every table on any given night. The thin crisps, tossed in an addictive mixture of honey and butter, are a twist on a popular Korean snack, topped here with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
14. Hanoi House
Since opening in 2017, this Vietnamese spot has accrued a following for its excellent savory fare, but the chè sundae is also a draw. The layered creation is a study in textural and color contrast. There’s plenty of creaminess, thanks to black sesame gelato, condensed milk, and sweetened coconut milk, some crunch (crushed peanuts), a bit of a kick via candied ginger, juicy fruitiness (canned lychee and jackfruit) and a jiggly factor, thanks to pandan and black grass jellies. Go early to snag this Vietnamese sundae: The restaurant apparently sells just a dozen per night. Look out for rotating dessert specials too, like this novel parfait featuring crushed avocado with lime and salt, coconut gelato, coconut jellies, and toasted coconut shavings.
15. OddFellows Ice Cream Co. The Sandwich Shop
Co-founders Sam Mason and Mohan Kumar debuted this location of ice cream shop OffFellows 2013. Mason’s experience as a pastry chef at now-shuttered molecular gastronomy trailblazer Wd~50 helps explain inventive flavors like black pepper fig, blood orange olive oil, chorizo caramel swirl, and miso cherry. There’s also a coffee-and-ice cream outpost Nolita, ice cream and cocktails (and combinations of the two, like a Lambrusco float) served at a Dumbo location, plus a spacious Bushwick factory and soda fountain flagship that’s “coming soon.” The original is in Williamsburg.
16. Butter Lane
Cupcakes may have hit peak popularity in 2013, but for any enduring cupcake enthusiasts and/or a small child’s birthday party, Butter Lane is still around. Flavors include maple pecan, honey cinnamon, coconut, espresso, cream cheese, blueberry, and the Elvis (banana cake topped with peanut butter). Butter Lane also hosts two-hour cupcake making classes for $75 per person.
Mochii is completely focused on the chewy, sweet rice flour-wrapped orbs of ice cream, which are made by hand and come in various iterations. In addition to 10 flavors of ice cream filling to choose from, there’s a vegan version with three sorbet options, or the mochii daifuku, which contain flavored sweet cream fillings like vanilla bean and Nutella, or yuzu. Other mochi permutations include red bean paste-lined rolls and dango, with mini-skewers of rice flour balls dredged in various toppings.
18. Momofuku Ko
At David Chang’s swishiest, Michelin-starred restaurant, beeline to the bar to sample the Japanese cheesecake with maple syrup. Fluffy and tall thanks to ample egg whites, its texture has been likened to foie gras. And, while it’s certainly a special occasion worthy dessert pick at $16 (especially in an area riddled with sweets spots), the a la carte bar menu rolled out in April 2018 means it can be relatively more affordable to eat at Momofuku Ko these days. It’s available solely on the bar menu.