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A red grated table features three white cups filled with brown, pink-and-green, and yellow-and-white soft serve.
There’s plenty of exciting soft serve to lick up this summer in New York.
John Tsung/Eater NY

13 Swirly Soft Serves in NYC

Where to find soft serve in flavors like ube, saffron, and matcha — enjoyable all summer long and beyond

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There’s plenty of exciting soft serve to lick up this summer in New York.
| John Tsung/Eater NY

On a hot summer afternoon — after a slice in Bensonhurst, on top of an egg waffle in Chinatown, or alongside an order of beignets in Alphabet City — no dessert feels quite as perfect as the classic soft serve. Machine-made with fewer ingredients and therefore more consistent in quality, the airier, less milk-fat heavy cousin to scooped ice cream has become a popular dessert for many restaurants in the city.

Since Milk Bar redefined the soft serve with its cereal milk invention in 2008, New York City has seen an explosion of the smooth, frozen swirls. These days, there’s a soft serve for every palate: light and refreshing or creamy and luscious, chocolate and vanilla or South Asian spices, dairy, or vegan. After tasting 32 of New York’s finest, below are 13 soft serves which are available year-round and provide a great representation of the city’s ever-evolving soft serve scene.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it also poses a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

John Tsung is a cultural writer and multidisciplinary artist whose work explores immigrant narratives and the Asian American experience, among other themes. You can find his work here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Milk Bar Upper West Side

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In the years since Milk Bar introduced their cereal milk soft serve, the once-iconic offering has become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to overlook. But take one taste, and it’s clear why this dessert was considered so distinctive and daring when it debuted. Creamy, corn flake-y, and salty-sweet, this remarkable soft serve remains instantly recognizable and continues to be a benchmark by which others are compared.

Two side by side cups of soft serve: one with chopped nut-like toppings, the other plain.
Milk Bar set forth a path for great soft serve in NYC.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Marvel Frozen Dairy

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The third East Coast outpost of the long-running, family-owned soft serve shop, Astoria’s Marvel Frozen Dairy is the Long Island-founded answer to Carvel. Known for their wide range of cream, yogurt, and vegan soft serves, Marvel’s rendition is pitch-perfect American boardwalk soft serve. It is light and marshmallowey, designed to be eaten quickly with their signature “bonnet” shell, heaped with sprinkles, chocolate chips, or — my favorite — a classic hot fudge sundae.

Three cups of soft serve are presented side-by-side in white cups: yellow, green, and brown with a white spoon in each.
Three types of soft serve from the family-run Marvel.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Xing Fu Tang

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Soft serve and bubble tea are a match made in heaven. Creamy and chewy, this combination can be found in a number of boba shops across the city, but one of the best interpretations can be found at Xing Fu Tang. The warm, caramelized, brown sugar boba — made fresh daily — is Xing Fu Tang’s secret weapon. The shop creates an inverted hot fudge sundae in each cup, with the cool and very lightly sweetened cream soft serve giving way to the molasses-rich boba on the bottom.

A hand holds up a brown soft serve with a cup that reveals a brown sugar boba base.
Xing Fu Tang is about more than just bubble tea.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Seed + Mill

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Once the only place in NYC to get Victory Garden’s legendary goat milk soft serve, Chelsea Market’s Seed + Mill knows good frozen desserts. After Victory Garden’s owner retired and closed her business, Seed + Mill transitioned from goat milk to a vegan oat milk recipe for their signature tahini soft serve sundae. Topped with Seed + Mill’s imported halva and tahini drizzle, the sundae is a wonder: nutty, gooey, and yet not overwhelmingly sweet. Seed + Mill should be the first stop for Chelsea Market visitors looking for an irresistible treat.

A white cup holds a brown soft serve with tahini and halva toppings.
Seed + Mill’s soft serve uses ingredients like halva and tahini.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Caffè Panna

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Hallie Meyer’s well-received ice cream and panna (cream in Italian) shop in Irving Place added another crowd-pleasing offering to their menu with a weekly soft serve special, in limited quantities daily. Paired with sprinkles and a delicate Amano chocolate shell, Caffe Panna’s subtly sweet, nearly savory soft serve menu differentiates itself from others with flavors that strike a balance between playful and sophisticated, including salted vanilla, strawberry olive oil, and cookies and panna.

Soft serve in a brown paper cup is topping with sprinkles and chocolate sauce.
Weekly soft serve specials are available.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Ray's Candy Store

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An Alphabet City landmark since 1974, Ray’s Candy Store is a must-visit not only for its place in New York history and celebrity sightings (Kim! Kendall!) but for its wide array of desserts from egg creams to deep fried oreos. Chief among the sweets is Ray’s ice cream truck-style soft serve, with classic flavors ranging from chocolate vanilla twist to strawberry and pistachio. Each is great with a side of Belgian fries or beignets, and it’s worth the price of admission just to have a moment with owner Ray Alvarez.

A hand holds up and chocolate and vanilla swirl with a colorful picture menu of food items in the back of frame.
The iconic Ray’s.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Rule of Thirds

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One of the better kept secrets at this popular Japanese izakaya in Greenpoint is the soft serve menu. Chef JT Vuong nods to Japanese culinary traditions and his Taiwanese heritage with the pairing of dairy and vegan soft serves. Vuong utilizes ingredients like sake kasu, remnants from the sake-making process, to create unusual soft serve flavors. Don’t miss the vegan offering, a white sesame soft serve made from soy milk that is rich and nutty with a creamy aftertaste that belies its nondairy roots.

A wooden table features two white ceramic bowls with pink and yellow soft serve garnished with brown toppings.
Rule of Thirds’s soft serve is one of Greenpoint’s best kept secrets.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Milk & Cream Cereal Bar

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Subtle is not an option at this shop, where the joy is in choosing from the staggering menu of cereals, toppings, and mix-in’s to blend in with vanilla or cookie dough soft serve flavors. The Chinatown-based Milk & Cream is also worth visiting for their off-the-wall collaborations and experiments, like a green Reptar ice cream bar in conjunction with Rugrats or an ice cream nugget with First We Feast. For the uninitiated, try the Apple Jacks Avalanche, a perfect homage to childhood memories.

A light blue cup that reads Milk & Cereal is filled with white soft serve with chocolate sprinkles.
Milk & Cream has off-the-wall collaborations and classics, too.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Soft Swerve Ice Cream

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Known for their soft serve menu studded with classic Asian ingredients like ube and matcha, as well as their eye-catching red waffle cones, Soft Swerve consistently delivers on their East and Southeast Asian flavors — not easy given the subtle ingredients, like purple yam, that are featured. Highlights from their rotation include a range of tea flavors, from Hong Kong milk tea to Thai iced tea, and their almond cookie. Order it with a shell and sprinkles to get the full soft serve experience

A chocolate waffle cone rests in a red spiral holder, filled with spiraled white and green soft serve.
Ube and matcha are the fan-favorites at Soft Swerve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Chikarashi

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For die-hard Disneyland fans and West Coast natives, the airy, tangy pineapple soft serve known as Dole Whip conjures up childhood summertime memories like nothing else. Almost impossible to find on the East Coast, the original Dole Whip and seasonal flavors like watermelon are much closer than a transcontinental flight thanks to the owners of the well-regarded poke spot Chikarashi. Try the Dole float with fresh pineapple if available for a tart-sweet pairing. 

A yellow soft serve with a white plastic spoon and pink umbrella.
The famous Dole Whip.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Well known for their sourdough pizza, Williamsburg’s Leo is also home to some of the more interesting soft serves in the city. Not one to go the conventional route, Leo’s has churned out melon sorbet, kobucha squash, and a salted caramel coconut swirl with sesame topping and olive oil drizzle. Try it with one of their rotating, equally adventurous cake slices.

A white cup with a brown soft serve features a sesame seed garnish.
Leo churns out flavors like salted caramel coconut swirl with sesame seeds and olive oil.
John Tsung/Eater NY

L'Industrie Pizzeria

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The line out the door of L’Industrie may be for their New York-style slices, but their seasonal menu of soft serves, including pistachio, mango, clementine, and basil, are equally note-worthy. Strong in flavor yet light in consistency, L’Industrie’s soft serves can lean closer to sorbets in their transparency and purity.

Two white cups feature yellow and white swirled soft serve.
One of NYC’s best slice shops is also home to stand-out soft serve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

 A South Asian-rooted ice cream shop in Cobble Hill, Malai offers two rotating soft serve options —one dairy and one vegan — that draw on regional flavors like pistachio, masala chai, and saffron. Subtly flavored and available with dairy-free “almond dip” shells, Malai’s soft serve offerings provide a wholly original spin on the classic American treat and are a great companion to their excellent ice cream menu.

A white paper cup with a wood spoon is filled with yellow and white swirled soft serve.
Saffron soft serve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Milk Bar Upper West Side

Two side by side cups of soft serve: one with chopped nut-like toppings, the other plain.
Milk Bar set forth a path for great soft serve in NYC.
John Tsung/Eater NY

In the years since Milk Bar introduced their cereal milk soft serve, the once-iconic offering has become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to overlook. But take one taste, and it’s clear why this dessert was considered so distinctive and daring when it debuted. Creamy, corn flake-y, and salty-sweet, this remarkable soft serve remains instantly recognizable and continues to be a benchmark by which others are compared.

Two side by side cups of soft serve: one with chopped nut-like toppings, the other plain.
Milk Bar set forth a path for great soft serve in NYC.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Marvel Frozen Dairy

Three cups of soft serve are presented side-by-side in white cups: yellow, green, and brown with a white spoon in each.
Three types of soft serve from the family-run Marvel.
John Tsung/Eater NY

The third East Coast outpost of the long-running, family-owned soft serve shop, Astoria’s Marvel Frozen Dairy is the Long Island-founded answer to Carvel. Known for their wide range of cream, yogurt, and vegan soft serves, Marvel’s rendition is pitch-perfect American boardwalk soft serve. It is light and marshmallowey, designed to be eaten quickly with their signature “bonnet” shell, heaped with sprinkles, chocolate chips, or — my favorite — a classic hot fudge sundae.

Three cups of soft serve are presented side-by-side in white cups: yellow, green, and brown with a white spoon in each.
Three types of soft serve from the family-run Marvel.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Xing Fu Tang

A hand holds up a brown soft serve with a cup that reveals a brown sugar boba base.
Xing Fu Tang is about more than just bubble tea.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Soft serve and bubble tea are a match made in heaven. Creamy and chewy, this combination can be found in a number of boba shops across the city, but one of the best interpretations can be found at Xing Fu Tang. The warm, caramelized, brown sugar boba — made fresh daily — is Xing Fu Tang’s secret weapon. The shop creates an inverted hot fudge sundae in each cup, with the cool and very lightly sweetened cream soft serve giving way to the molasses-rich boba on the bottom.

A hand holds up a brown soft serve with a cup that reveals a brown sugar boba base.
Xing Fu Tang is about more than just bubble tea.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Seed + Mill

A white cup holds a brown soft serve with tahini and halva toppings.
Seed + Mill’s soft serve uses ingredients like halva and tahini.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Once the only place in NYC to get Victory Garden’s legendary goat milk soft serve, Chelsea Market’s Seed + Mill knows good frozen desserts. After Victory Garden’s owner retired and closed her business, Seed + Mill transitioned from goat milk to a vegan oat milk recipe for their signature tahini soft serve sundae. Topped with Seed + Mill’s imported halva and tahini drizzle, the sundae is a wonder: nutty, gooey, and yet not overwhelmingly sweet. Seed + Mill should be the first stop for Chelsea Market visitors looking for an irresistible treat.

A white cup holds a brown soft serve with tahini and halva toppings.
Seed + Mill’s soft serve uses ingredients like halva and tahini.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Caffè Panna

Soft serve in a brown paper cup is topping with sprinkles and chocolate sauce.
Weekly soft serve specials are available.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Hallie Meyer’s well-received ice cream and panna (cream in Italian) shop in Irving Place added another crowd-pleasing offering to their menu with a weekly soft serve special, in limited quantities daily. Paired with sprinkles and a delicate Amano chocolate shell, Caffe Panna’s subtly sweet, nearly savory soft serve menu differentiates itself from others with flavors that strike a balance between playful and sophisticated, including salted vanilla, strawberry olive oil, and cookies and panna.

Soft serve in a brown paper cup is topping with sprinkles and chocolate sauce.
Weekly soft serve specials are available.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Ray's Candy Store

A hand holds up and chocolate and vanilla swirl with a colorful picture menu of food items in the back of frame.
The iconic Ray’s.
John Tsung/Eater NY

An Alphabet City landmark since 1974, Ray’s Candy Store is a must-visit not only for its place in New York history and celebrity sightings (Kim! Kendall!) but for its wide array of desserts from egg creams to deep fried oreos. Chief among the sweets is Ray’s ice cream truck-style soft serve, with classic flavors ranging from chocolate vanilla twist to strawberry and pistachio. Each is great with a side of Belgian fries or beignets, and it’s worth the price of admission just to have a moment with owner Ray Alvarez.

A hand holds up and chocolate and vanilla swirl with a colorful picture menu of food items in the back of frame.
The iconic Ray’s.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Rule of Thirds

A wooden table features two white ceramic bowls with pink and yellow soft serve garnished with brown toppings.
Rule of Thirds’s soft serve is one of Greenpoint’s best kept secrets.
John Tsung/Eater NY

One of the better kept secrets at this popular Japanese izakaya in Greenpoint is the soft serve menu. Chef JT Vuong nods to Japanese culinary traditions and his Taiwanese heritage with the pairing of dairy and vegan soft serves. Vuong utilizes ingredients like sake kasu, remnants from the sake-making process, to create unusual soft serve flavors. Don’t miss the vegan offering, a white sesame soft serve made from soy milk that is rich and nutty with a creamy aftertaste that belies its nondairy roots.

A wooden table features two white ceramic bowls with pink and yellow soft serve garnished with brown toppings.
Rule of Thirds’s soft serve is one of Greenpoint’s best kept secrets.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Milk & Cream Cereal Bar

A light blue cup that reads Milk & Cereal is filled with white soft serve with chocolate sprinkles.
Milk & Cream has off-the-wall collaborations and classics, too.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Subtle is not an option at this shop, where the joy is in choosing from the staggering menu of cereals, toppings, and mix-in’s to blend in with vanilla or cookie dough soft serve flavors. The Chinatown-based Milk & Cream is also worth visiting for their off-the-wall collaborations and experiments, like a green Reptar ice cream bar in conjunction with Rugrats or an ice cream nugget with First We Feast. For the uninitiated, try the Apple Jacks Avalanche, a perfect homage to childhood memories.

A light blue cup that reads Milk & Cereal is filled with white soft serve with chocolate sprinkles.
Milk & Cream has off-the-wall collaborations and classics, too.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Soft Swerve Ice Cream

A chocolate waffle cone rests in a red spiral holder, filled with spiraled white and green soft serve.
Ube and matcha are the fan-favorites at Soft Swerve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Known for their soft serve menu studded with classic Asian ingredients like ube and matcha, as well as their eye-catching red waffle cones, Soft Swerve consistently delivers on their East and Southeast Asian flavors — not easy given the subtle ingredients, like purple yam, that are featured. Highlights from their rotation include a range of tea flavors, from Hong Kong milk tea to Thai iced tea, and their almond cookie. Order it with a shell and sprinkles to get the full soft serve experience

A chocolate waffle cone rests in a red spiral holder, filled with spiraled white and green soft serve.
Ube and matcha are the fan-favorites at Soft Swerve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Chikarashi

A yellow soft serve with a white plastic spoon and pink umbrella.
The famous Dole Whip.
John Tsung/Eater NY

For die-hard Disneyland fans and West Coast natives, the airy, tangy pineapple soft serve known as Dole Whip conjures up childhood summertime memories like nothing else. Almost impossible to find on the East Coast, the original Dole Whip and seasonal flavors like watermelon are much closer than a transcontinental flight thanks to the owners of the well-regarded poke spot Chikarashi. Try the Dole float with fresh pineapple if available for a tart-sweet pairing. 

A yellow soft serve with a white plastic spoon and pink umbrella.
The famous Dole Whip.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Leo

A white cup with a brown soft serve features a sesame seed garnish.
Leo churns out flavors like salted caramel coconut swirl with sesame seeds and olive oil.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Well known for their sourdough pizza, Williamsburg’s Leo is also home to some of the more interesting soft serves in the city. Not one to go the conventional route, Leo’s has churned out melon sorbet, kobucha squash, and a salted caramel coconut swirl with sesame topping and olive oil drizzle. Try it with one of their rotating, equally adventurous cake slices.

A white cup with a brown soft serve features a sesame seed garnish.
Leo churns out flavors like salted caramel coconut swirl with sesame seeds and olive oil.
John Tsung/Eater NY

L'Industrie Pizzeria

Two white cups feature yellow and white swirled soft serve.
One of NYC’s best slice shops is also home to stand-out soft serve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

The line out the door of L’Industrie may be for their New York-style slices, but their seasonal menu of soft serves, including pistachio, mango, clementine, and basil, are equally note-worthy. Strong in flavor yet light in consistency, L’Industrie’s soft serves can lean closer to sorbets in their transparency and purity.

Two white cups feature yellow and white swirled soft serve.
One of NYC’s best slice shops is also home to stand-out soft serve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

Malai

A white paper cup with a wood spoon is filled with yellow and white swirled soft serve.
Saffron soft serve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

 A South Asian-rooted ice cream shop in Cobble Hill, Malai offers two rotating soft serve options —one dairy and one vegan — that draw on regional flavors like pistachio, masala chai, and saffron. Subtly flavored and available with dairy-free “almond dip” shells, Malai’s soft serve offerings provide a wholly original spin on the classic American treat and are a great companion to their excellent ice cream menu.

A white paper cup with a wood spoon is filled with yellow and white swirled soft serve.
Saffron soft serve.
John Tsung/Eater NY

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