The story is a familiar one: Local food enthusiasts recreate one beloved treat and turn that item into a cottage business, first as a food truck phenomenon, and later, as a brick and mortar. This is also the story of ice cream aficionados Van Leeuwen, which just this weekend opened its first Manhattan location in the East Village.
Visitors will be charmed by the spacious shop, which is airy, clean, and appealing in an old-fashioned ice cream parlor way. Besides serving a basic—albeit delicious—chocolate and vanilla, the rest of the choices are somewhat more adventurous: espresso, pistachio, earl grey, palm sugar, cinnamon and Giandujia (Michel Cluizel Chocolate and rich Piedmont hazelnuts). Cones and bowls come in two sizes, small ($4.50) and large ($6.50), though hand-scooped pints are probably your best bargain at $8.50.
We each tried a small sugar cone and were pleasantly satisfied with the ultra smooth texture, which is creamy, dense in flavor, and not overly sweet. The organic cones were fresh and had a nice taste. Besides ice cream, there were a few pastries available, such as oversized chocolate chip cookies, muffins and scones.
Van Leeuwen might seem expensive when you’re just after a quick scoop on a hot day, but the place is welcoming, serves plenty of hot and cold drinks like iced coffee, latte, and something called affogato, which is a scoop of vanilla ice cream “drowning” in espresso. Stop in, cool off, and experience something truly wonderful, like a root beer float ($6) or the Brooksie Banana Split (two scoops of vanilla ice cream with bananas, homemade hot fudge, freshly whipped cream, and walnuts, $8). A plus is their child-friendly atmosphere, which helps when your gourmet ice cream cone suddenly hits the tile floor.