Every summer since we moved to NYC, we have tracked down the best ice cream to be had. 2017 was the summer of ice cream bubble egg waffles, 2018 birthed an exponential opening of soft serve purveyors and some very oddball icecream creations, 2019 saw the growing prominence of global flavours, 2020’s pandemic was all about ice cream deliveries, and 2021 was the summer of frozen sweet treats other than ice cream. This year — our sixth summer (!) — we celebrate this last month of summer with the best shaved ice in the city!
*As with all our round-up reviews, we keep updating, so do bookmark this page!
The lightest shaved ice
- 1st dessert destination: Little One, Lower East Side, Manhattan.
- Best for: Pineapple Kakigori ($7). Little One’s shaved ice is super light and crystalline, but do note that it is little, and we do mean, little. One is enough for one.
- 2nd dessert destination: Tonchin, Midtown Manhattan, NewYork.
- Best for: Mango Kakigori ($16). Order a steaming bowl of ramen noodles, drip with sweat, and then chill down with Tonchin’s giant bowl of ice.
Milky dense shaved ice
- 1st dessert destination: Sweet Moment, Chinatown, Manhattan.
- Best for: Super dense patbingsoo ($16). Sweet Moment’s shaved ice is not as milky as Grace Street’s, but it is still very dense. The Christmas-coloured “Matcha Strawberry” is the most photogenic, but the “Mango Cheesecake” is our favourite. Sweet Moment adds a generous amount of toppings too, such as mochi morsels and orbs of ice cream.
- 2nd dessert destination: Grace Street, Koreatown, Manhattan.
- Best for: Ultra-creamy patbingsoo ($16). Grace Street’s shaved ice is the creamiest of the shaved ice on this list. Although it isn’t the largest pyramid of ice, its high cream content means that we have never been able to finish, even when shared between two persons. Go for the black sesame if you are after something a little savoury, or the strawberry volcano with lychee jelly for something sweeter.
Portable shaved ice
- 1st dessert destination: Lazy Sundaes, Soho / Chinatown, Manhattan.
- Best for: Original ($10). For when you want to walk around with shaved ice, rather than sit down, Lazy Sundae comes to the rescue. Our favourite was the original, laced with red bean, mochi and soy bean, but the hojicha is a close second.
- 2nd dessert destination: Semi Colon Cafe, Murray Hill, Manhattan.
- Best for: Matcha ($10). Semi Colon is the newest shaved ice shop on this list. The scoop of mascarpone is unnecessary, but the matcha layered with red bean and crunchy cereal is a refreshing treat while trotting through Manhattan.
Dessert bar shaved ice
- 1st dessert destination: Spot Dessert Bar, East Village, Manhattan.
- Best for: Lychee Ume ($14). Spot Dessert Bar is one of our long-time favourite dessert spots in the city for reliable, universally-appealing desserts at a reasonable price. See here for a previous review. Desserts change by season, and one of our favourite seasonal desserts is the tower of heavenly lychee granita, drizzled with slightly salty ume plum sauce. It’s a perfectly balanced, sweet-salty summer treat.
- 2nd dessert destination: Sweets Laboratory, Koreatown, Manhattan.
- Best for: Earl Grey ($16). Hanamizuki Cafe was once-upon-a-time our secret escape from the cacophony of Midtown Manhattan. It has since been taken over by Sweets Laboratory, a pink-hued dessert-focused cafe. Served in a photogenic tall martini-like glass, the shaved ice here is refreshingly light, and layered on top of milk tea pudding and colourful fruit jelly.
- 3rd dessert destination: Meet Fresh, Noho, Manhattan.
- Best for: Caramel and almond pudding ($17). For cold sweet soups layered with sago, red bean, grass jelly, mango etc, Meet Fresh is one of our favourite frozen treat spots. Aside from sweet soups, don’t miss its range of shaved ice. The bubble tea version may be the most instagrammable, but it is the most dangerously diabetes-inducing. Instead, go for the one bejewelled with caramel flan, almond pudding, taro balls, chewy mochi, melon jelly and just lightly sweet, milky shaved ice. Summer dreaming right here.