At first glance, the brand new Chinatown ice cream shop Milkcow seems readily dismissable, just another gimmicky dessert spot, piling cute and colorful toppings—cotton candy! macarons!—on top of an ice cream base. But after making quick work of three of these marvelous creations one recent afternoon on Bayard Street, I can tell you that dismissive first impression would be wrong.
Founded just four years ago in Korea, Milkcow already has more than 50 outlets worldwide, mostly throughout Asia but also in Texas, California, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and the UAE. The Chinatown cafe is the chain's first outpost on the East Coast and, if they can keep it up with the high quality offerings and efficient service seen on opening week, it makes for a welcome addition to NYC's already bountiful ice cream scene.
The base here is a milky soft serve that's closer in taste and spirit to a fancy Fior di Latte gelato than some sort of generic vanilla. It's thick, rich, and super creamy, with a bit of tang and a subtle sweetness, and keeps its shape and texture even if you need a few extra minutes finding that perfect angle for your Instagram. The company promotes its "all-natural" and organic qualities, but know also that this stuff is straight-up delicious, and can hold its own even under the most gratuitously outrageous of toppings.
The Milkcow menu offers a dozen suggested sundae concoctions (you can also build your own if you prefer), using syrups, cookie crumbles, candy, the usual sorts of things you find at ice cream shops these days. One of their signature toppings, however, is the more unusual raw honeycomb, which you can get in chunk form or, basically, squeezed over your ice cream. This latter was my favorite sundae of the three I tried, adding just the right amount of stickiness. It's the big pink clouds of cotton candy that are probalby the most popular Milkcow add-on, however, and headline four of the menu items.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
During my visit, I tried the Snow Drop sundae, and marveled that cotton candy on ice cream actually tastes really good—the textures work nicely together-—f you can get past how ridiculous you feel while eating it. This one also had jellybeans buried below! Their nutella(ish)-topped treat, called the Black Pearl, features plenty of malt balls and is also a first-rate treat.
There are eight stools at various counters here, and cartoony cows on all the walls. If it's nice out, the smart play is to take your treat a block away to Columbus Park, which is always a pleasant and lively scene.
Milkcow is located at 69A Bayard Street, just east of Mott Street, and is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (milkcow.ca)