Booza, if you've never had it before, is pretty wild stuff. It's basically ice cream—in fact it's allegedly the original ice cream, invented in the Middle East in 1500 AD—but the consistency is almost like taffy, thanks to ingredients like salep, a flour made from ground orchid tuber, and mastic, a gum harvested from tree bark. That recipe also keeps the frozen dessert from melting as quickly as typical ice cream. And perhaps most important, flavors really "take" to booza, so when it's made with love it can be wonderfully rich and intense.
Given all of the fun and deliciousness involved here, it's surprising how rare booza (or its Turkish counterpart, dondurma) is in New York City, a gaping hole in our overall sweet-treat options that the brand-new parlor Republic of Booza intends to fill. Located in prime new-development Williamsburg on North 4th Street near Berry, this booza scoop shop offers an impressive array of choices in three somewhat overlapping categories.
The Booza menu starts with Classic, which tends toward more standard ice cream flavors such as Strawberry, Vanilla, and Salted Caramel. Then there's the Global category, where you'll find the traditional Qashta, or candied cream (often the only option available at other outlets), as well as Horchata de Chufa, Red Miso, and other selections. Finally, under the Experimental heading you'll find crowd-pleasers like Salted Oreo as well as the slightly more daring Sichuan White Peppercorn, Mint Tahini Chip, and Coconut Matcha. On opening day I ate four scoops from all over the map and can recommend that you do the same.
The space itself is good looking in its minimalist way, with light wood and clean lines. A lighting installation fills the ceiling, with shapes echoing the booza churn stick, which also appear on a sculptural wall piece. Your scooper (your stretcher?) faces the challenge of getting this gummy material into a cone or cup with determination and a sense of humor. As for seating, there's some stools before a narrow counter, and a bench for your eating-in pleasure.
(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
The Republic of Booza is located at 76 North 4th Street between Berry and Wythe, and is open daily from noon to 10 p.m. (718-302-5000; republicofbooza.com)