Frozen drinks, frosty desserts, and other heat-relieving treats make summer in Brooklyn sustainable. You know, sometimes we just need to take the humidity and beat it with chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick (a.k.a. the Swingle, pictured above). This summer, I wanted to try as many frozen treats as possible, and I’ve had so much fun pairing friends with milkshakes, parfaits, and slushies. I got a head-start, but it’s not too late to start your own Summer Treats Bucket List. Here are 11 excellent Brooklyn destinations plus 1 special spot in Queens to put on your list.
Your friend is (basically) a child
Maybe your BFF now comes with children, or maybe your buddy is just a big ol’ baby for sundaes and sweets. Maybe you’ve got a niece or nephew, or maybe you want to do something special with your own kid. There’s a dessert for that! Williamsburg’s branch of Taiyaki NYC offers soft-serve in fish-shaped cones, which represent happiness and prosperity in Japanese culture (294 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg). Just note that it’s a slim storefront without any seating, so this frozen delight must be experienced on the go.
If you’re cool with takeaway snacks, then Kith Treats is another hidden gem, tucked into a sneaker store near Barclays (233 Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Heights). Here, a wide variety of cereal and candy add-ons are swirled into soft-serve and milkshakes, with menu items like the Bam Bam, a combination of Rice Krispie treats, Cookie Crisp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Kit-Kat, crushed Oreos, and Lucky Charms marshmallows created by food-lover/rapper Action Bronson.
If you’d rather sit down with your clumsy kiddos or childlike adult friends, summer isn’t complete without a visit to Brooklyn Farmacy, the super-charming soda fountain that has been serving the city’s best sundaes, shakes, floats, and egg creams for over a decade (513 Henry Street, Carroll Gardens). Feed your sweet-salty cravings with a Take Five Sundae (peanuts, pretzels, and vanilla ice cream in a dark chocolate shell dusted with pretzel salt) or power up with a Rocket shake (espresso swirled into coffee ice cream).
Your friend needs a drink
Summer isn’t supposed to be stressful, and yet, here we are. It always seems like a good idea to grab a friend and let the ocean breeze and some frozen piña coladas from Connolly’s in Rockaway whip your worries into oblivion. The Irish pub opened in 1962 but was recently taken over by new owners. Luckily for longtime customers, the new guys are Rockaway natives set on keeping the place as it was, meaning that the decor, the vibe, and the old frozen piña colada recipe remain (155 Beach 95th Street, Rockaway, Queens).
In my quest to find the best frozen drinks in the borough, I also sampled “the coffee thing,” a sweet, frothy mix of coffee, bourbon, brandy, and coffee liqueur, with coffee grinds sprinkled on top, at Rocka Rolla (486 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg). All that evening caffeine was too much for this old gal, but I could see how—in another stage of life—one might want to drink a half-dozen of these and get real weird. Alternatively, Super Power offers a fruitier road to chaos with their frozen Painkiller, made with Navy-strength rums, coconut, pineapple, and orange juice (722 Nostrand Avenue, Crown Heights).
For something a little fancier, we’d direct you to the Sunken Harbor Club, the not-so-secret tiki bar located upstairs from Gage & Tollner (372 Fulton Street, Downtown Brooklyn). The drinks are served neat or on ice here, but there’s a must-try frozen treat on the dessert menu: a double-chocolate ice cream sandwich with an amaretto-toffee ripple. If you can snag a couple of seats at the bar downstairs, you could also pair a couple of Manhattans with a Baked Alaska for two, and then you’d know for certain that you are living your very best life.
Your friends think they’re sophisticated
Speaking of getting fancy, can we talk about that friend who says they don’t have a sweet tooth and never has room for dessert? Full disclosure: I’m that friend. I always appreciate a bite of something sweet, but I can only handle small doses of one-note sugary treats. However, Shalom Japan’s not-too-sweet Matcha Ice Cream Parfait is an extravaganza of sophisticated flavors and textures. The cool, creamy, almost-floral flavor of green tea ice cream layers with juicy fresh peaches, chewy mochi, earthy-sweet adzuki, crunchy-salty sesame crumble, and rich, syrupy brandied cherries (310 South 4th Street, Williamsburg). It’s the perfect finisher after a Japanese-Jewish meal—don’t sleep on the “Jew Egg” (basically a Scotch egg crusted in falafel and served over labneh, cucumber, olives, and mint) and their fantastic okonomiyaki (with bonito flakes waving over wagyu pastrami).
Wanna go a little sweeter? There’s no way to improve upon the Swingle, a frozen, dark chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick. The crackle of the richly bittersweet chocolate shell against the sweet graham cracker crush and that tart-yet-creamy key lime filling makes it The Perfect Dessert. However, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie (185 Van Dyke St, Red Hook) has added three more versions to their Swingle roster. You can now get a Swingle with a layer of raspberry dipped on top of the pie, dipped in either dark or white chocolate, or you can get a spicy dark chocolate Swingle with a layer of chipotle puree. We had 5 friends taste all 4 flavors and unanimously agreed that the original still rules, but I highly recommend gathering some friends to taste them all for yourself—they’re all big-flavored and wildly delicious.
For a more sophisticated take on ice cream, take your friends to Malai, known for their South Asian-inspired ice cream flavors, like rose with cinnamon-roasted almonds, lemon-cardamom, and tulsi chocolate chip. Better yet, see if you can reserve a spot of one of Malai’s chef series events. In late-July, they’ll feature Dorie Greenspan’s tropical pineapple sundae with Malai’s pineapple pink peppercorn ice cream and lychee sorbet (268 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens). The cultured ice cream lover in your life might also go for the decadent S’mores Soft Serve at Sunday in Brooklyn, made with feuilletine (that is, crisped crêpes) and light, slightly smoky toasted meringue (348 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg).
Your friends have a lot of needs
Maybe your friends have kids, need drinks, must have outdoor seating, are always hungry, and have sophisticated palates… but they tend to roll their eyes at all these newfangled, new-Brooklyn flavors. Obviously, there’s only one place for you: L&B Spumoni Gardens. Pizza and ices are a must-do on any respectable Brooklyn summer bucket list, but you’ve really got to know your limits with the square pies if you’re going to save room for dessert. For me, the pistachio-almond-chocolate spumoni tastes like summer itself, but L&B also has a selection of soft serve ice cream and Italian ices to please a whole ranges of taste-buds (2725 86th Street, Bensonhurst).
Brooklyn Food News
Hot Cookie Tip: These ginormous, limited-edition Rocky Road cookies are now available at the Williamsburg location of Levain Bakery and they’re stupid-good. Gooey marshmallows, crunchy cashews, and melty chocolate chips are held together with crumbly dark chocolate cookie dough, making a heavy-hitting hunk of goodness.
Park Slope Pizza Poetry: Brooklyn DOP is serving up pizza, beer, and wine on 5th Avenue and I’m digging their Instagram vibe: “The dough is wild, the crisp is unmatched, the interior is pillowy. A poolish paired with a strong flour is a revelation, but this pizza paired with a draft beer is a miracle.”
Now Open in Bed-Stuy: Brown Butter cafe has opened up a gelato shop called Brown Butter Creamery. Also in the neighborhood, a cute little daytime bar and cafe called Rita & Maria is now open.
New and Renewed in Williamsburg: La Mancha is now open and serving Spanish tapas. Plus, Mugs Ale House has reopened under new management.
Cobble Hill’s New Beer Spot: Williamsburg’s Talea has opened a new branch in Cobble Hill. Folks who love fruity beer are raving about their beer slushies, which have names like “Watermelon Sugar, Hi.” Perhaps you can crank up some Harry Styles and get down with a frozen salted sour ale, but I’m still mourning 61 Local, whose space it took over, and I’m just not there yet.
For my next column, I’m heading north, so feel free to send me your favorite Hudson Valley and Catskills spots. See you in August, friends!