Chinatown’s Hidden Gem: The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

By: Ama Debrah
With springtime rapidly approaching, one thing is on everyone’s mind: ice cream. Even though there’s a Haagen Dazs right here in Morningside Heights, if you’re looking for a change from your standard mass-produced ice cream flavors, head down to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (CICF)  located on 65 Bayard Street. Established in 1982, the CICF is a family run business that combines popular American ice cream flavors with “an exotic Chinese twist.” In addition to regular flavors, like Mint Chip, Vanilla, and Chocolate, the CICF also boasts exotic flavors, such as Zen Butter, Egg Custard, Avocado, and Wasabi. The CICF’s signature ice cream flavors have gotten the CICF featured countless times in the press, including on NPR, BBC, and the Zagat and Frommer’s guides, and have established the CICF as one of the top ice cream venues in NYC.

I first discovered CICF as my friends and I were listlessly looking for something to do on a Saturday night. Since, even in the cold month of February, I always consider ice cream a must, we found the CICF on a list of standout ice cream shops in the city. Intrigued, we decided to brave the cold and travel downtown. Following getting lost and ending up in Little Italy, we finally found the CICF- forty minutes after its closing time. After being informed by an annoyed Chinese man that, indeed, “Ice cream closed!” we accepted that fact that our ice cream adventure would have to be rescheduled.
This past weekend, in an effort to further postpone studying for midterms, we decided to try out the CICF one more time. After somehow getting lost for a second time, I was beginning to think that the CICF was a mere myth created to crush the hopes of eager tourists. Nevertheless, before completely giving up hope, we saw the CICF’s bright green dragon banner and realized that our quest had not been in vain.
As the CICF is a popular tourist spot, the CICF’s already small venue was cramped and chaotic. I was expecting a modern looking layout like Pinkberry or Rice to Riches so was slightly dismayed, but cheered up when I saw the many different flavors displayed. Although the Avocado and Red Velvet flavors sounded intriguing, I decided to stick with my old favorite and get Mint Chip. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and I appreciated that they didn’t smirk when I asked for additional rainbow sprinkles on my cone.
The second I bit into my ice cream, I was plunged into a velvety ice cream Nirvana. The loud interior of the CICF melted away, and I forgot that my legs were sore from walking around in circles for the past two hours. For the next ten minutes, my only concern was shoveling as much ice cream into my face as humanly possible.
So is the CICF worth the hype? Although it might be a little difficult to find, the CICF beats our neighborhood Haagen Dazs any day
Ama is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

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