I can’t remember a winter that lasted longer than the one we just endured. And while I usually wait until Memorial Day before my annual assessment of Long Island’s ice cream scene, this year I was walking down the street eating a cone before the forsythias started to bloom.
Here are three newer establishments that should become regular stops on your warm-weather rotation.
Ice Cream Social
1153 Jericho Turnpike, Commack; 631-543-7501, icecreamsocialli.com
Rob and Christine McCue took over the old Granny’s Ice Cream in 2018, but it’s taken them three years to fully implement their own vision. Retooling the menu came first, then a gut renovation of the space. Now, with the installation of a sign whose ice-cream cone "can be seen from space," the transition to Ice Cream Social is complete.
Innovative flavors are the draw here. Chocolate, vanilla and pistachio are accompanied by chocolate-coconut macaroon, blueberry lavender, lemon-poppyseed and Mexican hot chocolate (with chilies and cinnamon).
When McCue describes his flavors as "chef-driven," he is being literal. The Plainedge native graduated with a culinary degree from New York Institute of Technology in Central Islip and ran kitchens for a number of corporate food services. After competing on Gordon Ramsay’s "Hell’s Kitchen," he went on to open his own restaurant, The Fat Monk, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The shift to ice cream accompanied his family buying a house on Long Island.
It’s not only McCue’s imagination that runs wild, it’s his subconscious. "Sometimes a flavor will come to me in my dreams," he said. "And I can’t wait to get to the shop to make it." This was the case with strawberry-Oreo with marshmallow swirl, whereas maple-glazed bacon-whiskey and candied-lemon-peel-poppy were products of his waking mind.
Among McCue’s flavors are seven that are vegan, a market that he knows is growing — and that doesn’t include Dole Whip, the cult pineapple-flavored soft serve. Handmade chocolates and custom ice-cream cakes (the domain of his wife Christine) are also on offer.
Milky Ways Ice Cream Cereal Bar
22 Clinton Ave. in Huntington, 2229 Route 112 in Coram, Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove; milkywaysicecream.com
Angela Cruz was not at all certain that Milky Ways Ice Cream & Cereal Bar would make it through the first year. The Coram shop opened in 2019 and was still getting its sea legs when COVID-19 hit. "We thought that no one would come in," she said, "but it turns out I didn’t realize that ice cream is very essential."
The success of Coram inspired the opening of two additional locations. She and Darius Bellamy opened Smith Haven Mall in March and, with a third partner, Husnain Chaudhry, Huntington in January. The capacious Huntington shop took over the short-lived Nitro Space, whose draw was space-age ice cream made to order in a matter of minutes using super-cold blasts of liquid nitrogen. Milky Ways goes in a completely different direction, that singularly millennial mashup of ice cream, breakfast cereal and over-the-top add-ins and drizzle-ons.
Placing an order here requires a number of decisions. Do you want your "swirlz" in a cup or a cone? If it’s the latter, which artisanal Brooklyn Konery cone — pink vanilla, red velvet, midnight black velvet or birthday cake — would you like? Your ice cream (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) will be scooped into a churning contraption along with one of 18 breakfast cereals (among them, Apple Jacks, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Honey Bunches of Oats and Reese’s Puffs) and then one of the friendly crew will pump it out, soft-serve-style, into your chosen receptacle. At which point it’s time to choose your toppings (various fruits, nuts and candies) and drizzles (chocolate, grape, caramel, strawberry, honey, marshmallow and peanut butter).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can just order one of the specials, such as the "Meet the Flintstones": vanilla ice cream blended with Fruity Pebbles topped with cookie dough and drizzled with chocolate and marshmallow.
There are customers who order a scoop of ice cream "neat," but if Cruz is in the store she’ll often make them a deal: "Let me make you something with cereal and if you don’t like it, I’ll take it back and make you a plain ice cream and it’ll be on me."
International Delight Cafe
241 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre; 516-766-7557, internationalrvc.com
New? This Rockville Centre landmark has a history that goes back to the 1950s when it was a link in the venerable Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor chain. In 1983, Toni and Marcello Rollandi bought the business and turned it into International Delight Cafe, whose calling card came to be scores of flavors of gelato — more than 80 of them. In 1999, a second International Delight Cafe opened in Bellmore but the two locations eventually parted ways and, after a few years of ill-fated partnerships, the Kerning family took sole ownership of Rockville Centre in 2020.
The Kernings undertook a renovation, which updated the retro room with modern features such as a glossy poured-concrete floor with a raspberry swirl. And the operation is overseen by young Will Kerning, who has been scooping ice cream here since 2013. There are fewer gelato flavors these days — which means that each batch is finished and replenished more quickly. Flavors rotate in and out but you’ll usually find stracciatella, rum raisin, rainbow cookie and chocolate-peanut butter among the options. Have your selection in a shake, soda, sundae or on a waffle.
While gelato is and will always be a cornerstone of International Delight Cafe, it is an eatery in transition: The Kernings plan to relaunch it as Azalea Cafe later this summer.