Joseph Cornell kept his ice box in Queens stocked with “cake, ice cream, and all sorts of sweets,” according to fellow artist Roberto Matta. Florine Stettheimer penned a poem celebrating “traffic in the streets and Mallard’s sweets.” Andy Warhol loved candy. The relationship between art and epicurean pleasures is long—”living well is the best revenge,” the artist Gerald Murphy liked to say—and I’ve always thought that the only thing better than a day at an art museum is a day at an art museum followed by ice cream. Below, read a guide to 10 ice cream shops within walking distance of New York-area museums. This, I must emphasize, is only a partial list—a modest start—and it will be updated and expanded regularly.
NEWARK MUSEUM → Nasto’s Ice Cream
236 Jefferson Street, Newark – 1.7 miles
It’s a little bit of a hike, but Nasto’s is worth every step. This family-run operation, which dates back to 1939, offers not only unusual ice-cream flavors like Holy Cannoli, Amaretto, and Mallomar (a truly rare delicacy) but also what it terms “Old World Desserts” that double as architectural wonders, like reginetta (sponge cake with ice cream) and tartufo (ice cream adorned with sliced almonds, then enrobed in chocolate). There are varieties of sorbet, gelato, sherbert, Italian ice, and pastries, too. Nasto’s is a New Jersey treasure, with something for everyone.
JACQUES MARCHAIS MUSEUM OF TIBETAN ART → Egger’s Ice Cream Parlor Richmond Town
441 Clarke Avenue – 0.7 miles
Egger’s is a Staten Island standby, dating back to 1932, and it now has three locations. Serving classics like butter pecan and cookies and cream, along with a special flavor that rotates monthly, it champions hulking sundaes on metal dishes that look straight out of the 1950s—or like a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg. The cozy branch near the Jacques Marchais Museum (with seasonal hours: call ahead) is situated in Richmond Town, home as well to a museum complex telling the story of the area’s colonization by the Dutch in the 17th century that is also an essential visit.
BROOKLYN MUSEUM → Island Pops
680 Nostrand Avenue – 1 mile
Soursop, nutmeg, rum raisin, grapenut, and other Caribbean specialties grace the ice cream menu of this inviting little shop, which was opened by a husband-and-wife team in 2018. Conceived with care, these creamy pleasures have—in both taste and color—a purity that may bring to mind certain Marcia Hafif monochromes. You can pair them with, say, a slice of molten chocolate lava cake or a warm apple guava tart, and then toss atop it all cashews hit with jerk spices or crunchy crushed peanuts. There are also vegan options—Trinidadian chocolate, strawberry—and (true to the shop’s name) popsicles, plus espresso for the affogato-minded. It’s a real destination.
STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM → Sugar Hill Creamery
184 Lenox Avenue – 0.4 miles from the museum’s under-construction home
In April 2019, Sugar Hill Creamery collaborated with Studio Museum director Thelma Golden on a flavor called Golden Chai, which was just the latest in a string of intriguing offerings that husband-and-wife Nicholas Larsen and Petrushka Bazin Larsen (an alum of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Laundromat Project) have been cooking up since 2017. Other gems—with names that exhibit Duchamp-worthy wordplay—are School Lunch (PB&J-flavored), Sunday Best (candied yams), and Chairperson of the Board (cream cheese ice cream with graham crackers and blueberry jam, because, in their words, blueberry cheesecake is “definitely the boss of desserts”). Lots to love here.
QUEENS MUSEUM → The Lemon Ice King of Corona
52-02 108th Street, Corona – 0.7 miles
This is not an ice cream shop, but the Italian ices at the Lemon Ice King of Corona in Queens are so smooth and rich that some flavors may have you believing that milk or cream are involved. The range of offerings from the Benfaremo family, which owns the shop, astounds. Just a few of the (wonderfully fluorescent-colored) flavors are sour apple, licorice, fruit cocktail, mint chocolate chip, piña colada, and, of course, the inimitable lemon. In business for more than six decades, the Lemon Ice King is a cornerstone of New York culture, like Florine Stettheimer or David Hammons.
GODWIN-TERNBACH MUSEUM → Max and Mina’s
7126 Main Street, Flushing – 0.9 miles
Merlot chip! Potato chip fudge! Pink Champagne Pop Rocks! This is perhaps the most daringly avant-garde ice cream store in New York. Lox! Beer! Chocolate babka! Spongebob! (That last one so-named because of its brilliantly yellow cake batter.) There is just no other place like Max and Mina’s—and not just because of the inventive flavors. The interior is a kind of glorious installation, with walls jam-packed with the fronts of cereal boxes and other ingredients as well as bumper stickers that recall frenetic artworks by, say, Jordan Wolfson or Ben Gocker. It’s a key stop-off point for anyone who lusts after the unusual in art and ice cream both.
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART → Ample Hills
73 Gansevoort Street, New York – 357 feet
Now with 16 locations (almost as many as the Gagosian gallery empire), Ample Hills has become an ice cream giant in a little under a decade, thanks to insanely pleasurable, playful flavors like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and the Munchies (pretzels, Ritz crackers, potato chips, M&Ms). They are mix-in experts, and they stint in neither the quantity nor quality of the cookies, cakes, and candies that end up in cups and cones. Their Peppermint Pattie—perhaps my favorite ice cream in the world—is the platonic ideal of the form, overflowing with hits of mint and buoyed by chocolate flakes. Heaven.
BRONX MUSEUM OF THE ARTS → Delicioso Coco Helado
849 St. Ann’s Avenue, the Bronx – 1.1 miles
When the weather turns warm in New York, Delicioso Coco Helado carts fan out into New York parks and plazas, hawking delights like tamarind, coconut, blueberry-grape, and watermelon ice cream. But best is the company’s home base of operations, where three-gallon jugs can be had for $20 to $25, and where a single serving cup is but a dollar: one of the greatest deals in the five boroughs. (Fun, intriguing fact, for aficionados of paintings of desserts: the family who owns the enterprise has the surname Thiebaud.) Don’t miss the sprawling outdoor mural of fresh fruits that advertises the treats that await within.
HUDSON RIVER MUSEUM → Paleteria La Michoacana
407 South Broadway, Yonkers – 2.5 miles
Though a long walk from the Hudson River Museum (but the Westchester bus service can speed things up), Paleteria La Michoacana will reward you at the end of your journey with creamy, pitch-perfect flavors of ice cream that veer toward those found in Mexico and Central and South America, like tres leches and mamey and papaya. There are paletas, too, in a wild panoply of flavors (guava, jamaica, chamoy), plus fruit juices. Should you find yourself over in nearby Mount Vernon at some point, another branch awaits at 15 East Prospect Avenue.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART → Shake Shack
Grand Central Terminal, lower level – 0.8 miles
The Museum of Modern Art is the unrivaled, sprawling home of modernism, so I’d propose pairing a visit with a similarly ambitious, well-stocked enterprise: Shake Shack, which now has more than 160 locations. Its frozen custard is some of the thickest, most satisfying ice cream I know—and definitely the finest produced by any chain in the land. And the Shack has origins in art, having begun in 2001 as a hot dog stand created by artist Navin Rawanchaikul for a show in Madison Square Park (for which Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group handled culinary duties). The rest is deeply delicious history.