Ah, summer, the perfect confection of lemonade stands, sunsets over the ocean, and new superhero movies. Nothing says summer like sitting on the porch and eating an entire carton of ice cream—unless you can’t eat ice cream, that is. Those of you in the dairy-phobic cohort will recognize the scene well: sitting around in a friend’s living room, someone suggests that you all go on an adventure, and suddenly you’re at the ice cream shop, protesting to everyone that, really, you’re okay, and you ate before, and don’t apologize, and please, just stop talking and eat the ice cream. (Never mind that it’s blisteringly hot and you’re wondering if it would be weird to ask for just a cup of ice. Or maybe just a cone filled with gummy bears.) Well, pals, welcome to the future, where ice cream sans cream is now locally (relatively) available!
Following the Barnard Dining Hall and Afterwards St. Luke’s Hospital Incident in freshman year, a friend from an old summer program came to visit the city and surprised me with my very first ice cream cone at age eighteen, dragging me to Alphabet City with smug secrecy. Then known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, the ice cream shop was totally vegan and dairy-allergy friendly. Made with non-dairy milk, like soy or cashew, it is also peanut-free (provided you don’t get the peanut butter flavor). And so I sat in the middle of a new city, clutching a sugar cone and staring in awe of the vanilla and raspberry double-scoop melting in my hand. Fast forward a year later, and that outing, combined with a trip to Babycakes NYC, inspired a food allergy blog and more ice cream outings.
Today, Lula’s Sweet Apothecary has apparently undergone a series of management changes leaving it a nameless establishment on 6th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B, but remains a little oasis of ice cream. The ice cream shop formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary is a leisurely walk from the 1st Avenue stop on the L train, or the 2nd Avenue stop on the F train. If you’re making an evening out of it, it’s also close to the Westville‘s Westville East location. Because Lula’s has no sign or awning, it is a little difficult to identify for you but trust that you will know it when you get there. Here we include a picture of its nondescript, but welcoming storefront. (It’s also still listed as “Lula’s Sweet Apothecary” on Google Maps.)
Just a few weeks ago, the Brunch with Bear team hopped over from a sweaty and dehydrated day in Williamsburg for another delicious ice cream Sunday. The counter is small, but the tasting spoons are real metal spoons instead of that plastic nonsense, allowing for a better tasting experience that is also eco-friendly!
Though every flavor we sampled was delicious, I settled on raspberry and cookies and cream, both of which I’ve had before, and the combination was an inspired choice. The raspberry scoop was delightful both in its rich color and tart flavor, while the cookies and cream scoop had Oreo-like chunks that were like dessert to the dessert itself! Packed up in a sugar cone, the ice cream was a decadent way to polish off a Sunday afternoon! Another nice thing is that the shop has cups and a large cooler for water, which was perfect for the muggy and sluggish weather.
Although gourmet ice cream is often more expensive than Trader Joe’s, let us remember that ice cream in general is outrageously expensive in NYC, where a pint can easily be over $15. In addition, an extra dollar for safe ice cream is a small price to pay, compared to the thousands that I might spend at the hospital later, if a regular dairy ice cream store didn’t properly wash their scoops or carefully separate their flavors. In addition, the staff at this store is friendly and informative, and I noticed they were very nice about giving new cones to the two customers after us, who catastrophically dropped their ice cream on the ground in a bout of clumsy and unfortunate circumstances!
The shop seems to attract the Young and Hipster scene that has populated Alphabet City for decades, due to its vegan offerings, but also the local parents and children looking for a cold treat on a hot day. The ice cream shop formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary welcomes everyone, even bears!
As the summer days start drifting away, it’s important to remember what summer is really about: good friends, warm air, and ice cream. Take some time to enjoy a last few ice cream Sundays before summer is over!