I love New York City in a way that everyone else in the world loves this metropolitan anomaly. The thousands of busy people doing very important things and impatient yellow taxis weaving in and out of traffic are charming in their own way. I’ve visited the city on multiple occasions, and while I (somewhat) enjoyed the obligatory tourist traps like the Empire State Building (where I accidentally groped a security guard) or the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, I much prefer to eat my way through the city. My fondest memories are visits to places like the Shake Shack in Grand Central Terminal where I had my first Shack Stack, or the flank steak dish with polenta fries at Cafeteria, or my first birthday truffles from Milk Bar, or positively stuffing my face at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg. You get the picture. But while this post could be three miles long, I wanted to shed light on some of the best ice cream I’ve enjoyed in the city.
The cone I’m thinking of is from Big Gay Ice Cream. BGIC not only focuses on presentation and quirky marketing, but also delivers on the customer's experience. The design of the cone is built to introduce something new with each bite. It’s sprinkled and drizzled but also dipped and filled. Probably the most iconic cone is the Salty Pimp, consisting of vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, and a dip in chocolate to hold all the goodness in place. I chose to order the Monday Sundae, which is similar, but in my opinion a bit more decadent: twist ice cream (chocolate and vanilla swirl), a Nutella lined cone, dulce de leche, sea salt, and whipped cream. But fair warning, these cones are messy (worth it).Why was this my favorite? It’s a rich cone. With the twist ice cream you get the best of both worlds, which is perfect for those indecisive types (i.e. me). I’m also a sucker for Nutella, but what really makes it is the sea salt, which becomes necessary if you plan to eat a whole waffle cone’s worth of the ice cream. The flakes speckle the cone and cut through the sweetness, keeping the monotony at bay. For the less experienced, you might consider asking for a spoon to scoop out remnants at the bottom of the cone.
You might notice that all of the ice cream at BGIC is soft-serve style. Not only does it provide that iconic swirl, but as co-owner Douglas Quint explains, soft serve ice cream is eaten at 20 degrees compared to typical hard-packed ice cream which is served at 0 degrees (Fahrenheit). By offering their delicious cream above the ice-cold, frozen standard, Quint claims that it’s actually easier to taste the ice cream and the toppings that come with it. The excitement is not simply limited to soft-serve, however. They also offer a variety of cold treats. Milkshake flavors range from horchata to ginger-curry. "Paletas" are also seasonally offered in flavors such as hibiscus and coconut. Customization also comes into play with peculiar toppings such as olive oil and sea salt, elderflower syrup, wasabi pea dust, or even cayenne pepper! Big Gay Ice Cream is just one of many small businesses in NYC that pride themselves with original and inventive food; the only difference is that BGIC will leave you walking away with a smile and possibly a unicorn shirt.
One of my favorite questions to ask complete strangers, generally as an icebreaker, is what their last meal would be. It’s both a worst and best case scenario in that you’re probably on death row awaiting your final hours, but at least you’ll go out with a bang knowing you’re belly is filled to the brim with lobster and filet mignon or whatever tickles your fancy. And while we might fantasize about being able to eat the most outlandish and exuberant dishes that we cannot indulge in on a daily basis, these whimsical answers won’t truly address the question. At the end of the day, what do you eat that truly brings you comfort and makes you feel good? Perhaps it's an old favorite that reminds you of home or maybe it was a dish you tried for the first time when you went abroad in your twenties.
I’ve thought about this for a long time, and it’s simply torture to narrow it down to a single meal. I realize my hypocrisy here, because I still insist that others answer my death row prompt with at most three courses. If we relaxed the limitations, however, I can think of at least ten foods that simply make me happy. My top ten is a work in progress, as not every meal can make my list of the ten very best foods I have ever tried based on my limited, earthly experiences. In no particular order I selected:
While a "veggie" burger is not the end-all-be-all of vegetarian fast food cuisine, it is certainly a nice option to have. It is perplexing, therefore, that few chains offer any veg-head friendly patties, considering the ever expansive market of vegan and vegetarian eaters. The same complaint goes for sit-down chains. The only one that comes to mind that offers a vegetarian patty is Chili's with their black bean patty. Some restaurants have cop-out vegetarian options such as Five Guys with their Veggie Sandwich, which simply omits the patty altogether, or In-N-Out's secret menu "grilled cheese" which is just as much of a let down as it sounds like.
The only two widely accessible fast-food chains that offer any sort of vegetable-based (or vegetable and grain mix) patty seem to be Burger King and Subway. But if we are being honest, the only true contender would be Burger King. My experience with Subway's Veggie Patty was just okay. When I pointed to the brown, wrinkly rectangle, the Subway guy looked at me and asked "Are you sure?" He then scratched his head explaining that no one had ever ordered a Veggie Patty for as long as he'd worked there, and he wasn't even sure of how long to heat it in their toaster oven. He had to ask the manager. Despite its unpopularity, the patty was not bad. It was mushy, but its flavor was decent and gave me falafel vibes. I was not a fan of the killer stomach ache it gave me later on that day. So, my advice to others would be order at your own risk.
Perhaps part of the problem is that Subway seems to have taken on the task of producing their own veggie patties. Unlike the sandwich chain, Burger King humbly outsourced their veggie burger duties to MorningStar Farms. All BK does is throw the patty down alongside it's meaty counterparts to get that same charbroiled flavor. And this seems to work well. Burger King's veggie burger was surprisingly tasty. The texture on the inside was what you would expect (sort of mushy), but the patty itself was firm enough on the outside to withstand the burger experience. My biggest question to all major chains out there: McDonald's, Wendy's, Hardee's/Carl's Jr., I'm looking at you. Why haven't you followed Burger King's lead?
I can only assume that maybe MorningStar and Burger King have some sort of blood-pact that forbids the veggie burger brand from doing business with anyone else. Even so, there has to be some other veggie competitor out there willing to do a deal with a major fast-food chain. And it shouldn't be a matter of waiting to see if the vegetarian and vegan trend will die out. They shouldn't wait for the "right time" or the 'right brand" to come along, considering Burger King has been making a profit off of veggie burgers since 2002. For international fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, it is simply a matter of expanding existing products into those chains in the US. Franchises in countries such as the UK, Germany, and India already boast an expansive vegetarian menu with items such as the Vegetable Deluxe, a chickpea patty seasoned with cumin and coriander. I find it difficult to see why major chains such as McDonalds would be so hesitant to include veggie burgers in chains all across the country, because all I can picture is an America that would warmly welcome more vegetarian (and vegan!) options in the fast-food scene.
I'm Lisa Cecilia Garcia. I'm a freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle but have experience in poetry, creative writing, and everything in between. I'm a recent college graduate residing in Valdosta, GA. I love sketching, running, and obviously cooking and eating. When I'm older, I plan to run away to the mountains.