I first tried Mikey Cole’s ice cream at a pop-up Puma store beneath my office. Rihanna-designed sneakers were on sale, and so Mikey had cooked up a flavor inspired by some of the singer’s favorite things; Milo chocolate powder, cheesecake and semi-sweet chocolate flakes. My colleague Lauren and I were impressed by the dense, sticky, delicious ice cream and meant all summer to check out his East Village store Mikey Likes It!
The Rihanna flavor turns out to have been an appropriate introduction to Mikey, since he touts his brand as ‘the first pop-culture inspired ice cream’. All the flavors are named after movies, musicians, albums and characters from popular culture – Cool Runnings, Ice Ice Baby, Pretty in Pink. Admittedly beyond these, most of the references were lost on me (I’m either too old or too English, or just not cool enough). But it seems to be doing wonders for him, with his modest store seeing a steady line of business and other bespoke flavors landing in other spots around the city- including D’Usse de Leche, made with Jay Z’s cognac – served exclusively at the W Hotel.
The store itself somehow feels like a film set – not quite permanent, perhaps left over from a 1980’s Spike Lee movie. Bright white and royal blue paint provides an unpretentious local parlor vibe, accented by a huge clock display, featuring famous faces such as Mackauly Culkin, Madonna and Michael Jackson. Chucky the Clown was also present when we were – as the poster-child for October’s special “Child’s Play”.
We sampled Child’s Play – a spiced pumpkin ice cream with buttered pecans and cheesecake pieces, which wasn’t bad at all, but I was already well over the pumpkin-spiced-anything season. I opted for the Brady Bunch flavor, made with Banana Pudding, Vanilla Wafers and Vienna Fingers. The ice cream itself is delicious, naturally banana forward, with that same sticky glide that we’d liked before. For me there were a few too many wafers, in chunks that were just a little too big, making the bite often drier than you’d expect for an ice cream.
Lauren chose Truffle Shuffle, another indulgent chocolate scoop, not unlike the Ri Ri flavor, but with tiny chocolate-covered mini marshmallows giving this one some nice textural variety. Their specialty, which neither of us had the appetite for, is the Mac Daddy – a kind of ice cream sandwich/sundae concoction, made with 2 waffles and a couple of scoops.
The flavors might be a bit fussy for me, being more of a solid, strong (and unusual) flavor gal and not so bothered by mix-ins – but I’m a big fan of Mikey himself. I’m impressed by his journey from low-level East Village pot dealer leading to a stint in jail, to becoming a bona-fide entrepreneur, boldly competing with numerous other East Village ice cream options. But Mikey is different to these imports – he tries to give back to the community where he came from, by mentoring at risk kids, offering scholarships and donating ice cream to youth events.
From Van Leeuwen, Big Gay Ice Cream, Davy’s, Sundaes & Cones, Oddfellows… to the recently opened DF Mavens leading the dairy-free brigade – the sheer number of options in this area must surely tell us that East Villagers really love their ice cream. They have a different spot for every day of the week – fortnight even! It seems that love has extended to Mikey and his team, who claim to be (and I hope continue to be) #leadersofthenewscoop