Ice-cream shops don’t tend to be very allergy-friendly. Too many nutty flavors, too many nutty toppings, ice cream that’s likely cross-contaminated by the time it leaves its production facility, and virtually no practices in place to prevent further cross-contamination in-store—by now, you know the deal. Probably, you stick to store-bought pints. Or perhaps you’ve learned to make your own frozen treats. Whatever the particulars, you likely steer clear of ice cream shops. Fine.
But A La Mode Shoppe is not your average ice-cream shop. Not only is their facility completely nut-free (and egg-free and sesame-free, with a bunch of dairy- and gluten-free options, too)—it also doubles as a children’s boutique, crawling with clothes, toys, and (of course) children. Lots of children.
[Hyphen count, so far: 12. 12!]
I’ll admit it: I find the whole boutique-toy-store thing repellent, but that’s just because I’m neither a 4-year-old child nor the parent of one. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with the place. It’s warm and clean and charming, even—and the employees are truly some of the friendliest I’ve ever come across. But A La Mode just isn’t my scene. (I don’t particularly like screaming children, nor do I want to be anywhere near their ice cream–coated fingers. Plus, they always order the cotton candy–flavored shit. I know they’re young, but I blame them anyway.)
Regardless, pretty much anywhere that’s nut-free is, in some sense, very much my scene, so I find myself at A La Mode pretty often.
Sure, 50% of the reason I stop by so often is because the whole place is decidedly nut-free, and I feel this nagging pressure to support it on principle alone. But the rest of the reason is that their ice cream is seriously delicious, and I really do crave it on a regular basis. Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel, Wired (um, coffee), Strawberry, Pink Sprinkle (that’s vanilla, dyed pink), Blueberry Yogurt, Green Tea…they’re all wonderful, and I always have a hard time choosing what to order.
Sea Salt Caramel is one of the creamiest ice creams I’ve ever had, and Wired, though a little heavy on the coffee flavor, is truly addictive. Blueberry Yogurt, tangy as it is, makes me feel worlds better about no longer being able to eat at Pinkberry (they weren’t always such a nutty business, you know), and Green Tea is great, too, with a strong, bitter flavor that provides a nice relief from A La Mode’s other super-sweet offerings. Even the vanillas—Vanilla Bean and Pink Sprinkle (pictured immediately below)—are worthwhile. (Think Häagen-Dazs, but perhaps a bit softer.)
My only complaint, really, is that the selection’s absurdly inconsistent. I get it—it’s small-batch, and variety’s the spice of life, etc., etc., etc. But the Wired and Sea Salt Caramel are only around, like, 50% of the time, and Blueberry Yogurt—my friend, Blueberry Yogurt—is a bona fide rarity, which sucks indeed. Going to A La Mode is always a crapshoot; fortunately, though, none of the flavors are half bad, so you’ll never really find yourself all that disappointed. (Actually, Partly Cloudy—that’s cotton candy with marshmallows in it, I think—is pretty bad. But if you, a reasoning/reasonable adult, freely choose to eat cotton candy–flavored ice cream…well, you deserve what’ll come to you.)
In all, though, I’d say this place is certainly worth the trip to godforsaken Midtown East. But beware: they close at 8pm, and they aren’t open on Mondays. (Also, they often close to host private events. If you’re planning on going out of your way for their ice cream, consider making sure they’ll be open to the public.)
Find A La Mode Shoppe at 360 East 55th Street, between 1st and 2nd. And if you’re looking for pints, you just might be able to find them at ShopRite or Morton Williams. (A La Mode is just now beginning to make its way into stores. Keep an eye out.)
[That’s 23 hyphens, by the way. Compounds have taken-me-hostage. Send help.]