Another day, another novelty food item debuts in New York City. If you and the kids checked out every new culinary creation or confection in the five boroughs, not only would you very likely be clinically obese, you would also probably be unemployed. (Who else has that kind of time?) Furthermore: the under 10 set is probably not going to vibe on, say, kale-flavored ice cream with cilantro-infused whipped cream. However, 10Below is an ice cream shop worthy of your attention, time and taste buds. Here’s the scoop (har) on NYC’s latest nouveau parlor serving up the cool stuff.

The Concept
Debuting just a few weeks ago at the end of July, 10Below creates ice cream through a process originated in Thailand, during which you literally see your order made from fresh ingredients right before your eyes.

The shop takes its name from the ice cold (or, we suppose, even colder) plates maintained at the temperature of minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, AKA, 10 below — or less.  Creating ice cream with this frigid method apparently results in smaller ice molecules leading to not only a smoother and creamier product, but also eliminating the need to add the fat and emulsifiers used in conventional ice cream production.

The Process
After choosing your flavor and paying, the raw ingredients are prepped in a cup and you wait for your turn. When you’re up, your personal ice cream concierge places the raw ingredients — which range from fresh fruit to Nutella to graham crackers — on the cold plate to give them the deep freeze. A proprietary, cream base is then added to the mix, and you watch as a 10Below employee mashes, smashes, slices and dices your raw ingredients, melds them into the rapidly freezing cream, and then ultimately, smoothes the mix into a sort of tasty frozen disc. Finally, the amalgam is carefully scraped from the cold plate in the form of what can only be described as an “ice cream roll up.”

Your cup of rolls is then topped with your choice of any number of fresh, tasty toppings, such as fresh fruit, condensed milk, whipped cream or even a marshmallow individually roasted on the spot.

The Tastes of 10Below
Flavors change weekly, but Strawberry Shawty (strawberries and graham crackers), Monkey Business (bananas and Nutella) and Honey Boo Boo (blueberry, raspberry and honey) are among the recurring popular choices. The roster also reflects what’s currently in season when it comes to fruit; the Mo Money Mo Mangoes (mangoes and strawberries), for example, is a hot seller right now. Other flavors include Smores Galore (marshmallow, graham crackers and chocolate) and Cookie Monster (Oreos).

Everything tastes fresh because it really is: Everything is made and prepared day of. (10Below doesn’t even have a freezer, so nothing is kept overnight.)

The Vibe
10Below is a pretty small place on the basement level of a building in Chinatown. A giant chalkboard decorated with an illustration of a rainbow and the parlor’s  cheery logo/mascot, a whale with an ice cream cone on its head, greets visitors when they walk in.

Hip-hop tunes boom from the sound system, and a young crowd is helped by an equally young staff and everyone seems to be having a god time. Because of the shop’s tiny footprint, things can get tight, but everyone’s, uh, chill about it, making 10Below feel a little like a clubhouse.(You may be the oldest person in there; we were.)

Before You Go to 10Below
Should you and the kids go to 10Below? Absolutely. But there are a few things you should know in advance.

The very nature of 10Below’s individual creations means that each order takes time, which means that no matter when you go, there will probably be a bit of a wait. (The nice part is that when it’s your turn, it’s your turn, and at least when we were there, fellow patrons tend to respectfully give you a “front row seat” to view your roll ups coming together.) That said, waits can be long; its not uncommon to see a line down the block and wait for an hour on a weekend afternoon. Which is why we recommend going on a weekday, ideally from 11 a.m. when they open, to early afternoon; from 4 pm. to early evening, things get a little nuts, apparently. The store also has limited seating and tables, so plan on taking your treats to go.

10 Mott St.


Have you experienced 10Below? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments!

—Mimi O’Connor

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