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'Odd' flavors nourish Brooklyn-based ice cream company's growth

The exterior of OddFellows Ice Cream, in DUMBO,

The exterior of OddFellows Ice Cream, in DUMBO, one of the company's four locations in New York City. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

This is part of a summer series spotlighting NYC’s ice cream parlors and other cold treats specialists.

OddFellows Ice Cream co-founder Holiday Kumar was pregnant with twins in 2011. One of her cravings was savory ice cream, and her husband, co-founder Mohan Kumar, couldn’t find any flavors that did the trick. Their friend and soon-to-be co-founder Sam Mason stepped up to the plate with his homemade pretzel ice cream. The timing was fortuitous.

“I wanted to get out of my job in finance and do my own thing, something creative,” Mohan Kumar says. “[Holiday] said, ‘Why don’t you talk to Sam? He’s a pastry chef, and he makes delicious ice cream.’ Within five seconds of me bringing it up to him, he said, ‘I’ve been wanting to have an ice cream shop my whole life, let’s do this.’”

Mason came to the table with plenty of ideas — a notebook containing more than 300 flavor concepts — and the chops to execute them. He’d worked at some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants, including wd~50.  

He and Kumar dreamt up a carnival concept for the shop, something that, as Kumar explains, would resonate with adults as well as children and not look like “a children’s book threw up all over the walls.” They chose Williamsburg, where Mason was a longtime resident and both Kumars had lived at different times.

When OddFellows Ice Cream Co. opened its doors in June 2013 it was one of the only shops making ice cream from scratch and operating with a chef-driven approach. It was also a pioneer in experimenting (and succeeding) with unique flavor combinations like chorizo caramel swirl, miso cherry and peanut butter & jelly.

Customers fell for the flavors right away, with lines forming out the door within the first month. Kumar says a who’s who of New York food industry insiders showed up to see what Mason was doing with ice cream, which, by the way, is a lot. At last count, OddFellows has developed 509 flavors. The team has served every single flavor it has ever created except one: curry and coconut, because the curry ended up being just a little too strong.  

Over the years, OddFellows has expanded with locations in the East Village, Nolita and Dumbo. A factory is up and running in Bushwick and the shop’s owners plan to soon open a soda fountain there. The co-owners are currently working on opening their first location outside of New York, in Boston, next month.

While all the shops embody the OddFellows sense of elevated whimsy, Kumar explains that they like to do something a little different at each one. The East Village location specializes in ice cream sandwiches with cookies and brownies from Ovenly. The Nolita shop is “coffee-centric,” Mohan says, adding that the team takes “as much pride from the coffee and espresso as we do from our ice cream.” DUMBO boasts a happy hour with craft beers and natural wines, sparkling wine and sorbet pairings, and beer floats.

Kumar recommends getting to one of the NYC locations this summer to catch flavors like olive oil strawberry jam, saffron passionfruit and lemon meringue pie.

COOL FACTS

  • Each location serves between eight and 20 flavors. There is always at least one sorbet and a nondairy option. Alongside specials and seasonal flavors, you’ll find staples like vanilla bean and dark chocolate chunk.
  • Toppings include homemade hot fudge and caramel sauces, a variety of sprinkles and the popular cornflake crunch.
  • Some of Kumar’s personal favorites include dark chocolate chunk (“Delicious, simple, the perfect chocolate flavor”), lemon meringue pie, cornbread, peanut butter & jelly, coffee crunch and saffron passionfruit with pistachio and apricot.
  • Bestsellers include vanilla bean, dark chocolate crunch and the “sprinkles” flavor, as well as repeat guest stars like buttermilk honey blueberry, peanut butter & jelly and dark chocolate peanut caramel.
  • OddFellows Ice Cream Co. is located at 175 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg; 75 E. Fourth Street in the East Village; 55 E. Houston St. in Nolita; 60 Water St. in DUMBO, and, coming soon, 379 Suydam St. in Bushwick. For more info, visit oddfellowsnyc.com.

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