BY GABE HERMAN | As its name suggests, Oddfellows Ice Cream Co. makes some unusual flavors, in both savory and sweet categories, to go along with more classic choices.
A recent trip to the location at 55 E. Houston St., at Mott St., presented ice cream options like Thai iced tea, miso cherry, lemon meringue pie, carrot cake, extra virgin olive oil and strawberry, and malt maitake mushroom peanut. There was also dark chocolate chunk, vanilla bean and milk and cookies for the slightly less adventurous.
Co-founder Mohan Kumar said the wide variety helps Oddfellows stand out in the crowded local ice cream scene.
“We were the first shop to really take some risks,” he said, “with flavors like Cornbread, Chorizo Caramel Swirl, Miso Cherry, Saffron Passionfruit, the list goes on. We focus on staying true to ourselves and our mission and make things with integrity.”
The company pasteurizes its own ice cream base in its Brooklyn kitchen, and uses locally sourced dairy without hormones or additives.
And the ice cream is made daily in small batches, with flavors changing on a daily basis in the shops and sometimes even more than once a day.
The local freshness can be tasted in the ingredients, and how creamy the ice cream is. I admit I was too scared to try some of the odder flavors, but the carrot cake ice cream was creamy and tasted like real carrot cake and definitely hit the spot.
“One of the reasons people come back to us is because we are constantly rotating flavors and have a strong commitment to texture,” Kumar said. “People know they’ll get classics and ‘odd’ flavors with us. But we hope they come back for our texture and curiosity of not knowing what will be in the cabinet when they step foot inside our scoop shop next.”
Kumar co-founded Oddfellows with his wife Holiday and friend Sam Mason. The origin story began in the winter of 2011, when Holiday was pregnant and had certain food cravings, including savory ice cream, according to the company’s Web site.
Mason brought some homemade pretzel ice cream, which Holiday loved. At the time, Kumar was in real estate finance but looking to do something more entrepreneurial and creative. Holiday suggested talking to Mason about opening an ice cream shop. Mason was in on the idea, and the first shop opened in Williamsburg in June 2013.
In planning the company, the three co-founders decided on themes of “carnival” and “weird,” and a shop that wasn’t just for kids, according to Mohan.
“Appealing to adults was super-important to us because we didn’t want a shop that looked like a children’s book, and we knew some of our odder flavors would not appeal directly to many kids,” he said.
A Google search of “carnival” and “weird” brought up “Oddfellows,” and the name worked with the carnival feel and having the word “odd” in it, Mohan said.
The store now has four locations, with two in Brooklyn and two in Manhattan, including the one on E. Houston St. and another in the East Village at 75 E. Fourth St., between Second Ave. and the Bowery. A fifth location is coming soon to Bushwick.
Oddfellows has also gotten a boost from being featured in Whole Foods stores throughout the Northeast. The company was discovered by a Whole Foods forager, whose job is to find local companies that are well-run and have tasty products to put in Whole Foods Markets.
“We visit tons of food industry trade shows, smaller retailers, farmers markets, food halls and plenty of other spots, all in the interest of finding the next great product that our customers will love,” said Christopher Manca, Whole Foods Market forager for the northeast region. “It’s all about spotting the trends that are bubbling under the surface and identifying which brands are going to be the ones to bring those trends to the mainstream.”
Oddfellows fit that description, and has a small selection of flavors in Whole Foods shops. The location on E. Houston St. and the Bowery, for example, has three flavors: dark chocolate chunk, burnt marshmallow and banana puddin’.
“There is no doubt that being in Whole Foods Market is a boost,” Mohan said, “especially since a lot of people see us on the shelves in Whole Foods Market for the first time. Since there are only a handful of flavors one can get at Whole Foods Market, it leads customers into one of our scoop shops where they’re excited by the unique variety of flavors they can find.”
It’s been a winning formula so far for the quirky company that keeps growing.
More information on the company can be found at oddfellowsnyc.com.