On warm-weather days, the line can get long at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, but the delectable scoops of ice cream made on the premises are well worth the wait. Open since 1978, this little ice-cream parlor has spawned a number of competitors, but there’s no disputing that the original is the best. The ice creams and sorbets come in traditional flavors like chocolate, coffee, rocky road, or pistachio. But there’s also an enticing choice of exotic Asian flavors to tingle your taste buds, such as ginger, green tea, lychee, or black sesame.
The best place to enjoy your ice cream is nearby Columbus Park, the de facto community center of bustling Chinatown. Some say it resembles a square in China 70 years ago: along the fences and under canopies cobblers, fortune-tellers, jewelry repairers, and booksellers ply their trade. Inside the park, Chinese men and women play tile games, dominoes, and mahjong, some gambling and smoking. Others practice martial arts and Tai Chi while families stroll by or young lovers sit on benches. A frequent sight on weekends is a group of seniors playing traditional Chinese instruments, accompanied on occasion by retired Cantonese opera singers. Boxed in by skyscrapers lining Baxter, Worth, Bayard, and Mulberry streets, the attractively landscaped park is a welcome place of relaxation.