Chinatown Ice Cream Dragon: There Can Be Only One

Ice Cream Fight

The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (OCICF), my favorite source for almond cookie and red bean ice creams, is easy to find in the fog of Manhattan's Chinatown. First, because it's the only storefront in Chinatown with a line out the door; and second, because of that unflappable fat dragon on the smudged yellow awning. He's gorging himself on some exotic confection: taro, almond cookie, mango. And now, that happy little fire-eater is in the middle of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory's first full-fledged beef. Of late, the following sign has been posted outside the shop:

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory Trademark Notice

It reads:

Dear Valued Customers,

We are and continue to be the one and only ORIGINAL CHINATOWN ICE CREAM FACTORY. Due to our popular success in our close to 30 years in business, there have been some other companies that are currently using our trademark without our permission.

We are still dedicated to providing the excellent service and product that we have been serving at this one and only location. Do not be deceived by these other imitation brands.

Sorry for the inconvenience and we will hopefully soon settle this matter.

-The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

According to the guy at the counter who served me my cup of durian ice cream (I thought it tasted the way it smelled, like an old sock wrapped around a rancid banana, but your mileage may vary), the trademark dispute centers on a new storefront in Nolita named, predictably, Nolita Ice Cream Factory. I asked him if it was run by some renegade ex-OCICF faction, and he replied, cryptically, "Dunno."

You can find the Nolita Ice Cream Factory on Kenmare Street, just off Lafayette. It sees perhaps one percent the foot traffic of Bayard Street on an average day, and it has a comfortable bench outside. And indeed, that insatiable dragon and his sundae; he's everywhere. Nestled behind the fire escape ladder, with the same jaunty flip to his tail; on the cake display; on the door, under an innocent halo of Chinese characters, identical, except for a missing fifth character, to those on OCICF's awning:

Nolita Dragon

When I asked Nolita's own guy-at-the-counter whether the owners were the same people as OCICF's, his response was quick and certain:


Chowhounder "Andrew" digs deeper and discovers that the Nolita shop is supposedly run by one of the five Chinese brothers that owned OCICF, though the only authority figure I saw at the Kenmare creamery was a large white guy rocking an AC/DC shirt.

The ice cream appears to be the same product, with a similar consistency and variety of flavors. Both shops have that distracted-wholesome-college-student service that is a hallmark of the Chinatown location (they rock the official OCICF hats!). Besides the sunny decor in the Nolita space and its lack of traffic (customers were outnumbered by dragon logos when I was there), there's barely a hint of a difference between the two businesses.

Is downtown New York ready for another Plump Dumpling-style logo war? Can the audacious newcomer survive in the wasteland that is Kenmare Street? Where is the Nolita Ice Cream Factory getting its ice cream? There is only one sure thing in this convoluted confectionary tale: durian ice cream is disgusting, and I should have known better.

Posted by tangentialist at July 26, 2005 08:23 AM | more tangentialism

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Oh man, first cupcakes, now ice cream. When are we going to get some NEW dessert shops around here?!? :)

Posted by: Kelli at August 25, 2005 10:33 PM

Would it be possible to use the image at the top of this page. I'm with Boca Raton Magazine, a regional lifestyle publication in South Florida. We have a New York column that mentions both ice cream shops and wanted a hi-res image to run, 300dpi or better. Any help would be greatly appreicated and you can send any images to

Many thanks,

Jeff Cihocki

Posted by: Jeff Cihocki at October 21, 2005 10:22 AM

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