Thai–style rolled ice cream wasn’t a thing on the East Coast before 10Below opened its first location in New York’s Chinatown. Two years later, New Yorkers and tourists alike flock to the small parlor on Mott Street to get their hands on these sweet, creamy desserts—and to up their Instagram game. Thankfully for the Philly–area sweet tooth, the chain just opened its first store right across from Liberty Place. Street decided to test if it lives up to the hype.
In the Uber, I thought I’d picked the worst day to go to 10Below—it was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and I was ready to face an interminable line of curious Philadelphians. Ten minutes later, lo and behold: the tiny store was pretty much empty, save for the four workers' inviting smiles directed at every passerby from behind the floor–to–ceiling windows. Their attitudes contrasted with the cold, minimalist space: the color scheme is dominated by shades of white and grey, and there is little to no décor. The store’s selection wasn’t huge: there were eight pre–made mixes to choose. After what felt like an endless debate with myself, I decided on the banana and Nutella favorite, “Monkey Business.” I paid for my order and sat down at one of the high tables by the window. An employee seemed baffled: “Aren’t you going to watch?”
Of course I did. Rolled ice cream isn’t only a dessert—it’s a spectacle. I watched the man pour the condensed milk, mashed bananas, and Nutella blend onto the icy surface. It was fascinating to see how what was at first a pale yellow, unappetizing mush quickly turned into five (very Instagrammable) ice cream rolls. But before I dove in, I made another order: the $7 you pay isn't just for the ice cream, but also for an unlimited selection of toppings. I decided to follow the magic recipe of syrup, nuts, and carbs, and went for chocolate glaze, coconut flakes, and Oreo cookies.
It was only after the dessert ended up on both my Instagram and my Snapchat story that I finally dove in. Remember in Ratatouille when food critic Anton Ego seems to have a sudden epiphany after taking a single bite of his favorite childhood dish? That’s how I felt. Sweet and creamy, the rolls were a one–way ticket to Thailand in a paper cup. I was struck by how fresh and natural the bananas tasted, and how subtly (but effectively) the hint of Nutella matched them. The coconut flakes and the cookies added some much–needed crunchiness, while the chocolate syrup sweetened the 10Below ice cream to the point where it became, well, a perfect ten.
As I got into my Uber back, I thought of what I would order next time. I remember reading somewhere that planning your next “fix” was a sign of addiction. MKTG101 students, take note: 10Below’s strategy worked on hundreds of New Yorkers, and now, I’m happy to say, on me, too.