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The Perfect Scoop

Artisanally made with premium ingredients and innovative flavors is exactly what Houston's ice cream scene needs.

Article by Gabi De la Rosa

Photography by Photos Courtesy of Van Leeuwen

Originally published in River Oaks Lifestyle

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Blood Orange Cream, and Vegan Yuzu & Sake might not be obvious choices for ice cream flavors, but they are what has propelled Van Leeuwen Ice Cream to be New York City’s favored creamy scoop. What started as a Brooklyn-based ice cream truck has become an empire. Van Leeuwen ice cream is now available in grocery stores, online, and in their brightly colored ice cream shops in New York and Los Angeles. In 2021, the cult favorite landed in Houston with outposts in Rice Village, Uptown Park, and a third location slated to open in The Montrose Collective this spring.

Co-founder Ben Van Leeuwen explained why he cares more about butterfat and egg yolks than just about anyone else and why Houston was an obvious choice for the bi-coastal company. 


Why did you choose Houston as your first Texas location?

We always had Houston in mind, because it is a large city with a great food scene and diversity. We looked at income and education levels data, and Houston ranked high. Houston doesn’t get the same PR as other places like Austin, but it is an excellent city.

Van Leeuwen is a relatively young company - it is surprising how fast you have grown.

I started it in 2008 with my brother and our business partner Laura. We raised $50K from friends and family. We bought a used post office truck off eBay and outsourced all ice cream production for the first year. We have been in business for almost 15 years, and we bootstrapped it for the first 11 years. Since then, we have raised money twice to increase production and open more stores. We have expanded a lot in the last two years. 

When everything was getting terrible in New York during COVID, we almost closed all our New York City locations. I am so glad that we didn’t because we have almost made it back to pre-pandemic levels. During COVID, when sales were much slower, we got to work on our day-to-day operations and streamlined the behind-the-scenes stuff like supply chain operations. 

Why do you think people love Van Leeuwen ice cream even at a premium price point? 

I believe we create luxurious and deeply satisfying ice cream. We use an 18% butterfat and 8% egg yolk base. What does that mean to the customer? It means we are using a lot more fat and a ton of egg yolks, which makes a creamy custard our customers enjoy. 

We also focus on the highest quality ingredients. For example, the chocolate we use is top quality from Ecuador, where we are also invested in helping the community. The strawberries in our ice cream are picked right off the vine when they are at their ripest; we get our pistachios from Italy and our tea from a supplier in New York. All in all, I think it is a combination of excellent customer service and delicious ice cream. 

What can Van Leeuwen enthusiasts look forward to this year? 

This is the first year we are implementing quarterly specials, and I am excited about it. There will be 12 quarterly specials per year and another 10-20 limited-time offer specials.