I’m a sucker for themed restaurants: retro diners, old-school Italian joints, even tiki-hotel-esque burrito palaces. So, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that I love the antique-confectionary vibe of Lula’s Sweet Apothecary. Bedecked in quack-approved medicine adverts, glass pill receptacles and syrup bottles with cough serum residue, Lula’s evokes a time when life was simpler, like a cherry on top of a creamy, dreamy ice cream sundae.
I first came across Lula’s back in the summer of ’09, when I had never even heard of such a thing as an all-vegan ice cream parlor. After seeing that it was all the way out in Alphabet City, I heaved a big sigh, made sure I was amply starved enough to fit plenty of ice cream in my gullet, and made the trek out there. Luckily, I wasn’t let down… Lula’s had all the charm of your neighborhood sweets joint, with an added kick: all the ice cream is made on premises, in small, yummy batches. How’s that for addictive?
I only wish the place was a little bigger… though I guess it’s hole-in-the-wall size is part of its charm. Lula’s used to have an against the left wall store layout, with barstools on each end… but it kind of looks like they downsized the sitting area to make room for a bigger production area in the back. Now there are only 4 galvanized barstool seats facing out of the storefront window.
Because all the ice cream is made fresh daily, there is not too much variety: only 12 different flavors in all. But I think Lula’s tends to emphasize quality, not quantity, and this is readily apparent in the almost-empty ice cream containers I see each time I visit. Least you know it’s definitely super fresh if they’re replacing them constantly!
I almost always choose to get the ice cream sundae, not only because you get a lot of ice cream, but you also get a yummy choice of 3 toppings. I chose caramel, hot fudge, and the coconut whip cream and a cherry (they use a sort of naturally-sweetened dark cherry, not those icky maraschino ones from a can), with some malt powder sprinkled on top. The banana helps me feel a little healthier and offsets the ice cream effect, I think… though vegan ice cream can’t be as bad for you as regular!
Here, I chose strawberry, coffee, and mint chip… though the whip creme kind of obscures the scoops. I always find the coconut milk-based flavors tend to be creamier, though the soy based ones melt less quickly (could have something to do with the oil content of the bases).
The hot fudge also tends to melt the sundae a little faster. I had to eat it very quickly… which wasn’t really a problem, though I do wished they didn’t melt as fast. Ah well. Each flavor was stellar and I especially liked the strawberry since it was not too sweet, and quite creamy. The mint chip added a bit of pepperminty coolness, which was a welcome palate-cleanser, and the coffee was probably my least favorite.
Overall, I’d say if you’ve never tried Lula’s, it’s worth a stop or two. Just be warned that it can be a little pricey: a cone costs $3.75 and a double $5.50 (just take a peek at the menu pic), but you’re paying for some good, fresh ice cream made with love, so it’s worth it.
Lula’s also sells those delicious, fatty candy bars by Go Max, as well as a wide variety of Sweet and Sara marshmallow confections (in fact, Sara from Sweet & Sara is a great friend of Lula herself, and regularly drops by for a cone of soft serve or two!)… they are a big supporter of local and small vegan businesses, so I say yay!
I’ve yet to treat my mouth to their soft serve (which I’ve heard has great reviews) floats, and egg creams… but not to worry, this visit won’t be my last, I can say with a cherry on top!