Why the Chipwich Is the King of Ice-Cream Sandwiches

Summer is for ice-cream sandwiches. Photo: Jed Egan

There is no bad way to eat ice cream, of course, but as with all things in life, there are ways to do things that are better, too. Ice cream on its own, in a cup or cone, is a fine, if utilitarian, option. A few scoops with some banana, hot fudge, whipped cream, and maybe a cherry? Also good. Floats can be fantastic, even when the soda-flavor combo breaks free of the classic root-beer-vanilla mold (try pistachio ice cream with Cheerwine; you won’t regret it). For Grub Street’s money, though, there is one way to eat ice cream that is superior to all the others: sandwiched between two cookies, each element improving the other, transforming the entire assemblage into an unrivaled summertime staple.

It’s not entirely clear which enterprising soul first thought to place ice cream — already delicious, and a true luxury before modern refrigeration techniques became the norm — in between two pieces of sweetened carbs. One story has it that the American ice-cream sandwich was invented in 1899 by a pushcart peddler working the Bowery, who made it with wafers. Sicilians invented the ice-cream machine in the 17th century, and have been stuffing their gelato into warm brioche for some time now. That alone is a combination worth tracking down, though it does feel a tad … continental.

On these shores, the phrase “ice-cream sandwich” probably makes you think of a squat rectangle of vanilla ice cream stuck between two dark, soft chocolate wafers. (Or, maybe the round Mister Softee version, which is sandwiched to order, so the wafers maintain some crunch.) But those prefab sandwiches were meant to play second fiddle. The ice-cream sandwich reached its peak when two enterprising individuals realized ice cream belonged between cookies, or at least that they could commercialize it. Their creation? The Chipwich: ice cream in between two chocolate-chip cookies, with some additional chips stuck to the ice cream for good measure. Sadly, that particular combination of mass-produced ice cream and cookies was discontinued in 2010, but it’s always been simple enough to re-create this magical combination at home, often with superior results. And Chipwich’s ubiquity made its brand’s name one of those that’s synonymous with the good itself, so that Chipwich really means any ice-cream sandwich made with cookies.

In truth, there is something distinctly American about the idea of using chocolate-chip cookies to sandwich ice cream. Like some kind of sweet forebear of the KFC Double Down model, in which ingredients that are perfectly fine on their own end up sandwiched together, this approach is lily-gilding at its finest.

There’s no complicated calculus to the appeal of the Chipwich, nor is this a situation where simpler is better. In fact, several new-look chef versions around town may even make you forget about the almighty Chipwich: Melt Bakery serves nine different flavors, ranging from your classic vanilla with chocolate-chip cookie to malted-chocolate-rum ice cream with chocolate cookies. OddFellows converted its East Village shop into an ice-cream sandwich outlet, where you’ll find s’mores-marshmallow ice cream between chocolate cookies, and a DIY version with a choice of hot-chocolate, chocolate-chip, and ginger-molasses cookies. Jacques Torres, Davey’s Ice Cream, and the Good Batch all make the classic cookie-wich, too. Even better, from the Good Batch, is an ice-cream sandwich that uses cookies made with Rice Krispies Treats — a seemingly obvious idea that inexplicably has not yet saturated the ice-cream-sandwich market. And, at the highest end of the luxury scale, Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate pastry chef Marc Aumont makes a kind of French version of the Chipwich: cheesecake sorbet between macarons.

Given the gluttonous appeal of even the most austere Chipwiches, using the model as a basic template for more ingredients seems like the next logical step. The real question is, why do so many people stop at simply putting ice cream in cookies? There is room for sauce, or whipped cream, or all sorts of other tricked-out options, at which point you’d really be combining the best parts of a sandwich and a sundae (maybe call it a Sundwich?).

There’s something wholly satisfying about an ice-cream sandwich and the fact that, yes, it’s basically milk and cookies, where the milk has been replaced with another dessert. What’s better than dessert with more dessert? As far as ice cream is concerned, the answer is not much at all.

Why the Chipwich Is the King of Ice-Cream Sandwiches