Brooklyn-based ice cream company Van Leeuwen is opening its third shop in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood this month and has collaborated with another renowned local chef to create a Houston-centric flavor. Even better: The company is planning to add more locations across the city and Texas.
On a recent visit to the Uptown Park location, Van Leeuwen co-founder and CEO Ben Van Leeuwen said the company is already working on two more shops in Houston, with its eyes set on various locations in Dallas, too — starting first with its anticipated opening on McKinney Avenue.
While there are no plans for Austin, Van Leeuwen said Texas is a major focus for its ice cream company, which is known for serving up an eclectic variety of ice creams, including dairy-free options, in more than 25 shops around the country.
The shop, which got its start in 2008 as a truck, decided Houston would be its first foray into Texas after learning about its diverse and bustling food scene and seeing the data on demographics that are reminiscent of those in New York, Van Leeuwen said. The shop opened its first location in Rice Village last May.
Now, with two operating locations and two more on the way, the ice cream shop will officially open in Montrose Collective’s retail and restaurant hub next week, simultaneously debuting “Bananas for Cheese,” an exclusive flavor resulting from a collaboration with Houston’s MasterChef USA winner and the Blind Goat chef Christina Ha.
Inspired by the Vietnamese chef’s favorite childhood snack of Laughing Cow cheese and banana slices, the ice cream contains a rich gouda and mascarpone cheese base blended with banana jam and loaded with milk chocolate chips — creating a flavor comparable to a banana chocolate cheesecake, according to a release.
The new flavor will be served at Ha’s restaurants and, for a limited time, at Van Leeuwen’s Montrose location.
This isn’t the first time the shop has partnered with a Houston chef to create a local flavor. Xochi and Backstreet Cafe’s chef Hugo Ortega helped craft the Horchata Dulce de Leche Swirl for the Uptown Park location — a sweet and creamy combination of cinnamon sourced from Vietnam and a dulce de leche swirl. And to commemorate the opening of its first location last May, Van Leeuwen offered scoops of its Yellow Rose Bourbon Pecan Pie ice cream, made with the Bayou City’s own Yellow Rose Distilling.