Step inside Cream Parlor and try not to smile — it’s impossible. The MiMo/Upper East Side eatery will take you back to a time when grownup responsibilities were nonexistent.
“Everything here is a memory or a moment in time for us,” says Co-Owner Johnny Tsokos. “When my wife Ainsley and I designed the place, we wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable. We wanted to create those moments for others.”
They’ve succeeded with one of the most charming cafes in town.
Warm and fuzzy is the best way to describe the feeling of walking through Cream Parlor. Along the walls and tables, you’ll find personal items from the duo’s past, including Welcome Back, Kotter trading card magnets, old vinyls and music zines that Johnny wrote.
According to Ainsley, the idea for Cream Parlor came to her all at once. “The slogan, the floor plan, the layout … it all just clicked. We had wanted to open something together for a while.” All the couple needed was the space, which they found at 8224 Biscayne Boulevard. What sold them on it was the backyard, which offered the opportunity for events. As natural fixer-uppers, everything came together after that.
While the decor is the first thing you’ll notice about the place, the food is just as quirky and fun. “We wanted an approachable neighborhood menu,” said Johnny. “It’s a big deal for us when someone chooses Cream for their breakfast, lunch or coffee. A customer could have gone anywhere else, but they picked you. We want to make sure they have a great experience.”
The menus, written on chalkboards, are constantly in flux but savory staples include tartines, paninis, salads and bowls. One of the most popular items is the Grilled Smashed Potato, which is exactly what it sounds like: a deconstructed baked potato. Other local favorites include the Sriracha lentil salad and grilled chicken panini. And then there’s the ice cream.
Despite playful names like Unicorn Poop and Purple Rain, the Tsokos take ice cream seriously. There are customization options galore, and samples are served in metal spoons instead of plastic spoons to avoid diluting the flavor.
“We want customers to be excited by the ice cream, so we picked fun names that take inspiration from pop culture and don’t sound too artisanal,” Johnny says. “We love it when people try the ice cream, and we’re always experimenting with different flavors and presentations.”
The duo is always looking toward the future, and now that the restaurant’s been open for a few months, they have a clearer vision of where they want to take Cream Parlor. A beer and wine license is in the works, and the Tsokos are exploring more ways to use the backyard.
“People are reserving it for birthday parties and private events,” says Ainsley. “We’ve tossed around ideas for barbecues and other fun stuff. Who knows? Maybe we can use it for a music video!”
Collaborations with other local restaurants and businesses are also a possibility, says Johnny. Right now, though, the couple’s main focus is natural growth.
“Anything good takes time, he says.”The word is getting out, and more people are discovering us. We’re very thankful for how the community has embraced us. It makes our day when someone walks in and says, ‘Wow.’ We want everyone to feel like this is their home away from home.”