D.C. has no shortage of top-notch ice cream shops, and the latest option to look forward to comes with a unique Southeast Asian spin. Malai plans to make D.C. debut next spring or summer, marking its first foray outside the Big Apple.
Founder Pooja Bavishi started selling her eggless ice creams at various NYC fairs and markets in 2015. Two years later, the growing business added a grocery store retail line and nationwide shipping via Goldbelly. Malai’s first brick-and-mortar flagship opened in Brooklyn in 2019. This spring, Malai expanded with a kiosk in the James Beard Foundation-curated Market 57 in Manhattan, joining a seasonal cart on the High Line.
Malai’s recently secured D.C. location is “off the 14th Street corridor” and the address will be announced soon, according to the company. Ohio-based ice cream chain Jeni’s also sits on the same Northwest strip.
“D.C. is one of the top locations we send shipments to, that coupled with being able to optimize logistics with D.C. being so close to NYC, made it a no-brainer decision for it to be our next location.” Logistics aside, “We are also so excited about where the D.C. food scene is, and where it’s going and are thrilled to bring Malai’s flavors to a new city,” she adds.
Malai’s flavors pay “homage to the nostalgic, aromatic spices and flavors of [Bavishi’s] childhood,” according to the company. Look for a mix of familiar favorites and D.C.-specific specials and collaborations.
Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds remains the best seller since day one — and “is the only flavor that never comes off [the] menu,” says Bavishi. Other top picks include Masala Chai, “which is based off of my mom’s recipe for her daily cup of morning chai,” says Bavishi, and Mango & Cream — “a creamy ice cream base with an Alphonso mango ripple running through it.”
In addition to scoops and pints, customers can expect ice cream cakes and cream sandwiches, kulfi pops, and soft serve at the incoming location.
DMV freezer aisles will also stocked with its pints, joined by local delivery via apps. Malai also plans to offer catering capabilities once it settles into D.C. Fellow NYC import Van Leeuwen made a big splash in D.C. this year with the arrival of three new stores.
Locals can get a first taste of Malai later this month. Head to the Modern Diwali Holiday Table pop-up on Saturday, October 28 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) with Casa Amarosa at Salt & Sundry in Logan Circle to try Malai’s two special-edition Diwali ice cream flavors Ghughra and Kaju Katli.
Other future pop-ups are also in the works and will be announced via Instagram and email.