Ah yes, Serendipity. Nothing says star-crossed love and rom com magic quite like a gigantic goblet of a frozen concoction with 14 different types of chocolate, ready to send you into a diabetic coma. I’m of course talking about the legendary Serendipity 3 on NYC’s Upper East Side and their equally iconic menu staple, the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.
If you didn’t get my quippy reference in that first line (shame on you), then allow me to explain. Once upon a time (2001), there was a movie that was the epitome of everything most people hate about romantic comedies.
A clandestine meeting of two very unavailable people in a department store at Christmastime sparks an unlikely love story complete with two gorgeous stars du jour, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, implausibly good jobs/nice NYC apartments, obscure literary references, predictable character arcs, a cosmic misunderstanding and - you guessed it - a short resolution and a happy ending. It’s ridiculously cheesy and has every rom com trope you could possibly think of, but you better believe I watch it EVERY time it’s on one of the movie channels…
Anyway, a major plot point centers around the time they spend together towards the beginning of the movie at Serendipity 3, a cafe who’s been pretty well known since its beginning in 1954. Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O were known to frequently visit and enjoy their different extravagant desserts, but it was the 2001 movie that thrust it moreso into popular culture, attracting visitors from everywhere, looking to have the same experience as Jonathan and Sara.
I hadn’t been to Serendipity 3 in a few years, because I’ve only ever gone when people were visiting New York, so I figured it would be the perfect experience to write about here. Because I didn’t have my own clandestine department store meeting with a handsome stranger, I dragged my friend Liz along to help me eat dessert (and split the bill). Such a trooper!
We came for a late lunch around 4:00 and surprisingly only waited around 10 minutes for a table, which is unheard of as far as I’ve seen. I’ve heard of people waiting up to 3 hours for a table there, which, in my opinion, is just dumb.
Fun Fact: Serendipity has also been featured on numerous food and travel shows since 2007 for introducing the Guinness World Record holding "Golden Opulence Sundae" that will only set you back a meager $1000.
I won’t spend a ton of time on the lunch itself, because honestly it was nothing super crazy. I knew that I couldn’t just drink a milkshake for lunch, so I got their BLT, because most of their other entrees and sandwiches were just a little too pricey to eat two days before payday (money was tight that day, folks).
It was definitely good, but I was there for the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. Oh baby. I’ve only had it once before, so I was excited to rediscover their iconic dessert. After lunch, Liz and I immediately regretted getting our own separate entrees because we barely had room for dessert. But we pulled through…#fortheblog.
Lucy Baker at Serious Eats once described the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate as “the love child of a milkshake and a slushy” and I couldn’t have said it better myself. We paid $11 for a fishbowl sized chalice of chocolate that could’ve easily been split with another person or two, so we were definitely satisfied.
Serendipity 3 is one of those places you might, at first mention, roll your eyes at, but there’s absolutely something to it. The inside is cozy and quirky, filled with vintage tchotchkes and Tiffany lamps that set it apart from the other restaurants in that area of the city that boast a more subdued, sophisticated, or refined kind of look. It's homey.
The wait and the crowds may be unbearable for some, but I would be lying if I said I’d never go back for one of those ridiculous, amazing, gut-busting Frrrozen Hot Chocolates.