Typical menu board at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. Flavors change daily – another incentive to visit often.
By popular request and in an attempt to populate the “San Francisco” tab on my site, I’ve created a list of my favorite ice cream spots in San Francisco. Of course, I started this last week when it was bright, sunny, and warm (these three conditions are not always simultaneous in San Francisco), but naturally now it’s back to Fog City again. No matter – in SF ice cream consumption is rarely tied to the current weather but rather to the pure desire to have a cone filled with something sweet, frozen, and really, really delicious.
I’ve only listed ones that I’ve been to personally, as is only fair. However, as eating ice cream is one of my very favorite activities, and as there seems to be no shortage of ice cream shops both classic and artisan opening up in SF, rest assured this list will continue to be updated (with more photos, as well!) Feel free to give your own recommendations in the comments as well – there’s always room for more ice cream.
688 San Jose Ave
San Francisco, CA 94110
Mitchell’s is a San Francisco institution; no list of ice cream shops in the city is complete without Mitchell’s, and no visit to Mitchell’s is complete without wading through the crowd to grab a ticket, then retreating outside to await your number being called out. While you’re waiting, you can peruse the eccentric assortment of cones, cookies, and toppings on the shelves. Although the classics are always a sure bet, Mitchell’s is known for its extensive selection of tropical flavors. It’s hard for me to turn down mango, but be sure to give macapono (young sweet coconut) a try.
3692 18th Street (@ Dolores)
San Francisco CA 94110
Bi-Rite Creamery initiated many a local into the joys of salted caramel ice cream, including me. Definitely one of the leaders of the small-batch/local/organic artisan ice cream parlors. The line regularly stretches down the block, but yes, it’s worth it. I love the homey-retro vibe, and you can’t beat Dolores Park just kitty-corner to the store, waiting for you to amble over and sit down with a cone in hand. They also offer popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, and some really fantastic-sounding sundaes, but I always find myself just wanting a couple scoops of their honey lavender.
2790 Harrison St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Humphry Slocombe takes the prize for most out-there flavors and creative names: take a look at the list of flavors (about 10-12 flavors are available every day). Of course, you can always take the safe vanilla-or-chocolate route, but that’s not really the point of coming to this ice cream shop; it’s about Secret Breakfast, Szechuan Strawberry, and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee. Oh, and their bacon peanut brittle. Come here when you’re in your most daring and experimental mood. Expect a line.
Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous
699 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94107
This is my favorite ice cream place in SF right now, full stop. The shop is sleek and adorable at once, it’s not crazy packed with customers (yet), and the flavors are fresh and creative but still completely delectable. And I love the name. I think their ice cream is less rich in butterfat than other shops’, which makes the eating experience more refreshing (and the flavors cleaner – this is especially true for any of their fruit flavors). Favorites (they rotate flavors quite often) – candied violet and malted chocolate crunch (with valrhona chocolate pearls).
520 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
2106 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
There is a Gelateraia Naia in both San Francisco and Berkeley, so you can get your gelato fix on either side of the bay (they can also be found at various other outlets around the bay). This is my favorite gelato experience in the Bay Area: the overwhelming display of tubs heaped high with gelato and decorated with ingredients (or representations thereof) is true to Italy. The texture is also wonderful; it’s slightly soft, creamy without being overrich, and carries flavor well. If you’ve read any of my posts on Italy you will know the stracciatella is my non-negotiable favorite, but I’ll rotate among various others for the second flavor in my cup. The San Francisco location is very appropriately located in the North Beach/Little Italy district, so you can stop by for a perfect scoop of gelato after dinner.
254 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Three Twins prides itself on offering all organic ice cream, and vegan options, at their sweet little shop. Their flavors fall more on the traditional side of the line, but I like some of their “combination” flavors like The Chocolate Project – chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips, chocolate cookie bits, and cacao nibs. They’re also famous for their Lemon Cookie – lemon ice cream with vanilla sandwich cookie chunks. Vegan flavors are usually made with soy milk or rice milk.
Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream
1447 Taraval St
San Francisco, CA 94116
Three words: Durian ice cream. Marco Polo has a special place in my heart because my family used to go the Chinese restaurant next door for dinner when I was a kid. Now I half suspect we went there so often because we always went to Marco Polo afterwards. Having travelled to Italy, I am not sure how authentically “gelato” the ice cream here is : some flavors seem to have a thicker consistency closer to ice cream than gelato , but it’s all still very good – very creamy and smooth. The other big draw is a wide selection of Asian-influenced flavors, including the aforementioned durian, sesame, taro, lychee, and red bean. Their strawberry is also one of my favorite versions. Hubby loves coming here because he is one of those crazy durian fans, but I refuse to let him get in the car with his cone.
2948 College Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705
When I lived in Berkeley, Ici took away the pangs of no fast access to Bi-Rite or Mitchell’s. Now that I’ve moved to the other side of the bay, I always smile fondly at the mention of Ici and think, “I want to go to there.” A tiny but absolutely charming shop, all girly-vintage-chic, with daily-rotating selections of small-batch, very tasty ice cream. Honey Orange Blossom and Rose Cardamon remain some of my favorite east bay ice cream memories. Their ice cream cakes (or bombes) are stunningly pretty as well. As it’s ideally located on a trendy street near a college campus, expect a wait – especially on weekends.
3173 College Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705
4731 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609
If Ici has the chic Parisian sensibility, Tara’s has the Berkeley vibe down, from the local artists’ works displayed on the wall, to the Indian/Asian decor, to the organic/sustainable everything. Tara’s ice cream is certified organic, and comes in a wide variety of very quirky flavors based more on exotic ingredients than crazy combinations. For example: garam masala, cajeta, and coconut lime cilantro. I gravitate towards their strawberry rose and adzuki black sesame. They have black sesame waffle cones, as well – delish!
4226 Piedmont Ave
Oakland, CA 94611
Fenton’s offers the truest soda fountain experience around. No wacky flavors here, just the comfortable old classics like rocky road and butter brickle. The scoops are very generous for the price, a rarity in today’s artisanal ice cream world. In all respects it’s pretty much the antithesis of the current ice cream trends: remember going to an ice cream parlor and sharing a gigantic banana split with your friends? That’s Fenton’s. The star of Fenton’s is, of course, the traditional ice cream sundae, as in tall tulip-shaped glass packed with ice cream, topped with a ruffle of whipped cream, drizzle of hot fudge, sprinkle of almonds and a cherry-kind of sundae. Come hungry.