The Best Ice Cream Spots
Sure, ice cream is synonymous with summer, particularly if you’ve got littles running around. But its participation in the locally sourced, small-batch food movement has grown-ups lining up around the block for a scoop, too. We scoured some of the country’s biggest cities for passionate young business owners who are taking advantage of local dairies and using seasonal ingredients to create wild, unexpected flavors. And, for the sake of nostalgia, we’ve included long-standing favorites from our own childhoods to round out the roster in each spot.
Bi-Rite Creamery550 Divisadero St., Alamo Square | 415.551.7900
A decade ago, two Bi-Rite Market pastry chefs spied a vacant space across the street from the iconic market and moved in their small-batch baking and ice cream operation. Staying true to the Bi-Rite mission, only organic local ingredients are used, resulting in some of the hands-down best scoops (balsamic strawberry, honey lavender, mixed-berry coconut in the summer; earl grey, orange cardamom, maple walnut in winter), buffalo-milk soft serve (only available in the original shop), frozen cakes, sundaes, and popsicles in the country. The original is in the Mission (and they have soft-serve).
Mitchell’s688 San Jose Ave., Mission | 415.648.2300
There's nothing glitzy or particularly fancy about this classic scoop shop, but as evidenced by the out-the-door line (don't worry, it always moves fast) the small-batch ice cream is second to none. We like that they keep it fairly simple with flavors, the most inventive of which—and arguably the tastiest—is the Black Walnut, though Avocado and Grasshopper Pie are close seconds. You can also custom order a traditional ice-cream cake.
Smitten Ice Cream432 Octavia St., Hayes Valley | 415.863.1518
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anybody who’s more passionate about ice cream than the folks behind Smitten, who actually built and patented a completely new technology to make what they claim to be the smoothest ice cream in the world. They started in San Francisco, selling ice cream out of a little red wagon (seriously), and while they’re beloved in their hometown—there are locations in Pacific Heights, Oakland, Hayes Valley, and more—they’ve just expanded to LA with a shop in El Segundo (Silver Lake is opening soon).
Cream3106 16th St., Mission District | 415.400.4551
Ice cream sandwiches steal the show at Cream, from waffle-based to cookie, brownie, mini-sized, gluten-free, and vegan. There are locations in a few states now, and in addition to this SF shop, there's also a second outpost in Stonestown Galleria. Also, note: Cream caters—and what's more awesome than an ice cream sandwich bar?
Humphry Slocombe3rd St. & Terry A Francois Blvd., Mission Bay
Humphry Slocombe vs. Bi-Rite Creamery is an ongoing debate between locals. Jake Godby and Sean Vahey—the two dudes behind team Humphry—pride themselves on the time and effort they put into concocting flavors, which run the gamut from Elvis (the fat years) to potato chip to salt & pepper. They’re also bringing back the ice cream cake in a big way. There's an additional location in the Mission, as well as in The Embarcadero.