Summer is here, which means, like any other season in San Francisco, the fog is still here too. But crummy weather rarely stops locals from indulging in a sweet, creamy treat from one of the city’s many top-notch scoop shops. Keep reading to discover 10 of our favorite ice cream haunts San Francisco has to offer.
Smitten Ice Cream
Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream, $$$
Smitten Ice Cream
In 2006, Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher teamed up with a brilliant engineer to invent the chain’s first ice cream machine, which uses liquid nitrogen and minimizes ice crystals to create an irresistibly silky-smooth texture. With this magical machine and a red wagon, Robyn started selling made-to-order ice cream at various street-cart events. Smitten became an instant smash-hit, and thankfully fans didn’t have to wait long for its grand opening in Hayes Valley. Choose an everyday flavor such as TCHO 60.5% chocolate, or a seasonal flavor like strawberry white balsamic, and we’re sure you’ll be smitten with Smitten.
Located in Cole Valley, The Ice Cream Bar is an old-school style soda fountain and ice cream shop, serving not only ice cream but also savory soups and sandwiches. Everything on their menu is made daily in the shop from local, organic ingredients. The ice cream flavors rotate every day, and can get as creative as carrot cake cream cheese and matcha latte. You can give them all a taste upon request, but regardless of whichever flavor wins your taste buds over, we recommend a house-made, light and crunchy waffle cone as a perfect pairing for any scoop.
Bi-Rite Creamery is one of San Francisco’s most popular ice cream spots; the shop often has waiting lines that wrap around the block. But this small-batch, seasonal, handmade ice cream is well worth the wait. From unique flavors like lavender and black sesame to crowd favorites such as salted caramel, Bi-Rite will have something to quell your ice-cream cravings. If you’re at their 18th St. location and want to forego a long wait, stroll down the block to their soft-serve and baked goods window– there are fewer flavors to choose from, but the ice cream is just as tasty.
Joe’s first opened in 1959 but experienced a sudden boom in popularity when they moved across the street after being in business for 50 years. The shop’s located deep in the Avenues of the city’s Richmond district, which means locals withstand the neighborhood’s perpetual fog and cool down even more with Joe’s creamy, sweet, and flavorful ice cream. From your standard strawberry, chocolate and vanilla, to more uncommon creations, such as root beer swirl and rum raisin, this classic, no-frills storefront serves up a wide variety of flavors that always hit the spot.
Long lines of ice cream fanatics have been congregating at Mitchell’s since its opening in 1953. They first started out with 19 different flavors to choose from, and as their surrounding neighborhood of Bernal Heights expanded and diversified so did their menu. Today they serve 40 different flavors daily and are most known for their ethnic-inspired flavors, such as Mexican horchata and Filipino buko (a type of coconut). Mango is also a fan-favorite, as it has been their number one best-selling flavor for over half a century. Check out the full list of options here!
The Baked Bear first opened in the southern Californian town Pacific Beach and has recently made its way northward to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. This ice cream hot-spot specializes in their daily, freshly baked cookies, which they use to make delicious ice cream sandwiches. With 11 types of cookies, 13 ice cream flavors, and 11 toppings, the combinations to build your own sandwich are seemingly limitless. Take a look at their Instagram page for some jaw-dropping and mouth-watering inspiration. We recommend the funfetti cookies stuffed with strawberry cheesecake ice cream.
Located in the Outer Sunset, Polly Ann Ice Cream churns out a vast variety of Asian-flavored ice cream. Some customer favorites include green tea, goji ginger, black sesame, and jasmine. If you’re not sure which type to order after tasting a few, or if you’re feeling adventurous, give the giant wheel plastered on the wall a spin and indulge in whichever flavor you land on. For some more incentive to take your chances, spinning the wheel also gives you the opportunity to win a free order of ice cream!
Humphry Slocombe began serving wacky, delectable ice cream to San Franciscans in 2008. Some of their popular flavors are Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, made with coffee from the Bay Area’s infamous Blue Bottle, and Secret Breakfast, which consists of vanilla, cornflake cookies, and bourbon. Be even more adventurous and try the bacon-of-government cheese flavor. The craziness of their flavor combinations may seem intimidating, but we urge you to be brave and to not shy away from the unconventional deliciousness.
Located in the Lower Haight, Three Twins is a tiny shop, but their ice cream is jam-packed with big flavors. They sell 23 different types of organic ice cream – some crowd favorites include lemon cookie, milk coffee, chocolate orange confetti, and cardamom. There are seven locations scattered throughout California, but if you live outside the golden state, don’t fret! Three Twins now sells pints and quarts of ice cream at grocery stores in all 50 states.
Now over 65 years old, Swensen’s was the first ice cream parlor in the country to serve all-natural premium ice cream, which is the key to its excellent taste. But even though Swensen’s has a classic, old-fashioned vibe, they make sure to keep up with the times. With the public’s relatively recent increased awareness of dietary restrictions, Swensen’s has expanded their menu to make sure they have something delicious for everybody. Bring some friends to partake in devouring colossal sundaes, or settle for a few scoops of yummy flavors like swiss orange chip and Turkish coffee.