Lovers of creamy, rich and delicious ice cream, take note. It’s no secret that food, much like fashion, comes in fads. Luckily, the ice cream fad has been sweeping through the Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, for the past few years. After scouring the mean streets of the city in search of San Francisco’s best ice cream, we’ve created a list to guide fellow ice cream lovers along their noble journeys to eat as much ice cream as humanly possible. These are ranked in no specific order.
1. Smitten, located at 432 Octavia St. in Hayes Valley, won over my heart and taste buds immediately. The charming shop is inside a converted storage container and is conveniently situated across the street from a park that provides the perfect place to sit and talk while eating your ice cream. What makes Smitten unique is that they make every batch of ice cream to order using a special technology that freezes the ingredients with liquid nitrogen. The result is a batch of perfectly creamy and smooth ice cream that bursts with flavor. The staple Chocolate, Vanilla and Mint Chip flavors are delicious, and actually taste like the flavors they’re trying to represent. The real gems, however, are the seasonal flavors, which change monthly. We highly recommend the Early Grey with Milk Chocolate and the Rhubarb Crisp. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, the Olive Oil with Lavender Shortbread and the Sweet Corn with Berries are also delicious summer flavors.
2. If you are in the mood to step outside of your ice cream comfort zone, the Mission District’s Humphry Slocombe, at 2790 A Harrison St., is the place for you. With its new location inside the Ferry Building opening soon, both locations are only a few blocks away from a Bart stop. There’s a counter and some outdoor seating for you to enjoy your ice cream. The staff is always happy to let you try as many curiously-named samples as your heart desires. Featuring a variety of ice creams and sorbets that are anything but conventional, Humphry Slocombe is full of gems. The Secret Breakfast flavor and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee are a good pairing for those who can’t choose just one. Both are insanely flavorful, without going over the top. If you’re craving something like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, be on the lookout for flavors such as Jesus Juice, McEvoy Olive Oil, Sour Cream, Strawberry Candied Jalapeno and Kumquat-Poppy Seed.
3. If you’ve got room in your stomach to spare, you should make a stop at Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop, located across the street from Dolores Park at 3692 18th St. Don’t be intimidated by the around-the-block line: the ice cream is totally worth it. The combination of rich Bi-Rite ice cream and the quality people watching in Dolores Park make this the perfect destination for a rare sunny day in San Francisco. Ricanelas is a cult favorite flavor, featuring cinnamon and snickerdoodles mixed into creamy vanilla. Other unique flavors include Honey Lavender, Roasted Banana and Brown Sugar with Ginger Caramel Swirl. Many of the fresh dairy ingredients come from the Straus Family Creamery, located less than an hour from the store.
Photos by Sam Engel