Nothing says summer quite like a heaping scoop of creamy, housemade ice cream. From seasonally crafted sorbets to made-to-order scoops whipped up in a minute flat, here's our list of the best ice cream shops in San Francisco, along with a map to help you find them!
It's not unusual to see a Bi-Rite Creamery line wrapping around the block, and after a taste of their seasonal balsamic strawberry you'll know why. Other flavors include salted caramel, honey lavender, toasted coconut, peanut brittle, and roasted banana, all made with dairy products from local, organic Straus Family Creamery. Indulge at two locations, one at 550 Divisadero Street (near Alamo Square and the Golden Gate Park panhandle) and another right across from Dolores Park.
Mitchell's Ice Cream
If you find yourself in the outer Mission District, Mitchell's Ice Cream is sure to make your day a little sweeter. On the corner of 29th Street and San Jose Avenue this quality shop has been hand-making premium flavors since the Mitchell brothers, Larry and Jack, opened their doors in 1953. In the 1960s they introduced mango ice cream to the Bay Area, and the rest is history. Although Jack retired in 1982 the store is still owned by Larry Mitchell and his wife, Claire, while their children manage day-to-day operations.
If you're craving ice cream with attitude then Humphrey Slocombe should be your first stop. This hipster haven features unexpected flavors like Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee, peanut butter curry, and the infamous secret breakfast (vanilla ice cream with bourbon and corn flakes). Visit them on the corner of 24th and Harrison streets in the Mission District, and admire the stuffed two-headed calf while you wait patiently to sample some equally outrageous flavors.
Smitten Ice Cream
Started by one woman with a dream and a liquid nitrogen machine, Smitten Ice Cream makes every scoop to order right in front of your eyes. After five years of developing the perfect ice cream device, Robyn Sue Fisher finally created Brrr, an amazing gadget that whips up creamy homemade treats in 60 seconds flat. In 2009 she hit the streets of San Francisco with a mission: To provide the freshest and purest ice cream the Bay Area had ever tasted. Now Robyn Sue and Brrr have made a home for themselves in a recycled shipping container in Hayes Valley. Pay them a visit and prepare to be amazed as they turn raw ingredients into masterpieces one scoop at a time.
For an unparalleled sorbet experience visit Scream Sorbet at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Thursdays and Saturdays. Made from the freshest local ingredients, their flavors are based on seasonally available fruits and vegetables. Try a ginger molasses cookie with coffee almond sorbet or sample flavors like maple walnut, kabocha chocolate, cashew caramel, coffee hazelnut, pumpkin seed, and Bartlett pear. If you miss them, they also ship overnight to any where in the U.S.!
Swensen’s Ice Cream
Earle Swensen first opened Swensen's Ice Cream in 1948 on the Corner of Union and Hyde, where he got to work perfecting his ice cream techniques. By giving his customers quality, quantity, and value the Swensen name soon spread like wild fire, with stores popping up across the country and even around the world. Over half a century later these award-winning desserts have made Swensen's an American icon, while the place where it all began continues to churn out fresh scoops daily. Visit their charming store atop Russian Hill, where it all began, and enjoy signature flavors like Swiss orange chip and sticky chewy chocolate while you take in the view.
The Three Twins mission, to make organic ice cream available and affordable to all, has been alive and well since their start in 2005. Try flavors like chocolate orange confetti, Madagascar vanilla, and mocha difference, all made with locally sourced milk from just 17 miles away. Although their store in the lower Haight is currently under construction due to a building fire a few years back, you can find them at grocery stores like Whole Foods and The Fresh Market (just look for the green label) and on Twitter where they announce updates and suprise ice cream giveways.
Saint Francis Fountain
As San Francisco's oldest ice cream parlor, Saint Francis Fountain has a long history of tasty milkshakes, frozen treats, and delicious diner food. Their milkshakes are made with Mitchell's ice cream in chocolate, strawberry, banana, Oreo cookie, coffee, coconut, chocolate chip, and mint chip flavors. Started in 1918 by James Christakes, and carried forth by three generations of family members, the diner is still run by the Christakes at its original location on the corner of York and 24th streets.
Ice Cream Bar
Although the Ice Cream Bar at 815 Cole Street is one of the newest shops featured in our list (opened just a year ago) they pay homage to the old school classics, serving up handcrafted creations made with a vintage 1930s soda fountain. Bi-Rite veteran Ray Lai manages the ice cream section, working with bartender Russel Davis to create delicious fountain drinks, and baker Lori Rich to perfect their ice cream cakes. If you're looking to indulge, try a slice of the vanilla ice cream cake filled with fudge, toffee, pecans, and topped with chocolate glaze. Or for a twist on an old-time favorite, try the banana split made with caramelized banana, raspberry sauces, butterscotch, and toasted almonds.
Stay at one of our three hostels in San Francisco, and ring in summer with a tasty treat.