Where to Find the BEST Ice Cream in the Bay

Summer means ice cream, and summer in the Bay Area means sweet scoops of avant-garde flavors made with top-notch ingredients. From 60-year-old institutions serving up exotic options from around the world, to newcomers that deliver their freshly made flavors by trike, the sheer amount of choices make “31 flavors” seem skimpy. We’ve licked ourselves silly (and endured a brain freeze or two) in order to round up the very best ice cream shops around the Bay.

Photo: Erin Feher

San Francisco

Mitchell’s Ice Cream
This long-established outer Mission favorite has been serving delicious specialty ice cream, sorbet, and sundaes for over 50 years. Grab a number, deli-counter style, as soon as you arrive, then worry about picking your flavors—they serve up all the classics, as well as their signature tropical flavors: We love Ube-Macapuno, purple yam blended with sweet, meaty coconut.

688 San Jose Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: mitchellsicecream.com

SF Hometown Creamery
This brand new spot just opened its Inner Sunset doors in this month. It is run by two brothers with a passion for ice cream and the neighborhood (one of the brothers was determined to end up on this exact block since they hatched the idea, 5 years ago). In addition to creative, house-made flavor combinations, such as candied orange peel, pistachio and almond, Hometown Creamery makes their ice creams completely from scratch (most purchase a premade vanilla base) so they had to get a pasteurizer’s license and build a specific sanitized room for the process. We suggest stopping in for a taste of their hard work!

1290 9th Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: facebook.com

Polly Ann
Looking for black sesame, jasmine tea or durian? This is your ice cream shop. Celebrating its 60th year in business, Polly Ann is an institution for long time locals, and drawing new converts every day. Can’t decide on a flavor? Spin the flavor wheel and leave it up to fate. You may just get lucky and win a free cone!

3138 Noriega St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: yelp.com

ice_cream_barPhoto: Ice Cream Bar

Ice Cream Bar
This place is the coolest, and not just because of the ice cream. It’s a full service 1930s style soda fountain, down to the servers in bow ties and paper hats. Everything is made in house using locally sourced organic dairy and produce, down to the waffle cones and brioche sandwich bread. We suggest splurging for one of their sundaes, from the tropical to the classic banana split. You can also order ice cream cake by the slice.

815 Cole St.
San Francisco, Ca
415 742 4932
Online: theicecreambarsf.com

Eatwell Farm’s Ice Box
While some folks crave the scoop, others are just as loyal to the swirl. Soft Serve may not offer the flavor variety but when it’s good, it’s good. Eatwell’s on a Second Act Marketplace on Haight Street serves up the good stuff—its chocolate, made with specialty stone ground chocolate made of cacao nibs, is a must-try, though their seasonal flavors such as Charentais Melon or Cream Cheese may tempt you away from the classic.

Second Act Marketplace
1727 Haight St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: iceboxsf.com

San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood may not offer the perfect place for a post-ice-cream stroll, but if you’re in the hood, these scoops are worth a try. ShakeDown is easy to spot thanks to it’s colorful murals, and hard to forget once you try flavors such as Cinnimon Toast Brunch (tastes a lot like your favorite childhood breakfast cereal) and Jacker Crack—imagine Cracker Jacks and coffee. The price is right, too. Two big scoops on a waffle cone for $5.

835 Geary St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: shakedownsf.com

Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop
The ever-popular Bi-Rite Creamery, just steps away from Dolores Park (and with a new second location on Divisidero), uses mostly organic, local milk products to make its sweet treats, and has successfully turned our little ones into little foodies. Kid favorites include ricanelas (cinnamon with snickerdoodle cookie pieces) and the aforementioned strawberry balsamic. Impatient brood? The soft-serve line at the 18th St. location is always shorter, and you can score ice cream sandwiches and popsicles from there as well.

3692 18th St.
San Francisco, Ca

550 Divisidero St.
San Francisco, Ca

Online: biritecreamery.com

Swensen’s Ice Cream
This tiny retro-style store in Russian Hill is known for its rich, creamy, flavorful ice cream. The sticky chewy chocolate is one of their best sellers. Counter service only. Parking is tricky, so plan accordingly. Give the kids an extra thrill and hop on the Hyde Street cable car (or the 45 bus from Union Street) and let someone else take the wheel. But don’t spend all your quarters—this place is cash only.

1999 Hyde St.
San Francsico, Ca
Online: swensensicecream.com

Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous
This Dogpatch shop gets our nod for big scoops of inventive flavors (think blueberry cobbler and earl grey tea), as well as an industrial-chic decor that makes standing in line less of a chore.

699 22nd St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: Read our review from when it first opened.

smitten_ice_creamPhoto: Smitten

What started as a svelte shipping container serving up no more than 3 flavors a day has turned into a local household name, in no small part to the high-tech show that comes with a visit: Proprietor Robyn Sue Fisher developed the Brrr machine, which uses liquid nitrogen to make ice cream in 60 seconds. That means kids can watch it go from a liquid to a solid while they wait for their scoop. The original Hayes Valley location still serves a limited menu, but their newer, bigger outposts (the most recent in Pacific Heights) offer more choices.

432 Octavia St.
San Francisco, Ca

2404 California St.
San Francisco, Ca

Whole Foods Market
4800 El Camino Real
Los Altos, Ca

5800 College Ave.
Oakland, Ca

3545 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, Ca

Online: smittenicecream.com

Photo courtesy of Humphry Slocombe

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
Head to Humphry Slocombe for some inventive and unexpected flavors. From exotic adult tastes like chèvre fig to more kid friendly delights like Wexler’s root beer, everyone will be satisfied with this spot. And proving the popularity of the wacky, “you put WHAT in ice cream?!” flavors, Humphry Slocombe opened a second location in the ultra-exclusive Ferry Building last year, replacing a long-standing gelato shop (gelato is soooo 2010). Try their brand new Malitda-inspired flavor!

2790 A Harrison St.
San Francisco, Ca

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, Ca

Online: humphryslocombe.com

fentons_creameryPhoto courtesy of Fentons Creamery

East Bay

Fenton’s Creamery
This spot is seriously old-school—the original Fenton’s opened in 1894, when they delivered fresh milk by horse-drawn wagon. They seem to have ignored the crazy flavor fad—dark chocolate raspberry swirl or green tea is as wild as it gets—but they have truly mastered the more than 30 classic flavors they still mix up by hand.Try one of their yummy mix-and-match sundaes to taste a few. Movie trivia: Fenton’s classic ice cream parlor was even featured in Pixar’s Up.

4226 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, Ca
Online: fentonscreamery.com

Curbside Creamery
This yummy new creamery in the hot Temescal neighborhood is serving up scoops, ice cream sandwiches and fresh made waffle cones. There are typically about a dozen flavors on offer, from classics like Mint Chip and Peanut Butter fudge to more sophisticated tastes like Bourbon whiskey and vanilla. For treats on the go, track down their cooler-equipped trike on the weekends at the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, Bites at the Lake and Bites off Broadway.

482 49th S.(@ Telegraph)
Oakland, Ca
Online: curbsideoakland.com

Ici is owned by none other than Chez Panisse’s former pastry chef Mary Canales. Needless to say their ice cream, sorbet, and sherbet are all fit for a prince (or princess!). Ingredients are all organic, local, and sustainably-raised, and all 11 daily flavors are made-fresh every day. But the part the kids will care about? How about the leak-proof waffle cones sealed with fresh chocolate inside or flavors such as brown sugar gingersnap?

2948 College Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
Online: ici-icecream.com


Photo courtesy of IScream

This North Berkeley’s scoop shop gets rave reviews for its high quality artisan Mexican chocolate and mocha almond ice cream flavors, as well as its lemon sorbet. Half scoops are available for those who like to order more than one flavor, and even scoops served in cups come with a sliver of their heavenly homemade waffle cones.

1819 Solano Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
Online: iscreaminberkeley.com

Tucker’s Supercreamed Ice Cream
Tucker’s set up shop in 1941 and has been here ever since. They serve over 30 flavors of ice cream, sorbet, and sherbet, all extra-whipped in order to live up to that “supercreamed” title. Their ‘Tornado Machine’ will custom-blend frozen yogurt flavors—try one in a freshly-baked waffle cone. Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating makes this a nice place to linger.

1349 Park St.
Alameda, Ca
Online: tuckersicecream.com

Loard’s Ice Cream
Loard’s ice cream parlors have been a Bay Area favorite since the first one opened in 1950. They’re a small chain but feel more like a mom-and-pop store, and serve over 40 flavors of rich and creamy ice cream, as well as sorbet, sherbet, and a ‘lite’ version of their ice cream. Again, you’ll only find the classic flavors here (with the exception of some Filipino favorites like Ube), but they will be done to perfection. And the kids will get a kick out of the retro video game tables (Ms. Pacman!) and jukebox. Check out their website for a full listing of northern California stores, with a few now open on the Peninsula.

3080 El Cerrito Plaza
El Cerrito, Ca
Online: loards.com

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream
Tara’s is a must for any adventurous dessert lover, and the crowds have spoken: Tara’s now has three locations: the original Berkeley, Oakland and a a year-old spot in Pleasanton. Ready to take the leap? Try Butternut Curry or Berbere (an Ethiopian spice). For the littles, blueberry mint or banana might hit the spot.

3173 College Ave.
Berkeley, Ca

4731 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, Ca

349 Main Street
Pleasanton Ca

Online: tarasorganic.com


Photo by CNSCVB via Flickr


Tin Pot Creamery
Named one the country’s hottest ice cream shops, this two-year-old sweet spot was started by a former dessert chef at Facebook, and today it’s “likes” are off the charts. With two locations (Palo Alto and Los Altos) plus new partnerships with Postmates and Door Dash, more people than ever can enjoy there scoops, ice cream sandwiches, and cool pies and cakes.

855 El Camino Real, #121
Palo Alto, Ca

201 First St.
Los Altos, Ca

Online: tinpotcreamery.com

Romolo’s Cannoli and Spumoni Factory
If you love all-natural, authentic Italian desserts, this is the place. Try their famous ice cream–filled cannoli, or opt for a fresh fruit sorbet or granita with a couple of cucidati (sugar cookies).

81 37th Ave.
San Mateo, Ca
Online: romoloscannoli.com

Rick’s Rather Rich Ice Cream
This gourmet micro-creamery offers no less than 48 flavors of hand-made ice cream, as well as their version of a popsicle, called ‘frozen ice.’ Try a lavender honey or a white chocolate ginger scoop. They also make yummy sorbet, floats, and sundaes.

3946 Middlefield Rd.
Palo Alto, Ca
Online: ricksicecream.com

Preston’s Candy and Ice Cream
Take a step back in time and visit Preston’s—an old school confectionary where candies are still made on antique equipment and the littles can watch the sweets roll by on the chocolate dipping line. They also organize annual contests like “guess how many jelly beans in the cookie jar” with cool prizes—oh, and there’s ice cream, too!

1170 Broadway
Burlingame, Ca
Online: prestonscandy.com

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe
Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky, but with candy piled to the ceiling, your kids will explore this place with wide-eyed wonder. Score a scoop of gelato and hit the row of movie seats to view some of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  P.S. There are also Powell’s locations in Los Gatos, Novato, Berkeley, and Lafayette.

1166 Howard Ave.
Burlingame, Ca
Online: powellsss.com

Cowabunga Creamery
This surf-themed spot is a San Carlos gem. Whether the kids are little beach bums or not, they are sure to devour their signature flavor: Goofyfoot, a mix of caramel, fudge swirl and Oreos. There are even vegan and sugar free options to choose from. The ice cream pies and cakes are the perfect choice for your next birthday party, too!

784 Laurel St.
San Carlos, Ca
Online: cowabungacreamery.com

Creamery Fountain and Grill
Palo Alto locals used to flock here for the 15-cent milkshakes. Sure, that was 1923, but besides the price, not too much has changed since then. Kids will get a kick out of ordering their banana split or double scoop of Peppermint Fudge Ripple from an actual soda jerk, and taking a spin on the red vinyl counter stools.

566 Emerson St.
Palo Alto, Ca
Online: paloaltocreamery.com



Three Twins Ice Cream
Everyone is screaming for Three Twins these days (and you now can scoop some up at 4 different NorCal shops), but the San Rafael location is where is all started. You can’t go wrong no matter what you order here—it’s all absolutely delish, from their Madagascar vanilla to mint chip, made with dark chocolate flecks real mint and no artificial anything (so don’t expect a neon green scoop). Sit inside, or out on the patio on warm days, or order a pint of ice cream or sorbet to go. SIgn up for a factory tour to see how it’s made!

641 Del Ganado Rd.
Terra Linda, North San Rafael, Ca

Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street
Napa, Ca

Marin Country Mart
2257 Larkspur Landing Circle
Larkspur, Ca

254 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, Ca

Online: threetwinsicecream.com

Fairfax Scoop
This tiny place always seems to have a line outside—one reason may be that it’s only seven feet wide, but the another is that this Fairfax mainstay has been making some of the best ice cream since it opened its doors in 2001. One of the first all organic establishments, and an early outpost for experimental flavors like honey lavender, locals swear by this mini locale. Pick from 12 rotating flavors daily, and be sure to bring cash, as no credit cards are accepted.

63 Broadway Blvd.
Ca, Fairfax
Online: Not yet!

Okay, we know it’s gelato, but it’s so rich, delectable, and creamy (love the chocolate) that we had to include this artisanal scoop shop. They cater to people with nut and gluten allergies, too!

17 E. Blithdale Ave.
Mill Valley, Ca
Online: nocigelato.com

For a little taste of Hawaii in downtown Sausalito, follow the smell of waffle cones and coffee. Three generations of Lapperts have been whipping up island inspired flavors such as Kaua’i pie or Hawaii Pink Sea Salt Caramel (our favorite). Mom and Dad can get their own pick me up in the form of a Hawaiian cup of joe.

689 Bridgeway, Sausalito, Ca
Online: lapperts.com

Pizzeria Picco 
Sure, this is a pizza joint (and a fantastic one at that), but those in the know come for the Strauss soft serve ice cream. The first choice is simple: chocolate, vanilla or swirl. But then things get interesting. Try topping it with olive oil and sea salt, or getting it dipped in a Scharffenberger chocolate “magic shell.” Our go-to combo? Chocolate soft serve topped with warm caramel and sea salt. What pizza??

316 Magnolia Ave.
Larkspur, Ca
Online: pizzeriapicco.com

Admittedly, our list is massive, but hey, we love ice cream! Let us know if we’ve missed your favorite place to grab a scoop. And, while you’re at it, let us know what you order in the comments below (We crave Dad’s Cardamom from Three Twins). 

—Annie Sheldon and Erin Feher