Although San Francisco is known for its incredibly foggy and cool days almost year-round, you’ll need a sweet retreat for the sunnier days in the city. We read up on the most popular, original, and fan-favorite ice cream shops in the city so you don’t have to struggle with Yelp search results letting you down or leading you astray.
Whether you’re exploring the city solo or you have few friends with you, these ice cream shops offer cool treats for anyone and everyone. Pick a sunny day (or ya know, a foggy one because it is San Francisco after all) and get your taste buds ready for some of the most creative and decadent ice cream flavors they’ll ever encounter.
Bi-Rite Creamery is a San Francisco classic known for serving up scoops of their small batch ice cream to customers in lines out the door on a daily basis. Their flavors rotate on a seasonal basis since they use only the freshest local ingredients for their ice cream. Give the bestselling salted caramel or balsamic strawberry a try (in a waffle cone, of course) on your visit to the shop.
Known for their eclectic ice cream flavors, Humphry Slocombe has two locations in the city, not including their ice cream vendor post at the Outside Lands Music Festival in August. Some of their most creative flavors include: McEvoy Olive Oil, Tahitian V*n!ll@, Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, and the ever-mystifying Secret Breakfast (to name just a few).
One of the best parts about Three Twins Ice Cream, other than their fab organic and sustainably-made ice cream, is that you can buy a pint of some of their most popular flavors at most local grocery stores. Founded by twins Neal and Carl Gottlieb (and Carl’s wife Liz, the third twin) in San Rafael, California, they knew that they wanted to source the ingredients for their ice cream from local and sustainable farms in the Bay Area. Go for the classic strawberry or switch things up a bit by trying their “Dad’s Cardamom” with the perfect balance of flavor and spice.
This under-the-radar ice cream shop in the Dogpatch district has recently made a name for itself. Started by Ian Flores and Annabelle Topacio (known for their time at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago), Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous rotates their flavors on a daily basis. Go for the sweet and light Candied Violet on Saturday and opt for the zesty Mango Chili Lime on Sunday.
After taking ice cream making to a whole new and hella fancy level by introducing liquid nitrogen into the mix, Smitten has gained popularity for their made-to-order small batch ice cream. With seasonal flavors such as Lemon Gingersnap and Blood Orange, you’ll be able to experience some of the Bay Area’s best local produce in a handmade sweet treat.
Childhood friends turned entrepreneurs Rob Robbins and Shane Stanger know how to combine the beauty of freshly baked cookies with craft homemade ice cream into the gift from the dessert gods known as the ice cream sandwich. With 10 options for cookies (including the special “cookie of the month”) and 12 ice cream flavors, there is an ice cream sandwich combination for everyone.
Step into this shop and instantly be transported back to the early 20th century. The Ice Cream Bar will forever be your go-to place for custom floats, sundaes, and boozy ice cream shakes. Who says adults can’t indulge in a (spiked) milkshake now and then, right?
This award-winning ice cream shop is a favorite among San Francisco natives. They’re known for their internationally-inspired ice cream flavors which include: Dulce de Leche, Filipino Buko (young coconut), and Lychee. Awaken your inner wanderlust spirit and travel the world with each flavorful scoop they offer.
Customers rave about the Chai Tea and Earl Grey flavors, but if you’re feeling up to it, their Wasabi ice cream will give you just the creamy, cool, and ~extra~ spicy kick that your taste buds need.
10. Loving Cup
For all my vegan or lactose intolerant friends out there, this one’s for you. Loving Cup is the prime destination for a refreshing treat on a hot day with their homemade rice pudding sweetened with coconut milk, made to order froyo with endless options for mixed-in flavors, and their vegan banana-based “faux-yo.”
This shop’s customer cannot stop boasting about the Sticky Chewy Chocolate ice cream, for obvious reasons. With the texture of classic rocky road combined but with an extra boost of creamy chocolate, it’s no wonder why it’s been a go-to for chocoholics for years.
12. Holy Gelato!
If ice cream isn’t really your thing, give Holy Gelato! a try on your next day in the city. From funky Goat Cheese to light Honey Lavender to vegan Thai Tea, this shop is perfect for anyone willing to get out of the typical chocolate or vanilla flavor zone.
This artisanal ice cream shop makes homemade ice cream, waffle cones, AND waffle bowls for their handcrafted sundaes. Their fan-favorites include flavors like Jacker Crack, Matcha Mint Chip, and seasonal California Poppy, or opt for a Blue Dream sundae with cream cheese ice cream and homemade blueberry compote (in a waffle bowl, duh).