Anyone who’s native to the Bay Area has heard the hype behind CREAM, with its classic ice cream flavors and the scent of its warm cookies wafting down Telegraph Avenue. Yet I was convinced that Berkeley, with its many underrated culinary destinations, has more frozen dessert options than meets the eye.
Determined to find untraditional flavors, non-dairy offerings, and locations I had never explored, I set out on a mission for the most unique ice cream in Berkeley.
1. John's Cookies & Cream
At only $1.25 a scoop (or $2 for two scoops), John's preserves the classic American ice cream vibe of the past. In this spirit, I had a scoop of their cookies and cream, which has the perfect chocolate-vanilla balance. They have the widest variety of rotating flavor choices, including sherbets and sorbets!
2. Almare's Tiramisu
Gelato, which is creamier and smoother than ice cream, is my go-to frozen dessert, and Almare does not disappoint. They offer a not-too-sweet tiramisu flavor, with slightly bitter and spiced coffee, rum notes, and cocoa powder sprinkled on top.
3. Ici's Vanilla Crème Brulée
Just a 5 minute bus ride down College Avenue, Ici has a nightly line out the door. This shop boasts sophisticated flavors such as the vanilla crème brulée, with its rich custard flavor and crunchy caramel pieces. Ici uses high quality, local ingredients that elevate its ice cream to the next level.
4. Caravaggio's Burnt Orange Sorbet
With its blackboard of handwritten flavors and glass ice cream bowls, Caravaggio is the place to go for an escape from campus life. They offer intriguing non-dairy flavors, such as California burnt orange sorbet, which has a perfect balance of fruity and tart.
5. Tara's Lavender
Tara's features sustainable ingredients, which is reflected in the freshness of their ice cream. In particular, their lavender ice cream and rooibos tea ice cream are artisanal and complex in flavor. Stop by after your next grocery trip to Safeway!
6. Buona Vita's Chocolate Hazelnut
One of Berkeley's newest dessert shops, all of Buona Vita's desserts look and taste homemade. They have self-serve frozen yogurt and a toppings bar, but I personally am a fan of the chocolate hazelnut gelato: dark, nutty, and silky.
#SpoonTip: Buona Vita offers a 15% discount if you mention you're a student!
7. Smitten's Earl Grey with Chocolate Chips
Smitten has made its mark with its made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream. I order their earl grey with milk chocolate chips every time, which is tea-infused but also light. Watching ice cream being made in front of my eyes makes it taste even better.
For the adventurous, Berkeley is home to many unique ice cream offerings. From spins on classic flavors to new ingredient combinations, you'll surely discover a new favorite frozen dessert!