There’s no doubt about it — ice cream is a San Francisco staple. This 7×7 town is packed with artisanal shops scooping interesting, soul-satisfying flavors — even some that are churned to order. Here in California, we’re all about keeping it fresh, using seasonal ingredients and staying on top of the trends.
How do you like your ice cream? In a waffle cone, soft serve, or straight out of the pint? What about rolled, in a donut, or served in a taiyaki (fish-shaped) cone? Next time you’re screaming for ice cream, try one of these amazing (and totally on-trend) ice cream shops in the city.
ROLLED ICE CREAM
Facebook | Instagram | 270 Brannan Street
Rolled ice cream is a Thai dessert (sometimes referred to as stir-fried ice cream) that involves spreading the ice cream on an iced grill, topping it with fruits, candies and sauce, and scraping it off into picture-perfect rolls. You’ve likely seen it once or twice on Instagram. The treat is made to order and comes together in minutes right before your eyes!
Steep Creamery & Tea opened in the SoMa neighborhood in March, 2017, and has the honor of being San Francisco’s first rolled ice cream shop. Owner Angela Luc understands the dessert’s high Instagrammability factor, so she set up a dedicated light box in her shop to cater to this need. The shop is decorated with hashtags (think: #KnowYourRoll and #SteepUp) to encourage customers to post their gorgeous desserts online. Popular flavors include pistachio made with matcha pudding, strawberry cheesecake, and Thai iced tea topped with boba.
Facebook | Instagram | 829 Mission Street
Photo courtesy of Icicles
Icicles first opened in the San Jose area, but has since expanded to 10 locations throughout the Bay Area. It was founded by a group of friends who were inspired by their trip to Thailand. They realized that they needed to bring this frozen delicacy stateside, and we are so happy they did!
The San Francisco outpost is one of our favorite spots to satisfy our sweet tooth because it’s not just dessert — it’s an experience. The handcrafted ice cream is made daily using the freshest fruits and ingredients available, and each bowl is completely customizable. Choose your favorite flavor and a few delicious toppings, and watch it come together in front of you.
Facebook | Instagram | 839 Irving Street
The soft-serve technique used at Honey Creme originated in Korea, but we are thrilled that this heavenly treat has made its way stateside! The premium ice cream is made with fresh, organic milk and can be topped with a number of interesting ingredients (such as cotton candy, chocolate beans, boba, espresso, honeycomb, popcorn and more). Regardless of which flavor combination you choose, we are sure you’ll be impressed.
Facebook | Instagram | 22 Peace Plaza, #440
Photos courtesy of Uji Time Dessert
Uji Time Dessert has a location in San Francisco and Berkeley, so when you’re craving Japanese fusion style desserts, this is the place to be. Melding elements from multiple traditional desserts, there is sure to be something on the list for everyone — including soft serve ice cream in a taiyaki (or fish-shaped) cone.
CHURNED TO ORDER
Facebook | Instagram | Four Locations in San Francisco
Your dessert is made to order when you visit Smitten Ice Cream. Choose a flavor and watch it come to life before your eyes with the help of liquid nitrogen. Each scoop takes just one to two minutes to freeze completely, and the result is some of the creamiest and freshest ice cream imaginable. Since the ice cream is frozen to order, there is no need for stabilizers, gums and other chemical ingredients — just California cream, milk, butter, sugar, lemon juice and dash of salt. So, it’s healthy. Right?
Facebook | Instagram | 3566 20th Street
This acclaimed food truck recently landed a brick and mortar location on the corner of 20th and Lexington, which means more opportunities for us to indulge! All of the desserts at Garden Creamery (which include pops, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream and vegan sorbet) are hand-crafted in small batches using the best seasonal ingredients that California has to offer. The result is vibrant, melt-in-your-mouth flavors that you will come back to time and time again. The menu changes seasonally to reflect the available ingredients, but you could find flavors like Japanese milk coffee, banana salted caramel, Bangkok Thai, and butter mochi toasted sesame. And as of late, you can enjoy any of them in a churro cone!
Facebook | Instagram | 290A Harrison Street + two more locations
Photo courtesy of Sean Vahey via Humphry Slocombe
Jake Godby and Sean Vahey (the masterminds behind Humphry Slocombe) describe their shop as a bizarre, delicious, frozen universe — most likely due to the wacky flavors that fill their tubs. Adventurous eaters will love sampling everything Humphry Slocombe has to offer, including prosciutto, blue bottle Vietnamese coffee, McEvoy olive oil, hibiscus beet sorbet and so much more. The flavors rotate regularly, so make sure to check the website to see what’s on the menu!
Facebook | 699 22nd Street
From the name of this ice cream parlor, you might be able to deduce that it was opened by a husband-and-wife team. What you might not know, however, is that this team has a very impressive culinary resume, including coveted positions at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant, Spago. Stop here to taste some of the freshest and most inventive ice cream in the Bay Area, including flavors like black sesame, fruity pebbles, matcha green tea and basil chip.
Facebook | Instagram | 586 Hayes Street AND 2201 Fillmore Street
Photo courtesy of Allison Jones via Salt & Straw
Rhubarb crumble with toasted anise, wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies, orange blossom sorbet with edible flowers — oh my. The flavors at Salt & Straw are clever, perfectly balanced and out-of-this-world delicious. The Portland-based shop expanded to San Francisco not too long ago, so you finally have the chance to sample a few of them!
Facebook | Instagram | 3138 Noriega Street
Since Polly Ann’s Ice Cream is a mainstay (serving San Francisco since 1955) it might seem strange to see the shop on a roundup of trendy spots. But the parlor actually does a great job of keeping it fresh without losing its historic charm! Polly Ann boasts a traditional vibe and an impressive lineup of inventive flavors (think: Thai tea, taro, lychee and Taro). If you can’t decide on a flavor, spin the wheel for a random selection.
Facebook | Instagram | 1717 17th Street, Suite #105
Photo courtesy of Celine Kianisha (@nyomnyomsf) via Milkbomb
It doesn’t get much better than a donut and ice cream combo — especially when you can customize your toppings to include fruity pebbles, M&Ms, sprinkles and more! If you prefer to skip the glazed donut, their ice cream — which is made from locally sourced ingredients — is also served in a cup or flavored cone. Choose from flavors like birthday cake and ube (purple yam). Check Yelp for their daily hours of operation.
Facebook | Instagram | 3692 18th Street AND 550 Divisadero Street
The line at Bi-Rite Creamery is always long — which speaks volumes about the quality ice cream coming from the shop. If people are willing to wait for so long for a scoop, they must know that it’s worth it! And trust us, it is. Each small batch is made by hand using quality ingredients, and the flavors rotate frequently to reflect seasonality. You can always check the website to see what’s being scooped that day, for instance, cream cheese carrot cake, Meyer lemon, balsamic strawberry or salted caramel.
Enjoy your dessert!
If you visit any of these shops, make sure to tag us in your Instagram photos at @mcguire_re.
Header photo courtesy of Allison Jones via Salt & Straw