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The Scoop: Three Twins Scoop Shop Returns to the Haight

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A “single”-sized order of Dad’s Cardamom and Pistachio from the Three Twins Scoop shop in the Lower Haight. Photo by Dawn Maxey/MS3

By Dawn Maxey
Staff Writer

The Three Twins Ice Cream Scoop Shop that tragically burned down in September of 2011 has risen from the ashes to serve ice cream to the masses once more.  Three Twins Ice Cream, which got its start in the Bay Area in in 2005, quickly became a San Francisco staple.

Already familiar with the quality and taste of the brand, the Scoop team decided to check out the newly-rebuilt shop with the hope of tasting innovative new flavors. The first thing we noticed was that we almost missed the tiny, nondescript shop completely. Located at the intersection of Fillmore and Haight, the storefront is no larger than a few paces wide. The interior has room for only a handful of people. There are no tables or chairs.

While waiting outside in a line that was a dozen people deep, we were disappointed to find there were no signs displaying the day’s selection anywhere.

Finally inside, I learned that the Scoop Shop offers 12 flavors at any given time. With the exception of the two current seasonal selections (Coconut and Pistachio), the remaining ten flavors were the same as the pre-packaged ones available in stores. I was devastated. Why come to a Scoop Shop if I can get the same flavors at the corner gas station?

A worker explained that only one or two spots are reserved for seasonal specialties (the shop claims to have invented 100 extra flavors including Gingerbread, Peppermint and Eggnog) while the rest are filled with an unpredictable rotating selection of pint flavors.

In addition to single scoops ($3.50), sundaes ($7) and a monstrosity entitled the “Twinasaurus” (20 scoops of ice cream, $45), the store sells pre-packaged pints for $5. Again, disappointment lapped at my brain. Even pricy Whole Foods regularly features Three Twins pints on sale for $3.50—I wanted special flavors and deals for making a special trip to this store.

In total, we purchased six different flavors spanning cone, cup and sundae forms. A “single” turns out to be two scoops, which co-Scoop writer Theresa Poulos found misleading. She noted that she could have purchased the kiddie size (with the single scoop that she wanted) for $2.50.

I ordered the Crunchy Sundae, which is advertised as ice cream, granola, raw cashews and cacao nibs, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. While waiting for my sundae, I noticed more people attempting to stuff themselves into the tiny shop. In addition, the two employees appeared to have little idea what they were doing — wandering around aimlessly and sporadically managing the cash register despite the ever growing line.

After a long wait, the server asked me the repeat my order. I paused. What exactly had she been doing all this time? After another long wait, a sundae was pushed in front of me that contained no whipped cream. “We ran out,” the woman explained. I looked at her incredulously.

At approximately 3 p.m., how does an ice cream shop run out of whipped cream? The store is open for another eight hours. What exactly do you plan on doing for all of the other customers who order sundaes?

As I stood waiting for other reviewers to be served, I began to feel a sense of heightened anxiety. At first I couldn’t quite place my finger on where I’d felt this way before, and then it hit me: the Parnassus Garage elevators. Those infamous elevators transfer passengers from Irving Street to Parnassus Avenue, stopping to pick up eight floors of garage patrons along the way. The service is agonizingly slow, anxiety provoking and many passengers appear to have no idea where they’re going. The Three Twins Scoop Shop is an equivalent experience.

Ice cream in hand, the Scoop team wandered down to nearby Duboce Park. The Pistachio was a clear hit and was praised it for its clean flavor and bits of real crunchy pistachio. Similarly, the Coconut flavor featured a generous amount of finely shredded and flavorful coconut. We were happy to taste these new flavors.

Three flavors, Chocolate Malt, Mexican Chocolate and Butterscotch Pecan, were old hat and tasted the same as the store-bought versions, but were delicious nonetheless. The Cardamom on the other hand, was met with unhappy faces. Although the flavor was pleasing, the texture was icy and unappealing. Accouterments garnering high praise included the granola on the sundae, which added a delicious crunchy dimension, and the homemade waffle cone (an additional $0.75) which was buttery and crisp. 

At the end of the day, we all agreed that the best part of our Three Twins experience was sitting in the park on a sunny afternoon enjoying each other’s company. The Scoop Shop was not the unique experience we had hoped for. Given the hefty price tag, poor customer service, lack of ambiance and paucity of new flavors, we unanimously decided we would not return.

Dawn Maxey is a third-year medical student.

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