A Spoonful of Bliss
One night, after a friend’s birthday dinner, we all went to one of her favorite ice cream shops. I sauntered in and read through the blackboard list of flavors — only one stood out to me. Written in the middle of the list was black sesame, and before I knew it, tears of joy fell down my cheeks as memories of the most blissful moments of my youth flooded in.
As someone who is obsessed with black sesame flavored desserts, I’ve been searching far and wide for an ice cream shop that could satisfy my itch.
Of course, my friends laughed at how ridiculous this all was, and laughing with them, I tried hard to stop being so emotional as I ordered my black sesame scoop and bought a pint to take home.
Now, most people do not experience ice cream like this, but when they do, they’ve hit on the best ice cream shops.
To help you achieve your own emotional merry-go-round, here are five San Francisco ice cream shops that are the best of the best.
1. Smitten (various locations)
Ice cream made to order with liquid nitrogen? Yes please.
Smitten Ice Cream makes every scoop to order from its rotating flavors, which consist of mouthwatering goodies like earl grey with milk chocolate chips, cookie dough with pretzels and chocolate chips, and the current seasonal flavor, blood orange with pistachio cookies.
Furthermore, the ice cream is free of preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients and contains fresh ingredients from local farms and producers because founder, Robyn Sue Fisher, does not believe in adding other ingredients to prolong shelf life.
Combined with the special liquid nitrogen machine, Brrr, the fresh ingredients make for an especially creamy dessert.
Smitten’s ice cream is the creamiest one we have tried, and that is what keeps us going back. With six locations in California and five of those in the Bay Area, enough ice cream exists to go around for everyone.
2. Mr. And Mrs. Miscellaneous (699 22nd Street)
Located in the foodie Dogpatch district and opened by two pastry chefs, Mr. And Mrs. Miscellaneous is a modern hipster ice cream shop with unique rotating organic flavors, such as black sesame, white sesame and candied violet.
Alcoholic flavors include Pink Squirrel and Manhattan — inspired by these cocktails — and the ballpark, an Anchor steam porter with chocolate covered pretzels and peanuts.
Given this creativity, it is not surprising that pastry chefs, Ian Flores and Annabelle Topacio, come from impressive backgrounds working in Beverly Hills restaurants under Wolfgang Puck.
With its smooth creamy texture, the ice cream reflects their dessert making experiences.
Considering the wonderful flavors, it is always difficult to get only one scoop.
3. Bi-Rite Creamery (3692 18th Street)
Famous classic San Franciscan dessert shop, Bi-Rite Creamery, holds its own with some fierce competition in the ice cream category.
Located across from Dolores Park, Bi-Rite gives anyone an excuse to savor a scoop or two of ice cream under the sun, looking out at the beautiful San Francisco city view.
The creamery is proud to say that it does not use more than five ingredients in any of its flavors, and furthermore, all of the ingredient sources are locally-sourced and organic.
The toffee ice cream is made with San Francisco’s own Ritual Coffee. The famous honey lavender flavor consists of organic dried lavender and honey from Sonoma. Rocky road uses house made marshmallows and TCHO chocolate covered almonds.
Since Bi-Rite has its own bakery, it is able to make everything that goes into the ice cream. In addition to the standard as well as rotating seasonal flavors, the shop also makes cakes, pies, puddings, pastries, granola and breads, which can be found at the Bi-Rite Market half a block away also.
4. Humphry Slocombe (various locations)
In 2008, the newly-opened Humphry Slocombe introduced San Franciscans to its creative and unique ice cream flavors: Secret Breakfast, brown butter and Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee.
The most popular flavor is Secret Breakfast, which fuses bourbon and corn flakes. The combination may sound unusual, but actually pairs well and leaves a slightly sweet bourbon aftertaste after the crunchy corn flake surprise.
Humphry Slocombe’s seasonal flavors include poached pear, blood orange yogurt and beer nut, and brown butter and Guinness.
For those who always have a sweet tooth and sugar cravings, Humphry Slocombe has two locations in the Mission near 24th Street BART and in the Ferry Building near the Embarcadero BART stop.
5. The Ice Cream Bar (815 Cole Street)
Going back in time to the 1930s, The Ice Cream Bar serves ice cream, lunch, sodas and other treats on a classic soda fountain and lunch counter.
Everything from the ice cream to the waffle cones to the soda syrups are made in house.
The unique ice cream flavors range from Meyer lemon olive oil to huckleberry.
With 13 soda flavors and three floats and malts/milkshakes, non-traditional desserts can also help remedy that dessert craving.
The combinations are astoundingly complex. For example The Creme of Sodas contains sarsaparilla tincture, vanilla extract, turbinado syrup, egg white, lactart and soda. The Love It or Hate It float contains anise, fennel, tarragon, angelica root, licorice root, turbinado syrup, crème fraîche ice cream and soda.
If this already is not enough reason to visit The Ice Cream Bar, it also provides “Remedies” for those who are of 21 years and older. Not much can be better than an ice cream shop with shakes, sodas and floats.