San Francisco's weather is warming up, the Fourth of July is nigh—summer is here. So what am I thinking about these days? Ice cream, of course.
When you're in this city, you can forget Ben and Jerry's or Cold Stone Creamery; San Franciscans much prefer artisanal small-batch ice creams made with mostly local ingredients. Try adventurous flavors like salt and pepper, honey lavender, or earl grey tea. So far I have yet to taste a flavor that disappoints. Here are five shops worth a stop.
Creative flavors like olive oil and secret breakfast (cornflakes are among the ingredients) have garnered Humphrey Slocombe national attention from places like Food and Wine magazine and Bon Appetit. Even if those combinations sound too crazy to believe, trust the folks behind the counter—they can offer up recommendations to pleasantly surprise your palate. A local favorite is Harvey Milk & honey graham cracker, made with blackberry honey, homemade graham crackers, and carrot mango sorbet. Some people are so addicted that only a Twitter feed could sate them (@humphryslocombe). 2790 Harrison St., at 24 Street, 415/550-6971.
A San Francisco institution, Mitchell's Ice Cream opened in 1953, making gourmet ice cream in creative flavors long before it became fashionable. Well-known for tropical flavors like jackfruit, guava, and mango, other options like avocado, Mexican chocolate, and the current seasonal—peach—are also wildly popular. But the pumpkin ice cream, served only in the fall, has a following that can only be described as cult-like. 688 San Jose Ave. at 29 Street, 415/648-2300.
Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous
Located in the Dogpatch neighborhood, this is the newest shop on the ice cream scene. Everything is made in-house, including the flavoring extracts and crispy cones that have a hint of vanilla. Although Mr. and Mrs. is still in its early stages, there are already eight small-batch flavors produced daily. Try the "ballpark," made with Anchor Steam beer, pretzels, and peanuts, or candied violet and tres leches, which has chunks of tres leches cake. Throwback treats like fudgsicles are expected soon. 699 22nd St, at Third Street, 415/ 970-0750.
If you happen to walk by Bi-Rite Creamery, just across the street from the Mission's Dolores Park, be sure to stop by. And if there isn't the usual long line, then you are obligated to stop in for a scoop (or two) of ice cream. The most popular flavor by far is the salted caramel, but others like roasted banana and brown sugar with ginger caramel swirl and classics like cookies and cream are all winners. Soft serve is also available in flavors that change daily, like balsamic strawberry and spicy Mexican chocolate. 3692 18th Street, 415/626-5600.
Take note, vegans: Maggie Mudd in Bernal Heights has, hands-down, the best-tasting non-dairy ice cream. Made from soy or coconut milk, the ice cream here has a rich, creamy texture, and the impressive range of flavors include oatmeal cookie dough, lychee coconut, and rocky road swirl. There are regular dairy flavors as well, like espresso almond fudge and green tea, as well as options that have no sugar added. 903 Cortland Ave., 415/641-5291.