Where is the best ice cream in San Francisco?

Answers from Our Experts (2)

Katie Sweeney

San Francisco is an ice cream lover's city and there is something for everyone from the old school ice cream purist to the modern flavor evangelist to the the gelato aficionado.

If you're after a classic ice cream experience, stop by Swenson's Ice Cream on Hyde Street. Opened in 1948, this is the original Swenson's store. Traditional flavors like cookies 'n cream, rocky road, and strawberry are on the menu.

For an unusual ice cream adventure, head to Humphry Slocombe in the Mission District. This avant grade ice cream shop is known for its outlandish flavors like Secret Breakfast (bourbon and toasted cornflakes) and Elvis The Fat Years (banana and brown sugar).

Looking to savor a scoop or two of gelato? Ciao Bella at the Ferry Building offers creamy, smooth, and delicious gelato in flavors like hazelnut and mango.

Other popular ice cream shops include Bi-Rite Creamery, which introduced the world to the salted caramel flavor, and Smitten Ice Cream, which makes ice cream to order using liquid nitrogen.

Maria Hunt

For a city that’s in cold and fog much of the year, San Francisco has a a stellar selection of ice cream. I think that’s because the Bay Area has so many talented chefs and great ingredients so ice cream makes a fun way for them to express their individuality. Whether you love vanilla or Rocky Road, there are several ice cream shops in San Francisco and Oakland that you won’t want to miss.

Bi-Rite Creamery is the undisputed king of salted caramel ice cream; theirs is deeply flavored with just the right notes of burnt caramel and salt.  If caramel’s not your thing, the lavander and the roasted banana are delicious too.  Since Bi-Rite can have queues — especially for soft serve — that rival those outside your city’s hottest nightclub, I suggest picking up a pint at the market across the street and taking it back to your hotel.

For novelty flavors like Secret Breakfast (corn flakes and bourbon), beet or Vietnamese coffee,  head to the quirky Humphry Slocombe in the Mission District. But my favorite place for an ice cream indulgence is Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, which offers creative seasonal and organic ice cream in Berkeley and Oakland’s Rockridge. While I love her nutmeg ice cream, and the black sesame in a handmade sesame cone, the most heart-stopping flavor is the summery sweet corn – trust me.

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