San Francisco has long been known for its sustainable, organic produce, which helped influence the farm-to-table trend that continues to make its way across the country. San Francisco ice cream is no different. Those same fresh and local ingredients show up in the ice cream served to residents and visitors alike, creating some of the tastiest flavors in the country. As such, local ice cream makers think up flavors based on the local fare. Goat cheese, lavender and basil are just a few ingredients that these top five ice cream shops incorporate into their delicious, creamy concoctions, which customers should check out for a one-of-a-kind San Francisco treat.
Smitten founder Robyn Sue Fisher creates ice cream using liquid nitrogen, a process that freezes ice cream at a low temperature, producing a smoother texture in a short amount of time. With the help of engineers, she created Brrr, a now-patented ice machine that perfects the ice cream-making process using liquid nitrogen. Her shop started with the machine and a Radio Flyer wagon, which she used to transport everything she needed to make and sell ice cream on the streets of San Francisco. She has since opened three ice cream shop locations, serving up a variety of unique flavors that come with a chef-recommended pairing. For instance, chef says salted caramel pairs best with homemade brittle.
Boccalone prosciutto, butter beer, government cheese and foie gras are just a few of the ice cream flavors at Humphry Slocombe that make customers question whether they’re getting ice cream or going out for tapas. The ice cream shop serves up equally as unique ice cream cakes. The secret breakfast cake, for instance, has a bottom layer of crème fraiche cake, middle layer of Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee ice cream and a top layer of secret breakfast ice cream.
Now more than 60 years old, Mitchell’s Ice Cream is a San Francisco institution. Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, the store is known for its extra rich ice cream that has a 16 percent butterfat base. The Mitchell’s staff makes a variety of favors — cantaloupe, cinnamon snap and New York cherry, to name a few — daily in 10-pound batches. While the ice cream is certainly a draw, Mitchell’s is also famous for its Halo Halo, a traditional Filipino dessert made with mung beans and sweet beans, pineapple, shaved ice and a scoop of ice cream, among other ingredients. However, the dessert is seasonal and only available from late spring to early fall each year.
The Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous ice cream shop lives up to its name. Partners Ian Flores and Annabelle Topacio, both pastry chefs, serve up some of the most innovative and random flavors imaginable — some of which are very adult friendly. For instance, the ice cream shop has its own version of an Old Fashioned cocktail, with bourbon-drenched cherries and orange zest mixed into a vanilla ice cream. The store also sells handmade cookies such as peanut brittle and brown sugar and chocolate chip.
Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop brings the best of ice cream and baked goods into one delicious product. The staff makes all of the ice cream by hand using milk, cream and eggs provided by Straus Family Creamery, only 45 minutes away. In the bakery adjoining the ice cream shop, they also make the ingredients that go into the ice cream, such as brownies, peanut brittle, marshmallows and snickerdoodles. Also located in the Mission District, across the street from uber-trendy Delores Park, guests can expect lines around the block on weekend days. The salted caramel and honey lavender flavors are well worth the wait. The ice cream is also sold in pints and quarts at the company’s two Bi-Rite Market locations.