I’ve eat a lot of ice cream over the years! I love classic flavors like mint chocolate chip or trying artisanal ones that are available for a limited time. I also usually try to eat ice cream when I’m traveling – it’s always fun to see what’s happening in other parts of the country and world. One of the best days of the year is tomorrow – National Ice Cream ay! A bunch of different ice cream spots are offering deals or discounts, though this post is just about showcasing a few of my favorite places to grab ice cream in the Bay Area. The asterisked ice cream spots have more than one location that are in different parts of the Bay.
Curbside Creamery (Oakland, CA)
Curbside Creamery has a bunch of rotating flavors, including a bunch of vegan flavors that use cashews or coconut as its base. You’re more than welcome to sample any of the flavors before deciding on the scoop you want. There a bunch of classics like Mint Chip (which is vegan) to more complex flavors like Bourbon whiskey Vanilla and Thai Iced tea. There are also ice cream sandwiches with cookies made in-house. The flavors rotate regularly, and they have a dairy and a vegan soft serve flavor that changes weekly. Their ice cream is fantastic. It’s light and creamy, and I’m glad that the salt doesn’t overpower caramel in their Salted Caramel. It was a perfect balance of salt and sweet.
Gadani (Berkeley, CA)
Gadani serves up giant egg waffles and serves it up with ice cream and toppings. I’ve had smaller egg waffles in the past, and duh I love ice cream, so I was here for this. The shop itself is pretty small and the staff is friendly. The ice cream flavors rotate but you’re more than welcome to sample them. They locally source their ice cream, and some of them are from Berkeley’s Tara’s Organic Ice Cream. I kept it classic and ordered Vanilla Bean in a signature egg waffle with a chocolate drizzle. This is pricey, but I think the ice cream was pretty good and I enjoyed the lightness of the egg waffle. I will admit that I couldn’t finish most of it, but in the future I would just share it with someone. This is one Instagrammable food worth trying.
Ici Ice Cream (Berkeley, CA)
[Closed as of April 2018] Ici makes me think of college – it’s such a must eat Berkeley spot to go to. Everyday, they come up with a select few flavors to sell and switch it up regularly, so you’ll never know what you’ll get to try next time! They make their ice cream handmade everyday with real ingredients, so expect it to taste fantastic. I’ve had their more adventurous flavors like Basil but usually stick with more traditional ones. Their sorbets are really good here so that’s what I tend to go get! And I don’t care for them normally. The middle one is the Mango-Blood Orange Sorbet, which was mine. It’s a really tart flavor as my friends made a sour face upon trying it, but I loved it. I love tart and sour flavors though. Sometimes I’d taste the blood orange or sometimes the sweetness of the mango which was awesome. Both fruits can be sour and sweet and that’s just the mix that I love.
Nature’s Microcreamery and Soul Cafe (Fremont, CA)
I wasn’t a fan of the avocado toast or other lunch options, but the ice cream – that’s what sold me on the cafe. They make artisan flavors in house and rotate them. There’s a wide variety of selections, so you have your classic flavors like mint chocolate chip and unique ones like orange cardamom. There also vegan flavors too, so there’s something for everyone. Instead of getting a big scoop of one flavor, we ordered their mini ice cream flight. We ordered the Salted Sage Pecan, Chocolate Aztec, Saffron Pistachio, and Vanilla. We kept one simple as kind of a palette cleanser. All of them were really delicious and you can taste all of their unique notes like the sage and the pistachio. I was really feeling the Chocolate Aztec that day because it’s basically like Mexican hot chocolate! The flight is a best way to try several of their awesome flavors.
Tucker’s Ice Cream (Alameda, CA)
Tucker’s Ice Cream is in downtown Alameda and it’s a classic ice cream shop. It’s been serving up ice cream since 1941, and it totally has that old school ice cream parlor feel. They have a variety of flavors, ice cream cartons to take home, and other little goodies to try as well. We got chocolate chip and birthday cake on cones. Though it was cloudy outside, it was beginning to warm up in the afternoon, so the ice cream was melting quickly! The chocolate chip tasted like the classic, eternal flavor and the birthday cake was sweet and extra creamy. It reminded me of being little and going to older ice cream shops before a lot of these artisan shops started popping up (which I do love, also).
Bi-Rite Creamery (San Francisco, CA)
Bi-Rite is one of those ice cream spots written about everywhere – and for good reason, it’s delicious. They have seasonal flavors which change regularly and some of their classic mainstays. It was so hard trying to decide what flavor to get when they had interesting ones like Balsamic Strawberry (even though I’m slightly allergic to strawberries now), green tea with matcha, roasted banana with fudge swirl, Coffee Toffee with almonds and Ritual coffee, and Basil. I read everywhere that the Salted Caramel was a must have here, so I went for it! It was my cheat day, so might as well go all in. I think this is the best salted caramel anything I’ve had. The internet was not joking. It had the right amount of saltiness without being too bitter and the caramel was perfect so that it wasn’t overly sweet. It was just so light. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was eating it really quickly because it was melting fast (for some reason only the Salted Caramel was melting on everyone’s cone or in their cup), but it was totally fine because I didn’t feel like I just consumed a ton of milk. I usually get full and can barely finish a scoop, but I could have totally gone for more than 2 scoops! So. Worth. It.
Garden Creamery (San Francisco, CA)
I actually haven’t been to their storefront, but I got to try Garden Creamery when I went to the Color Factory. Garden Creamery is serving up baby soft serve cones of ice cream. You can get vanilla or Japanese milk coffee, so I opted for the latter. They describe it as “just like milk coffee out of the can.” It’s very sweet with hints of coffee flavor. I really liked it and wish they were giving out full sized scoops. 😉
Humphry Slocombe (San Francisco, CA)*
I’ve been to Humphry back when they had one location, so to see it expand in multiple places and have ice cream sold in grocery stores is really exciting! They initially became well-known for their funky flavors like the Secret Breakfast (a combination of cornflakes and bourbon), but they have a wide variety for everyone – even cayenne cantaloupe! In this picture (before it melted and dripped all over my new black jeans), I got the Horchata flavor, and this was my first time having Horchata anything. It literally tastes like a liquid churro to me. Amazing. It was so nice and creamy and you could feel the texture of the nuts in each taste. Horchata is a beverage from Latin America and Spain, made with several different ingredients ranging from ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, or tigernuts (chufas) depending on the country.
Salt & Straw (San Francisco, CA)
I’ve been to the Salt & Straw in Venice (before they opened up in the city), but S&S is totally worth trying. Flavors change depending on seasonal availability, local ingredients, and whatever series they have in store. At that time, they had local kids from elementary schools think up of fun ice cream flavors and Salt & Straw made their ice cream dreams come true! And proceeds of those sales went to the respective schools – so win and win. I tried unique flavors like black olive brittle with goat cheese and avocado and strawberry sherbert. In the end, I settled on salted, malted, chocolate chip cookie dough in a caramel waffle cone. I think the fact that the ice cream had that malt flavor really upped its ante. It was just creamy, sweet, and absolutely delicious. The salt wasn’t strong at all but it helped balance it out – I hate when you get strong bits of salt, it’s really bitter and distracting. And that CONE. IT WAS SO GOOD. Waffle cones smell great on their own, but CARAMEL FLAVORED?! I must learn how to make these for myself one day.
C.R.E.A.M. (Palo Alto, CA)*
I originally had C.R.E.A.M. when it first came to Berkeley. It felt like Nor Cal’s answer to Diddy Riese (which is amazing), so I was very excited. I actually really like the cookies and the ice cream but I get them separately – it’s hard for me to eat a giant ice cream sandwich, I’ve come to realize. I decided to split a mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies. I can never finish these because they’re so large and didn’t want it to melt. Pro-tip: Ask for a cup to hold your ice cream sandwich so it’s easier to eat!
Tin Pot Creamery (Palo Alto, CA)*
Tin Pot is one of my all-time favorite spots! I’ve brought so many people there. I would compare it to Bi-Rite or Humphry, it’s that good. Whether you come in during the middle of a warm afternoon or after dinner, they usually have a line going out the shop since it’s pretty small. But that is a testament to their quality flavors. They have a bunch of seasonal and regular flavors in addition to adding different toppings made from scratch, making your own ice cream sundaes, sandwiches, and more! Their Salted Butterscotch is one of my favorites and I still haven’t found anything quite like it.
Icicles (Cupertino, CA)*
Icicles serves rolled ice cream, just like Thailand’s street vendors. There are several different flavors with fun names like “Bae-sic” and “Nutella and Chill” which can be customized with different toppings. When placing your order, they’ll write your name on the cup and then call you up when it’s ready to cut and roll up your ice cream. I like that you pay one flat price for all of this and can get however many toppings you want. I ordered the Oreo Blast, which is their version of cookies and cream with your choice of classic Oreo cookies or mint Oreos mix into their classic custard base, which cost $7. I chose mint Oreos and added raspberry and Nutella drizzles on top. It was a lot of fun watching the ice cream being made! The surface on which they combine the custard and cookies is already frozen so it slowly starts freezing and they roll it up into the proper consistency. What you get is thick, creamy ice cream! The drizzles were also good choices – I already had a lot of flavor from the mint and cookie, so I didn’t really want to add too many extra toppings. I wish it would be possible to do half and half – I want to be able to try other flavors too!
Smitten Ice Cream (San Jose, CA)*
I ate Smitten a lot when I worked in Berkeley for a summer. They’ve since expanded to San Jose and even So Cal, and that’s super exciting. This was my first time having liquid nitrogen ice cream and it was exciting to watch! Smitten’s flavors change seasonally, but they have a few permanent flavors. I really like getting their mint chip and then drizzling it in chocolate or caramel sauce or TCHO chocolate pieces. Even their limited flavors like Creme Fraiche and Pear crema – so delicious!
The Penny Ice Creamery (Santa Cruz, CA)
The Penny Ice Creamery is known for their marshmallow fluff cone and its ice cream in general. Though I didn’t end up trying that one, I was still really excited to get a taste of their delicious ice cream! Each day has a different set of flavors and they seem to change some of them up seasonally along with their staples. They not only source and feature local ingredients, but it’s the only ice cream shop in Santa Cruz that makes everything completely in house from scratch! They had a bunch of interesting flavors such as Honey Yogurt Plout and Burnt Cinnamon. I played it safe, first in getting a cup instead of a cone and ordering Hazelnut Salted Caramel. It’s super creamy and has the perfect amount of sweet and salty, so neither one is overpowering and cloying. I do wish I had gotten a cone on the side, because they smelled so good! I do wish I had tried some of the other flavors instead because they were so interesting!
Treatbot (San Jose, CA)
When I stop by Treatbot, I have to get the 408: caramel ice cream, fudge ice cream, and Oreo flavored ice cream. It sounds like a lot, but it tastes delicious. I’ve only come to San Pedro Market and had it, but I know that it’s gone on the street like a traditional food truck, where you can sing some karaoke and get free ice cream! This is a great spot to stop by after eating lunch or dinner.