Whether it’s gelato, sorbet, old fashioned or new age frozen yogurt, each one of these places utilizes small production batches and a focus on the best ingredients available. While they try to support local farmers and purveyors like Blue Bottle, some will develop direct relationships with farmers in Hawaii for the perfect purple yam. But as with all things great, these places all require patience and a 10 minute long queue for you can sample your next favorite flavor.
1 Humphrey Solcome
While the exterior is plainly marked with a simple blue awning, it’s easy to find this ice cream shop. Just look for the long line of people waiting for their creamy fix. In contrast, there’s quirky interior décor like a two headed cow that watches over the customers of this Mecca for old fashioned ice cream. Solcome uses Straus organic diary and locally sourced products for their uniquely flavored ice cream which ranges over 40 flavors. While their flavors often rotate in and out on at least a weekly basis, try one of their classics like a “Special Breakfast” which tastes like Bourbon and cornflakes and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee. Customers often take it to another level of epicurean delight by mixing flavors like Jesus Juice (red wine and coke) and blueberry shortcake.
2790 Harrison Street
Setting itself apart from the typical fro-yo chains, Fraiche focuses on quality by making its organic yogurts (frozen and fresh) from scratch on site. From the fruit toppings, granola, purees or Callebaut chocolate shavings, everything is hand made with care. Gone are the typical futuristic interiors. At Fraiche, there is a warmth and elegance to the dark wooden floors and study tables adorned with rustic masonry jars filled with blooming herbs and flowers. The flavors are honest but complex. The texture is incredibly smooth, creamy but nonetheless light and airy. Treat yourself to one of these delicious desserts without the guilt. A great combination to try would be the mochi, raspberry puree, chocolate shavings on top of the mango yogurt.
3 Bi-rite Creamery
This ice cream shop has a mere 2 table tops and no décor whatsoever but still makes the top 5 list because of the sheer power of their most popular flavor: salted caramel. Bi-Rite is famous throughout San Francisco as one of the best old fashioned, artisian made ice cream shops. They have unique flavors like roasted banana as well as soft serve and the line is longer than a 15 minute wait on any given Sunday. Many people just enjoy their cone, cup or Sam’s sundae (chocolate ice cream with bergamot olive oil and whipped cream) on the outside benches. A vegan friendly option would be one of their popicles like lime blackberry. A trick to avoid these lines is to get a pint of their must-have salted caramel to go.
For the last 50 years, Mitchell's has been family owned and serving San Francisicans their creamy sensations like Mexican chocolate to a tropical purple sweet yam (ube). The décor is straight Americana with checkered white walls and a classic wrought iron bench outside. Try having a scoop hand dipped in molten chocolate or a calorie ladden 3 scoop banana split for an extra decadent dessert.
5 Gelateria Naia
Named after an owner's daughter with a meaning of pure and flowing in Greek, Gelateria Naia is nothing short of perfecto! They have classics like Gianduia or Zabajone, or try one of their unique creations like Cioccolato Mortale or Foresta Nero. The "produzione propria" signs tells everyone how they make it fresh on site. Lower in fat and with less air makes Gelato denser and creamier than normal ice cream. They also feature seasonal fruit sorbettos that are made only with fresh fruit. It's worth a stop in iconic Italian North Beach.
520 Columbus Avenue