Licketey Split! SF’s 5 Best Ice Cream Shops

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The Ice Cream Bar 2 scoop cone copyPhoto Credit: Nick Vasilopoulos
There is nothing that screams summer more than a perfectly round scoop of freshly churned ice cream. Lucky for us San Franciscans, there are plenty of places to enjoy a waffle cone of luscious chocolate (or vanilla or strawberry balsamic or salted caramel or lemon cookie or tons of other creative flavors) ice cream in the city. Here are the ice cream shops that are so haute, they’re cool.

1 Three Twins

Three Twins is our preferred local ice cream brand. Its green pints with three smiling characters are the ones we reach for when shopping at Mollie Stones or Whole Foods. There’s also a scoop shop in the Lower Haight (as well as three in the North Bay) where die hard fans can taste lesser known flavors and ice cream concepts that the Three Twins are trying out. Everything is made from scratch and they use only certified organic ingredients to make luscious creamy mocha, mint confetti, and chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream.
254 Fillmore Street San Francisco, CA

2 The Ice Cream Bar

For a nostalgic ice cream experience, there is no better place than Cole Valley’s Ice Cream Bar. Walking into this soda fountain is like taking a step back in time. The scoop masters wear paper hats and friendly smiles and do much more than spoon out ice cream. They make floats, milkshakes, malts, sundaes, sodas, and phosphates. The Ice Cream Bar also has a menu of classic diner eats like a finger-licking good tuna melt, pulled pork sandwich with housemade barbecue sauce, and egg salad sandwich with pimento cheese and chives. Our go to order? A boozy, adult-only float called the Royal Red Milkshake. Who would have thought Flemish red ale, aged sherry, and cherry ice cream would make such a delicious combination?
815 Cole Street San Francisco, CA 94117

3 Smitten

Smitten specializes in ice cream made with the latest in frozen technology. All of the ice cream at the Hayes Valley and Pacific Heights stores (there are also Smitten shops in Rockridge, Lafayette, and Los Altos) is made to order with an ultra-cold churn process that involves liquid nitrogen. The resulting ice cream is wildly smooth and intensely creamy with a pure sweet taste. Smitten offers a selection of base flavors like classic vanilla and Tcho chocolate as well as seasonal flavors that change monthly. Think lemon gingersnap in January and nectarines and cream in July. There’s also an assortment of housemade mix-ins like cookie dough, brown sugar caramel, and organic whipped cream as well as vegan pops. Rumor has it that when Lebron James was in town for the NBA finals, he hit up Smitten for a scoop of their ice cream!
432 Octavia Street #1a San Francisco, CA

4 Humphry Slocombe

If there was a bad boy in the San Francisco ice cream scene, Humphry Slocombe would be it. There is a rebellious edge to this ice cream maker. All of the Humphry Slocombe flavors have tongue-in-cheek names like Harvey Milk and Honey, a milk-flavored ice cream with pieces of housemade blackberry-honey graham crackers and Here’s Your Damn Strawberry Ice Cream, a traditional strawberry ice cream with chunks of fresh strawberries. Their combinations are creative and avant grade, so if you’re in the mood for foie gras, kumquat poppyseed, or apple bacon ice cream, Humphry Slocombe is the place to go. It can be found at their flagship shop in the Mission or on the Embarcadero at the Ferry Building.
2790 Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94110

5 Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery, in the Mission, is the original San Francisco ice cream shop — the one that still has a cult following, daily lines around the block, and who introduced the nation to the now ubiquitous ice cream flavor combinations of salted caramel and strawberry balsamic. If you don’t want to wait in line for a scoop of ice cream, we recommend picking up a pint at one of the Bi-Rite Markets, either in the Mission or on Divisadero Street. Although braving the line at the Creamery on 18th Street does have its perks: they are the only location that offers soft serve and also make a scrumptious banana split and delectable cupcakes.
3692 18th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
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