San Francisco’s ice cream options are outstanding, probably some of the best in the world. Many of the shops below have been around for generations and, based on our personal taste test, will be around for many more. See our San Francisco Ice Cream Map for exact locations.
By the way, you can taste the different and very unique flavors before you buy at most of these places. Just ask. That’s part of the experience and almost all of these shops are happy to please.
Bi-Rite Creamery, 3692 18th St just east of Dolores Park, in the Mission — Known mainly by locals, it is highly regarded as perhaps the best ice cream around though it started as a bakery. Many different flavors such as Salted Caramel, Roasted Banana, and Honey Lavender. The service is very pleasant and they will let you taste test to find out what you like best.
Mitchell’s Ice Cream, 688 San Jose Ave/29th, Noe Valley — A 50 year old San Francisco tradition. The location is not impressive but the taste of this premium ice cream definitely is. Very creamy. Wide variety of tasty flavors. Often crowded. You can also get it at Norman’s in Fisherman’s Wharf.
Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, 2790 Harrison Street (just north of 24th St), Mission — More adventurous than Bi-Rite. They serve 10-12 flavors per day rotated from a selection of about 80 very unique choices. Secret Breakfast (bourbon ice cream with corn flake bits) is one of their most famous flavors. Or, maybe you’d prefer the Bacon Peanut Brittle.
Cream, 3106 16th Street/Valencia St, Mission — Tasty sandwiches of ice cream between fresh warm cookies at a great price ($2.99). This small new chain out of Berkeley has more stores including a store on B Street in San Mateo and one on University Ave in Palo Alto.
Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous 699 22nd St/3d St, Dogpatch — A sit-down place run by run by Ian and Anabelle, a nice husband-and-wife team who make everything themselves. The flavors are tasty and change every day. Try the chocolate malted ice cream or the peanut brittle & brown sugar cookies. Open clean atmosphere, they actually have 20 seats which is rare.
Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, Ghiradelli Square, SW corner of Beach St/Larkin Streets, Fisherman’s Wharf — This is a tourist trap, but a good one! If you have kids or a sweet tooth it’s worth visiting at least once. The hot fudge sundae is one good choice ($1 off coupons are on-line). Inside the main shop is a “working chocolate factory” using original Ghiradelli chocolate factory equipment. Get to it from inside Ghiradelli Square or, if you don’t want to enjoy the atmosphere and deal with crowds, there is a less interesting take-out shop at the NW corner of Larkin & North Point Streets.
Swenson’s Ice Cream, Union & Hyde St, Russian Hill — Here is another classic San Francisco gem. This location is the original shop in the chain and was kept by the owner when he sold the Swenson’s chain years ago. Very good, classic ice cream!
Smitten, 432 Octavio one block south of Hayes St., Hayes Valley — Each serving is frozen on the spot with liquid nitrogen making this ice cream unique. Good but expensive … $5/small cup last time we were there.
Top Shops Outside the City
Fenton’s Creamery, 4226 Piedmont Ave, North Oakland, — a long-time favorite in the East Bay.
Treat Ice Cream Company, 11 S 19th St, San Jose — You can buy it from the factory (weekdays only) but it’s easier to buy at Lunardi’s Supermarket (under the Lunardi brand) or an ice cream parlor like the Palo Alto Creamery, in Palo Alto, or Niles Ice Cream Sweets & Eats on the east edge of Fremont in the historic Niles District.
Ben & Jerry’s — “Everything but the …” ice cream flavor. This is a surprise entry since it is found in most Safeway stores and other supermarkets. Ben & Jerry’s describes it as including everything but the kitchen sink including “A Collision of Chocolate & Vanilla Ice Creams mixed with Peanut Butter Cups, HEATH® Bar Chunks, White Chocolatey Chunks, & Fudge-Covered Almonds.” It’s actually even better than it sounds.
So, there you have it … some of the very best ice cream shops in the San Francisco area. You’ll definitely enjoy checking them out for yourself :).