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19 Sweet Ice Cream Shops in San Francisco

From classic mint chip to purple ube, there's a flavor waiting for you at these cool spots

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It may not always be ideal ice cream weather, but that's never stopped San Franciscans from snaking a line down the block for the sweet stuff, whether by the cone or frosty pint. You already know Bi-Rite and Humphry Slocombe are guaranteed to give you a good frozen fix, but there are also plenty of places with liquid nitrogen-frozen instance ice cream, ice cream sandwiches made with doughnuts, unexpected flavors like prosciutto, and more. In a town that straddles the line between traditional and modern, there are options to reflect both those sensibilities with tried-and-true parlors and more updated spots. Here's a look at all of San Francisco's sweetest options for ice cream when the craving strikes.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

The Baked Bear

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Get as crazy as you can imagine at this Fisherman's Wharf ice cream shop that pairs cookies, ice cream, and toppings. Just take a look at the Baked Bear Instagram from some flavor inspiration. Stroll down to the wharf for takeout, or order delivery through several apps.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience at Ghirardelli Square

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Everyone knows Ghirardelli for its chocolate, but those who’ve played tourist for a bit at Ghirardelli Square know the ice cream sundae side of operations is where the sweet spot is. The sundaes are a bit over the top, but sometimes what you want in a sundae is drama — scoops of ice cream and a brownie in a sundae glass or boat or chocolate-dipped waffle bowl drizzled with an insane amount of chocolate or caramel sauce and topped with cherry.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience Store. Albert Law

Salt & Straw

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The unexpected flavors at this Portland-founded ice cream shop will make more sense to your tongue than your brain. Green apple mayo sherbet and peach vinegar cobbler with toasted nutmeg, for example, don't enjoy the same recognition as classic flavors like chocolate chip or strawberry. That's what's so intriguing about Salt & Straw, where unique flavors are often churned with ingredients from local food producers like Sightglass Coffee and Berkeley olive oil.

Patricia Chang

Uji Time Dessert

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Uji Time is a Berkeley treat shop known for its adorable fish-shaped cones stuffed with soft serve, which has since has expanded to San Francisco and beyond. The famed cone, called taiyaki, is a take on the traditional Japanese dessert in the shape of a fish, and here is filled with flavors like matcha, black sesame, lavender, lychee, rose, and coffee. In addition to the taiyaki cones, which take extra time to prepare, other choices include waffle cones and bowls.

Kerry Lee

Toy Boat by Jane

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Toy Boat by Jane is the revived version of Clement Street’s 38-year-old classic ice cream shop, courtesy of Amanda Michael, the owner of SF mini-chain Jane the Bakery. Michael went to great lengths to preserve the nostalgia of Toy Boat, including the vast toy collection, and opened in September 2020 selling Jane’s bakery breads, cookies, and pastries, and, excitingly, adding Double Rainbow Ice Cream.

Joe's Ice Cream

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This no-frills classic scoop shop doesn't pull any punches, offering Americana standards such as root beer swirl and rum raisin, or more unconventional flavors like wasabi and chai tea. One thing’s for sure: it’s still serving up ice cream straight from your SF childhood — even after a 2010 move across the street.

Smitten Ice Cream

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If the excitement of dining at a chef’s counter is your idea of a good time, head to Smitten where the ice cream is made at all locations in front of you in about 90 seconds, using liquid nitrogen for a smoother, denser cream. Owner Robyn Sue Fisher created and patented the machine herself, which churns out everyday local flavors like Blue Bottle espresso and TCHO 60.5 percent chocolate as well as seasonal options such as sweet corn with berries and rhubarb crisp.

Smitten

The Ice Cream Bar Soda Fountain

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Head back in time at this classic 1930s-inspired soda fountain shop serving up vintage phosphates, lactarts, malts, plus boozy milkshakes, ice cream soda floats, and ice cream sandwiches in vegan options, too. There’s another location in the Castro, with more maple syrup or chicory coffee ice cream shakes.

Nieves Cinco De Mayo

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Head to this unassuming Mexican ice cream shop tucked into a Mission market for flavors like corn, guava, and leche quemada (burnt milk). Order it by the scoop, in a banana split, or go for a combination of fruit and toppings like a mangonada made with mango sorbet, fresh mango, chile, lime, and tamarind. Check out its sister shop in Fruitvale, too.

Milkbomb Ice Cream

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If ice cream is a dessert that already makes you weak in the knees, Milkbomb will give you more ways to enjoy your treat. From unique flavors like the Fruity Pebbles or White Rabbit, to a mangonada — made of mango puree, chamoy, and Tajin — there’s also the added appeal of sandwiching those flavors inside a doughnut or ube pandesal bread and having it topped with melted marshmallow.

Double Rainbow Ice Cream

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Double Rainbow is a 45-year-old ice cream company that was originally founded by two best friends in the Castro in the 1970s. It returned to the neighborhood in late 2020 with a new scoop shop just a couple of doors down from their original location. Longtime fans stop by for old-school scoops of malt chocolate and mint chip, shakes, cups, and pints.

Double rainbow ice cream sundae Double Rainbow

Bi-Rite Creamery

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Small-batch, seasonal, hand-made, and local ice cream is the calling card at San Francisco’s arguably most-popular scoop shop. Lines usually snake out the door and down the block with people waiting for tastes of salted caramel and balsamic strawberry, two of Bi-Rite’s most popular flavors, or the more unusual options like basil and honey lavender.

The Castro Fountain

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A second sweets shop from the Ice Cream Bar’s Juliet Prie, the Castro Fountain has an extensive menu of cakes and baked goods on top of fresh-churned ice cream — or rather, to put that ice cream on top of. Like its predecessor, the shop’s style is that of an old-school soda fountain, so go ahead, split a sundae, a float, or a piece of photogenic rainbow cake with a scoop of ice cream on the side. One ice cream flavor, Yass Queen, even has bits of that rainbow cake inside it.

Garden Creamery

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Garden Creamery is the Mission District ice cream shop that became an Instagram star for opening with churro-like chimney cones, made with sweet yeast dough baked and covered in cinnamon sugar. Garden Creamy offers an array of Hawaiian-influenced flavors (including some non-dairy options), as well as matcha with toasted rice, black sesame, plus Mexican and Manila mango, salted plum, and Thai tea.

Kerry Lee/ESF

Sunday Social

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Wolfgang Puck Spago alums (and husband and wife team) Ian Flores and Annabelle Topacio started up this ice cream shop as Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous Ice Cream Shop before handing over the keys to Deuki Hong of the Sunday Family group. Now known as Sunday Social, the group is continuing Miscellaneous’s love of unusual flavors with their own, such as Butterbeer (made of cinnamon whiskey and butterscotch) and ube doodle, an ube snickerdoodle ice cream.

Polly Ann Ice Cream

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Have flavor fatigue? Leave your fate in the hands of Polly Ann, where you can spin the wheel and let it decide which of the more than 500 rotating flavors you’ll be trying today. The shop, which has been open since the 1950s, often has Asian flavors like durian, lychee and jasmine on display, as well as classics like rocky road and mint chocolate chip.

Humphry Slocombe

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Get your weird on with experimental flavors at this crazy popular Mission ice cream destination (with an outpost in the Ferry Building, too). The most-talked-about flavor is Secret Breakfast, made with vanilla, cornflake cookies and Jim Beam bourbon, but there’s no shortage of wacky options such as prosciutto, cheese, mushrooms, and foie gras from evil ice cream genius Jake Godby.

Humphry Slocombe

Mitchell's Ice Cream

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Mitchell’s opened in Bernal Heights way back in 1953 and has been inspiring lines of fans ever since. The classic shop is known for its Mexican (horchata, Mexican chocolate), Peruvian (yucuma) and Filipino (two types of coconut) options, including a bright purple ube with its own fan following.

Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream

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Named for the explorer said to have introduced Italy to ice cream by way of China, Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream serves its frozen treat the other way round, with scoops of gelato-like creaminess in Asian flavors. Try lychee, green tea, black sesame, or durian, made from the fruit that’s famously banned on public transit in Singapore for its strong smell. Opened in 1982, Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream is a favorite gathering spot in far flung Parkside, and a second location opened in San Jose in 2015.

Caleb Pershan

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The Baked Bear

Get as crazy as you can imagine at this Fisherman's Wharf ice cream shop that pairs cookies, ice cream, and toppings. Just take a look at the Baked Bear Instagram from some flavor inspiration. Stroll down to the wharf for takeout, or order delivery through several apps.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience at Ghirardelli Square

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience Store. Albert Law

Everyone knows Ghirardelli for its chocolate, but those who’ve played tourist for a bit at Ghirardelli Square know the ice cream sundae side of operations is where the sweet spot is. The sundaes are a bit over the top, but sometimes what you want in a sundae is drama — scoops of ice cream and a brownie in a sundae glass or boat or chocolate-dipped waffle bowl drizzled with an insane amount of chocolate or caramel sauce and topped with cherry.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience Store. Albert Law

Salt & Straw

Patricia Chang

The unexpected flavors at this Portland-founded ice cream shop will make more sense to your tongue than your brain. Green apple mayo sherbet and peach vinegar cobbler with toasted nutmeg, for example, don't enjoy the same recognition as classic flavors like chocolate chip or strawberry. That's what's so intriguing about Salt & Straw, where unique flavors are often churned with ingredients from local food producers like Sightglass Coffee and Berkeley olive oil.

Patricia Chang

Uji Time Dessert

Kerry Lee

Uji Time is a Berkeley treat shop known for its adorable fish-shaped cones stuffed with soft serve, which has since has expanded to San Francisco and beyond. The famed cone, called taiyaki, is a take on the traditional Japanese dessert in the shape of a fish, and here is filled with flavors like matcha, black sesame, lavender, lychee, rose, and coffee. In addition to the taiyaki cones, which take extra time to prepare, other choices include waffle cones and bowls.

Kerry Lee

Toy Boat by Jane

Toy Boat by Jane is the revived version of Clement Street’s 38-year-old classic ice cream shop, courtesy of Amanda Michael, the owner of SF mini-chain Jane the Bakery. Michael went to great lengths to preserve the nostalgia of Toy Boat, including the vast toy collection, and opened in September 2020 selling Jane’s bakery breads, cookies, and pastries, and, excitingly, adding Double Rainbow Ice Cream.

Joe's Ice Cream

This no-frills classic scoop shop doesn't pull any punches, offering Americana standards such as root beer swirl and rum raisin, or more unconventional flavors like wasabi and chai tea. One thing’s for sure: it’s still serving up ice cream straight from your SF childhood — even after a 2010 move across the street.

Smitten Ice Cream

Smitten

If the excitement of dining at a chef’s counter is your idea of a good time, head to Smitten where the ice cream is made at all locations in front of you in about 90 seconds, using liquid nitrogen for a smoother, denser cream. Owner Robyn Sue Fisher created and patented the machine herself, which churns out everyday local flavors like Blue Bottle espresso and TCHO 60.5 percent chocolate as well as seasonal options such as sweet corn with berries and rhubarb crisp.

Smitten

The Ice Cream Bar Soda Fountain

Head back in time at this classic 1930s-inspired soda fountain shop serving up vintage phosphates, lactarts, malts, plus boozy milkshakes, ice cream soda floats, and ice cream sandwiches in vegan options, too. There’s another location in the Castro, with more maple syrup or chicory coffee ice cream shakes.

Nieves Cinco De Mayo

Head to this unassuming Mexican ice cream shop tucked into a Mission market for flavors like corn, guava, and leche quemada (burnt milk). Order it by the scoop, in a banana split, or go for a combination of fruit and toppings like a mangonada made with mango sorbet, fresh mango, chile, lime, and tamarind. Check out its sister shop in Fruitvale, too.

Milkbomb Ice Cream

If ice cream is a dessert that already makes you weak in the knees, Milkbomb will give you more ways to enjoy your treat. From unique flavors like the Fruity Pebbles or White Rabbit, to a mangonada — made of mango puree, chamoy, and Tajin — there’s also the added appeal of sandwiching those flavors inside a doughnut or ube pandesal bread and having it topped with melted marshmallow.

Double Rainbow Ice Cream

Double rainbow ice cream sundae Double Rainbow

Double Rainbow is a 45-year-old ice cream company that was originally founded by two best friends in the Castro in the 1970s. It returned to the neighborhood in late 2020 with a new scoop shop just a couple of doors down from their original location. Longtime fans stop by for old-school scoops of malt chocolate and mint chip, shakes, cups, and pints.

Double rainbow ice cream sundae Double Rainbow

Bi-Rite Creamery

Small-batch, seasonal, hand-made, and local ice cream is the calling card at San Francisco’s arguably most-popular scoop shop. Lines usually snake out the door and down the block with people waiting for tastes of salted caramel and balsamic strawberry, two of Bi-Rite’s most popular flavors, or the more unusual options like basil and honey lavender.

The Castro Fountain

A second sweets shop from the Ice Cream Bar’s Juliet Prie, the Castro Fountain has an extensive menu of cakes and baked goods on top of fresh-churned ice cream — or rather, to put that ice cream on top of. Like its predecessor, the shop’s style is that of an old-school soda fountain, so go ahead, split a sundae, a float, or a piece of photogenic rainbow cake with a scoop of ice cream on the side. One ice cream flavor, Yass Queen, even has bits of that rainbow cake inside it.