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An overhead view of hands scooping ice cream into a cup from a low freezer. Hardy Wilson

14 Outstanding Ice Cream Shops in the South Bay

Where to find the best frozen treats to keep you cool this summer

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What’s summer without ice cream? As the temperature in the South Bay climbs, there’s no better way to celebrate warmer days than with an icy, decadent sweet treat.

Though a scoop of vanilla ice cream may be a tried and true option, shops in the South Bay have gone beyond the basics and embraced new renditions of frozen desserts that range from soft serve, froyo, gelato, rolled spirals, and even ice cream tacos, with flavors that incorporate unlikely mix-ins or a variety of cultural ingredients.

So, for all the local ice cream lovers, here are the spots with the most splendid scoops in the South Bay.

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.

Sugar Mama Desserts

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Sugar Mama Desserts is a true labor of love that began at a farmers market 10 years ago when a pharmacist decided to quit her job and shift to creating ice cream full-time. Ingredients and fruit are sourced locally without the use of preservatives, and the shop is most well known for its 40+ sentimental and creative flavors, such as Caramal Passionfruit, Chocolate Malted Krunch and Malted Milk Double Chocolate. Henny Penny, one of the shop’s most eccentric flavors, is an unlikely blend of Hennessy and Chinese Haw Flake candies, while saffron rosewater pistachio is a mosaic of Persian flavors.

A double scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone. Cathy Park

Sweet Fix Creamery

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For some all natural, premium ice cream that comes in eccentric flavors, Sweet Fix Creamery is the way to go. With 16 percent butterfat, the ice cream’s texture is extra creamy and smooth. When it comes to variety, Sweet Fix isn’t afraid to get creative with its repertoire of 95 flavors — 26 of which are available at any given time. Banana Brownie, Frappuccino Almond Crackle, horchata, and Mexican hot chocolate are some of the most loved, and toppings like fudge, whipped cream, and marshmallow fluff are made from scratch. And if traditional ice cream isn’t your jam, their homemade Italian ice is a great dairy-free, fat-free, gluten-free, and vegan option.

A close up of a double scoop of ice cream with chocolate sauce in a cone covered in rainbow sprinkles. Sweet Fix Creamery

Nirvanaah!

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For those craving Indian-inspired flavors, Nirvanaah serves a vast variety of desserts, including scoops, sundaes, cakes, shakes, and special concoctions. Though the shop’s offerings may all be vegetarian and egg-free, they’re still as rich, delectable, and flavorful as any desserts in the area. The shop sources its frozen treats from Kwality Ice Cream, a premier supplier of Indian desserts, with flavors that range from fruity to nutty. Visitors rave about the unique flavors they may not be able to find elsewhere — ice cream infused with fruits like fresh chickoo or sitaphal, as well as more traditional Indian sweets like the summertime drink, falooda, and mixed nut ice cream, rajbhog. 

Rocko's Ice Cream Tacos

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Who would’ve thought that ice cream could be eaten as a taco? What started as an ice cream cart serving homemade Choco Tacos became a full storefront and production facility in Santa Clara. At Rocko’s, liquid nitrogen is used to assemble the signature house-made waffle cone taco shell that’s filled with ice cream, dipped in a variety of sauces, and then rolled into toppings for the ultimate crispy, crumbly, and creamy bite. Visitors most commonly order the cookies and cream and espresso flavors, though Rocko’s also takes inspiration from in-season produce for rotating flavors like ube, lemon blueberry, and mango sticky rice. 

A chocolate taco filled with ice cream and topped with toasted marshmallow chunks. Cathy Park

Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream Inc.

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In the heart of San Jose’s Vietnam Town, you’ll find Marco Polo, the home of handcrafted gelato infused with fruits or classic Italian flavors. With natural ingredients, customers can taste ripe fruit chunks mixed in the ice cream itself. The shop was founded in San Francisco more than 40 years ago by a chemist who studied the gelato creation process and wanted to churn gelato with an extraordinarily smooth and rich texture. Customers get most excited about Marco Polo’s special Asian-inspired fruity flavors like durian, pandan, and guava, though the shop’s nutty flavors like pistachio and arcobaleno are also a hit. 

Two cups of ice cream with plastic spoons sticking out. Cathy Park

SomiSomi

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Hailing from Southern California, SomiSomi has made a name for itself with its Korean dessert known as “ah-boong” — a crispy, fish-shaped waffle cone lined with dollops of filling and topped with creamy soft serve. The shops source milk from farms in California, though select flavors are lactose-free. The seasonal summer flavor, pink guava, has been a hit, and some of the most commonly ordered soft serve flavors include cookies ‘n cream and ube. For those looking for something a little warmer to pair with their ice cream, SomiSomi also serves taiyaki, fish-shaped pastries reminiscent of hot pockets, with a warm, toasted exterior and soft-mochi like filling in a variety of flavors.

Two cups of ice cream topped with fish-shaped cones in front of a colorful wall. SomiSomi

Salt & Straw

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The smell of waffle cones is a sure sign that Salt and Straw is near, and most ice cream fanatics would deem it a must-try. Founded in 2011 by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek, Salt and Straw started as a push cart in Portland, Oregon and now has 27 locations along the West Coast and in Miami. With new flavors launching each month, Salt and Straw relies on housemade add-ins and partners with local producers to source specialty ingredients. From the list of classic flavors, the sea salt with caramel ribbons threads ribbons of hand-burned caramel, while Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is made with the same malt used to brew amber ale.

Five cups of ice cream on a wooden counter with black plastic spoons. Salt & Straw

Yumi Yogurt

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Family-owned Yumi Yogurt first opened in San Mateo in 1985, offering relatively healthier froyo with fewer calories and less sugar than other frozen treats. Now, in the Santa Clara location, they’re carrying out that same mission with simple, silky frozen yogurt offerings in flavors that change daily. The chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, and cookie-based flavors are usually in high demand, and customers love the generous portion sizes. But for those who are looking for something sweet with a different mouthfeel, Yumi Yogurt also serves traditional ice cream scoops, as well as an assortment of drinks. 

Two cups with swirls of frozen yogurt. Yumi Yogurt

La Original Paleteria y Neveria

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In a bright green building on an unassuming San Jose street, you’ll find La Original Paleteria, a snack shop that offers a bit of a transcendent experience, with an ambience and flavors that make customers feel as if they’ve teleported to Mexico. Even with a full menu of Mexican specialty desserts, fans most frequently order the mangonadas — velvety mango ice cream topped with a generous amount of juicy mango slices, Chamoy sauce, and Tajin seasoning. La Original Paleteria also offers a variety of other fruity flavors like mamey and guava, or more chocolatey ones like Ferrero Rocher.

Willow Glen Creamery

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Willow Glen Creamery serves a Midwestern favorite at a quaint shop in San Jose. The shop is most well-known for silky frozen custards, which are churned and blended every day with vanilla and fresh bananas. Aside from their frozen custards, patrons also love the Marble Blackberry and Tin Roof Sundae ice creams, as well as the Irish mint and red velvet frozen yogurt flavors. And treats aren’t only for humans at Willow Glen Creamery. Dogs are always welcome, and they even get a free doggie yogurt treat when they visit. Since opening in 2002, the team has expanded to a second location in Campbell.

A cone with a swirl of custard studded with strawberry chunks. Cathy Park

Icicles

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Ice cream and a show? Look no further than Icicles, a shop specializing in rolled ice cream — a frozen dessert created by scraping a thin layer of ice cream off a cold metal pan into tight spirals. Each ice cream is crafted to order, so visitors can watch as their desserts are rolled and customized with a seemingly unlimited assortment of toppings. Some of the most popular flavors include Oreo Blast, Strawberry Fantasy, and Nutella n’ Chill, and the shop also offers non-dairy options. Icicles may have started with one small shop in San Jose, but today there are nine locations sprawled across the Bay Area. 

Cups of rolled ice cream topped with sliced fruit, sauces, and cookies. Icicles

Tin Pot Creamery

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Tin Pot Creamery started in 2012 as an “Ice Cream of the Month Club” that was spearheaded by one of the shop’s founders. As she ideated and experimented with two new flavors each month, she began hand-delivering them to her neighbors in the Bay Area. When these sweet deliveries gained traction, Tin Pot Creamery was born. Even today, the shop emphasizes and prioritizes its hearty, homemade quality, focusing on the basics with a fun spin. One of the most common ice cream flavors, dubbed Cookie Monster, has swirls of cookie dough pieces and chocolate cookie crumbles, which are both made at the shop.

Sweet Retreat

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Sweet Retreat has been a long-time favorite ice cream and froyo spot for many South Bay locals. After the shop’s initial location was destroyed in a fire in 2016, the business thankfully recovered and now has two locations — one in San Jose and another in Morgan Hill. Every flavor scooped at Sweet Retreat is crafted from start to finish by the shop’s team without any premade bases or flavor pastes. Visitors can find 40 flavors being served at any given time, with 35 classic flavors and five rotating ones. Some of the most beloved orders include the mango banana froyo and the Oreo cookie ice cream.

Sweet Rendezvous

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Sweet Rendezvous is a family-owned store that sources ice cream from two top-tier local creameries — Marianne’s in Santa Cruz and Loard’s in San Leandro. Serving more than 52 flavors at the homey shop, Sweet Rendezvous offers a wide range of flavor options, such as ube and Persian Nutella. Blended with spices like cardamom and saffron, the Persian frozen desserts include a refreshing homemade faloodeh and a decadent saffron pistachio ice cream. And for those looking for some additional desserts, the shop also serves an assortment of European desserts, pastries, and candies. 

Sugar Mama Desserts

A double scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone. Cathy Park

Sugar Mama Desserts is a true labor of love that began at a farmers market 10 years ago when a pharmacist decided to quit her job and shift to creating ice cream full-time. Ingredients and fruit are sourced locally without the use of preservatives, and the shop is most well known for its 40+ sentimental and creative flavors, such as Caramal Passionfruit, Chocolate Malted Krunch and Malted Milk Double Chocolate. Henny Penny, one of the shop’s most eccentric flavors, is an unlikely blend of Hennessy and Chinese Haw Flake candies, while saffron rosewater pistachio is a mosaic of Persian flavors.

A double scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone. Cathy Park

Sweet Fix Creamery

A close up of a double scoop of ice cream with chocolate sauce in a cone covered in rainbow sprinkles. Sweet Fix Creamery

For some all natural, premium ice cream that comes in eccentric flavors, Sweet Fix Creamery is the way to go. With 16 percent butterfat, the ice cream’s texture is extra creamy and smooth. When it comes to variety, Sweet Fix isn’t afraid to get creative with its repertoire of 95 flavors — 26 of which are available at any given time. Banana Brownie, Frappuccino Almond Crackle, horchata, and Mexican hot chocolate are some of the most loved, and toppings like fudge, whipped cream, and marshmallow fluff are made from scratch. And if traditional ice cream isn’t your jam, their homemade Italian ice is a great dairy-free, fat-free, gluten-free, and vegan option.

A close up of a double scoop of ice cream with chocolate sauce in a cone covered in rainbow sprinkles. Sweet Fix Creamery

Nirvanaah!

For those craving Indian-inspired flavors, Nirvanaah serves a vast variety of desserts, including scoops, sundaes, cakes, shakes, and special concoctions. Though the shop’s offerings may all be vegetarian and egg-free, they’re still as rich, delectable, and flavorful as any desserts in the area. The shop sources its frozen treats from Kwality Ice Cream, a premier supplier of Indian desserts, with flavors that range from fruity to nutty. Visitors rave about the unique flavors they may not be able to find elsewhere — ice cream infused with fruits like fresh chickoo or sitaphal, as well as more traditional Indian sweets like the summertime drink, falooda, and mixed nut ice cream, rajbhog. 

Rocko's Ice Cream Tacos

A chocolate taco filled with ice cream and topped with toasted marshmallow chunks. Cathy Park

Who would’ve thought that ice cream could be eaten as a taco? What started as an ice cream cart serving homemade Choco Tacos became a full storefront and production facility in Santa Clara. At Rocko’s, liquid nitrogen is used to assemble the signature house-made waffle cone taco shell that’s filled with ice cream, dipped in a variety of sauces, and then rolled into toppings for the ultimate crispy, crumbly, and creamy bite. Visitors most commonly order the cookies and cream and espresso flavors, though Rocko’s also takes inspiration from in-season produce for rotating flavors like ube, lemon blueberry, and mango sticky rice. 

A chocolate taco filled with ice cream and topped with toasted marshmallow chunks. Cathy Park

Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream Inc.

Two cups of ice cream with plastic spoons sticking out. Cathy Park

In the heart of San Jose’s Vietnam Town, you’ll find Marco Polo, the home of handcrafted gelato infused with fruits or classic Italian flavors. With natural ingredients, customers can taste ripe fruit chunks mixed in the ice cream itself. The shop was founded in San Francisco more than 40 years ago by a chemist who studied the gelato creation process and wanted to churn gelato with an extraordinarily smooth and rich texture. Customers get most excited about Marco Polo’s special Asian-inspired fruity flavors like durian, pandan, and guava, though the shop’s nutty flavors like pistachio and arcobaleno are also a hit. 

Two cups of ice cream with plastic spoons sticking out. Cathy Park

SomiSomi

Two cups of ice cream topped with fish-shaped cones in front of a colorful wall. SomiSomi

Hailing from Southern California, SomiSomi has made a name for itself with its Korean dessert known as “ah-boong” — a crispy, fish-shaped waffle cone lined with dollops of filling and topped with creamy soft serve. The shops source milk from farms in California, though select flavors are lactose-free. The seasonal summer flavor, pink guava, has been a hit, and some of the most commonly ordered soft serve flavors include cookies ‘n cream and ube. For those looking for something a little warmer to pair with their ice cream, SomiSomi also serves taiyaki, fish-shaped pastries reminiscent of hot pockets, with a warm, toasted exterior and soft-mochi like filling in a variety of flavors.

Two cups of ice cream topped with fish-shaped cones in front of a colorful wall. SomiSomi

Salt & Straw

Five cups of ice cream on a wooden counter with black plastic spoons. Salt & Straw

The smell of waffle cones is a sure sign that Salt and Straw is near, and most ice cream fanatics would deem it a must-try. Founded in 2011 by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek, Salt and Straw started as a push cart in Portland, Oregon and now has 27 locations along the West Coast and in Miami. With new flavors launching each month, Salt and Straw relies on housemade add-ins and partners with local producers to source specialty ingredients. From the list of classic flavors, the sea salt with caramel ribbons threads ribbons of hand-burned caramel, while Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is made with the same malt used to brew amber ale.

Five cups of ice cream on a wooden counter with black plastic spoons. Salt & Straw

Yumi Yogurt

Two cups with swirls of frozen yogurt. Yumi Yogurt

Family-owned Yumi Yogurt first opened in San Mateo in 1985, offering relatively healthier froyo with fewer calories and less sugar than other frozen treats. Now, in the Santa Clara location, they’re carrying out that same mission with simple, silky frozen yogurt offerings in flavors that change daily. The chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, and cookie-based flavors are usually in high demand, and customers love the generous portion sizes. But for those who are looking for something sweet with a different mouthfeel, Yumi Yogurt also serves traditional ice cream scoops, as well as an assortment of drinks. 

Two cups with swirls of frozen yogurt. Yumi Yogurt

La Original Paleteria y Neveria

In a bright green building on an unassuming San Jose street, you’ll find La Original Paleteria, a snack shop that offers a bit of a transcendent experience, with an ambience and flavors that make customers feel as if they’ve teleported to Mexico. Even with a full menu of Mexican specialty desserts, fans most frequently order the mangonadas — velvety mango ice cream topped with a generous amount of juicy mango slices, Chamoy sauce, and Tajin seasoning. La Original Paleteria also offers a variety of other fruity flavors like mamey and guava, or more chocolatey ones like Ferrero Rocher.

Willow Glen Creamery

A cone with a swirl of custard studded with strawberry chunks. Cathy Park

Willow Glen Creamery serves a Midwestern favorite at a quaint shop in San Jose. The shop is most well-known for silky frozen custards, which are churned and blended every day with vanilla and fresh bananas. Aside from their frozen custards, patrons also love the Marble Blackberry and Tin Roof Sundae ice creams, as well as the Irish mint and red velvet frozen yogurt flavors. And treats aren’t only for humans at Willow Glen Creamery. Dogs are always welcome, and they even get a free doggie yogurt treat when they visit. Since opening in 2002, the team has expanded to a second location in Campbell.

A cone with a swirl of custard studded with strawberry chunks. Cathy Park

Icicles

Cups of rolled ice cream topped with sliced fruit, sauces, and cookies. Icicles

Ice cream and a show? Look no further than Icicles, a shop specializing in rolled ice cream — a frozen dessert created by scraping a thin layer of ice cream off a cold metal pan into tight spirals. Each ice cream is crafted to order, so visitors can watch as their desserts are rolled and customized with a seemingly unlimited assortment of toppings. Some of the most popular flavors include Oreo Blast, Strawberry Fantasy, and Nutella n’ Chill, and the shop also offers non-dairy options. Icicles may have started with one small shop in San Jose, but today there are nine locations sprawled across the Bay Area. 

Cups of rolled ice cream topped with sliced fruit, sauces, and cookies. Icicles

Tin Pot Creamery

Tin Pot Creamery started in 2012 as an “Ice Cream of the Month Club” that was spearheaded by one of the shop’s founders. As she ideated and experimented with two new flavors each month, she began hand-delivering them to her neighbors in the Bay Area. When these sweet deliveries gained traction, Tin Pot Creamery was born. Even today, the shop emphasizes and prioritizes its hearty, homemade quality, focusing on the basics with a fun spin. One of the most common ice cream flavors, dubbed Cookie Monster, has swirls of cookie dough pieces and chocolate cookie crumbles, which are both made at the shop.

Sweet Retreat

Sweet Retreat has been a long-time favorite ice cream and froyo spot for many South Bay locals. After the shop’s initial location was destroyed in a fire in 2016, the business thankfully recovered and now has two locations — one in San Jose and another in Morgan Hill. Every flavor scooped at Sweet Retreat is crafted from start to finish by the shop’s team without any premade bases or flavor pastes. Visitors can find 40 flavors being served at any given time, with 35 classic flavors and five rotating ones. Some of the most beloved orders include the mango banana froyo and the Oreo cookie ice cream.

Sweet Rendezvous

Sweet Rendezvous is a family-owned store that sources ice cream from two top-tier local creameries — Marianne’s in Santa Cruz and Loard’s in San Leandro. Serving more than 52 flavors at the homey shop, Sweet Rendezvous offers a wide range of flavor options, such as ube and Persian Nutella. Blended with spices like cardamom and saffron, the Persian frozen desserts include a refreshing homemade faloodeh and a decadent saffron pistachio ice cream. And for those looking for some additional desserts, the shop also serves an assortment of European desserts, pastries, and candies. 

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