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Brain Freeze Never Felt So Good

Thanks to a host of new shops, the Bay Area is a stone-cold ice cream paradise.


Cold Comforts
A kaleidoscopic array of the best and brightest scoops from new ice cream shops around the Bay Area, profiled below.

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Black sesame shaved snow from Powder.

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Ube (purple yam) ice cream sandwich from Cookiebar Creamery.

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Tartine's spiced black cherry in fior di latte with cinnamon crumble.

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Mint chip ice cream sandwich from the Baked Bear.

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Thai iced tea sorbet from Garden Creamery.

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Coconut-milk-tumeric-ginger-cardamom, chocolate sorbet, and basil ice cream from Hometown Creamery.

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Caramel-almond and lemon cookie ice cream at Mr. Dewie's.

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Little Giant's Dirty South, Bicycle Coffee, and Creamsicle ice cream.

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Strawberry balsamic beet, Maiden Ecstasy, and cinnamon toast brunch from Shakedown.

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With apologies to ride-hailing apps and Dungeness crab, ice cream may be the Bay Area’s most precious renewable resource. Consider: Every couple of years, we are blessed with a new wave of chilly munificence seemingly designed to broaden our understanding of what frozen desserts can be—and remind us of how good we have it. The latest rash brings a combination of new shops and new concepts: There are storefront debuts from beloved street vendors, shops boasting dairy pasteurized onsite, and the long-awaited ice cream spin-off of a popular bakery (hello, Tartine). There are vegan scoops and customizable sweet-tooth sandwiches and shaved snow from Taiwan. And, most important, there is some damn good ice cream.

Shaved snow is to Taiwan what Dairy Queen is to the Midwest. But around these parts, the delicacy—a made-to-order hybrid of shaved ice and ice cream—is a scarce commodity. Mimi Hanley and David Chung are determined to change that: After debuting Powder at Off the Grid in April, they’re expanding to a storefront this summer. They’ll serve four flavors designed to “bridge the gap between something totally foreign and mainstream America,” Hanley says. That means scoops like horchata and Mexican chocolate alongside black sesame—as well as a panoply of toppings. 260 Divisadero (near Page St.)

Cookiebar Creamery
Selling homemade ice cream squished between customizable homemade cookies is a reliable way to earn a loyal following, so it’s no surprise that, a little more than two years after opening their first location in Alameda, Cookiebar Creamery owners Robert Feng and John Ngu branched out this April with a second location in Old Oakland. Though many of their 20-odd ice cream flavors seem ripped from the childhood fantasy playbook—think banana Oreo and Fruity Pebbles—you’ll also find more straightforward options like the ube (purple yam). 517 8th St. (near Washington St.), Oakland

Cookies & Cream Ice cream obsessives will remember 2016 as the year that frozen dairy got the Tartine treatment. Part of the bakery’s Manufactory complex, Tartine Cookies & Cream will offer Elizabeth Prueitt’s soft-serve, pops, and ice cream cakes. Expect seasonal flavors like wintertime squash and chestnut and summertime berry compotes (like the spiced black cherry in fior di latte with cinnamon crumble) topped with Tartine’s baked goods. The shop is set to open this summer; chances are a line is forming as you read this. 595 Alabama St. (at 18th St.)

The Baked Bear
Founded in San Diego in 2013, this ice cream sandwich purveyor opened its first San Francisco location, a kiosk on Fisherman’s Wharf, this February. The popularity of its custom-made sandwiches was such that owner Joseph Halloum is expanding this month with a new storefront in North Beach. Though homemade chocolate chip cookies are Halloum’s biggest sellers, options like funfetti and cookies and cream have also found fans. Want a scoop of mint chip sandwiched by a doughnut and covered with hot fudge? Just say the word. 2824 Jones St. (near Beach St.); 303 Columbus Ave. (near Vallejo St.)

Garden Creamery
Erin Lang’s road from ice cream truck to storefront has been long and twisted: A year ago she announced plans for a Tenderloin shop, only to be thwarted by construction issues. But she couldn’t be happier about the Mission space she’s set to open by August. The corner spot will allow Lang to focus on flavors “I’d really like to do,” she says, like butter mochi with toasted sesame and taro haupia. The 24 flavors Lang plans to offer daily will be made from a base pasteurized onsite, as will her pops (like the Thai iced tea sorbet) and sandwiches. She’ll also be offering chimney cones, made from a kind of Hungarian pastry, and gluten-free alternatives. 3566 20th St. (at Lexington St.)

San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery
Saadi Halil is a DIY ice cream fanatic, so when he and his brother Adar decided to open an ice cream shop, the decision to pasteurize their own base onsite was a no-brainer. Thus, their Inner Sunset parlor, which opened last July, is also a certified dairy plant, producing flavors like coconut-milk-turmeric-ginger-cardamom, chocolate sorbet, and basil. “A lot of flavor ideas come from my travels, and we have a pretty multicultural family,” Saadi says. “I like finding ways to put entire desserts into ice cream.” So far, he’s tested 120 flavors; 9 are served at a time. Naturally, he also makes his cones and toppings from scratch. 1290 9th Ave. (near Irving St.)

Mr. Dewie’s
A presence in East Bay grocery stores for the last five years, Mr. Dewie’s found a permanent home for its cashew-milk-based ice cream in Albany this past March. Founded by lactose-intolerant brothers Ari and Andrew Cohen, the company is beloved by vegans and the dairy averse for its exceptionally creamy and flavorful scoops—think chocolate-orange, caramel-almond, and lemon cookie. At the bright and friendly corner storefront, you can get them on homemade buckwheat waffle cones that deserve to have a following of their own. 1116 Solano Ave. (at Kains St.), Albany

Little Giant
When Kevin Best and Neil Rideout opened Little Giant in downtown Oakland last September, they decided to pasteurize their own ice cream base onsite to ensure better consistency in their flavors, many of which contain alcohol. Those boozy scoops have become Little Giant’s calling card: Its bestseller, the Dirty South, combines candied pecans, caramel ice cream, and bourbonspiked caramel and is on the menu at Little Giant’s brand-new San Francisco location, which opened in May. The Union Square–adjacent shop serves a rotating roster of 12 flavors, plopped on homemade waffle cones. At 150 square feet, the space is tiny, Best says, “but perfect for a scoop shop.” 214 Sutter St. (at Claude Ln.)

Named after a Grateful Dead album and situated on a Tenderloin block that doesn’t exactly scream “artisan ice cream,” Shakedown was unusual even before owners Jeffrey Mann and Paul Moore began scooping the likes of strawberry balsamic beet, Maiden’s Ecstasy (pu-ehr-infused milk chocolate), and cinnamon toast brunch. Since it opened early last year, the shop has further distinguished itself with pastry chef Amy Pearce’s homemade toppings, gluten-free cones, and milkshakes that could drain a Holstein. 835 Geary St. (near Hyde St.)


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco 

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