Ice Cream

In the Bay Area, food is religion. And ice cream is no exception. From institutions like Fenton’s and Mitchell’s to relative newcomers like Ici and Bi-Rite, people are eating it up. What’s your favorite flavor? Forum talks ice cream with those in the know.[View the story “Listener Picks for Bay Area Ice Cream” on Storify]

Listener Picks for Bay Area Ice Cream

On Monday, July 30, Forum and guest host Scott Shafer examined the ever-evolving world of Bay Area ice cream. Here’s a collection of favorite shops and flavors as recommended by the KQED audience. Suggestions are organized by city and region.

Storified by · Mon, Jul 30 2012 17:28:06


Tara’s organic ice cream is the best in Oakland!Sarah Smith Gumataotao
tara’s organic in oakland and berkeley. the most unusual and interesting flavors. Rachel Ayfer
@KQED @KQEDForum @screamsorbet in #oakland & at farmer’s markets. Way better than actual ice cream, plus it’s #glutenfree #organic & #localSeren Pendleton-Knol
Fentons Black & Tan! Ummmm!Kate Sullivan

East Bay:

Lush in BerkeleyNatalie Baird
Gotta be Tucker’s in Alameda!Al Wright
Lemon chiffon from Lords in orinda. Carmen Garcia
The Ice creamery in Castro ValleyLeda Frediani
Ici garnered lots of recommendations:
Ici in Berkeley! All the others are mere imposters!Harris Krumwiede Ross
Ici’s Rose Pistachio and Lush’s Gelato Mexican Chocolate and almost everything they have so is delish.Patricia Nemeth
Ici in Berkeley. It turns the simple pleasure of ice cream into a magical experience.Maggie Diamond

San Francisco:

Xanath on Valencia St. In SF…bold, exotic flavors..and free vanilla beans.Joe Morse
DeLise in SFArlene Tsang
Mr and Mrs. Miscellaneous in the dog patch SF is a cute little place with unique flavors and good quality ice cream. And of course Fenton’s in Piedmont/ Oakland is the hometown favorite for throwback soda fountain charm. Traci Spencer Griffin
Joe’s Ice Cream on Geary. Old school and soooooo good!Jeanette Sasek
Well, Anne from Bi-Rite knows mine, it is balsamic strawberry. I count the days for strawberry season to have that stuff.Jerry James Stone
Humphry Slocombe in The Mission. ‘Secret Breakfast’ flavor all the way!Paul Valdez
As expected, there was lots of love for Mitchell’s:
Honorable mentions go to Humphry Slocombe and Bi-Rite, but nothing beats Mitchell’s Ice Cream.Daniel Strickland
Mitchell’s on Valencia St. SF the best!!!Ale Cassino
Mitchell’s – I love their seasonal flavors, avocado and pumpkin are so good!Vanessa Craviotto

Santa Cruz:

Marianne’s Ice Cream in Santa Cruz!Creighton ‘Tony’ Peet
The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz! Kevin Augustine

North Bay:

Screamin’ Mimi’s in SebastopolAdrienne Leihy
Fairfax Scoop in Fairfax, CA. Local, small batches, organic, DELICIOUS, very friendly folks, they even make their own waffle cones. They have pictures of local kids on their walls from the year they first opened. Many are old enough to work there now. Sandra Soklin
@kqedforum @ThreeTwins is a fantastic local organic ice cream shop, started in Terra Linda and has grown leaps and boundsMichelle Stern
Three Twins "Dad’s Cardamom" is the best!Stacey Rosenberg
La Michoacana 504 Broadway ,Vallejo has great ice cream and nice baked goods.I had the Kahlua ice cream today,it was divine.My son said the vanilla was the best he’s had.Also Lileds on Tennessee st. in Vallejo has delicious house made ice cream and candy.Jill Shaw

Chains, Trucks and It’s-Its:

Rite-Aid drugstores. Woefully underappreciated!Kath Tea
Just tuned in – did you cover Twirl and Dip – the ice cream truck! The best soft serve and you can get with TCHO chocolate dip and sea salt!Stacey Rosenberg
Just ate an Original Flavor It’s It; there’s nothing quite like IT!Laura Yoni Formisano- Mayeri
And finally, listeners weighed in on the Bay Area’s enduring love of ice cream… despite having what some might call “chilly” summers:
Why are we obsessed with ice cream? Because ice cream is always delicious.Ramin Khayatpoor
The Bay Area is an epicenter of fine dining and appreciation for good food of all sorts. Why should that not include ice cream? Especially with all the organic dairy farms popping up all over Sonoma Country and thereabouts.John Kelly
Why is a hot sunny day needed to eat ice cream? Growing up in Europe it was always sad to see all the ice cream shops close up for the winter at the end of summer, over there is was pretty taboo to eat ice cream once it got the slightest bit cold.Noah Arribas-Layton
Ice cream is delicious. ‘Nuf said.Avril Baty
Way Beyond ‘Cup or Cone:’ Ice Cream in the Bay Area 30 July,2012forum

Janny Hu, food writer, San Francisco Chronicle
Anne Walker, co-founder, Bi-Rite Creamery and Bakeshop, and co-author of "Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats From Bi-Rite Creamery"
Mary Canales, founder, Ici Ice Cream
Linda Mitchell, co-manager, Mitchell's Ice Cream

  • John Sanford

    Baskin Robbins when I can afford it!

  • Twinfan

    Please be sure to include Three Twins Ice Cream. It was the first scoop shop in the Bay Area to make certified organic ice cream, the first chain of organic scoop shops in the United States and had quickly grown from its Bay Area roots to a national brand. They are the rare artisanal ice cream shop to make its own ice cream mix and even provides the mix behind some of the Bay Area’s top ice cream shops. Plus Their ice cream is amazing!

  • Chetan Maha

    Tara’s Organic ice cream was great. My favorite combination was a scoop of basil flavored and a scoop is sage flavor and olive oil for topping! Mouthwatering!

  • Bikeybikes

    Scoop in Fairfax, without a doubt.

  • Postul8

    Didn’t I just learn on KQED Forum that sugar is a poison that increases that rate at which fat is stored in adipose tissue? Talk about mixed messages… Not that I’m opposed to an occasional cone of ice cream though.

  • Mike

    I enjoy good ice cream as much as the next person, but $3.50 for a scoop seems to be pushing the limits. 

  • How could you do this show and not include Three Twins???????  Not just the best organic ice cream, but the best ice cream, period.

  • walrus

    Three Twins Dad’s Cardamom. No competition.

  • Noelle

    Treatbot karaoke ice cream truck in San Jose. Tasty and affordable–Bollywood and 408 are my favorites.

  • Tucker’s Supercreamed Ice Cream has been an Alameda institution since the 1940s:

    1349 Park StreetAlameda, CA 94501-4533(510) 522-4960

    Kate Pryor, the owner, actively supports many community nonprofits, little league teams, kid’s summer reading programs, and more. And their hand-made ice creams, waffle cones, and fresh fruit Tornado yogurts are terrific.

    If you like wine, try their Zinfandel or Zin and chocolate ice creams. (My wife and I were there the night Dave mixed the first batch of Zinfandel ice cream, and there were many jokes when we told him it needed more Zinfandel… 🙂 

  • Have you been to Smitten? It’s in the Hayes Valley. Best vanilla ever! (Other seasonal flavors are good too.) They make a fresh scoop for you from scratch with liquid nitrogen. It’s pretty cool.

  • Deb

    three twins lemon cookie – my family’s latest favorite!!
    Also, love their strawberry icecream.

  • Daniel Sherer

    I love Ice cream! Unfortunately the milk / dairy aspects never sit well with me afterwards. Aside from the usual “token” vegan recipe, will any of these awesome ice creameries be playing with “cream free ice cream?” Avocados come to mind as a great fatty base. As well as bananas for creaminess? I’d love to hear your thoughts on non-dairy recipes and their challenges?

    • Emily

      Daniel, try “Scream” on Telegraph and 52st in Oakland.  You will not be disappointed!  All their flavors are dairy-free.  They use local fruits and nuts, and their nut-based flavors are as rich and creamy as gelato, but with even more flavor.    

  • Meeshell1943

    Anyone remember McCurdy’s, McCallum’s, Bott’s all in Berkeley? Always great ice cream in that town!

    • Miftah

      We used to go to McCallum’s as a family after Sunday church. It was a family run business until they all decided to move to Colorado and closed the business.  It was the end of an era.  They had a giant sundae called the Nightmare that you could share with about 6 people.  I always loved their Coffee ice cream as a kid.  My brother always got Nectarine.  The store site is now a Peet’s and a former Jamba Juice.  Sigh…..
      But we can’t forget Ortman’s Ice Cream, which was just down the street from McCallum’s on Solano (now a Starbuck’s).  Bill Ortman’s family owned a dairy ranch in early Berkeley on what is now MLK Jr. Middle School.  He went to Davis on the GI bill and learned how to make ice cream!  All his ice cream was made in the shop and his Vanilla was award-winning.  This was “Locavore” before that term was even invented!  I took my children there to sit at the counter and have rootbeer floats and grilled cheese sandwiches.  When my little girl ordered Bubblegum ice cream, BillI would give her a little paper cup for the gum balls. I was very sad when he retired, and no one in the family could carry on the business.

  • Maggie

    We are visiting from Boston and living south of Palo Alto this summer. We’ve been surprised at how few home made ice cream shops there are in this area (or we haven’t found them). At home we love JP Lick’s, Emack & Bolio’s and Christina’s. I have a very strong opinion about store bought brands as well.  Breyer’s is it for me. Have you ever tried to read the ingredients on the packaging? Who wants chemicals in their ice cream?!

  • Joanna

    It’s all about the Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz! Not only do they source local ingredients, they truly make their ice cream from scratch…pasteurization and all! 

  • Barbra Brady, Sonoma

    One of most amazing flavors I ever tasted was the most simple of all–Sweet Cream. Just that, no added flavors, remarkable. This from Thomas Sweet Ice Cream on the east coast.
    Barbra Brady, Sonoma

  • Diane

    I worship chocolate. Favorites are Straus and 3 Twins.

    Diane, Berkeley 

  • Theemery5

    Swensons on union st is the best. Classic, delicious flavors- for people like me  tired of unusual flavors like Saffron… its cheap and delish

  • Skraemer

    Ici Ice cream on college ave in Berkeley never fails to satiate my sweet tooth!   I appreciate that not only are their flavors organic and true to the produce they incorporate, but that everything is made BY HAND. I always see them cooking in the back, or the girls up front zesting fruit or weighing candies and bagging/bowing them- it’s so cool, and so old fashioned! It’s worth waiting in line to nab a scoop of their delicious ice cream, and catch a glimpse of the chefs in the kitchen.

  • Namit98

    Three Twins Lemon Cookie

  • keith & jackie

    The best gelato in the Bay Area can be had at Almare
    in Berkeley.  The owner is from Italy and he learned to make gelato from his uncle.  Almare has only one shop – in downtown Berkeley – near BART and the theater district:  2170 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.  Our favorites are nociola, expresso coffee and pistachio.

    • Debgordon7

       Definitely the best gelato in bay area
      ALMARE–on Shattuck in Berkeley.
      DO.NOT. MISS. IT!!!

  • Please don’t forget the gourmet ice cream trucks in the South Bay – Treatbot and Scoops.

  • MHardbarger2

    I beleive the small shop on Grand Avenue was called Mary’s Best Ice Cream.  It was across from the Safeway store.  It really was BEST!

  • Lotties Creamery

    From scratch artisan ice
    cream is coming to Downtown Walnut Creek this fall. Lottie’s Creamery is
    going to be making our own ice cream base from scratch. Check us out!

  • Liz

    I was disappointed that Three twins organic ice cream was not included in this program.

  • April

    Should have had Tara on from Tara’s Organic.  

  • ed

    In the South Bay, Treat Ice Cream ( has got to be one of the best.  With its use of premium ingredients and its use of high milk fat cream, it is one of the richest tasting ice creams around.  And you can purchase it directly from their factory on South 19th St. (near Santa Clara St.) in San Jose. 

  • Ma2218

    I am a big Bi-rite fan. I actually cried little tears of joy the first time I tried their salted caramel. I’ve also become a big fan of Smitten in Hayes valley. They have some freaky flavors (that can be bad or good), but I had a flavor there once that was only lightly sweet. I got the full force of a dairy, creamy feeling in my mouth without the sugar burn. As my palette ages, I do enjoy lightly sweetend desserts. I’m one of those freaks who now can be satisfied with fruit for dessert. (I thought adults were so stupid for suggesting this as a kid). Bi-Rite’s salted caramel is super sweet and although I still enjoy it, I was wondering if Bi-rite would ever consider making lightly sweetened flavors. Blue Marble in Brooklyn makes a tart strawberry that blows my mind…I wish Bi-Rite would do something like that.

  • Sharimilner

    The best I have had is Twirl and Dip, in a cute vintage truck. Find out where they are on line, it is worth looking for….. 

  • Sq2rl

    popsicles were invented in Alameda!

  • akc

    Can’t wait to check out Lottie’s Creamery in Walnut Creek when it opens!

  • Shellye

    Don’t miss I Scream in Berkeley, on Solano at Colusa. Amazing waffle cones! They have 10-12 flavors every day — standouts include salted caramel, mexican chocolate and blueberry. Soooo yummy, worth the wait in line!

  • maltedmilkchocolate

    Humphry Slocombe ice cream in the Mission has a lovely texture and unusual but delicious flavors.

  • LvR

    Tara’s Organic ice cream has a goatcheese/rasberry that is delishhh.

  • Sep

    Talking about ice cream without mentioning Three Twins is like talking about public radio without mentioning NPR.

  • Alice

    The woman who called in about the tiny ice cream store on Grand or Lakeshore in Oakland a long time ago was Mary’s!  I knew the folks who ran the store! 

    • Robin

      Oh, thank you so much!  It is a hazy memory, but I remember it was good.  Do you remember anything else about it?  What were their flavors like–were they ahead of their time, as I recall?  Whatever happened to them?  Thank you so much again for writing!

      • Miftah

        I went there once with my little children in the mid 80’s.  I recall the name was “Mary Best” or “Mary B. Best” ice cream.  It was run by a brother and sister, catering mainly to high end restaurants with customized signature flavors.  I recall something with champagne in the name for a restaurant in SF.  She made the ice cream and he was kind of like a docent who ushered you through the flavor choice process and answered questions.  The “shop” was absolutely no frills, as I recall just a freezer case, and shelves with eclectic, random fountain glassware for a scoop of ice cream–the original “recyclable” cup to serve ice cream, now that I think about it–no styrofoam!  I don’t know what happened to the proprietors or the brand, but since this was the 1980’s, I imagine old age and rising commercial rents had something to do with it disappearing.  But I, too, have a fond memory of it, almost like an Alice in Wonderland memory.  “Did that place really exist……?”  Thanks for asking.

        • Robin

          Yes! He was like a docent–that is exactly the word for it!  It was a tiny place, and I remember only a few people could fit in at a time, and he would usher you around, just as you said.  I think I only went there once or twice, and as you so aptly put it, it’s easy to wonder if I only imagined it.  Thank you so much for filling in some of the details!

  • El Pescador

    Hey you forgot about Three Twins! They are by far the best ice cream I’ve ever had and their unique and classic flavors are all stunners. Plus I think they were the first organic ice cream shop to open up in San Fran. I love that they source all of their own ingredients and keep the integrity throughout the process. Make sure you give a shout out to Three Twins too!

  • RA

    i’m going to be “that guy”. This whole show is insanely pretentious. What is most ironic is that it sounds like most of these fru fru gourmet organic etc places use the same base! They can’t even be bothered to mix some milk and eggs together, but they still charge premium prices. Dryer’s (Edi’s back east) at least has been innovative w/ this slow churned stuff and really pushed the field forward. These “local” guys aren’t bad, but it’s primarily hipster marketting and weird flavors than any superior “quality”.

    • Linda

      It sounds logical that small ice cream manufacturers would be able to just mix some milk and eggs together to make their ice cream base, but there are regulations concerning this process.  That’s why just about all small manufacuturers in the U.S. buy their ice cream mix form local dairies.  It takes a large plant (not to mention a large expense) to house the pasteurization equipment that’s required for this process.  In Northern California, there are only a few companies that make ice cream mixes for small ice cream manufacturers.

  • Cew

    What about Double Rainbow? A San Francisco original from 1976?
    There used to be shop in Mountain View, but it looks like they’ve retreated to retail shops and there are more Burger Joints and BurgerMeisters than Double Rainbow shops now.

  • Brownpita

    Definately a huge fan of Bi-rite and Tara’s Organic Ice Cream!  Salty Caramel and Honey Lavender from Bi-rite and Chipolte and Avacado from Tara’s….Another great one from Tara’s is Rosemary and Orange.  Definately worth the trip!

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor