From made-to-order Smitten scoops to It’s-It cookie sandwiches, ice cream is an essential Bay Area food group. Determined to gain exposure to more frozen delights, I asked Jennifer Ng, author of the Ice Cream Travel Guide, to take me on a walking tour of her favorite local haunts near the Mission District. Over two and a half miles; we consumed four scoops each. Ah, sweet bliss.
To hit up the newest spot before closing, we went backward on Jennifer’s usual route, beginning at the brand-new Tartine Manufactory’s soft serve ice cream counter. Like all of Tartine’s outlets, the entrance is inconspicuous, but inside are wonders to behold.
Four flavors churn behind the counter, and yes, you can swirl on the same machine. Spelt streusel topped our dark chocolate swirled with coffee and apple pie compote crowned the Concord grape sorbet swirled with fior de latte, an Italian term for a sweetened plain cream base.
The soft serve came out fluffy in texture, and the Concord grape sorbet impressed us most, as the other flavors were milder. I loved the spelt streusel for its earthy, toasted quality and its delightful crispy burst. Hazards at Tartine Manufactory include waiting for a new mix to harden up, but it’s worth the extra fifteen minutes.
We arrived at the original Humphry Slocombe next. In 2008, Jennifer’s ice cream obsession awakened here when tweeted daily flavor specials first became a must for any foodie to chase. A double scoop ended up in our cup: the Harvey Milk + Honey Graham, Humphrey Slocombe’s nod to San Francisco’s history; and the Sugar Daddy dulce de leche, a limited-time-only special to celebrate the just departed “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” tour.
The ice cream was on the icier side, which makes it extra refreshing on a hot day. I fell a bit in love with the honey taste of the top scoop; can I make an ice cream flavor my own sugar daddy?
Stop #3 was a small divergence from ice cream—frozen custard at The Velvet Scoop! As owner Zoe Madigan explained, frozen custard involves more butterfat and egg yolk and less air in the mixing process, yielding a velvety texture... and the name of her shop! Add a mix-in and you’re creating a Concrete, dubbed thusly because you can turn it upside down without losing your scoop.
I went for the seasonal pumpkin spice and topped it with gummy worms, which made for a fun—and chewy—combination. Jennifer opted for the Malted Milk “N” Cereal Concrete, which mixes in cornflakes and Ghirardelli caramel with malted vanilla, yielding a worthy breakfast redux.
Our final destination was a good mile walk nearly into Bernal Heights. To truly appreciate this 66-year-old institution, we needed to burn off some calories. Mitchell’s Ice Cream is available at a plethora of Bay Area markets and restaurants, but the retail storefront is where to go for that classic ice cream parlor feel.
Over 40 flavors await, and they range from classic chocolate chip to avocado. Jennifer gives them special accolades for adapting as the neighborhood has changed over time; Mitchell’s has a special focus on making tropical flavors with fruit imported from all over the globe, including jackfruit from the Philippines and lucuma from Peru.
My grasshopper pie indulgence in a waffle cone made for a tasty, super-sweet end to our ice cream tour while Jennifer opted for calamansi sorbet, a lime-like citrus fruit, to re-awaken her senses after our deep dive into frozen delight.
Mm, ice cream. You can visit these stores anytime on your own, perhaps showing more restraint than I did. But if you’re interested in a private tour and extra decadence, contact Jennifer at email@example.com to arrange it.