Made-to-order liquid nitrogen scoops at Smitten. (©Toni Gauthier)
You might have heard the clever quip, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," (dubiously attributed to Mark Twain). And sure, many summer days demand a fleece here. But when the fog burns off and the sun is high, the city can warm up. On such a day, chill out with a cool sweet treat. And this being San Francisco—home of foodie innovation—a standard vanilla cone just won't do.
Forget chocolate and vanilla. These spots think outside the box to deliver surprisingly delicious flavors.
Boccalone prosciutto, foie gras and strawberry candied jalapeno—a three-course meal at one of San Francisco's trendy fine-dining restaurants? No, three flavors on the ice cream menu at Humphry Slocombe, a local favorite with locations in the happening Mission neighborhood and Ferry Building. Other quirky flavors include creme fraiche, Secret Breakfast (with cornflakes and bourbon) and Vietnamese coffee. 2790A Harrison St.
Three Twins serves organic, locally sourced ice cream in inventive flavors such as Dad’s Cardamom and Strawberry Je Ne Sais Quoi (with balsamic vinegar). The company operates shops in Hayes Valley and Fisherman's Wharf and stocks many local restaurants and grocery stores. 254 Fillmore St.; 79 Jefferson St.
Single malt whiskey. Blue Bottle Coffee. Masala chai. Why buy an ordinary Popsicle when Bar Gelato by Naia offers the classic treat in flavors like these? Find them in the freezer sections of local Whole Foods, A.G. Ferrari and Walgreens stores. (The popsicles are made by the food artisans behind Galateria Naia, which serves up more traditional gelatos in the city's Italian North Beach neighborhood.)
These spots elevate sweet classics to new heights with unusual ingredient combos.
In addition to offering some of San Francisco's finest ice cream scoops, Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission and NoPa districts is known for its sundaes garnished with olive oil. Options range from chocolate ice cream with whipped cream and bergamot olive oil to honey lavender ice cream with hot fudge and blood orange olive oil. Both come topped with maldon sea salt for an extra kick. 3692 18th St.; 550 Divisadero St.
Don't be fooled by the old-fashioned soda-fountain ambience of The Ice Cream Bar. Despite the retro vibe, this Cole Valley favorite offers plenty of new-wave flair. Our favorite treat? The New Orleans Hangover ice cream float, which can cure any morning-after sickness with its mix of sweet cream ice cream, soda, chicory coffee syrup and golden eagle tincture. 815 Cole St.
Ice cream sandwiches are far from ordinary at Chaya Brasserie, which serves caramel ice cream sandwiched between spiced oatmeal cookies, garnished with dried currants and pangasinan sea salt. Also along the Embarcadero, Waterbar serves a glam version of a wilderness favorite called the Campfire Sundae: chocolate ice cream, house-made graham crackers and cinnamon meringue. 132 Embarcadero; 399 Embarcadero
For something truly different, look beyond the classics and embrace the weird. (After all, it's the San Francisco way.)
Get sweet on the city's food truck trend with a stop at Frozen Kuhsterd. As the name implies, this roving truck serves a frozen take on creamy custard. Flavors include black sesame, reposado tequila and saikyo miso.
The pie shake at Chile Pies in the NoPa and Castro neighborhoods is exactly what it sounds like—a slice of pie blended with ice cream. And yes, it's just as good as it sounds. Mix and match from among a variety of ice cream and pie flavors. 601 Baker St.; 314 Church St.
Step inside Smitten Ice Cream in Hayes Valley, and the first thing you'll probably notice is an industrial-size tank of liquid nitrogen. The machine, appropriately called "Brrr," is used by "brristas" to whip up customized ice cream with the smooth creaminess only uber-cold liquid nitrogen can deliver. Find out why “Vogue” called this "arguably the freshest, if not the best, ice cream on earth." 432 Octavia St.