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SF: Ice Cream Tour: one afternoon

Let's say you wanted to do a 4 hour tour of San Francisco ice cream. With car. Take into account parking / walking. Weekday. Long walks aren't in order but 5 or 6 blocks are good.

My list is:
Smitten
Bi-rite
+ Tartine, walk over to Dolores
HS
MMM

Mitchel's kind of fell off my list, but with this crowd, I can argue for Mitchel's over HS. Heading out to Polly Ann's for Durian I would do with another crowd, but not with these guys. A little HS in the middle would be a fun break. I wish I liked one of the taco places within a block or two.

We're coming from the south (peninsula), so its easier to head home from MMM.

Have I forgot anything?

Is there a restaurant open in the afternoon that has great ice cream, and maybe a snack as well? (Orson is closed in the afternoon, but has great ice cream)

Is there another ordering?

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  1. If you become pressed for time, Smitten is close to Falleti, which has Humphrey Slocombe by the scoop in a case in the Delessio bakery section of the store. The number of flavors will be limited to around 6 or 8, but better than missing it!

    On the other hand, if you do end up at Humphrey Slocombe, Taqueria Vallarta around the corner (on 24th) has great tacos with more kinds of meat than anywhere else on that block. It tends to be better at night than during the day, but for $1.75 it's a good snack any time.

    And FFIW, I would move MMM to the top of that list, mostly for their candied violet and their plain chocolate, both of which I find incredibly addictive.

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    Taqueria Vallarta
    3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    1. Personally, I would dump the car. You will spend more time looking for parking and walking to and from parking spots than you would if you just walked the city and relied on public transportation.

      And I wouldn't discount Mitchell's by virtue of the fact that a recent Chron tasting had it ranked higher than anticipated in blind tastings...

      1 Reply
      1. re: CarrieWas218

        You might, I won't. A muni delay can be 10 minutes, or 40. Walking from BiRite to HS and back is possible, walking that and Smitten not so much.

        MMM is on the end of the list because it's the best.

      2. Bombay Ice Cream's in the same general area. They also have chaat and are open all afternoon.

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        Bombay Ice Cream
        245 South Van Ness, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. Forgive my ignorance please. What does MMM stand for?!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

            Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous.

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            Bi-Rite Creamery
            3692 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
            2790 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous
            699 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

            Smitten Ice Cream
            Octavia Blvd Linden St, San Francisco, CA 94102

          2. I just discovered Xanath on Valencia. The flavors were really unique. I had a goat cheese with a caramel flavor, delicious.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mlutsky

              Xanath was on my list when I was planning an ice cream crawl. I'd add Bombay, but then I'm a cardamom slut.

              1. re: mlutsky

                Xanath seems to be under the radar, and a worthy stop, especially if you're fond of vanillas.

              2. Three Twins in Upper Haight is fast becoming one of my favorites, but parking is absurd in the area.

                The other week they had a banana pie and walnut something (that's 2 diff flavors)... combined together it tasted like a heavenly banana walnut bread! It was divine! Love the very creamy texture at Three Twins.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Keesey

                  You can get Three Twins in a bunch of grocery stores around SF. I wouldn't put it in the same class as the places on bbulkow's list.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    What sort of list is this exactly? Why is there a "class" of ice cream? Just because it has an expanded distribution?

                    They have a limited selection of flavors available in the grocery stores. Popular flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, & cookies n cream, but you wouldn't find their specialty flavors in all of them. Such as... roasted peach, chocolate stout, thai tea. Plus Three Twins uses organic, sustainable ingredients. I think that's class!

                    1. re: Keesey

                      Just a matter of personal taste. Three Twins seems relatively simple and bland to me and I don't like the texture as much.

                      Bi-Rite, Humphry Slocombe, and Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous all use organic Straus mix and other top-quality ingredients.

                      I'm not sure Three Twins' larger production is an issue. I tasted their stuff when they first started, when they were presumably making it in batches similar to independent shops, and it hasn't changed much.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Ditto. I tasted Three Twins at a food fair. It didn't wow me the way Bi-Rite, Humphrey, MMM, or Smitten did. I tried it again out of a carton at Whole Foods after reading something about how they had the best strawberry. Meh. For supermarket ice cream I prefer Straus, Laloo, or honestly even Ben and Jerry's or Hagen Daaz.. Three twins just isn't very high on flavor for me.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Three Twins is 100% certified organic.

                          The Cardamon is excellent, and they use high end spice from the shop across the way at Oxbow.

                          The trend of using Straus base isn't something to brag about, it's due to restrictions on manufacturing That said, I will agree the textures are off in some flavors at Haight.

                  2. La Copa Loca (and you probably won't have to walk out of your way).

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                    La Copa Loca
                    3150 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    1. Missing:
                      Delise Dessert Cafe at the Wharf. Better than HS and Bi-Rite, more Asian flavors and non-dairy options than Mr and Mrs, easy to get to on transit.

                      Joe's out on Geary has great old-fashioned ice cream and flavors. Their pumpkin is the best in the city.

                      Mitchell's shouldn't fall off your list. If you missed the Chron's writeup two weeks ago, Mitchell's chocolate came out on top in a blind taste test. It's very easy to head to SJ from Mitchell's. Also note that Mr and Mrs closes early - 5 or 6 p.m. depending on the day.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: Windy

                        Glad to learn about a few new places on this tread (Delise and Xanath), as well as the reminder that Bombay Ice Cream (like their cardamom) still exists in a new location.

                        Perhaps I'm showing my bias towards more flavor and less cream, but I'm really surprised to see either Mitchell's or Joe's mentioned. I haven't tried Mitchell's in years, so perhaps it's changed and I should re-visit. I'm also not a fan of HS because I find the ice cream overly creamy.

                        However, the inclusion of places outside of the SE area reminds me to mention Marco Polo. This was my choice for old school East Asian flavors (in my book, they easily out beat Polly Ann).

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                        Bombay Ice Cream
                        245 South Van Ness, San Francisco, CA 94110

                        1. re: jman1

                          I find Humphrey Slocumbe not creamy enough :)

                          And yes, Marco Polo over Polly Ann. They have great black sesame.

                          -----
                          Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream
                          1447 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116

                        2. re: Windy

                          Mitchell's has some good flavors but to my palate an unpleasant waxy finish.

                          Something was wrong with that Chron tasting. Nobody liked any of the peach ice creams? The most likely explanation to me is palate fatigue / distortion from tasting too many different things at once.

                          1. re: Windy

                            That was an interesting read from the Chron. The most interesting thing is that Mitchell's sources cream that has 2% more fat content then any other (I think that was the factor). Given it won the blind tasting, I'd put it on the list. I'd just make it first or last using the car.

                            Side note: the temp of the ice cream at eating is a factor to consider. Some say 42 degrees is best. Might not be able to control/monitor it but worth noting since it will effect mouth feel/palette, etc.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              I think the ideal temperature for serving ice cream varies depending on its density, fat content, and other factors.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                Just to put more info in this thread, MMM sources cream that has a few percent LESS fat than other places. They specifically wanted to go a different route than what was already being done in SF.

                                The result is that their ice cream is way too easy to eat double portions of, because it doesn't fill you up. And because there's a little less fat in the way, your palate can really pick up the flavors in the ice cream. Their chocolate is a good way to taste how chocolatey ice cream can really be.

                                1. re: Pei

                                  According to the Chron, Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous uses the same Straus base as Bi-Rite and Humphry Slocombe.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    But it is so much better than at either of the other two.

                                    1. re: Windy

                                      There are lots of other variables that affect texture including freezer temperature, amount of air incorporated, and what other ingredients are used. Per the Chron, MMM melts three kinds of dark chocolate.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Yes, I'm well aware. And I didn't say anything about chocolate.

                                        Mr and Mrs' vanilla base is why their flavors are so good.

                                        1. re: Windy

                                          Pei said "chocolate is a good way to taste how chocolatey ice cream can really be." Maybe it tastes more chocolaty because they melt a special blend of dark chocolate, or because they add vanilla, but it's not because they use a lower-fat base.

                                          Their ice cream might be lighter and lower in fat by volume because they whip more air into it. It seemed to me like their scoops were bigger and less dense than HS's.

                                      2. re: Windy

                                        Hmmm, last time I went to MMM they had more ice crystals than I've ever had at HS. I still loved it as I am a flavor over texture person, but even I noticed. Whether I prefer MMM vs HS would completely depend on the flavors MMM has that day (HS always has Secret Breakfast which is a winner in my mouth). I need to try Mitchells and give bi-rite a second try (which is hard since MMM and HS are not too far away).

                                2. re: Windy

                                  I was under the impression that Joe's served Bud's, or Mitchell's.... they make their own?

                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                    They make their own, unless homemade means something else. I've only ever had green tea and pumpkin at Joe's; it's definitely not Mitchell's pumpkin.

                                    http://www.joesicecream.com/

                                    1. re: Windy

                                      Looks like they are. Interesting. They moved locations recently, and I guess they started manufacturing again. The place was an original Bud's location before it became Joe's, and in later years they were carrying Bud's, either entirely, or to augment their own in-house production. Bud's fell out of favor in the city after a health scare.

                                      I'll have to give the pumkin and green tea a shot.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        I don't remember any health scare. My friends and I stopped going to Bud's sometime in the 70s when new places with better ice cream (Double Rainbow, The Latest Scoop, the original Gelato, Vivoli, Uncle Gaylord's ...) came along and by comparison Bud's started tasting fake and waxy.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Thousands of people had to get immunized in 1980. It was a major story.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            Huh, right you are, hepatitis scare. I guess I didn't pay any attention since I had stopped eating Bud's by then.

                                3. Taqueria Vallarta is about a block and a half from HS and has awesome, cheap tacos.

                                  -----
                                  Taqueria Vallarta
                                  3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110