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Tin Pot Creamery in Palo Alto

I checked out Tin Pot Creamery, a new artisanal ice cream shop in Palo Alto. It's located in the Town and Country Village, next to CVS.

I tried the brown butter pecan flavor, consisting of brown butter ice cream, with lightly caramelized chopped pecans (might be a light praline coating). It was excellent, despite the fact that it was 90% melted when I got it; for this batch, they didn't wait for it to completely freeze before placing it in the serving case. It mostly melted before I could pay for it, but it was still great.

In terms of pricing: 1 scoop in a cup is $3.50, and 2 scoops in a cup is $4; which means you get double the quantity for a 14% higher price. So, I also got a scoop of cinnamon snickerdoodle, consisting of cinnamon ice cream with broken up snickerdoodle cookies. It was excellent.

I like the texture of their ice cream base; not too gummy or too crumbly. In comparison, the Humphry Slocombe ice cream base is too "crumbly" for me.

It looks like Tin Pot is intending to compete with quality similar to Bi-Rite. I would need to sample a bit more to compare. Actually, I would be interested to know if their roasted banana is as good as Bi-Rite's roasted banana.

They also have cookies/brownies. The sweet corn cookie was way too sweet. But the chocolate chip cookie was good; it was not nearly as good as my gold standard, which is the semi-sweet chocolate chip cookie from Specialty's cafe; but respectable nonetheless.

The line Friday night was short - a 5 minute wait. They are open until 8 PM; however, there was still a line a 8 PM Friday, so I suspect they will stay open later.

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  1. I went back today and sampled the salted butterscotch, and the "four barrel coffee with cocoa nib toffee" (see photo #1). The salted butterscotch was too sweet, and too salty. But the underlying butterscotch flavor had a nice burnt note to it. The coffee ice cream was a touch too sweet, and dominated by a vanilla flavor, with the coffee flavor not so prominent. But the cocoa nib toffee bits were great; they melted at the same rate as the ice cream.

    Overall, I don't feel it's Bi-Rite quality.

    If you order 1 scoop in a cone, you get a comically miniscule cone to go with it; if you order 2 scoops, you get a somewhat larger cone (photo #2)

    They just changed their hours: Mon-Thu 11-9, Fri-Sat 11-10, Sunday 11-8. The line was not too long.

    1. I sampled two more flavors today: the malted milk w/chocolate pieces, and the Earl Grey. Both were way too sweet. Tin Pot uses high quality ingredients, but for these flavors, none of the complexity or nuance of those ingredients comes through, because the sugar knob is cranked up to 11.

      8 Replies
      1. re: ssfire

        You mean 11 on a scale of 1 to 10?

        Are they good about letting you sample before choosing?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          As a reference, they are almost as sweet as Rick's Ice Cream in Palo Alto, and Rick's is off the scale in terms of sweetness.

          Tin Pot is good about giving out samples, but the samples are really tiny.

          1. re: ssfire

            I had it opening week and also found it sweeter than I would have liked. (I tried the chocolate, coffee and coconut) If they toned down the sweetness, this would be excellent ice cream.

            I haven't been back since, but have they adjusted the sweetness level?

            On a related note, there's a similar sounding ice cream shop opening up in the former Häagen-Dazs spot on University Ave. Anyone know the backstory behind that one?

            1. re: Jon914

              Here's the new fictitious business name statement associated with that address:

              SCOOP MICROCREAMERY FICTITIOUS BUSINESS NAME STATEMENT File No.: 581620 The following person (persons) is (are) doing business as: Scoop Microcreamery, located at 203 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301, Santa Clara County. This business is owned by: A Corporation. The name and residence address of the owner(s)/registrant(s) is(are): JUICED, INC. 1734 W. El Camino Real #8 Mtn. View, CA 94040 Registrant/Owner began transacting business under the fictitious business name(s) listed above on Not Applicable. This statement was filed with the County Clerk-Recorder of Santa Clara County on August 13, 2013. (PAW Aug. 23, 30, Sept. 6, 13, 2013)

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Here's the signage. Looks like it might involve liquid nitrogen.

                1. re: ssfire

                  To clarify, Scoop as far as I know has nothing to do with Tin Pot except also being in Palo Alto. It might be best to have further discussion in a separate post, or folks reading this later may get pretty confused.


                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  The owner of "Scoop" is Cindy Somasunderam.

                  1. re: L C

                    Thanks, L C. Here's the new thread with reports on Scoop since it's gone live.

                    * * * *
                    Did you know Chowhound has a Cheese board?

        2. Oh - I need to check this place out. I am an ice cream lover extreme and Palo Alto has nothing (sorry Rick's lovers - I am not a fan). My favorite place in the city is Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. I think they have a great balance in most of their flavors, but i will check this one out ASAP. I was looking for a place for a post ironman 70.3 celebration - hoping this fits the bill.

          1. Went tonight with my two boys, we shared (well they ate) 3 scoops in a cup $5.50. The staff was nice to let us sample, but we probably pushed it a bit. Tried salted butterscotch - very sweet, soft not a dark butterscotch. Cheescake, cherry - didn't get a lot, but big chunks of cherry. Balsamic - probably my favorite, since the acid balanced the sweet. Brown butter pecan, again sweet.

            We ended up with banana fudge ripple, creme fraiche and coconut.

            Texture was good, medium creaminess.

            Overall, I found it more sweet than I prefer. Heads and tails above Rick's by my taste, but I was not tempted by more than a bite of each flavor. My kids loved it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jsaimd

              Tried again with my 4 year old.

              Despite not being busy, they did treat us as if there was a line out the door. They limit to 3 samples per person and were pretty impatient. Four year olds aren't known for being able to make an ice cream decision easily : ).

              Anyway, I tried lavender blueberry - their new flavor. It was nicely balanced to me and wasn't as sweet as the others. I did like this one. Tried also their mootella, which is a nutella type flavor, this one was too sweet for me and more chocolate than hazelnut. The vegan peanut butter was very crumbly and muted flavor, but to be fair - it was the end of the pan.

              Son got mint chip kids cone, $3.75 with a very small scoop - probably 2 oz? They add fun candies that make it look like the scoop has eyes. Very nice touch.

              I still can't get behind this as being as good as what the city has to offer - taste or value wise, but it is the best ice cream I've had recently in the immediate area I think.

            2. B. & I tried it before eating dinner since we were in Palo Alto:

              Mini/kids - 1 scoop $3.5 cup/$3.5 cone
              Small - 2 scoops, up to 2 flavors $4 cup/$5 cone
              Medium - 3 scoops, up to 3 flavors $5.5 cup/$6.5 cone
              Additional scoop (2oz) add $1.5
              Pint $10
              For Premium flavors add .50 per scoop

              They serve Four Barrel coffee

              Affogato $5.75
              Espresso $2.25
              Americano $2.25
              Cappuccino $3.75
              Latte $3.75
              Mocha $4
              hot chocolate $2.75

              Awesome Olive Oil $6.25
              Tin Pot Sundae $7
              chocolate caramel pecan sundae $7.75
              Banana split sundae $8.5

              I got Cherry cheesecake on the bottom & Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk on a cone $5. Ask for a bowl because it might tip over. Sweet ice cream I liked it. Cone has a bit of chocolate on the bottom like Ici in Berkeley. Cones are made there, so are the baked cookies/brownies.

              Sweet corn cookie $2.5ea - looked good, didn't try
              Chocolate chip cookie $2.5ea - looked good, didn't try
              Gooey brownie $3 small square, looked fine, didn't try

              Charge it if you don't have cash. One bench inside. At least 2 benches I saw outside.

              Sun-Thurs 11a-9p
              Fri - Sat 11a-10p

              1. They're now keeping the Salty Butterscotch in "the back" to keep it colder/harder. I really like this place - the Salty Butterscotch and Cinnamon Snickerdoodle were both quite good and the cones are delicious. Banana Fudge Ripple was a bit of a disappointment with weak banana flavor.

                2 Replies
                1. re: emily

                  Second that I really like Tin Pot Creamery. It holds its own with the ice cream places in SF & the East Bay. The flavors are somewhat new wave standard (earl grey, balsamic etc.) - but well done and I like the texture. Dialed down from Humphrey Slocombe and slightly sweeter than say Tara's organic ice cream.

                  The cookies are decent too.

                  If you're not familiar with Town & Country the parking lot in the main area is awful, but there is a north/side parking lot that is much better.

                  The line/wait wasn't bad at all 10-15 minutes or so to go through 10 orders.

                  1. re: emily

                    Second visit. I find this place kind of annoying. I ordered a mini Salted Butterscotch in a cone and was told "that'll be $1 extra since you're an adult." Ok... I guess I could see how your menu indicates that a mini cone for $3.50 is for kids, but there's no $1 surcharge listed for adults. When I was charged $4.50 at the register I asked "so if a child ordered the same thing, it would only be $3.50?" Reply: "Yes, we don't view it as a punishment of adults, but rather a celebration of children." Sorry, but ugh and poorly handled from the menu to response. And a bit expensive for one tiny scoop of ice cream. I doubt I'll be back.

                  2. I'm late to the party on this one, but will have to get down there soon - the flavors are calling my name!


                    1. Report:

                      Pretty great. There's a lot of niggles I could expound on, such as the fact there's no list of flavors inside the store (there is a list of flavors that's painted-on and wrong, there's a list of flavors outside the store), the rather peculiar charging model (0.50$ for "premium flavors" currently only the extra-chocolate), this list of awesome sounding "happy hour" sundaes without a list of what those sundaes are, the lack of seating (3 low and uncomfortable benches and a stone wall), but ... it's pretty good.

                      Compared to Lush, it's not as good. The flavors are less interesting and out-there. I had Tin Pot's Lavender, and I had a Lavendar-Sage at Lush, and Lush's was more in your face and interesting.

                      Same thing with M&MM, the flavors at M&MM (like burnt marshmellow) are just better. The Tin Pot flavors are more on the mild side - but there's some good in that.

                      Blows BiRite out of the water for me - slightly creamier base, far more vibrant flavors.

                      Besides the Lavender Blueberry, I had the Salted Butterscotch (very smooth! Nice burn taste coming through!), and GF had the sweet cream with balsamic swirl (hard to find the balsamic, not as successful).

                      That having been said, the base is super creamy and rich. Flavors do pop through very nicely.

                      I'm happy paying $4 for a very solid desert. It's a serious amount of richness in a very small container, and it's a full desert quantity.

                      The fact that you can compare this ice cream to Lush and M&MM means it's worthy, oh yeah.

                      Line was a pleasant 5 minutes at 9pm. Nothing too serious. Hand-packed pints by the front door, will pack one for you between 11am and 2pm.

                      Re: Melanie: did not ask for tastes, did not see anyone else asking for tastes. Not sure if that's their policy - just, no one did it.

                      And hey - if you're in T&C, consider grabbing some bread at Mayfield - their bread business is underrated, and you've got Howie's (the reason we were their). I love that Biana they do with the smoked mozz.

                      Finally - the lines for Scream, the ice cream sandwich store on Univ ave - are still about 4 storefronts long at 9pm, and the place has been open all summer. Still can't bear standing in line that long.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bbulkow

                        My sample of brown butter pecan was awesome.

                        I didn't like the salty butterscotch, which is now kept in the back. In the time it took to get from the container to the cash register, it was already half melted. What do people find appealing about the burnt taste? It didn't taste like a dark caramel or bruleed sugar--- it tasted like a mistake.

                        Sweet cream with honey balsamic swirl had the opposite texture problem. Good flavor, but lacked any silkiness.

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          Maybe it was a bad batch? For me, it does taste like dark caramel, and I like the overly soft texture (granted it does not travel well at all).

                      2. Thank you all for these notes, and especially ssfire for starting the topic with such a comprehensive overview (photo-illustrated)!

                        Reading it, I was struck how this surpasses the depth of most routine journalistic treatments of eateries currently, to my knowledge, in this part of the Bay Area.

                        The one restaurant reporter who wrote regular, sometimes in-depth, articles in S. Clara County left; SJ's major daily of past decades, complete with food editor, went "bang" earlier; and the town tabloids up and down the pensinsula allocate scant budget for restaurant articles -- now mostly labors of love by their writers, lucky to be reimbursed even for a single visit, and often lacking in basic perspective (such as that another writer for the same paper just reviewed the same restaurant; or that Napoletana Pizzeria's products aren't just interesting, but part of a Naples-based authentic pizza movement; or that AG Ferrari shops sell groceries as well as sandwiches...)