It’s getting hot out there! Whether churned in vintage equipment or made with a little tech savvy, ice cream is a summertime treat with enduring appeal. So here are 10 of our favorite Bay Area scoop shops, from classics to trendsetters.
OLD SCHOOL: Loard’s Ice Cream & Candies, Orinda
Step into this 71-year-old ice cream parlor in Orinda Theatre Square and you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. Loard’s Ice Cream & Candies is retro in all the right ways, from the black-and-white tile floors and pink vinyl booths to the petite heart-backed chairs. There always seems to be a kid licking a cone with a grandparent in tow — and the countertops are lined with fudge, candies and boxed chocolates.
Loard’s offers 45 flavors, including a generous selection of sherbet. You’ll find a good balance between old-school flavors, such as Butter Brickle and Mocha Almond Fudge, and modern global options, like Horchata and Matcha Green Tea. They do scoops, of course, but also floats, milkshakes, ice cream sandwiches and something called a Sherbet Freeze: seltzer water blended with sherbet and topped with whipped cream and a cherry.
The scoop: We kept it old-school with a single scoop ($6) of Peanut Butter Fudge, a rich, perfect balance of chocolate and peanut butter goodness. Don’t eat dairy? They’ll soon offer eight flavors from Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery.
Details: Open from noon daily at 230 Brookwood Road, Orinda; www.loardsorinda.com.
ALL NATURAL: Sweet Fix Creamery, San Jose
The dozens of flavors of ice cream are all made in house at this scoop shop — with all-natural ingredients, no artificial anything — making this a feel-good treat with, ahem, a 16% butterfat content. A simple shop tucked into an East Side shopping center, Sweet Fix is the place to be on sweltering San Jose nights because it’s open until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11:30 on weekends.
Longtime ice cream guy Tom Nykamp, the new owner of this shop founded by Evelyn Rojas, has kept the 104-flavor rotation (24 at any given time, including several Italian fruit ices and seasonal creations) and added to it. Look for his trendy Strawberry Matcha and a blast from the past, old-fashioned Butter Pecan. A fun experiment, Horchata Salted Sweet Corn, is a hit with customers. “To me, it tastes like Kellogg’s Corn Pops,” he says.
What’s next? Sweet Fix is expanding with a Peninsula shop.
The scoop: Popular with all ages, Banana Brownie has been the signature flavor here for years. But we couldn’t resist one of the new creations, Cherry Amaretto Crackle ($4.99 single scoop, $7.49 double, $8.99 triple, and shakes are $9.75).
Details: Open daily from 11:30 a.m. till late at 2715 McKee Road, San Jose; www.sweetfixcreamery.com
INDIAN INSPIRED: Koolfi Creamery, San Leandro
Named after the beloved Indian frozen dairy dessert, this charming little San Leandro scoop shop and café with the peach exterior and light-strewn front patio has been open for only seven months, but it is already a neighborhood favorite — and a destination.
Through their five-year pop-up, married owners Priti Narayanan and Madhuri “Mads” Anji built a loyal following for small-batch ice cream made with Straus Organic Dairy and inspired by Indian sweets, from Mango Lassi and Mom’s Cardamom to Kheer Rice Pudding and South Indian Filter Coffee laced with chicory. Their dosa-like waffle cones are highly craveable, too. Made from fermented rice and lentil batter, they’re vegan, gluten-free and only slightly sweet.
On any given day, they’re scooping about a dozen unique flavors — and some seasonal specials, such as Dates & Nuts during Ramadan — in addition to a few epic sundaes and savory items. No one should have to decide between ice cream and Spicy Indian Cheese Toast, just sayin’.
The scoop: Gulab Jamun Sundae ($7.50). You get two warm gulab jamuns (decadent fried balls of dough) drenched in cardamom syrup and served with your scoop of choice and topped with chopped pistachios and rose petals.
Details: Open 4 to 8 p.m. daily at 599 MacArthur Blvd., San Leandro; https://koolficreamery.com.
RETRO COOL: Preston’s Candy & Ice Cream, Burlingame
The vintage signs outside and the checkerboard floor inside are reason enough to put Preston’s on any list of beloved ice cream parlors. It’s a look that transports you to yesteryear. New owner Javier Santiago, a career chocolatier, bought the iconic shop recently from longtime owner Irene Preston and vowed to keep making her customers’ nostalgic favorites — honeycomb, peanut brittle, pecan turtles — while making a name for himself with his contemporary chocolate bars under the Javier Confectionery brand.
Santiago is also keeping the ice cream tradition alive. The shop scoops 20 to 30 flavors of Loard’s ice cream ($4.95 for a small cone or cup, $5.95 medium), and he’s making the often-requested Presti Bars ($5.65), ice cream sandwiched between two freshly baked cookies and covered in chocolate. The bars come in several flavors, including vanilla, burgundy cherry and espresso.
The scoop: The top seller is the Mint Chip ice cream, and it’s easy to see why. Preston’s makes the mint chocolate candy, then Loard’s uses that to create this custom flavor for Preston’s.
Details: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday. 1170 Broadway, Burlingame; https://prestonscandyshop.com/
DRIVE-THRU: Meadowlark Dairy, Pleasanton
There are few summer experiences more delightfully Bay Area than pulling up to the Meadowlark Dairy “milk” sign and ordering a towering soft-serve cone. The first certified dairy in California, Meadowlark is more than a century old and has operated its downtown Pleasanton processing plant and drive-through since 1969, delivering milk to area schools and selling other dairy products, including cottage cheese, sour cream and, yes, ice cream.
Roll down your window and a local teen will take your order for a small, medium or large cone or cup in one of three classic flavors: strawberry, vanilla or chocolate. They also offer orange and pineapple, which are vegan and can be swirled with the others.
The scoop: That orange and vanilla ‘sicle ($3-$3.50) is creamy, sweet, tangy and refreshing.
Details: Open from 8 a.m. daily at 57 W. Neal St., Pleasanton; https://themeadowlarkdairy.com.
INSTAGRAM HIT: Icicles, Cupertino, Newark and other locations
Icicles is where you go when you want dessert and a show. Rolled ice cream originated with Thailand’s street vendors, and some fascinated Bay Area tourists with an entrepreneurial bent just knew it would be a hit here too. The Icicles concept rolled out in 2016 with a shop in San Jose’s Willow Glen; now there are nine in Northern California.
Select from the 20 flavors — Cereal Killer, Strawberry Fantasy and Nutella & Chill are faves — and watch as your ice cream is made from scratch. Cream, flavorings and add-ins are poured onto a super-cold pan, then scraped and chopped, chopped, chopped until the mixture solidifies just enough to be spread out wafer-thin. Then it’s scraped into rolls that are placed, end up, in a cup — all while customers record the action for social media.
Lines are long, because this is a labor-intensive process. But the result — thick ice cream that doesn’t melt quickly — makes the wait worthwhile.
The scoop: This unusual sundae is a big one that comes with unlimited toppings ($12.50). We like it loaded up with berries and bananas, but you might prefer pretzels and lychee jelly and granola and cheesecake bites and toasted coconut and … you get the idea. Whatever you select, make sure to ask for a roasted marshmallow. That’s the cherry on top of this sundae.
Details: Open from noon to 10 p.m. daily at 19622 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. Also in San Jose, Gilroy, Mountain View, Pleasanton, Newark, San Mateo, San Francisco, Sacramento; https://iciclescreamroll.com/
CLASSIC PARLOR: Tucker’s, Alameda
Open since 1941 in a white brick building with a red and white awning, this quintessential dessert shop is home to the midcentury malted chocolate Cho Cho — the pint with a Popsicle stick — and a whopping 60 flavors of “super creamed” ice cream, with about 30 available at any given time. That’s not to discount the list of sherbets, sugar-free scoops and nondairy treats on offer at this Park Street institution. There’s literally something for everyone.
Whether you fancy a 12-scoop Kitchen Sink sundae, a frozen chocolate-covered banana or a single scoop of Marble Butterscotch in a cake cone, just order at the counter and take a seat at one of the tables lining the faux brick interior or on the back patio. Don’t miss the custom ice cream cakes, “pup cups” for dogs or the wise sign: “Life Is Uncertain. Eat Dessert First.”
Details: Open from noon daily at 1349 Park St., Alameda; https://tuckersicecream.com.
FUN FLAVORS: Rick’s Ice Cream, Palo Alto
On a warm evening, imagine a cool scoop being just a short stroll from home. Rick’s is the shop every ice cream lover wishes they had in their neighborhood. For the rest of us, it’s worth a bicycle ride or drive to the Charleston Shopping Center. Also known as “Rick’s Rather Rich, Small Batch, Super Premium Ice Cream,” the shop has carried 48 flavors, all made onsite, for decades.
The lineup includes butterscotchy Butter Beer for Harry Potter fans. Seven types of chocolate ice cream include cinnamon-tinged Mexican Chocolate, for chocoholics. The cabernet-spiked, movie-inspired Sideways flavor is for wine lovers. And for transplants from the Midwest, there’s a fruity flavor rarely seen in these parts, Blue Moon.
The scoop: This is Silicon Valley. If you like a sophisticated, not-too-sweet flavor, go for the Computer Chip, chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and a hint of orange. This flavor was created not long after the invention of the microchip. As the original Rick is said to have quipped, “One byte and you will be software in our hands.”
Details: Open from noon to 8:30 Tuesday-Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday at 3946 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto; www.ricksicecream.com
ASIAN-INSPIRED: Uji Time Dessert, Concord and other locations
This Japanese fusion dessert spot is packed most nights with multigenerational families craving impossibly smooth, soft-serve ice cream in flavors like Vietnamese coffee, matcha, ube and nutty black sesame, which is made from freshly roasted sesame seeds. Uji Time Concord is modern, swathed in black and oak with white subway tiles, dramatically spot-lit flavors posted on the walls and a large family-style table near the front window looking out onto the bustling Park ‘N Shop.
While flavors vary by location — chocolate and vanilla are, of course, staples — it’s the Asian-inspired seasonal flavors (hello, Mango Thai Basil) and still-warm taiyaki fish-shaped cones ($7.50) that make kiddos young and old smile. Get yours filled with red bean or Nutella ice cream, then choose from a dozen toppings, including soy bean powder or kinako, rice pearls, poppy seeds or Pocky sticks.
The scoop: A single scoop ($5.50) of Yuzu Passionfruit, made with yuzu imported from Japan, offers the perfect balance of sweet and tart. We also loved spring’s seasonal ume, with its salty, tangy plum notes.
Details: Open from 11:30 a.m. daily at 1679B Willow Pass Road, Concord. Also in Lafayette, Berkeley, San Mateo, Newark and San Francisco; www.ujitimedessert.com
CULT FAVORITE: Cauldron Ice Cream, San Jose and Fremont
Four years ago, the ice cream trend that took Orange County by storm made its way to the Bay Area. Cauldron uses liquid nitrogen and waffle irons to create photogenic treats — ice cream “roses” nestled in puffy waffle cones — and crowds of dessert lovers showed up at the first Bay Area shop in North San Jose to observe and document the action.
The show’s still going on nightly. Order at the kiosk or the counter, then watch the ice cream laboratory spring into action. Among the most popular flavors are The Cauldron, vanilla-cinnamon dusted with Oreo cookie crumbs; and the Sun, Moon & Stars, a lovely blend of oolong, jasmine, and green tea. Earl Grey Lavender and Vietnamese Coffee do well too.
The scoop: Cups start at $6.99, but you’ll want to try the icy-cold ice cream inside a warm Puffle ($9.99) to get the full Cauldron experience.
Details: Opening times vary, but both shops stay open until 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 1088 E. Brokaw Road, San Jose, and 46509 Mission Blvd., Fremont; www.cauldronicecream.com
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