In San Diego, Labor Day doesn’t equal the end of summer as it does in other snowier places. Our sweltering temperatures can continue throughout October, giving us all those extra days of eating ice cream.
While there are plenty of ice cream options across the county, there are some stores that stand out thanks to their creative flavors, natural ingredients, and inviting ambiance. The Pacific Staff went on a hunt for the best gourmet ice cream in San Diego and here’s what we found.
(Please let us know if we missed your favourites, we love doing Part Two.)
An’s Dry Cleaning, which serves Italian gelato, has kept the dry cleaning theme in its décor. There are ironing boards used as tables and clothes hanging on the walls, as well as flavors categorized as “fabrics”.
Known for: A semi-confusing name. The gelato shop retained the building’s previous tenant’s name, a dry cleaner, as a nod to its roots. An’s also encourages customers to take “flavor tours” before ordering by trying a sample of each.
Popular flavors: An’s regularly rotates their flavors, but there’s always a mix of vegan and non-vegetarian flavors. When I went, the flavors offered were vegan strawberry meyer lemon, vegan coconut orange passion fruit, rosemary olive oil and dulce de leche choro.
What have you tried: I had to go with the most unique offerings on the menu, so the rosemary olive oil was my go-to. They scooped up a sprinkling of Hawaiian black volcanic salt to bring out the rosemary flavor. The ice cream was subtle and not overpowering at all, but the olive oil and rosemary definitely came through.
the prices: Prices range from $5.20 for a short mug to about $12 a pint.
where is she? 3017 Adams Ave. , North Park (Del Mar location scheduled to open in the fall).
Contact: adcgelato.com; Instagram: @ansgelato
Homemade Kale Cream Ice Cream
Described as “the original San Diego ice cream,” Cali Cream Homemade Ice Cream prides itself on being local.
Known for: Waffle bowls, ease the frequency between cone and cup. The store is also very dog friendly and offers free “puppy cones”.
Popular flavors: Cali Cream’s signature flavor is Graham Central Station, which is Graham-flavored ice cream with honeycomb covered in chocolate. Oreo Dough and Vanilla Caramel Brownie are also customer favorites.
What have you tried: A Journey of Four Flavors: Four family scoops served in a clear box for the restaurant. What’s lacking in presentation is made up for its taste – from the delicate, chocolate-dipped honeycombs in a lavender honeycomb to the chocolate chip cookie dough pieces that seem to have come straight out of the mixing bowl. The huge fat scoops stayed frozen longer than expected; When they started to melt and swirl together, I was relieved to get free flavors.
the prices: Starting at $4.95 for one cup of ice cream; The four-flavor cruise is $6.95.
where is she? Encinitas (90 North Coast Highway 101, Suite 101) and Gaslamp (Market Street 425)
Contact: calicreamicecream.com; Instagram: Tweet embed
Hammonds Gourmet Ice Cream
Hammond’s whopping 300 flavors – offered on a rotating basis – are all made with Tropical Dreams Hawaiian ice cream and sherbet.
Known for: Ice cream cruises…with a choice of 32 cruises. Perfect for both Instagram and people who eat indecisively.
Popular flavors: Favorites include staples like Chocolate and Tahitian Vanilla, along with more unexpected selections like Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Nut, Lilikoi Sorbet, Peanut Butter, and Guava Jelly.
What have you tried: A waffle cone in six flavors, served in an acrylic stand. Admittedly, by the time I got my flight, I had forgotten half of the flavors I had chosen…and the flight wasn’t rated. Fortunately, the sherbati’s colors—Ube purple and POG orange—along with the strong tasting notes of macadamia nut helped ease the detective’s work. As for the taste, the soft drink was just as refreshing as the ice cream was creamy.
the prices: Flights are available in 2 to 6 cone flights and range in price from $3.99 to $9.50. A 32-flavor option is $34.95.
where is she? Point Loma (3740 Sports Arena Blvd., Suite 6) and North Park (3077 University Ave.)
Contact: hammondsgourmet.com; Instagram: Tweet embed
Handel’s homemade yoghurt and ice cream
Handel originated in Ohio in 1945 and is still loved across the country for its diverse array of flavours.
Known for: Giant Portions – You get a lot of ice cream in one glass. They also don’t skimp on mixes, so you never have to hunt for chocolate chips, nuts, or fruit because you get some in every spoonful.
Flavors: too much. Are you in the mood for chocolate? Try an Oreo cheesecake or chocolate raspberry truffle. fruit? There is orange pineapple pie and banana cream. something new? How about peanut butter and jelly or horchata? There are also iced drinks and vegetarian options.
What you got: Coffee chocolate chip. This is the ice cream I’m going to order for my birthday – it’s my new favourite. The coffee is strong but not overpowering and the chocolate chips are actually little bits of chocolate, not blotchy as you often find in chocolate chip flavors.
the prices: $4.50 per scoop, and $5.50 per scoop. Other treats range from $3 (for a chocolate-covered banana) to $7.50 for a sundae.
where is she? There are locations in Carlsbad, Del Mar, San Marcos, and Santee (with Pacific Beach coming soon).
Contact: handelsicecream.com; Instagram: handelsicecream
A cozy neighborhood ice cream shop that brings a homey feel to its coastal setting. Plus, you get a FREE mini chocolate chip cookie with every ice cream purchase!
Known for: Made everything from scratch: organic ice cream, those free mini cookies, waffle cones and even add-ons like brownies, honeycomb and candy.
Flavors: Neighborhood favorites include Cayenne Sea Salt Caramel, Lavender Honey, Lemon Berry Short Bread and Mint Cookies N’ Cream. The store also has a variety of dairy-free options such as Vegetable Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie. Waffle cones and cookies also come in gluten-free options.
What you got: Banana Foster Made With Brown Sugar, Roasted Banana, Cinnamon And Rum. It was perfectly balanced, and the fruity flavor wasn’t strong but still bold enough to satisfy banana lovers.
the prices: Items range from $5.25 per scoop to $10.50 per pint.
where is she?: 937 South Coast Highway 101, Suite 106, Encinitas
Contact: jojoscreamery.com; Instagram: jojoscreamery
Mr. Trustee Creamery
This cute window walker offers cones, cups, and pints from an Italian restaurant in Mission Hills.
Known for: Being the only ice cream shop in the Trust Restaurant Group world. Mr. Trustee (get it) is located in TRG’s Cardellino’s new Italian restaurant.
Popular flavors: Regular flavors like Honey Vanilla, Strawberry Sorbet, Cookies & Cream, Rocky Road and more. Plus soft flavors like Captain Crunch and Malted Milk.
What have you tried: Captain Crunch’s soft serve hit my fancy. And while it doesn’t contain any actual beans, the familiar flavor is undeniable.
the prices: $5 to $6 per cup, $6 to $7 per cone, and $10 to $11 per pint.
where is she? 4033 Al-Hassoun Street, Mission Hills.
Contact: cardellinosd.com; On Instagram: @mrtrusteeicecream
This contemporary joint is decorated with textured wallpaper, concrete floors, wood details, and splashes of bright color.
Known for: Mutual Friend is associated with Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, and the stores share more than just a wall – Mutual Friend is the sister company of Dark Horse. This small-volume ice cream shop has a limited supply and often sells their innovative flavours.
Popular flavors: Mutual Friend’s rotating menu changes every day. The flavors aren’t available for online viewing before you show up, so make sure you’re in the mood to try something new. Menu items during my visits included Sea Salt Vanilla Bean, Milk & Cookies, and Haole Pie.
What have you tried: Dark Horse Coffee Ice Cream, which took regular flavoring to a new level. This is the first coffee ice cream I’ve ever tried and actually tasted exactly Like my morning drink. Unfortunately the ice cream melted quickly in the waffle cone and made a bit of a mess, so next time I’ll order my coffee scoop into a cup instead.
the prices: $3.50 for a small scoop, $4.75 for a single scoop, and $6.75 for a double scoop, and a pint is $9.75.
where is she? 811 25th Street, Golden Hill
Contact: Mutualfriendicecream.com; Instagram: @mutualfriendicecream
salt and straw
A Portland-based chain that blends unexpected flavors into organically sourced ice cream.
Known for: The presence of lines revolving around the block. Out of the box ideas just like Creepy Crawly Critters (Halloween ice cream with chocolate covered crickets and toffee mealworms).
Current flavors: The menu is constantly changing, but until the end of September, you can find Pear & Blue Cheese (Oregon bartletts with Rogue Creamery blue cheese crumbles) and Maple & Bacon Streusel (bacon bits, brown sugar, and amber-salted maple ice cream).
What you got: Cowboy Coffee Grinds & Bourbon – Ice cream that combines all my favorite flavors! The coffee is strong but well balanced with a bit of bourbon, delicious brownies and fudge. And yes, it’s actually made from ground coffee, so one tablespoon has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
the prices: $5.75 per scoop, and $7.15 per scoop. A pint is $12.50.
where is she?: Salt & Straw is located in two locations: Little Italy and Del Mar’s One Paseo.
Contact: Saltandstraw.com; Instagram: saltandstraw
Stella Jeans Ice Cream
This place is friendly and fun, with bright Instagrammable art on the walls, including a mural of the shop’s name, Stella Jean, a lovable lifeguard friend.
Known for: Being the sister store of popular Pop Pie in University Heights and for having unique flavors (Mango Sticky Rice, anyone?).
Popular flavors: Alternative Stella Jean flavors, but some of the flavors always on the menu include S’mores, Milk & Cookies, Salty Caramel Corn, and Matcha Pistachio.
What have you tried: The deep purple blew me away, so I went with the Ube & Pandesal Toffee. It has an exotic flavor (ube is a popular Filipino sweet potato commonly used in desserts and pandesal Filipino bread), but the taste was simple and sweet – and if you like toffee, you’ll love it.
the prices: Ranging from $3.75 per scoop for kids to $12 per pint.
where is she? 4404 Park Blvd., St. B, University Heights (there is also an Orange County site).
Contact: stellajeans.com; Instagram: stellajeansicecream