Best Ice Cream Shops in San DiegoBy Darlene Horn
July 28, 2014
In San Diego, ice cream is just about as omnipresent as the sun. Next time you crave its frozen, frosty sweetness, make sure you head to one of these eight spots. You're guaranteed to sink into some of the best in town.
When San Francisco transplants Monique Fresquez and Ivan Feerman missed their hometown’s artisanal ice cream culture, they set out to create something similar in San Diego, emphasizing fair-trade ingredients and Straus Family Creamery milk. Flavors lean toward Mexico with options like mole, flan and cajeta, using ingredients sourced from Oaxaca. They show up at various open-air markets around town. Learn about their latest location here.
Must-Order: Strawberries and cream or café con leche.
Go Crazy: We haven’t tried it but carrot-chile sorbet is one of the crazier flavors on offer.
This Normal Heights shop differentiates itself with egg-free ice cream — with the exception of its pumpkin and cookie dough flavors — less sugar and a dense, less-airy product, replicating the old-fashioned way of making ice cream. Mariposa was highlighted by The New York Times for being on the for its award-winning flavors.
Must-Order: Mexican chocolate.
Go Crazy: Get your scoop in a housemade waffle cone.
3450 Adams Ave.; 619-284-5197
Taste your way through 32 flavors at this North Park ice cream haven. Coffee-flavored Kahala Road, ginger cream and poha berry are just a few of the options created by Hawaiian-based Tropical Dreams. The super-dense and creamy ice cream is made with 18% butterfat, and at least 50% of its ingredients come from Hawaii.
Go Crazy: Order up a flight of three to six mini-scoops of ice cream (pictured, above) and hoard it all for yourself.
3077 University Ave.; 619-220-0231
Started by the brand’s ice cream patriarch Elmer Niederfrank, you can still visit the original factory in National City that has been around since 1948. Though the business was bought out in 1995, they still pump out ice cream the old-fashioned way: using real fruits and nuts. Today, Niederfrank’s ice cream is distributed around the county and can be found at The Daily Scoop, Eddie V’s and Aqui Es Texcoco.
Must-Order: Butter rum pecan or coffee almond fudge — both are among the original flavor lineup from the 40s.
Go Crazy: Try some of the shop’s more creative concoctions, like avocado pistachio or peanut butter and jelly.
726 A Ave., National City; 619-477-0828
Since 1977, this family-run shop in the South Bay has been making ice cream Mexico-style. Its from-scratch ice creams incorporate fresh fruits and a special cream from Tijuana. Their paletas are also worth a taste.
Go Crazy: Get your choice of three flavors in a customized sundae.
1832 Coronado Ave.; 619-429-8980
Poway seems like an unlikely place to find super-premium ice cream from Hawaii. But one look at Lappert's flavors and you know they're inspired by the islands. Guava cheesecake and passionfruit are among two of the most popular imported flavors.
Must-Order: Kauai Pie, a coffee ice cream swirled with chocolate fudge, coconut flakes, macadamia nuts and bits of vanilla cake crunch.
Go Crazy: Get the Dole Whip, a pineapple-flavored soft-serve.
12265 Scripps Poway Parkway, Poway; 858-577-0015
Los Angeles’ delicious Fosselman’s ice cream fills this new parlor in Kensington. The friendly staff encourages you to sample your way through 16 rotating flavors, including cherry vanilla, Dutch chocolate and toffee.
Must-Order: A scoop or two of the strawberry ice cream, dipped in chocolate.
Go Crazy: Taro ice cream, when it's in the case.
4073 Adams Ave.; 619-634-4185
This Pacific Beach ice cream vendor has been a perennial favorite since 1949. The number of people in line has a direct correlation to the number on the thermostat. This go-to summertime favorite serves soft-serve ice cream, made on the premises.
Must-Order: Cherry-dipped vanilla cone.
Go Crazy: Get the Dirt Cup (pictured, above) with piles of chocolate soft-serve, crushed Oreos, gummi bears and whipped cream.
1470 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach; 858-274-9977