From Small-Batch Scoops to Authentic Gelato, These Frozen Treats Are Worth the Hype
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Sure you can—but only if that day involves ice cream. As the summer days wear on, our nights are filled with dreams of the nostalgic sounds of the ice cream truck, only to be fulfilled by the San Diego shops that dutifully serve delicious scoops, ice cold pops and beautifully topped sundaes. Craving something sweet yet? We’ve rounded up 11 of the city’s best ice cream shops, churning the creamy classics and new, exciting flavors day in and day out. Whether you take it in a cup, a cone or would truly accept it straight from the machine, these San Diego ice cream shops exceed every expectation.
We love our frozen desserts, and we love ‘em more when they get a little funky. Convoy area’s Bing Haus puts creativity in everything they serve, from Thai rolled ice cream and ring-style mochi donuts to cookie croffles (a cross between a croissant and a waffle) and bingsoo! Their most popular treat is the watermelon bingsoo, a milk-based Korean shaved ice dessert filled with Fruity Pebbles, mochi and condensed milk, all topped with fresh watermelon. It’s seasonal, so come snag it before summer’s up—or stop by for a delicious green tea rolled ice cream or Thai tea soft serve!
They’ve got it in their name, so it’s gotta be for real. Savor the most splendid ice cream in town with a stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, scooping inventive slices of heaven into your choice of a cup or cone. Because San Diego is lucky enough to be home to two locations (North Park and Carlsbad), locals get to try their limited-time favorites that aren’t always available by the pint in their online store! The most recent flavor to make a comeback is the fan-favorite licorice-infused sweet cream, packing a sea salt pop with dark chocolate crunch. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
Locations: North Park and Carlsbad
Sister company to beloved Pop Pie Co., Stella Jean’s aims to serve the community through great food to be celebrated between friends and neighbors! They’re a small-batch ice cream shop, crafting every flavor with real ingredients. Stop in for a cone of one of their always-available flavors like s’mores, Madagascar vanilla or mango sticky rice—or stay on the lookout for their rotating, more inventive flavors. Right now, for the adventurous palate, they’ve got Thai Tea Cookie Monster and guava cream cheese! Vegan and gluten-free options are also available.
Locations: University Heights and Point Loma10/6
Much like your beloved childhood Popsicles, paletas are a frozen treat on a stick made from fresh fruit and creamy ingredients—a traditional dessert of Mexico. Holy Paleta takes it to another level entirely by introducing bold, new flavors you never thought you’d love. They house everything from savory to sweet: Go for key lime pie or peanut butter cup for a sweet treat, or make it a little spicy with the pepino con chile’s tajin kick or chamango on a stick’s chamoy-filled center. All pops are made with all-natural, premium ingredients, with non-dairy and gluten free options also available!
Locations: Little Italy, Bonita and Petco Park
Sunday chores got you down? Make them think you’re running your errands with a stop at An’s Dry Cleaning, where there’s no actual cleaning to be done at all—only gelato to be eaten. When opening the shop, the owners opted not to change the look of the historic building, which was most recently a dry cleaner, giving it the charming feel that has piqued many curiosities. Hailed as one of the best ice cream shops in North America, their ever-changing flavors are listed weekly with names as unique as the ingredients. Currently, the Whisper Satin and the Leather are beckoning us—but you’ll want to go taste for yourself.
Locations: North Park and Del Mar12/9
Fika’ is the Swedish concept of slowing down, which is obviously served best with a side of ice cream. Sit down and stay a while at Fika Fika Creamery, a classic scoop-style ice cream shop with homemade creations. What started as a coffee shop blossomed into summer paradise when their idea of boba-flavored ice cream expanded into more and more floral tea flavors, bringing them to their now signature pastel-colored, Asian-inspired flavors. Build your own beautiful stack of fan-favorite flavors like the Fiji apple, strawberry matcha and brown sugar flan, or snag a pint of the young coconut ube to savor at home all week long.
Location: Sorrento Valley
Much like a butterfly, there’s no need to complicate what’s already so beautiful. Mariposa Ice Cream satisfies every sweet tooth with the classic, uncomplicated ice cream mix-ins that have stood the test of time, every time. Get your fix with peanut butter fudge, rocky road, Mexican chocolate or coffee, or experiment a bit with their rotating flavors like peanut butter and jelly or eggnog. If you’re after a taste of summer, their watermelon, mango and strawberry sorbets hit the spot every time on a hot summer’s day. There’s a reason Mariposa has been winning awards in San Diego for 22 years now.
Location: Normal Heights
Say hello to your newest friend: extremely sweet, but a little bit cold. Mutual Friend Ice Cream aims to mix nostalgia with the new age through their small-batch, handcrafted creamy delicacies to be enjoyed by friends near and far. Try a scoop of their self-explanatory peanut butter with triple chocolate cookie, or get a little buzz on with their shared-space coffee shop’s Dark Horse Coffee-flavored ice cream or sorbet! Stick around for seasonal surprises like fall favorite Oh My Gourd: pumpkin pie ice cream with chunks of the pie itself. The bottom line: There’s something for every sweet tooth!
Location: South Park
Get a taste of Thai-style treats at Cocobomb, scooping up bowls of paradise one order at a time. Their specialty is the coconut sundae: three scoops of homemade coconut ice cream, fresh young coconut slices and your choice of toppings (mango, jackfruit, palm seed, sticky rice and more), all served inside a coconut! Get it with a glass of fresh young coconut water or their coconut milk frappuccino for the ultimate cool down. Sensing a theme yet? Pop in or catch them at your local farmers markets all around the city and experience the coconut explosion for yourself!
Locations: Linda Vista + farmers markets in Little Italy, Ocean Beach and Hillcrest
Whether you’re a local or just visiting, there’s no excuse not to hit the Sweet Shoppe at some point while you’re in town. It’s located in Belmont Park, just steps from the beach and the iconic Mission Beach roller coaster, so there’s no excuse not to cool off with a sweet treat. They’ll hook you up with a huge one too; they stack their freshly made daily monster cones as high as the eye can see with timeless flavors like cookies and cream, birthday cake and mocha almond fudge!
Location: Mission Beach
When the clock strikes moo time, you need every option possible. Coronado’s 1950s diner-style MooTime Creamery specializes in everything: sky-high sundaes, ice cream sandwiches (aka moopies), ice cream tacos (aka mootacos), root beer floats and, of course, classic scoops! Their handcrafted, ultra-creamy ice cream is made with over 16% butterfat added and churned at a low speed, giving all flavors a rich, gelato-like consistency. Get flavors like brownie batter, Irish cream and Belgian chocolate any way you like ‘em, and give yourself an excuse to return for their new flavor of the month—July’s was orange creamsicle!
Jaclyn is a sunshine chasing San Diego native with an extensive writing background. When she isn’t word-smithing, you can find her playing beach volleyball, skating the boardwalk, or on a rooftop enjoying a drink in the sunshine with her pals.