Best Ice Cream in San Diego
In a city like San Diego with near-perpetual sun, ice cream is a good idea any time of year. But with those summer months fast-approaching and warmer temps on the horizon, the city’s ice cream shops will be even more of a popular stop than usual.
1. Mariposa Homemade Ice Cream
This Normal Heights ice cream shop is an institution in North Park and well-known on the San Diego ice cream scene. Mariposa has been around now for over 20 years. The menu varies somewhat depending on what they’re churning, but Mexican chocolate is a standby. That one was Will Ferrell’s favorite when he was filming Anchorman in San Diego.
Try any of their daily flavors or get fancy with an ice cream float. The staff there will know the best combinations if you have your eye on a particular ice cream.
2. An’s Dry Cleaning
An’s Dry Cleaning operates out of an old dry cleaners in North Park, hence the name. But the small-batch gelato served here is anything but dry, serving up some of the best gelato in San Diego. It’s whimsical and will definitely surprise you with flavors like raspberry rosewater and olive oil rosemary. It all may sound like it shouldn’t work, but it definitely does.
The shop hasn’t reintroduced their flavor tours just yet as they’re still following pandemic protocols, but hopefully sometime soon, you’ll be able to try a sample of all of their flavors again in rapid succession. If you’re just not sure what to order, talk to the staff about your usual flavor preferences. They’ll match you up with something that’ll surely make you happy.
3. Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream
The real fun at Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream in North Park comes from their ice cream flights. Try as many as you’d like if you’re just not sure which of their tropical-inspired flavors will suit your ice cream palate.
The specialty ice cream shop is known for its Hawaiian flavors, though, so you’ll want to try at least one of those. Mango cream, Kona coffee and their peanut butter guava jelly are all delicious and will take you right to the islands with one lick.
4. Salt & Straw
Salt & Straw came to San Diego via Portland, starting out as a food truck until the owners realized they were really onto something. Now expanded throughout the West Coast, the specialty ice cream shop is known for its playful flavors.
Here in San Diego, visit their Little Italy or Del Mar locations for a scoop of their chocolate gooey brownie, honey lavender or any of their current specials. The shop does themed months where they’ll offer up several flavors within a similar flavor profile.
Salt & Straw also delivers to all 50 states if you’d like to try a pint and can’t make it out this way.
5. Bing Haus
Bing Haus on Convoy Street serves up a variety of frozen desserts, but it’s the Thai rolled ice cream that it’s known for. Try a few different flavors in one cup if you’re feeling adventurous. If your timing is right, you may be able to try their bingsoo, too, a Korean-style shaved ice topped with condensed milk and whatever toppings they’re treating you to that day.
If you’re stopping by early, take a few of their fresh mochi donuts along with you, one of the more recent and delicious additions to their menu.
6. Stella Jean’s Ice Cream
Stella Jean’s handcrafted ice cream comes from the same people who brought San Diego the Pop Pie Co., a shop that sells personal-sized sweet and savory pies. The ice cream shop is known for its innovative flavors and their waffle cones. Those cones are almost as delicious as the strawberry crunch, Madagascar vanilla or salty caramel cone ice cream flavors you can indulge in while you’re there.
Try Stella Jean’s in University Heights or Costa Mesa. Both offer up pints for pickup if you want to skip the likely line on a hot summer day.
7. Moosie’s Ice Cream
Moosie’s Ice Cream is a popular local spot in Kensington serving up your favorite vintage scoops and playful takes on traditional flavors. The ice cream here comes from Fosselman’s Ice Cream Co., an institution up in Alhambra, California.
Feel like a kid again with a scoop or two of their cookies ‘n cream, topped with any one of their old-school classics like hot fudge or butterscotch. Special occasions call for ice cream pie, though, also available at Moosie’s. You choose the ice cream flavor, and they’ll provide the deliciously sweet graham cracker crust and homemade fudge.
8. MooTime Creamery
The location couldn’t be better for MooTime Creamery. It’s inside the Hotel del Coronado, a popular historic stop for locals and visitors alike. This shop has been serving up ice cream and a dose of nostalgia since 1998.
They have a variety of traditional flavors there in their ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt selection on top of fun items like MooTacos and MooPies. MooPies are essentially an ice cream sandwich made with your pick in ice cream between a sweet waffle, cereal bars or two freshly baked cookies. It’s indulgent and all kinds of fun.
SomiSomi may seem like it was created for Instagram photo shoots, but the soft serve ice cream here is more than photogenic. It’s delicious.
The Korean dessert they specialize in here is called Ah-Boong, essentially soft serve ice cream in a sweet pastry cone that’s shaped like a fish. Ice cream flavors lean Asian-inspired, like matcha, obe or milk tea, all available in a swirl, too.
If you loved the pastry cone, try their taiyaki, too. It’s essentially that same cone served up wide-length, and stuffed with custard or other available fillings of your choice.
10. Bobboi Natural Gelato
Bobboi Natural Gelato prides itself on authentic Italian gelato that will certainly transport you to the nearest piazza. Their flavor offerings are firmly planted in Italian roots. Think almond amaretto, matchatella and agostino, a blend of banana and dulce de leche, to start.
Try Bobboi at locations in La Jolla or Little Italy. If you find yourself in the Little Italy Food Hall, they have a small shop there, too, but the La Jolla shop is the most scenic. You’ll be right on the La Jolla Cove, with plenty of opportunities to make room for another scoop along the neighborhood’s coastal paths.
11. Mr. Trustee Creamery
Mr. Trustee Creamery operates as a window next door to the Cardellino Restaurant in Mission Hills, with the eatery’s pastry chef in charge of the offerings there. But its small size doesn’t mean it isn’t big on flavor.
Choose from a seasonal, limited menu of delicious specialty ice cream flavors. The focus here is on playful ingredients—they’ve had pints of ice cream featuring Captain Crunch in the past—and seasonal ingredients. In the summertime, expect them to lighten things up with citrus in at least one combination.
Mr. Trustee Creamery also serves up soft serve and swirls if that’s what you’re after, along with pints of whatever is on the menu when you visit.
12. Lighthouse Ice Cream
Lighthouse Ice Cream in San Diego’s Ocean Beach neighborhood is a classic on Newport Avenue, and beloved by locals who flock there for their seasonal ice cream flavors. They also have a bigger range than most ice cream shops of dairy-free and sugar-free varieties for those with dietary restrictions who’d still like to indulge.
It’s possible what they’re most well-known for though is their hot waffle ice cream sandwich. The “patty” in this concoction is the ice cream of your choice, and the “bread” is two of their airy waffles. It’s a treat that will be long gone by the time you get yourself to the beach just steps away from the shop.
DixiePops is a whimsical ice cream shop just east of Mission Hills specializing not only in traditional scoops, but ice pops, as well. These aren’t your regular old popsicles, though. DixiePops serves up artisanal pops, and you can rest assured that everything you consume here will be made from scratch.
Popular flavors for their ice pops include raspberry lemonade, grapefruit mojito and creamy cucumber lime. If you’re feeling indulgent, they have a full menu of additional sweet treats, like ice cream pies, sundaes, shaved ice and cookie sandwiches.
14. Gelati & Peccati
Gelati & Peccati comes from a well-known brand here in San Diego, the same owners who sling some of the most delicious pizza in the city at Buona Forchetta. This offshoot in North Park also offers up slices of Roman-style pizza, seen from the sidewalk through their storefront window with the freshest ingredients you’d expect from the local chain.
The star here, though, is the gelato, and it’s some of the best gelato in San Diego. The gelato flavors here change frequently, as the focus is on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Expect spins on Italian classics, though, like rosé with lemon zest or ricotta with pistachio. Whatever you decide, it all certainly pairs well with one of their pizza slices.
15. Mutual Friend Ice Cream
Mutual Friend Ice Cream in Golden Hill is a sister ice cream shop to one of the most well-known coffee shops in the city, Dark Horse Coffee Roasters. That means you should definitely expect some coffee flavors coming through on their menu during your visit, like their popular Coffee & Donuts option.
This specialty ice cream loves to have fun with its offerings, naming ice cream flavors after Hollywood classics like the Risky Business, an oat milk-based flavor featuring peanut butter and a jam swirl. Their menu is usually fairly limited, but you can bet whatever you choose will be indulgent and delicious.
Are you ready for summer now? Treat yourself to the best ice cream San Diego has to offer, with a variety of flavors and styles that’ll suit no matter what you’re after.
Written by Agnes Groonwald for Knockaround.