Balloon Eats San Francisco

Best Ice Cream in the Bay Area

The Challenge

It’s not hard to find a good ice cream place in the Bay Area, but which can be considered “the best”? We decided to take on this unoffical and unsponsored ice cream challenge to find out. We collected two ice cream flavors from 7 ice cream shops around the Bay. Luckily for us, our top picks each sold their ice creams in various to-go sizes. We chose chocolate as the official flavor to compare each of the competitors. We also picked out a unique flavor at each place so our judges wouldn’t be all chocolated-out by the end of the night. Now let’s get down to business…


The Competitors

We chose 7 of the most popular ice cream shops in the Bay Area. We did not have much criteria other than word of mouth, living in the Bay, and the number of reviews on Yelp.

Honorable mention: Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous (1273 reviews, San Francisco)

All 6 creameries are household names in the Bay Area. With Bi-Rite’s whooping 8,672 Yelp reviews and long lines around the block, it was sure to be the favorite of the night. Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous did not have a chocolate flavor at the time (what kind of ice cream shop doesn’t have chocolate ice cream?!) and was therefore disqualified.


The Judges

7 (hungry) people with different backgrounds and different taste palates whom absolutely love ice cream.


The Results

The results may surprise some Bay Area residents as it did for us. The judges participated in a blind taste test and scored each chocolate flavor on a scale of 1-10. The average score decided our results.

6) Humphry Slocombe

Chocolate flavor: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt

Special flavor: Vietnamese Blue Bottle Coffee

We were not a fan of the dark chocolate sea salt. Some judges mentioned that it tasted more like peanut butter more so than chocolate. It wasn’t the sweet chocolate taste you would expect to enjoy. However, the Vietnamese Blue Bottle coffee was delightful and a great collaboration between two Bay Area favorites. If the wait is too long at Bi-Rite, you may want to visit Humphry Slocombe as it’s a great alternative and around the same area.

5) Bi-Rite Creamery

Chocolate flavor: TCHO Chocolate

Special flavor: Lavender

Bi-Rite so low on the list? Yes, unfortunately, we did not like the TCHO chocolate flavor as much as the others. There was a chalky texture, most likely due to it being organic. The ice cream had a lighter flavor than expected. The special flavor, lavender, was refreshing and fragrant. It’s best to not play it safe and go for their more unique flavors the next time you go. Bi-Rite market is also around the corner if you would rather get a to-go carton of their ice cream (there’s lots of gourmet food sold there as well!).

4) Fentons Creamery

Chocolate flavor: Chocolate

Special flavor: Strawberry

Fenton’s chocolate flavor is basic (in a good way!). It’s classic with no gimmicks. The chocolate is a bit on the sweet side, despite it’s deceptively light color. Fenton’s is more known for their special sundaes. Better to dine in and try one of those instead! They’re great for sharing with a special someone or with close friends on a hot day.

3) Ici Ice Cream

Chocolate flavor: Chocolate

Special flavor: Rose Vanilla

Ici Ice Cream has a refreshing take on chocolate ice cream. It’s dark color and salty after taste make for a great treat. The rose vanilla is another light fragrant ice cream flavor.

2) Mitchell’s Ice Cream

Chocolate flavor: Chocolate

Special flavor: Avocado

Mitchell’s has really delicious chocolate ice cream. It has an extremely “brittle” texture that made it hard to scoop. The ice cream itself tasted milky like a classic American ice cream should. Mitchell’s avocado ice cream has to be one of my favorites at the creamery. It has a great smooth texture and you might be surprised to find you like it even if you don’t like avocados!

1) Marco Polo

Chocolate flavor: Double Chocolate

Special flavor: Lychee

In a surprise turn of events, the creamery with the least number of reviews on Yelp takes the (ice cream) cake! Marco Polo’s double chocolate was decadent and the texture was quite smooth. The chocolate flavor was easy to eat and wasn’t too heavy. Marco Polo has some great Asian flavors like durian and jack fruit. Their lychee is the perfect amount of sweet to keep you coming back.

Are you shocked by the results? Have you tried all seven ice cream places? Sound off below and let me know which one is your favorite!



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