SFGuide

The Best Soft Serve In San Francisco

15 places to go for a cone of sweet, drippy soft serve.
The Best Soft Serve In San Francisco image

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

We love ice cream. But when it comes down to it, we love soft serve even more. And when the sun starts making semi-regular appearances through the fog, our internal clocks start telling us to get a cone of frozen dairy. So whether you’re craving classic chocolate-vanilla swirl or a matcha soft serve sundae with boba, here are the 15 best spots in San Francisco to get some.

THE SPOTS

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Pizza

North Beach

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At this North Beach pizza spot, your table will likely be filled with fantastic charred pizzas and god tier mozzarella sticks, but their soft serve is the most unmissable dish. There are two options: fior di latte and salted caramel, and the toppings are what make a swirl of the two frozen dessert royalty. You can choose from fancier-than-average toppings like brown butter cereal crunch, a sweet-tangy stone fruit jam, and olive oil and sea salt—there’s no way to go wrong. 

Angelina’s Deli Cafe does it all—sandwiches, salads, bagels, pastries, and coffee. But the neighborhood cafe in the Outer Richmond stands out for their soft serve, which you can get in one of several ways: in a cup or cone and with or without a sprinkle of peanuts.

The high-quality matcha soft serve at Kiss Of Matcha in the Richmond is thick enough to hold upside down. It’s a wonderful gravitational feat, pulled off by one of our favorite soft serves in the city. Get here after dinner nearby—or anytime not-too-sweet dessert calls—for a cup of this creamy perfection. Their Kiss Of Matcha parfait arrives dripping with sticky matcha syrup and decorated with mochi, brown sugar jelly, and a croffle. This counter-service spot is tiny—like, walk across the entire space in five steps tiny—but you’re here to inhale every last bit of ice cream at rapid speed, and not to kick up your feet and stay for hours.

Ernest in the Mission is the go-to for super fresh seafood and Asian-influenced dishes fried rice with andouille sausage and poached shrimp, or uni toast with jamon. But you’re reading this guide for the soft serve—and the one here is top-tier. The toppings change, but one we’ve had is covered in a crunchy hazelnut sauce and then drenched with a chocolate magic shell that’s poured tableside. The vanilla soft serve itself is perfect—smooth and thick, but not too sweet—and getting it is an ideal way to finish off your incredible meal.

Rich Table's casual spin-off serves sandwiches, rice bowls, and roasted whole and half chickens. But what you really need to know about this place is they also have creamy soft serve. Sweet milk flavor is always on the menu, as is another that changes seasonally (expect to see things like mandarin orange, cantaloupe, and strawberry sorbet). If you can’t decide between the two, just get them swirled.

You can find the Twirl & Dip truck at the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park from Friday to Sunday, 1-5:30pm. On nicer days and weekends, expect to wait in line—the truck is located right by the Japanese Tea Garden, deYoung, and Cal Academy, so there will be crowds. But their creamy, chocolate-dipped vanilla soft serve with chunks of sticky honeycomb candy is 100% worth any wait.

We’re at Matcha Cafe Maiko so often that the maps app on our phones suggests it as a daily destination. Their matcha soft serve is unbelievably smooth and thick, and is even better as a boba sundae, a glorious concoction topped with perfectly chewy tapioca balls and drizzled with their house-made kuromitsu syrup.

photo credit: Stephanie Court

RESERVE A TABLE

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If you like your soft serve dressed up like it’s going to a dinner party at Mary Crawley’s estate, hit up this seafood restaurant on the Embarcadero. Their incredibly smooth soft serve sundae comes together with things like peppered caramel, smoked salt, and cocoa nibs, and is an excellent follow-up to a meal that will probably also include antelope tartar and oysters.

Souvla’s tangy frozen Greek yogurt is super refreshing on a warm day, and we inexplicably crave it, Pavlov-style, every time it’s sunny and clear out. They have four toppings to choose from: baklava, sour cherry syrup, olive oil and sea salt, and honey, and you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose.

Even when it’s sub-60 degrees out, it doesn’t take much convincing for us to get soft serve from Super Duper Burgers. Our go-to move is to order the chocolate-vanilla swirl on a cake cone and a side of fries for dipping—a combo as old as time. You can get this soft serve at any of the several Super Duper locations across the city, but the Hayes Valley location is delivery only.

This Mission creamery is an ice cream staple in the city, and for good reason. Bi-Rite makes drippy soft serve with a buffalo milk base that consistently sends us into a state of unadulterated bliss. We love their vanilla, but we love our cone even more with a chocolate swirl.

Gott’s Roadside in the Ferry Building is known for their burgers, but they also feature soft serve at its best. You could stick with a classic chocolate-vanilla swirl and be happy, or get one of their other flavors like fior de latte or salted caramel. You’ll also have a ton of options for toppings when you’re here, from M&Ms to sour gummy worms to chocolate and butterscotch dips.

The flavors at this Outer Sunset ice cream spot range from Turkish coffee to pineapple hibiscus sorbet. But if you want your frozen dessert in swirled form (always encouraged), grab a cup or cone of vanilla. The texture of their soft serve is on the icier side and isn’t as thick as most other soft serve in the city, but it’s incredible nonetheless.

Uji Time in Japantown does fantastic soft serve and taiyaki, which you can get filled with red bean paste or Nutella. They have a range of seasonal flavors from cherry blossom to Thai tea, as well as standbys like matcha and black sesame. Swirl a couple of flavors, and top it with sprinkles or matcha Pocky.

Loving Cup is a great spot if you’re in the mood for a range of toppings and unique flavors. They use massive drills to blend toppings like Nutella, animal crackers, or strawberries into a frozen vanilla, chocolate, or banana base. If you don’t want to choose your own mix-ins, order one of their combinations—we like the Crunchy Cereal with vanilla and caramel, and the Monster Cookie with vanilla and cookie dough.

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Suggested Reading

The Best Ice Cream Shops In San Francisco image

The Best Ice Cream Shops In San Francisco

From soft serve to creamy gelato, here's where to get your ice cream fix.

Bi-Rite Creamery image

Ice Cream

Mission

The best ice cream in town, with a long line to match.

Matcha Café Maiko image

Matcha Café Maiko is an excellent spot for matcha drinks and soft serve.

Uji Time image

Uji Time in Japantown has great taiyaki, plus soft serve, matcha drinks, and other desserts.

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