Ice cream shops churning out inventive flavors

Why settle for vanilla when options like Mango Sticky Rice or goat cheese-marionberry-habanero are waiting to be scooped up.


Ho-hum vanilla, chocolate and mint chocolate chip might rank as the nation’s favorite flavors for ice cream, but with the culinary revolution happening in San Diego, there’s nothing vanilla about the local frozen treat scene.

In a city of highly crafted beers, spirits, cocktails and menus, it’s no surprise that unique and unexpected flavors are taking dairy (and non-dairy) gastronomy to new heights. Check out these distinctive options next time you’re in the mood for a sweet treat with a twist.

Stella Jean’s Ice Cream

For a range of inventive and deliciously quirky flavors, visit this University Heights stand out. Try the vegan Mango and Sticky Rice for a summery Thai-inspired dessert, Honey Rosemary Orange Zest for a sweet herbal kick, the Filipino-inspired Toasted Buttered Pandesal with Pandesal (Filipino bread rolls) Toffee Swirl, or the ever-popular, highly Instagrammed Earl Grey + Citrus Tea Cake. Stella Jean’s even has logo marked insulated bags for traveling near and far with your specialty pints. Follow the scoop shop’s Instagram feed to stay tuned to their latest updates of rotating flavors.

4404 Park Blvd., Suite B, University Heights, 619.501.8252,


For a jaw-dropping list containing myriad flavors, head to Hammond’s, where it will be tough to decide what mouthwatering flavor to sink your spoon into. Explore new realms with the adzuki bean (English red mung bean), sweet potato, Thai tea, beer cream, or the throwback classic peanut butter and guava jelly. For vegan and dairy-free options, there are sorbets available in a range of unique flavors including lemongrass, lychee, and dragonfruit.

North Park: 3077 University Ave., 619.220.0231; Pacific Beach: 1418 Garnet Ave., 858.230.7433; Sports Arena: 3740 Sports Arena Blvd., #6, 619.550.5893,

Salt & Straw

This Portland-based shop makes a milky splash in San Diego with its variety of distinctive flavors including the goat cheese-marionberry-habanero featuring Laura Chenel chèvre, Oregon’s favorite berry, and a spicy kick that “reveals itself slowly with a pleasant burn.” Local San Diego flavors include the peanut butter stout with chocolate chicharrón, a collaboration with Belching Beaver’s popular brew, containing pieces of dark chocolate-coated caramelized pork chicharrón, and the James Coffee with Bourbon, starring the local company and Greenbar Distillery Slow Hand Whiskey.

Little Italy: 1670 India St., 619.542.9394; 3705 Caminito Ct., Suite 0580, Carmel Valley, 858.345.1792,

Afters Ice Cream

Situated in Pacific Beach, this California cheeky chain offers up combinations like Milk & Cereal for breakfast lovers; Jasmine Milk Tea, “because you kinda dig Asian stuff;” and French Toast Churro, “the way the French like their churros.” Take these flavors to the extreme with a French fry topping or the Milky Bun, a stuffed donut ice cream sandwich.

855 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach, 862.224.5850,

Cauldron Ice Cream

Declared the “home of the OG Puffle Cone,” this Orange County-born outfit churns out a variety of distinctive flavors including Thai Tea Ana topped with a Pocky stick; Sun Moon & Stars featuring a blend of oolong, jasmine and green teas; H20 Rose with the flower’s essence topped with a coating rose sugar; and Earl Grey Lavender with a drizzle of honey.

4646 Convoy St., Suite 111, Kearny Mesa, 858.224.8532,