By Frank Sabatini Jr. / Photos By David Olender (Unless Noted)
Finding the real scoop on ice cream requires a reporter to have good ice-sight. To call out 10 San Diego standouts, one must be especially cold and calculating. Our mission: break the ice, taste them all and give every one a fair shake. Luckily, there hasn’t been a hiring freeze in the dessert industry, so the service was great, and we got the project licked. With these ice cream selections on your radar, the weather forecast is clear: bold as ice... with a chance of sprinkles.
The Baked Bear
4516 Mission Blvd., Ste. C, Pacific Beach
You’d never survive a bear encounter carrying one of these fat, custom-built ice cream sandos held together by your choice of cookies or cakes. Unlike the pre-manufactured versions we ate as kids, these desserts take the game to new heights with flamboyant pairings ranging from strawberry cheesecake ice cream and Funfetti cake to Rocky Road slathered between oatmeal-raisin cookies. Located in Pacific Beach, the shop appeals to both overheated daytime customers and late-night revelers with “baked” cravings.
1025 Prospect St., La Jolla
What do you get when you encase cheesecake with ice cream and
then dip the whole thing into Belgium chocolate? Love on a stick. Technically, they’re called Bardot Bars, named after the stylish café that sells a colorful variety of the hand-decorated treats impaled on pretty red sticks. Available in 15 flavors such as toasted pecan, Manila mango and soursop (an equatorial fruit rarely seen in San Diego), the bars weigh three ounces and sell for under $6 apiece. Perhaps the chilliest thing about these bars is their calorie count - most have between 170 and 300 calories, with the blackberry sorbet Red Satin bar scoring the lowest, and the Mrs. Peanut topping 300 by just a smidge.
611 K. St., Ste. C, East Village
Imported Swiss chocolate and dense peanut butter are among the slew of toothsome ingredients that land in Crunch Time’s housemade ice creams, which, without apology, flaunt higher cream percentages than most. Competing flavors include amaretto, black cherry and birthday cake. Frozen yogurt is also made onsite, but if you must sneak treats into nearby Petco Park, then spare yourself a messy pocket by choosing from their variety of sweet and savory popcorn choice for which the sweet- shop is named.
3930 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest
With a magnificent menu of confections conceived by acclaimed pastry wizard Keegan Gerhard and his wife, Lisa Bailey, D Bar also puts dessert-making responsibilities in the hands of customers with the B.Y.O. Sundae. The build-your-own dessert is “deconstructed” in the kitchen, and then assembled at the table by patrons who customize their concoctions with three scoops of ice cream, waffles, brownie bites and several fun fixings.
The Daily Scoop
3004 Juniper St., South Park
Raise your sugar cones for a toast when ordering the Daily Scoop’s effervescent sorbet (made with real champagne) or chocolate ice cream (chock full of Guinness beer), but don’t chug either unless you can handle the brain-freeze. Among non-alcoholic top-sellers are chocolate-coffee sundaes, and ice cream with freshly shaved ginger. On any given day, the shop offers roughly 30 flavors of sorbet and ice cream, the latter being made by Niederfrank’s in National City, which boasts using “the most antique, inefficient, outdated and expensive process in the world.”
4328 University Ave., City Heights
Name your favorite fruits, and they’ll end up in an ice-cold smoothie at Fruitlandia. The eatery’s you-call-it concept extends to nearly every nectar imaginable, as well as vegetables, allowing customers to test innumerable flavor possibilities. Those feeling the heat from indecision can select from a variety of pre-made fruit waters and frozen fruit bars to keep perspiration at bay.
Gelato Bus Stop
1001 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach
The gelato and sorbet recipes at P.B.’s Gelato Bus Stop originate from owner Clint Legnani’s great uncle, who ran a similar shop in Bologna, Italy. The concoctions are made in-house using fresh ingredients and authentic Italian gelato machines, which require a human operator to fold and scoop the gelato with giant paddles. Amid flavors including green apple, cantaloupe and pistachio are “adult” choices injected with Cabernet, Syrah and various brews. “But you can’t get drunk on them because of licensing limitations,” says Legnani. “These contain no more than 1.9 percent alcohol. In Italy, it’s a different story.”
Lighthouse Ice Cream & Yogurt
5059 Newport Ave., Ste. 102, Ocean Beach
In a technique that defies logic and physics, the famous waffle-encased ice cream sandwiches at Lighthouse Ice Cream are put through a 390-degree press for 20 seconds before being served. the waffles come out warm, but, miraculously, the single scoop of coldness inside doesn’t melt. With four types of waffles and 36 flavors of ice cream to choose from, there are literally (read: figuratively) a million options. The easy-to-handle sandwiches compare in size to a deck of cards, so feel free to try the whole million.
Mariposa Ice Cream
3450 Adams Ave., Normal Heights
The mother of all neighborhood ice cream parlors, Mariposa doubles as a shrine to The Beatles, with myriad photographs of the band plastering the walls. Similar in style to hand-cranked ice cream, the frozen goodness served here utilizes a farm-style base of milk and cream that contains little sugar, minimal air and no eggs. Flavors rotate often; regulars like Mexican chocolate, rum raisin and maple walnut lead the charge.
Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt
123 N. El Camino Real, Suite E, Encinitas
The staff at Sub Zero makes from-scratch ice cream, frozen yogurt and custard right before your eyes, blasting them to minus-321 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s colder than the polar surface temperature on Mars. The process, which takes about a minute to complete, begins with customers choosing a base (fat percentages vary by creaminess; no-sugar, non-dairy and gluten-free options also available), and then mixing in any of 40 flavors. Once shot down for funding on ABC’s Shark Tank, the Utah-based company recently opened locations in Carlsbad and Escondido.