We are no longer seven years old. We need to get that out of the way early when discussing San Francisco's Top Five Ice Cream Shops.
Here's what that means: We don't care about toppings, mix-ins, family-friendly furniture or specials on your birthday. We don't even care about waffle cones. All we care about -- the ONLY standard we're using for this Top Five -- is the ice cream itself. How delicious is it? How interesting? Is it really worth a special trip, even on a chilly summer day? The answer to that last question for these five is a clear "Oh yeah!"
You might protest, "But my son is seven." When he's old enough to read this publication, we'll tell him where to go for ice cream (and our music and arts editors want to speak to him, too). In the meantime, here's where we recommend for you.
1. Humphry Slocombe: As much as we love Jake Godby's ice cream, we can't honestly say it's always the best in town. He has big hits and a few misses, with more of the latter than our other choices. It's not safe ice cream.
However, Humphry Slocombe is hands down the most interesting ice cream shop in San Francisco and arguably in the entire country, given how much national press he's gotten. Or maybe even the world: this writer did a story on the place for a magazine in Japan.
Not only that, the line is manageable, even on the rare warm days that are perfect for ice cream, and even though the shop's cheerful employees will give you a taste of any flavor, or even every flavor.
We've seen many people ask for a taste of some of the exotic stuff like Salt and Pepper or the intense Balsamic Caramel, both personal favorites, and then get a scoop of something more ordinary like Black Walnut. That's a big part of the shop's appeal: You can taste the wild side and then go back to your vanilla life if you must. But once you've had Salted Licorice, it's hard to go back (though we will, later on this list.)
We love the ice cream at all five of these places, but Humphry Slocombe is the sort of only-in-San-Francisco joint we treasure. There's so much more to this place than Secret Breakfast.