May 20 2014 08:06 PM

14 places to get your frozen-dessert fix

Ice cream 2
Junior, grandson of Tocumbo patriarch Gerardo Ramirez
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

What's summer without ice cream? And what's summer camp without an ice-cream social? In homage to the joy of stuffing your face with all sorts of sweet, chilled creamy goodness, here we bring together in one place some of the best spots to hit for some tasty frozen desserts.


Bubby's Gelato:
There's very little style to this Encinitas outpost, and service ranges from warm and charming (the grandmotherly owner) to apathetic and surly (teenagers). But delights abound at this corner shop. On a hot day, dive into the lemongrass sorbet—its citrusy, barely sweet tang will cool you down by at least 10 degrees. Be warned: It's cash only. 937 S. Coast Hwy 101 in Encinitas

Jenny Montgomery


Cow-A-Bunga:
You know what's better than watching a San Diego sunset and contemplating all of life's mysterious ways? Doing it with Cow-A-Bunga's House Special: a shot of espresso plus a scoop of ice cream plus whipped cream. Peanut-butter brownie is a flavor attempted by many but perfectly executed only by this micro ice creamery; it's as much of a must-eat as the Imperial Beach pier is a must-see. 10 Evergreen Ave. in Imperial Beach

Nina Sachdev Hoffman


Daily Scoop: This shop's specialty is sweet-cream-and-peanut-butter ice cream, which tastes spectacular in a cinnamon-y waffle cone. It's difficult to imagine anything beating chocolate as peanut butter's soul mate, but here the sweet cream makes a pretty strong case. 3004 Juniper St. in South Park

Ryan Bradford


Gelato Vero: Arguably the OG (original gelato) of San Diego gelato spots, GV celebrated its 30th birthday in April. If you're looking for something light, go for the coconut sorbetto. But since you're here for the gelato, try the spumoni and pistachio—flavors you might have shied away from at other shops, but here they're both outstanding. 3753 India St. in Little Italy

Kelly Davis


Mariposa: A Normal Heights fixture, this little hippie ice-cream parlor moved to San Diego in 2000 from the foothills of Yosemite National Park. These fourth-generation former dairy farmers use a batch-freezer method that duplicates the traditional hand-cranked method, resulting in good, old-timey ice cream. The best here is coconut. Try it on a hot day for a refreshing blast of raw flavor. 3450 Adams Ave. in Normal Heights, mariposaicecream.com

Joshua Emerson Smith


Matcha Love: The small chain—which opened an outpost in Kearny Mesa's Mitsuwa Marketplace in April—was started to introduce folks to Japanese green tea (matcha), but it's earned an almost cult following for its soft-serve ice cream. Ask for a swirled mix of the namesake earthy-and-subtly-sweet matcha and black sesame, which has a nutty flavor reminiscent of peanut butter. 4240 Kearny Mesa Road in Kearny Mesa

Kelly Davis 


Mr. Frostie: This isn't artisan ice cream, it's soft-serve. But the friendly folks at this beach shack have been making the sun-soaked residents and visitors of Pacific Beach happy since 1949. Grab a banana split, a yellow-cake-batter milkshake or just a swirl cone dipped in chocolate. Then head down to the pier with your sweets to soak in the sunny vibes. 1470 Garnet Ave. in Pacific Beach

Jenny Montgomery


A Niederfranks cone

Niederfrank's: In geology, the term "type location" means the place where a particular rock type is first identified.  The "type location" of an old-style ice cream shop, at least in San Diego County, is Niederfrank's, there since 1948, making spectacular, creamy, classic American-style ice cream in both common and uncommon flavors, like the excellent macadamia-nut toffee. 726 A Ave. in National City

Michael A. Gardiner


Ocean Rainbow: Flavors range from tropical to traditional at this hidden gem in a strip mall near Mission San Luis Rey. Burnt Milk is nutty and mild, while the cheese flavor has a polarizing, curdled texture. Check out the chamoy-flavored ice cream, made from the pickled, spicy, fruity condiment, which freezes up nicely into an unexpected, cooling treat. 3784 Mission Ave. in Oceanside, with other locations in San Marcos and Vista

Jenny Montgomery


Real Food & Spirits: This delightful Solana Beach bistro has a great little gelato freezer filled with treats from Bottega Italiana. The rich panna cotta flavor is out of this world, and the chocolate is fudgy and near perfect. Oh-so-trendy salted caramel is good, but a bit too salty, but the fresh strawberry with chocolate chunks is a summer standout. 124 S. Solana Hills Drive in Solana Beach

—Jenny Montgomery

Rita's: Rita's isn't a traditional ice-cream parlor; technically, it doesn't even serve ice cream. It serves something more elusive in San Diego County: Frozen custard. It's extra-rich and -creamy, and even in simple vanilla is absolutely delicious. Or: Pair the vanilla custard with cookie-dough Italian ice for a fun take on a chipwich. 1463 East H St. in Chula Vista, with locations in Carlsbad, Encinitas and Escondido

Jeff Terich

The Baked Bear: This place has taken the beach by storm, sandwiching your choice of ice cream in between your favorite cookie, brownie or waffle. It's hard to improve upon the perfection of a chocolate chip cookie, but hugging a scoop of ice cream with two of them? Pretty simple, and pretty great. 4516 Mission Blvd. in Pacific Beach

Jenny Montgomery


Tocumbo: This family biz has grown since opening its first location in Market Creek Plaza nine years ago. The newest location in Barrio Logan, with its easy parking, nearby interactive water fountain and shaded outdoor seating, is ideal for summertime. Try the handmade exotic-fruit ice cream, like the refreshing guanabana (made from soursop fruit). For a real treat, pair it with an authentic Mexican coke. 1900 Main St. in Barrio Logan

Kinsee Morlan


Lighthouse Ice Cream & Yogurt: Depending on your mood and impulses, you might be tempted by signature flavors like Caramel Daze and Birthday Cake (it tastes just like birthday cake!), but when you learn that the house specialty is ice cream in a hot waffle, your decision is made for you. The cookies-and-cream inside an apple-cinnamon waffle is amazing, with or without bacon and maple syrup. Just take your first bite while it's still hot. 5059 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach

David Rolland

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