The Absolute Best Ice Cream Shops in San Diego

In San Diego, it’s always ice cream season.

It’s summer in San Diego, and in addition to beach trips and road trips, our thoughts naturally turn to cold, creamy refreshments, like big scoops of ice cream piled into freshly baked waffle cones, swirls of soft serve topped with sprinkles and crumbled cookies, thick shakes and malts, and tangy, refreshing sherbets and sorbets. Best of all, there’s no advance planning required, you can just hop in the car, on the trolley, or, if you’re really lucky, walk down the block to your favorite neighborhood place. In fact, the most difficult part is deciding which of San Diego's amazing ice creameries to visit. We’ve done the leg work for you though, so check out our list of favorite places to indulge in summertime’s tastiest treats.

Sadie’s Handcrafted Mexican Ice Cream
Photo by Kimberly Motos, courtesy of Sadie’s Handcrafted Mexican Ice Cream

Sister shop to Taqueria Revolucion’s Bonita location, Sadie’s Handcrafted Mexican Ice Cream is a sweet, pink and gold ode to owner Emilio Tamez’s daughter. Fruity, dairy-free pineapple, lime, and strawberry are bursting with summery freshness, but the stars of the menu are the traditional Mexican flavors like caramelly Leche Quemada, Chocolate Abuelita, Café de Olla, Mazapán, and Beso de Angel, similar to Rocky Road, but with a Mexican twist. Everything’s available in cups or cones, or stuffed into a Randy’s Donut.

JoJo's Creamery
Photo courtesy of JoJo’s Creamery

Jojo’s Creamery makes its ice cream from organic Straus Family Creamery dairy products, non-dairy organic coconut milk and cream, and organic house-made cashew and oat milk. Nearly everything is scratch-made—chocolate chip cookies, waffle cones, and sauces, plus add-ins like brownies, cookie dough, honeycomb, toffee, fudge, caramel, and more. Ice cream flavors run the gamut from Honey Lavender and Lemon Berry Shortbread to Cayenne Sea Salt Caramel and Bananas Foster. There’s a quartet of vegan choices (we love Piña Colada). Order a scoop or two and get a free mini chocolate chip cookie.

An’s Dry Cleaning Gelato
Photo courtesy of An’s Dry Cleaning

An’s Dry Cleaning

Normal Heights & Del Mar

No, they can’t help you with your laundry, but An’s Dry Cleaning will satisfy your cravings for a smooth gelato treat that’s not your typical scoop shop offering. Quirky names and inventive combos like Lingerie (with strawberry gelato and shredded chocolate) are a nod to the ever-popular chocolate covered strawberry, while Cypress is an intense chocolate that’s like eating a gelato brownie, and Burlap is a Reeses Pieces-inspired vegan option made of coconut milk, peanut butter, and chocolate bits. Sister shop An’s Hatmakers in Del Mar opened a couple of months ago with its own millinery-inspired names like Fascinator Strawberry Sorbet, Panama, a combo of cinnamon and cream cheese gelato with chunks of challah bread, and Fedora—a riff on tiramisu with mascarpone and espresso gelato, chunks of coffee-soaked sponge cake, a touch of cognac, and cocoa powder. New menus come out every two to four weeks on their Instagram.
How to order: Limited seating is available on a first-come basis.

Mr. Trustee

Mission Hills

Mr. Trustee offers rotating, seasonal flavors of soft serve and handcrafted ice cream from a street-side, walk-up window adjacent to Cardellino in Mission Hills. Available in cups or house-made waffle cones and by the pint, standout scoops include Salted Cookie Dough, Malted Chocolate Brownie, Honey Vanilla, Berry Sorbet, plus Pups Cups, organic, grain-free ice cream, made for furry friends and containing peanut butter, banana, almond milk, and Greek yogurt. Check their Instagram for seasonal and frequent special flavors. Indulge in some self-care and feed your inner child with a big cone, and don’t forget the sprinkles.

Bing Haus
Photo courtesy of Bing Haus

Bing Haus

Linda Vista

Bing Haus specializes in Thai-style rolled ice cream—a custardy base is thinly spread on a frozen metal plate, then scraped with a metal spatula into thin, coiled cigars, stacked on end and topped with fruit, cereal, cookie crumbles, and sauces. For a spectacular shareable dessert, try the seasonal melon bingsu—shave ice and red beans under a mountain of watermelon or honeydew balls, all doused in condensed milk and served up in the melon’s shell. Soft serve aficionados love the intensely colored flavors like charcoal vanilla and watermelon coconut sorbet, and they’ve recently introduced mochi donuts; the flavors of both change monthly and can be found on their Instagram.

At Gelati & Peccati, you’ll have to walk past an eye-popping array of Roman-style pizza, sold a taglio, or “by the cut,” to reach the bins of gelati in the back, but isn’t eating dessert first one of the pleasures of adulthood? Nearly 20 different rotating signature and seasonal flavors, including vegan and sorbet options, are bursting with roasted pistachios, sweet cherry and chocolate, or boozy, earthy Makers Mark 46. Don’t worry if you’re too full to eat pizza afterwards; you can always take a few slices home for a late-night snack.


Kearny Mesa & Mira Mesa

You’ve probably seen Insta-photos of SomiSomi’s gorgeous ah-boong—Korean fish-shaped waffle cones stuffed with nutella, custard, red bean or taro, topped with soft-serve in flavors like ube, black sesame, matcha, or milk tea, and showered in crumbles, fruit, or sprinkles. Also popular are taiyaki, aka warm Japanese fish-shaped pancakes filled with your choice of taro, custard, red beans, and more. A new location at La Jolla UTC is coming soon.

Stella Jean’s Ice Cream

University Heights & Point Loma

Stella Jean’s small batches deliver with seasonal and signature flavors like Double Chocolate, Brown Butter Pecan, and Ube + Pandesal, along with a thoughtful selection of plant-based choices, including Mango Sticky Rice and Strawberry Oat Crumble. Both dairy and plant-based ice cream is available by the pint, 1.5-gallon, or in a three-gallon tub, along with house-made waffle cones for at-home indulging.

Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream

North Park & Point Loma

At Hammond’s, you can choose from 32 seasonal and rotating flavors of Hawaii’s Tropical Dreams 18% butterfat, super premium ice creams, including mini-cone flights, all available for takeout. Almost as many flavors are available by the pint, along with optional mini and regular cones, sprinkles, crumbles and nuts. You can check online for each shop’s flavors of the day.
How to order: Limited seating is available on a first-come basis.

Mariposa Homemade Ice Cream

Normal Heights & Temecula

Mariposa has been making all of its sorbets and ice creams at its Normal Heights location for the last 20 years. Stop by for favorites like Mexican Chocolate and White Chocolate Raspberry Ripple, or summer specialties that include Watermelon Sorbet and Lime or Lemon Sherbet, and there’s always a few vegan selections on the menu. Browse each location’s current menu here.

Handmade waffle cones and Fosselman’s famous premium ice cream make Moosie’s Ice Cream a must-stop for your snack break. Try the Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry flavor with one of their addictive brownies on the side, or the classic ice cream shop sundaes, shakes, malts, or floats in any one of 16 flavors. Easy at-home brunch cheat—add one of their fresh sorbets (passionfruit is our favorite) to a glass of bubbly for an instant fruity mimosa.
How to order: Takeout only.

The Baked Bear

Pacific Beach & Carmel Mountain & Encinitas

Mix and match freshly baked cookies or brownies on the outside with a huge scoop of decadent ice cream on the inside for the perfect hand-held treat at The Baked Bear. Whatever combo you choose, have it hot-pressed, drizzled with sauce, rolled in sprinkles, mini M&Ms, or Fruity Pebbles, topped with whipped cream, or all of the above.

Mootime Creamery is a Coronado institution, and once you try their handcrafted ice creams, yogurts, and sorbets, you’ll understand why there’s a line out the door most days. Choose your ice cream and whatever mix-ins you want to add, then watch while they smoosh it together and pile it into a cone or cup. House-made novelties include chocolate-covered ice cream bon bons, Moopies with a scoop smashed between cookies, and Moo tacos. Yes, they have ice cream tacos.

Lighthouse Ice Cream, an OB favorite for more than 30 years, is most famous for its hot waffle and hot pancake ice cream sandwiches and sundaes, but there’s also a Giant Oreo Cookie Sandwich, Big Olaf’s Waffle Cone Sundaes (it comes in Baby Olaf size, too), and a dozen different cone and bowl options. They’ve got a full complement of Cascade Glacier and Double Rainbow premium and ultra-premium flavors, non-dairy, gluten-free, and sugar-free options, soft serve, and 30 different toppings, including a slice of bacon.

Conveniently located right at the entrance to the Imperial Beach Pier, Cow-A Bunga Ice Cream has been serving its handcrafted ice cream to locals since 2000. Grab a cone, ice cream sandwich, or sundae and go for a stroll on the pier or along the beach. They also serve huge shave ice treats, delicious coffee drinks, and smoothies.
How to order: Limited seating is available on a first-come basis.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.