We love ice cream. But when it comes down to it, we love soft serve even more. And when the sun starts making semi-regular appearances through the fog, our internal clocks start telling us to get a cone of frozen dairy. So whether you’re craving classic chocolate-vanilla swirl or a matcha soft serve sundae with boba, here are the 16 best spots in San Francisco to get some.
Excellent wood-fired pizzas are the main reason we head to Del Popolo in Lower Nob Hill. The other: their fior di latte soft serve. The rich, creamy dessert is so thick you could hold a spoonful of it upside down and it’d stay put - a winning attribute when it comes to great soft serve. Toppings range from strawberry kiwi preserves to olive oil and sea salt to our favorite brown sugar cookie crumble.
On the menu at Ernest in the Mission, you’ll find super fresh seafood, Asian-influenced entrées like poached duck with stone fruit vindaloo, fried rice with cotija and corn, and a decadent uni carbonara. But you’re reading this guide for the soft serve - and the one here is top-tier. The toppings change, but one we’ve had is covered in a crunchy hazelnut sauce and then drenched with a chocolate magic shell that’s poured tableside. The vanilla soft serve itself is perfect - smooth and thick, but not too sweet - and getting it is an ideal way to finish off your incredible meal.
At Flour + Water Pizzeria in the Mission, your table will probably be full of things like gooey mozzarella sticks, ricotta meatballs, and, of course, fantastic pizza - these dishes are all always a must-order. But if you don’t save room at the end of your meal for a cup of soft serve, you’ll be severely missing out. Theirs is thick, delicious, and comes in salted caramel and fior di latte. Get the flavors swirled and topped with rainbow sprinkles.
Rich Table’s casual spin-off serves sandwiches, rice bowls, and roasted whole and half chickens. But what you really need to know about this place is they also have creamy soft serve. Sweet milk flavor is always on the menu, as is another that changes seasonally (expect to see things like mandarin orange, cantaloupe, and strawberry sorbet). If you can’t decide between the two, just get them swirled.
Twirl And Dip
You can find the Twirl & Dip truck at the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park from Thursday to Sunday, 1-5:30pm. On nicer days and weekends, expect to wait in line - the truck is located right by the Japanese Tea Garden, deYoung, and Cal Academy, so there will be crowds. But their creamy, chocolate-dipped vanilla soft serve with chunks of sticky honeycomb candy is 100% worth any wait.
If you like your soft serve dressed up like it’s going to a dinner party at Mary Crawley’s estate, hit up this seafood restaurant on the Embarcadero. Their incredibly smooth soft serve sundae comes together with peppered caramel, smoked salt, and cocoa nibs, and is an excellent follow-up to a meal that will probably also include antelope tartar and oysters.
We’re at Matcha Cafe Maiko so often that the maps app on our phones suggests it as a daily destination. Their matcha soft serve is unbelievably smooth and thick, and is even better as a boba sundae, a glorious concoction topped with perfectly chewy tapioca balls and drizzled with their house-made kuromitsu syrup.
Super Duper Burgers
Even when it’s sub-60 degrees out, it doesn’t take much convincing for us to get soft serve from Super Duper Burgers. Our go-to move is to order the chocolate-vanilla swirl on a cake cone and a side of fries for dipping - a combo as old as time. All Super Duper locations around the city are currently open, except the one in SoMa on New Montgomery.
This Mission creamery is an ice cream staple in the city, and for good reason. Bi-Rite makes drippy soft serve with a buffalo milk base that consistently sends us into a state of unadulterated bliss. We love their vanilla, but we love our cone even more with a chocolate swirl.
Gott’s Roadside in the Ferry Building is known for their burgers, but they also feature soft serve at its best. You could stick with a classic chocolate-vanilla swirl and be happy, or get one of their other flavors like fior de latte or salted caramel. You’ll also have a ton of options for toppings when you’re here, from M&Ms to sour gummy worms to chocolate and butterscotch dips.
Angelina's Deli Cafe
Angelina’s Deli Cafe does it all - sandwiches, salads, bagels, pastries, and coffee. But the neighborhood cafe in the Outer Richmond stands out for their soft serve, which you can get in one of several ways: in a cup or cone and with or without a sprinkle of peanuts.
The flavors at this Outer Sunset ice cream spot range from Turkish coffee to pineapple hibiscus sorbet. But if you want your frozen dessert in swirled form (always encouraged), grab a cup or cone of vanilla. The texture of their soft serve is on the icier side and isn’t as thick as most other soft serve in the city, but it’s incredible nonetheless.
Uji Time in Japantown does fantastic soft serve and taiyaki, which you can get filled with red bean paste or Nutella. They have a range of seasonal flavors from cherry blossom to Thai tea, as well as standbys like matcha and black sesame. Swirl a couple of flavors, and top it with sprinkles or matcha Pocky.
Loving Cup is a great spot if you’re in the mood for a range of toppings and unique flavors. They use massive drills to blend toppings like Nutella, animal crackers, or strawberries into a frozen vanilla, chocolate, or banana base. If you don’t want to choose your own mix-ins, order one of their combinations - we like the Crunchy Cereal with vanilla and caramel, and the Monster Oreo with vanilla and cookie dough.
Souvla’s tangy frozen Greek yogurt is super refreshing on a warm day, and we inexplicably crave it, Pavlov-style, every time it’s sunny and clear out. They have four toppings to choose from: baklava, sour cherry syrup, olive oil and sea salt, and honey, and you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose.
If you want a dairy-free version of soft serve, Indie Superette is here for you. The Cow Hollow market has vegan flavors like coconut, oat milk, and matcha (our favorite), which you can top with things like cacao nibs, fruit, granola, and more.