Bi-Rite Creamery, S'mores Sundae
Bi-Rite Creamery may be San Francisco's favorite spot for a scoop, if the lines down the block and around the corner are any indicator. So it was no great surprise that a sundae featuring their ice cream would be delicious.
However, we still managed to be blown away by their S'mores sundae ($6.50), a special combination that's only offered a few times a month. The chocolate ice cream at the sundae's base is excellent, but it's taken to a whole new level with the massive globe of homemade toasted meringue that sits atop the sundae like a puffy cloud of sweet decadence. The house-made caramel sauce is salty and delicious, a condensed cousin of Bi-Rite's lauded salted caramel ice cream. We were all blown away by the meringue, but I found myself scraping the sides of the bowl in the hopes of catching more of the homemade graham crackers. Thick, crumbly and buttery: this is the after school snack that dreams are made of.
Swenson's Ice Cream, Walkaway Waffle Cone Sundae
What's a good way to make an ice-cream sundae better? Put it in a waffle cone. That's the tactic used by the original Swenson's Ice Cream, a dime-sized ice cream parlour in Russian Hill that's been in San Francisco since 1948. Their Walkaway Waffle Cone Sundae ($5.35) is another example of classic elements done right: quality vanilla ice cream, classic hot fudge and a tower of canned whipped cream taste even better in a massive, crunchy-sweet waffle cone. While the sundae is designed to go, the cup is fortunately included to hold the cone—a big ice cream mess would be inevitable, otherwise.
Humphry Slocombe, Gabba Gabba Hey
Humphry Slocombe's crew may well be termed ice cream mad scientists, so we knew to expect some serious creativity when sampling their sundaes. The Gabba Gabba Hey ($6.50), an incredible combination of Balsamic caramel ice cream, Amarena cherries, and freshly whipped cream atop a massive, fudgy brownie manages to be the perfect combination of creativity and restraint—the sundae is an interesting and somewhat unexpected flavor combination, but it really works.
What really puts the sundae over the edge is the rich saltiness from the ice cream. Combined with the cherries, it melds with the brownie in a way that manages to accentuate the rich chocolatey-ness; it takes salty-sweet to an incredibly appealing extreme.
St. Francis Fountain, The Battleship
St. Francis Fountain may be the ultimate combination of cool-kid and classic. An old school diner down to the Formica counters, weekends will find it packed with the Mission hipster set tucking into piles of eggs and ice cream.
Their sundaes are equally classic. The Battleship ($7.75) tastes like a childhood ice cream fantasy in a bowl: there are three scoops of ice cream, each covered with its own complimentary sauce (chocolate is topped with marshmallow, vanilla with caramel, mint chip with hot fudge). The ice creams are then buried under an enormous pile of whipped cream (from the can) and a cherry (maraschino, of course). You'll find some good crunch from the nuts (our menu said almonds but we're certain they were peanuts), but the joy of the ice cream-whipped cream combo is like a childhood flashback. Good luck not inhaling this one.
Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous Sundae
Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous, a sleek corner cafe in the Dogpatch, was chock-full of families on a recent Sunday afternoon. Thanks to the combination of friendly service and delicious ice cream, it's not hard to see why. They have one standard sundae option, but allow you to customize your creation by selecting your ice cream flavor and sauce. Our one-scoop sundae ($5) included black and tan ice cream, hot fudge, candied almonds, and a hefty pile of freshly whipped cream, topped with a wonderfully tangy Amarena cherry.
The sundae is a textbook example of high quality ingredients in perfect proportion. The black and tan ice cream is interesting without being strange—sweet, creamy, and rich with a lovely hint of malt flavor. The almonds provide crunch, texture and salt without taking away from the flavor of the sundae. But the real star here is the chocolate sauce: generously poured, it becomes almost solid against the cold ice cream. The flavor is incredibly rich; this is some seriously pure chocolate.
Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous: 699 22nd Street, San Francisco CA 94107 (map)
Chile Pies & Ice Cream, Snickerdoodle Sundae Bowl
Chile Pies & Ice Cream, the sweets-centric offshoot of the Green Chile Kitchen, fits as cozily into the Panhandle neighborhood as its sister restaurant. There, in addition to an assortment of pies (both sweet and savory), you'll find a healthy selection of Three Twins ice cream. Served straight up, on pie, in milkshakes, and in pie milkshakes (which are exactly what they sound like), the ice cream is masterfully used in a small assortment of simple, excellent sundaes.
Our favorite is the Snickerdoodle Sundae Bowl ($7). Two scoops of ice cream doused in caramel sauce melt languorously atop two saucer-sized, house-made snickerdoodle cookies, as chewy and cinnamony as one could wish. Per our server's recommendation we tried a scoop of Venetian coffee along with the more standard vanilla; the coffee perfectly balanced out the sweetness of the caramel and cinnamon.