The ultimate guide to ice cream in Berkeley

Phillip Downey/File
Phillip Downey/Staff
Phillip Downey/File

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There are ample places to get your fill of sweets in Berkeley. Whether you’re in the mood for vegan cinnamon buns or monstrous sundaes, you can be sure to find it within the confines of our dessert-centric city. But with such variety, the task of deciding which ice cream place to frequent can be a bit overwhelming. Pairing the right ice cream with the right occasion is an art form to be mastered. Take some time to learn how to treat yourself right. You won’t regret it.

Smitten

Approximate price of scoop: $5

Smitten has some of the best ice cream the Bay Area has to offer. Since opening at an old shipping container in San Francisco, Smitten has expanded its locations and flavors significantly. The Rockridge shop offers several flavors, including seasonal ones. The seasonal flavors change monthly and are so good that even one trip to Smitten per month still might not be enough. August’s seasonal flavor is sweet corn with berries, while Sept. 1 ushers in a month of creme fraiche with pear caramel. Smitten uses liquid nitrogen to make each batch of ice cream to order, creating incredibly fresh, creamy and flavorful scoops. This is the place to indulge: Try one or two scoops, and prepare to be blown away by the intensity of the flavor. A small scoop comes in at just less than $5, though for $4 more, you can get a flight of whichever three flavors your heart desires.

Ici

Approximate price of scoop: $3-4

Located in the heart of Elmwood, this is the perfect place to grab a scoop of ice cream to eat while wandering around, popping into cute shops and people watching. Ici attracts a variety of college students and families in the Berkeley and Oakland areas. Though the texture of Ici’s ice cream can be a bit icy at times, the flavors are well worth it. Green tea-rose, coffee-chocolate chip and bourbon-sour cherry are just a few options you might find upon visiting the shop, as Ici offers 1o flavors of ice cream, sherbet and sorbet daily, and rotates unusual flavors in and out. Be sure to get a cone — they come with a layer of fudgy chocolate on the bottom, making them perfect for eating while on the go.

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe

Approximate price of scoop: $3

Between Elmwood and Rockridge resides Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, an old-timey candy shop selling all kinds of candy imaginable. Aside from handing you a golden ticket, this place is the quickest way to sweet-tooth paradise. The best thing Powell’s has to offer is its gelato. Rich and creamy, this gelato has earned the approval of even a native Italian. When we tired of studying in high school, we were always encouraged by our Italian teacher to get a cup of gelato at Powell’s and channel the sugar into knowledge. Grab a cup and enjoy it while perusing the artfully arranged candy displays inside the store.

CREAM

Approximate price: $2 for scoop, $3 for sandwich

One of the first things anyone will tell you about in Berkeley is CREAM. In the past five years, this ice cream and cookie establishment has become a Berkeley institution. It’s consistently hyped for being a cheap treat, and it’s perfect for a late-night snack or a postmidterm reward. The cookies are warm, the ice cream flavors range from normal to slightly unusual, and there are always a few vegan ice cream options. But be wary, though, as the lines for CREAM are usually long. The best time to eat CREAM is in the middle of the day, when the lines are manageable and you can grab a sandwich to eat while wandering down Telegraph Avenue.

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream

Approximate price of scoop: $3-5

Tara’s, which is housed on College Avenue, is a sweet, small shop with some of the most interesting ice cream around, including flavors such as white pepper chocolate and geranium. The shop prides itself on being certified organic and producing a total of 176 flavors, of which different sets are available daily. The ice cream gurus at Tara’s take inspiration from herbs and spices, crafting gems such as chocolate chipotle, oregano orange pepper, rosemary almond and saffron.

 

Yogurt Park

Approximate price of scoop: $3

Yogurt Park is phenomenal any time of day, especially as a way to kick off the weekend after a long week of classes and exams. Since the 1970s, Yogurt Park has served frozen yogurt to the hungry masses of college students. The shop offers a sweeter, more dessert-like alternative to the typical cup of fro-yo, but what sets Yogurt Park apart is its toppings, which can be mixed into the yogurt. Order a cup of your favorite flavor (be warned, the portions are humongous, and the mini is the smallest size), and ask for cookie dough, which comes piled high on top and mixed into the rich yogurt. It might not be the healthiest option, but it’s certainly the most delicious.

Fenton’s

Approximate price of sundae: $9

When it comes time to celebrate a birthday, a milestone or even a Cal sporting win, Fenton’s is the place to go. There’s ample room for big parties, and it serves a wide variety of food. From typical diner fare to gigantic milkshakes, Fenton’s is a crowd pleaser. The creamery’s biggest draw is its ice cream sundaes, which come in wide bowls piled high with whipped cream and toppings. One of Fenton’s most famous offerings is the black and tan sundae, where almond-and-vanilla ice cream is topped with whipped cream, almonds, a cherry, caramel and fudge sauces. Be prepared to stay at Fenton’s awhile — the sundaes can take hours to finish, even when you share.

Contact Rachel Feder at [email protected].