The Bay Area Bites Guide to Ice Cream in Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland

The Sweet Deal, with soft serve, caramel and a donut, from Sweet Belly in Oakland.  (Shelby Pope)

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This article was updated on June 11, 2019.

As the Bay Area finally starts to warm up, it’s time to shift our diets to seasonally appropriate fare like tomatoes, corn and--of course--ice cream. Here’s our guide to ice cream options in Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville, highlighting four relatively new places that offer exciting, non-traditional ice cream options. Not interested in branching out from the classics? We’ve also included a list of other nearby ice cream spot, so you can pick one that matches your preferences (plus, don’t miss our old list for other East Bay shops).

We’ve tried to be as comprehensive as we can, but if we missed your favorite spot, let us know.

Chocolate lemongrass and Thai tea gelato from Secret Sccop in Berkeley.
Chocolate lemongrass and Thai tea gelato from Secret Scoop in Berkeley. (Shelby Pope)

I'm a sucker for a handwritten sign. If there’s a handwritten sign--whether for a book, wine or dog at an animal shelter--I am 95% more likely to purchase the item in question. While the signs at Secret Scoop, which Funn Fisher opened earlier this year in Berkeley, aren’t handwritten, they have the same earnest, convincing tone as they gently guide you through your visit. Their iced tea? “Not too sweet.” Their salted tamarind sorbet? “Very South East Asian!” Time to pay? “We prefer credit card :)” Their specialty is ice cream with a scoop of sticky rice, which adds a chewy textural contrast to their innovative flavors. I couldn’t resist trying chocolate lemongrass, whose modest, straightforward sign informed me that “We have created this.” The herbaceous flavor was unusual yet compelling, while a scoop of Thai iced tea gelato featured the eponymous drink’s combination of creaminess and bitterness.

Secret Scoop Thai Gelato
1922 M.L.K. Jr Way Suite B [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94704
Ph: (415) 939-2832
Hours: Mon-Thur, 1-9:30pm; Fri-Sun, 12-9:30pm
Facebook: Secret Scoop (Thai Gelato) - Gelato Shop
Twitter: @SecretScoopSF
Instagram: @secretscoopgelato
Yelp: Secret Scoop Thai Gelato
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

Roasted cashew and mocha chip ice cream from Mr. Dewie's Cashew Creamery in Emeryville.
Roasted cashew and mocha chip ice cream from Mr. Dewie's Cashew Creamery in Emeryville. (Shelby Pope)

Every weekday around noon, Emeryville’s Public Market is flooded with crowds of hungry office workers, their key cards swinging from lanyards as they choose between ramen, sushi or sandwiches. Now, those hordes have a new option for dessert. Mr. Dewie's Cashew Creamery, from owners Ari and Andrew Cohen, opened its second location there in March, with a cheery staff serving up their cashew-based ice cream from a zhooshed-up shipping container. A sign informs you that it’s dairy-free, additive-free, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and organic, but lest that scare you off, let me reassure you that this ice cream isn’t just good for vegans, it’s good, period. It’s full-bodied and rich, with none of the watery grittiness of other dairy-free ice creams. Their roasted cashew flavor had a deep, sweet flavor from the roasted nuts, while their mocha chip was creamy and decadent.

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Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery (Flagship store is in Albany)
5959 Shellmound St. [Map]
Emeryville, CA 94608
Ph: (510) 350-8171
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-9pm; Sun, 11am-8pm
Facebook: Mr. Dewie's Cashew Creamery & Frozen Desserts
Twitter: @MrDewies
Instagram: @mrdewies
Yelp: Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

The Sweet Deal, with soft serve, caramel and a donut, from Sweet Belly in Oakland.
The Sweet Deal, with soft serve, caramel and a donut, from Sweet Belly in Oakland. (Shelby Pope)

Oakland’s Belly, known for their elaborate tacos, manages to pull off the skillful feat of fusion food that actually tastes good. Last fall, Belly’s owners Alice Woo and Alan Chun wanted a new challenge, opening a tiny dessert-only outpost a few blocks away in Oakland’s Uptown. Sweet Belly features an attractive, Instagram-ready interior, with a dainty mobile, fairy lights curled around succulents, and gleaming subway tile. You can get coffee, donuts, cookies (including ones decorated with Warriors jerseys), or ice cream. Or you can get them all in the same cup. Their Sweet Deal combines soft serve, a topping from a sprawling list, one of their tiny, made-to-order doughnuts, and your choice of sauce. My towering creation--a mix of almond and coffee soft serve, a lacquered pretzel streusel, honey butter caramel and a sugar donut speared on a straw--was deliciously over-the-top, an ideal mix of salt, crunch and sweetness.

Sweet Belly[CLOSED]
435 19th St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94612
Ph: (510)839-7295
Hours: Mon-Sat, 12-9pm; Closed Sun
Facebook: Sweet Belly
Twitter: @sweetbelly510
Instagram: @sweetbellyoakland
Yelp: Sweet Belly Oakland
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

A matcha ice cream roll from Oakland's Freezing Point.
A matcha ice cream roll from Oakland's Freezing Point. (Shelby Pope)

“Happiness comes in rolls,” reads the signage for Freezing Point Creamery, a new store in Oakland’s Chinatown. Freezing Point offers Thai-style rolled ice cream, along with a selection of traditional ice cream (including durian ice cream, should that be your craving) and drinks (it’s probably the only ice cream shop where you can also get a celery and beet “Detox Juice.”) It’s not your typical ice cream experience, but an elaborate ice cream Event: it takes at least five minutes to craft, and requires tools and a physicality usually reserved for spackling your bathroom. Once you’ve chosen your flavor, the liquid custard is poured onto a cold, rotating disc. One of the buff-forearmed workers will then scrape and chops the mixture as it freezes, until it starts to solidify, at which point it’s spread into a thin rectangle. The ice cream is carefully scraped into rolls, and then transferred to a cup. It’s both a visual experience (maybe you’ve seen ther mesmerizing videos on Instagram) and a popular one. On the weekday afternoon I visited, there was a long line, including a woman explaining the concept to her befuddled boyfriend and a gaggle of teenagers sporting matching tutus and “Oakland versus the world” shirts, huddling by the sneeze guard as they recorded the process with their phones. It’s different from your average ice cream, dense and chewy, but the matcha version I tried, topped with mochi and red bean, melted immediately into a pleasing texture.

Freezing Point Creamery
349 7th St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (510) 879-6998
Hours: Mon-Sun, 12-9:45pm
Facebook: Freezing Point
Instagram: Freezing Point
Yelp: Freezing Point Creamery
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

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Still want more ice cream? Here’s our list of ice cream options in Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland:

  • Tara's Organic Ice Cream: This East Bay stalwart, with two locations, serves organic ice cream in flavors like rooibos tea, lucuma, and strawberry rose.
  • Curbside Creamery: This Temescal shop features a streamlined menu of ice cream and soft serve, and always offers at least one vegan flavor.
  • Ici: One of the East Bay’s first gourmet ice cream places, this Elmwood shop offers innovative flavors in an elegant atmosphere.
  • Fentons: Bring your your loved ones to this iconic East Bay shop, where they serve a wide variety of flavors and awe-inspiring sundaes.
  • Three Twins: The Petaluma-based brand recently opened a Fourth Street outpost, where they serve up their organic ice cream in flavors like cardamom and sea salt caramel.
  • John's Ice Cream: As Bay Area rents continue to climb, drown your sorrows at John’s in downtown Berkeley, where a scoop is a mere $1.50.
  • Foster's Freeze: It’s not healthy or organic, but on a hot day, it’s almost impossible to resist Fosters’ combination of cheery service, vintage Americana aesthetic and lofty dipped cones.
  • Smitten Ice Cream: If you’re the kind of person who likes to see how things are made, don’t miss Smitten, where they use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream in front of your eyes.
  • Little Giant Ice Cream: This Uptown Oakland spot offers intriguing flavors like goat cheese and Mexican Rocky Road as well as classics like chocolate and vanilla.
  • Ben and Jerry’s: The East Bay has a few locations to get ice cream from everyone’s favorite Vermont hippies, but the Jack London Square shop boasts a charming waterfront view.
  • Cream: While Cream now boasts locations in four states, they got their start on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley--but you don’t have to be a starving student to appreciate the combination of warm cookies and tasty ice cream.
  • Baskin-Robbins: The world’s largest ice cream chain (!) offers several locations in the East Bay to get flavors both elaborate (Premium Churned Reduced-Fat, No Sugar Added Caramel Turtle Truffle) and simple (Rainbow Sherbet)--and yes, they still give you a free scoop on your birthday.
  • Cookiebar: Mix and match ice cream flavors like Fruity Pebbles or ube with cookies like snickerdoodles or white chocolate cranberry for your ideal ice cream sandwich.
  • Icey Cream: Stop by this small pink shop for a ice cream cone before walking across the street to Lake Merritt for an ideal Oakland summer afternoon. If you’re willing to risk the sugar coma, they also serve donut ice cream sandwiches.
  • Flavor Brigade: Sure, they offer ice cream, but the real reason to visit is their Philly-style frozen custards and ices.
  • Dreyer's: Yes, it’s a chain, but they started in Oakland, and they get points for nostalgia since it’s probably what you grew up eating. Plus, they allegedly invented Rocky Road--or was that Fenton’s?
  • Nieves Cinco De Mayo: This beloved Fruitvale establishment offers ice cream in flavors like cinnamon, corn and chongos (curdled milk), but don’t miss their mango chili mangonada.
  • Loard's: Huge, affordable scoops of seasonal flavors from a East Bay institution. What more could you ask for?

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