Ici certainly attracts the crowds. What do you think? Photo: Kukkurovaca on Flickr

When we asked our readers to weigh in on the best pizza in Berkeley last month, we were floored by the reaction. Over 200 comments, 81 Facebook Likes and dozens of tweets showed you were passionate about pizza in Berkeley. Now that the weather is heating up (at last), we wonder what you think about ice cream.

There’s certainly plenty of choice in our city. You might like braving the lines at Ici or Cream, be attracted by the unbeatable prices at John’s, hanker after national favorite Ben and Jerry’s, or run to Solano Avenue startup iScream or College Avenue alternative Tara’s.

Perhaps your tastes tend more to gelato at Naia, Almare or Lush. Or is the best ice cream hiding in a café or restaurant that specializes in something else? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

A note on the “rules” of our wholly unscientific reader survey. We’re interested in ice cream. But worry not, we’ll give you a chance to vent about frozen yogurt or sorbet some other day. We know there are ways to automate the survey so individuals can only make one choice, but we like the ebb and flow that freeform comments encourages. We’ll compile the results next Thursday.

Have at it.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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114 Comments

  1. If you’re looking for a cozy, small shop with great sundaes Sugar Cone Cafe up in Kensington is worth a stop. Homemade sauces, fun toppings and (and tons of unique and deeeeelicious cupcakes) make it worth the trip.

  2. Tara’s is wonderful.  Lush is good too.  I don’t see the appeal of Ici and won’t be going back – pricey, crowded.  Tara’s is a revelation and made moving to the East Bay and saying goodbye to SFs Mitchell’s, Humphrey Slocombe and Bi-Rite much more tolerable.

  3. Fiorelli’s — sold at Country Cheese on San Pablo Ave and Hopkins Cheese Market. Anyone who makes chocolate maple bacon ice-cream without a lot of worthless air whipped in gets my vote. Plus, you don’t have to stand in line blocking sidewalks to get it or eat it. 

  4. I think your first comment about the rudeness of ICI’s clientele was a little bit melodramatic, but Alan Saldich is certainly being a real a-hole in his responses to you, and hounding your comments across multiple stories.

    I don’t go in for conspiracy theories, but it seems like he’s got some kind of personal vendetta against you.

  5. This was in response to the line about the best ice cream hiding in a restaurant that specializes in something else…O Chame is not an ice cream place nor a cafe.  A fantastic restaurant with this little prize available for dessert.  No cone necessary!

  6. We love walking over to Lush to see what seasonal flavor my kids will try next. Ice cream is delicious, especially flavors like the cardamom orange zest but even old favorites like mint chocolate, service is friendly and the location is great for us north Berkeley folks

  7. I don’t eat a lot of ice cream, as I’m lactose intolerant.  Based on my small survey I do like Lush. John’s is cheap and fun, but not so tasty. Ici is OK, but I can’t handle their lines and so have only been there once.  Waiting 20 minutes for a tiny scoop isn’t for me. I really like Yogurtland best of all, but since this isn’t a yogurt survey I’d have to say Lush wins for me.

  8. Bishop,

    Look I get it , some posters want to blame me for making a complaint about crowd control at ICI. Isn’t is interesting that instead of asking me what was rude about my experience which happened the same day as this story,  I am jumped on.
     
    Why not recommend that ICI post a sign suggesting the crowd line up on one side of the sidewalk and be aware and responsible to folks trying to pass.

    The other night was particularly rude, and the sense of privilege from the customer who refused to be reasonalbe was quite frankly RUDE. In trying to pass I said Hello with a smile and Excuse, the guy refused to budge, and left his foot planted blocking the 8″ of space. I should have crossed the street earlier, but the business I visited was on the same side.

    Enough of this, Alan’s original post violates the blog rules. I made the mistake of forgetting how many people in  Berkeley  can’t tolerate any fractures to their fairy tales.

     

  9. Wow…that’s a bit melodramatic!  We are also a family who walks etc. etc.  With really small kids.  And a dog.  And we live a block from Ici, so we pass the place a gazillion times.

    The folks in the Ici line DO spread out all over, and they DO block the sidewalk without really thinking about foot traffic, and it DOES slow one down (same as passing La Med, incidentally) but that’s where it ends.  “Rude” and “worst [sic] than passing through Telegraph homeless encampments”?  Seriously? 

    Come on.  I’m a Berkeley cynic too (and I’ve got a many-years head start on you), but you can’t let City Council insanity poison every stroll you take down the sidewalk.

  10. That would be Lush Gelatto, in the gourmet Ghetto, at the Epicurious Gardens.  Not only are the flavors great but you can eat your cone outside by a waterfall.

  11. The very best ice cream? That would be Lush Gelatto, in the gourmet Ghetto, at the Epicurious Gardens.  Not only are the flavors great but you can eat your cone outside by a waterfall.

  12. Lush has wonderful flavors, but the texture is too icy and firm for a gelato, I feel. The cones at Ici are just fantastic and their ice cream sandwiches are perfect, but their chocolate ice cream is….chewy and that disqualifies them, if you ask me (and you did).  And too many of their flavors rely on inclusions that are in harsh contrast to creamy.

    Naia is so texturally off I have only been once and I have to admit that I’ve never tried Tara’s. Is that Berkeley? And iScream is cute and my kids really like it and the texture is lovely, but it has very little flavor. If Scream and Sketch were on the table my vote would be different, but..

    My favorite is Almare. The flavor and texture and price are wonderful.

  13. Caramel Balsamic ice cream sounds wonderful.  Is it available as a cone or only as a dish as part of a meal?

  14. It is indeed true, and they are AMAZING! They usually only have one vegan ice cream flavor at a time, either soy mint chip or soy cherry chip. Both absolutely delicious.

  15. Well, I also have to say Ici. I love the flavors at Tara’s—they’re a bit more adventurous than Ici’s usually, and have more of a selection. But when I lived two blocks from Ici and was indulging my sugar addiction, I would stand in that line at least twice a week, maybe more often. And it really had to do with the texture. Tara’s flavors are great, but the texture at Ici is superior, in my opinion.

    That said, I haven’t been indulging my sugar addiction lately, so I haven’t been to either of them in months.

  16. Actually that turns out to have been a myth; it’s about the same, with wide variability depending on how highly refined the agave syrup is.

  17. Hey Laura, 

    Have you ever made a positive comment on this site? If so, please point us to it.

    While I now expect negative comments from you pretty much no matter what the topic, figuring out how to make one on a story about ice cream is pretty impressive. 

    Even more impressive is figuring out the negative angle on a wildly successful, popular, locally-owned ice cream shop. My hat goes off to you, the most consistently negative commenter on this blog. I challenge you to say something nice about someone on here, at least once. I live a few blocks from Ici, and I’m not sure that your description of your walk past a line made up of a bunch of kids, families, college students and other ice cream enthusiasts being worse than passing through Telegraph homeless encampments is credible.Just for the record, I think Ici is great! And, also for the record, I think walking by the homeless encampments is worse than walking by the Ici line. I guess I need to try Lush and IScream though… I feel like I’m missing out.

  18. I have to reluctantly say Ici. I can’t convince my family to go to Tara’s with me (so I can try their Sweet Cream) because they almost never have a simple Chocolate available.  What’s so wrong with a minimalism in ice cream, people?

    P.S. I miss Sketch so much. *sigh*

  19. I know it’s gelato, but Gelataria Naia on Shattuck near Berkeley Rep has been my favorite for years. I also like Ici (lemon gingerbread sandwiches!) but find them to be a bit too pricey.

  20. Black sesame at Tara’s. Ici is wonderful. Unfortunately no one in Berkeley nails it like BiRite in the Mission for good old American style ice cream.

  21. I scream for Scream. The best, sticky lickable hands down. I get it at the Albany Farmers’ Market every Wednesday. I know I know, Albany is also NOT in Berkeley.

  22. In addition to Farmer’s Markets, grocery stores and their own outlets in Marin, we purchased some Three Twins cones last night from a roaving, refrigerated, bicycle vendor at a park in San Anselmo.  Give Three Twins credit for figuring out the most venues for sales!  Great store bought ice cream also.

  23. BTW, I have observed that there are two distinct Ici cliques.  Those that pronouce Ici like the French word “ici = here” which is how the shop imagines it being pronounced and those that pronounce it “icy”.  Might be interesting to analyze the two groups.

  24. Remember the place, but not the name.  McCullums, Botts and Ortman’s come to mind from that general era of Berkeley gourmet ice cream.

  25. I much prefer the creaminess and more main-stream flavors at IScream on Upper Solano to those at Ici.  Glad IScream opened in North Berkeley.

  26. Trendy and expensive, and the customers in line OWN the sidewalk. As a family who walks to restaurants, encountering the line at Ici is a rude experience, worst than passing through Telegraph homeless encampments, who at least acknowledge others and move over so you can walk by. 

  27. I’m a grown-up too, but with kid tastes when it comes to ice cream or gelato.  I, too, would love for some ‘boring’ alternatives aside from vanilla (my favorite flavor!0 and chocolate.  In Italy, I always get a combo of Fior di Latte (a very slightly sour-ish cream flavor) and Amarena (cherry).  No peppercorns in sight!

  28. There is an agave-based ice cream I’ve seen for sale at Andronico’s.  I haven’t tried it, but it should be a little better for your blood sugar than regular ice cream.  I know agave is not ‘better’ for you than sugar, but it does have a lower glycemic index.

  29. chocolatier blue. And sorry, but it’s better than sketch was. The flavors are much stronger.

  30. Great questions … and I think the boundaries might be fuzzy.  Be very interested in what other people think about the idea.

    It certainly is easiest and clearest to make decisions on whether it is Berkeley or .NOT. BerkeleySome examples of “Berkeley within experimental error”HamburgersOne day Berkeleyside might do a “best burger” post.  My vote would go to Kensington Circus Pub … except that it’s two blocks north of the Berkeley border in 4 Corners.  If we include Kensington Circus, would Al’s in Albany or Fat Apples in El Cerrito be eligible?  Where would you draw the line.PizzaLots of people liked Little Star on Solano.  That might have been included in the great pizza debate.  

    Safeway
    The Claremont Safeway in Oakland is adjacent to Berkeley.  What happens at the Claremont Avenue Safeway definitely affects (more than just tangentially) Berkeley’s Elmwood and Claremont neighborhoods.

    The issues that Claremont Safeway neighbors have will be similar to those who live near Berkeley and Albany Safeway stores.

    Your thoughts?

    Ira

  31. But where does one draw the line?
    How do you define “spiritually Berkeley?”
    How far outside of Berkeley can something be and still be “spiritually Berkeley?”

    Muddy the waters too much, and you run the risk of turning into just another general Bay Area site.

  32. What was the name of the tiny ice cream place just south of La Vals on Euclid, late 60’s? 

  33. Nia hands down. I live three blocks from Lush but walk a mile past it to Nia. Lots of good straight forward flavors as well as interesting combinations, rich and high-calorie or fruity and less calorie. Plus an always friendly sales staff.

  34. I suggest that  Berkeleyside expand its coverage to include adjacent communities which are spiritually Berkeley … or Berkeley within experimental error.

    It may be time to move away from Quantum Berkeley criteria – it’s either in Berkeley or outside Berkeley.  And as others have pointed out, sometimes there’s really a tenuous or cloudy connection to Berkeley.

    Using these criteria, Upper College and Telegraph in Oakland, Solano on Albany, and Kensington Village and Kensington Circle would no longer be beyond the pale of coverage.

    It would be great to include Kensington Circus Pub and Kensington Farmer’s market, Safeway Store remodels on Claremont and Solano, and the Albany Farmers’ market.   You could simply refer to them as being Aside Berkeleyside

    You wrote about redistricting Berkeley a few days ago … here’s hoping that the Berkeleyside Founding Troika gives serious consideration to redistricting the Berkeleyside boundaries too.

    Ira Serkes

  35. Most definitely Ici.  I haven’t gone anywhere else (well Fentons and Dreyers, but those are Oakland)…for me there’s absolutely no need to.

  36. Oh and I forgot to mention another long-gone place that was just out of this world and ahead of it’s time in Berkeley…Ortman’s.  Haven’t stepped inside that building since it was taken over by McStarbuck’s.   There was a large number of regular flavors, some house favorites, and a few that would pop up in the summer…my favorite being the wild berry and cream swirl.  Ortman’s went away because at the time no one cared for house made ice cream and instead wanted Starbuck’s bland brown water.

  37. Indeed.  Sketch was one of the BEST ice cream shops anywhere!  Miss Eric and Ruthie so much…But I’m going to give away a little secret…one of the best ice creams is available across the street at O Chame…Caramel Balsamic Ice Cream.  It’s absolutely wonderful and ahead of its time…on the menu since long before all these specialty shops were even a pipe dream.

  38. Indeed.  Sketch was one of the BEST ice cream shops anywhere!  Miss Eric and Ruthie so much…But I’m going to give away a little secret…one of the best ice creams is available across the street at O Chame…Caramel Balsamic Ice Cream.  It’s absolutely wonderful and ahead of its time…on the menu since long before all these specialty shops were even a pipe dream.

  39. Echoing an earlier commenter, Alamare on Shattuck is the real deal — much better than its popular neighbor Naia. It’s less sweet, so the flavors come through.  Recipes and flavors are traditional Italian gelato….mmmmmm.

    Ici is good, but overrated.  But if it were still around, Sketch would win by a mile.

  40. In my opinion keeping “the borders for the site very strict” ignores both the history of the place and the reality of life in Berkeley.  But if that’s your policy, you should stick to it.  Why on Tuesday a story on a house in Orinda whose connection to Berkeley is that the supervising (not even the designing) architect once lived in Berkeley?  As Scott Stoller’s link to the NYT makes clear, Scream founder Nathan Kurz studied the history of ice cream/sorbet manufacture in the U.C. Berkeley library!  That (and the scores of Berkeleysiders who go to Scream each day) make it more intimately connected to Berkeley than some Usononian masterwork in Orinda.  

  41. Ici by a long shot with Ben and Jerry’s as a second. I don’t understand why we would include gelaterias and sorbet places in this conversation. It’s not fair to compare them since they are in their own categories.  That said, Scream Sorbet is (technically not in Berkeley) hands down the most impressive sorbet I have ever tried.

  42. I like Naia on Shattuck Avenue.  They have so many wonderful flavors, my favorites are canteloupe and honeydew melon.

  43. Lush! Oh, how I love thee……Let me count the ways! Their orange zest cardamom and “mint chip” made with fresh mint. Scrumptious!

  44. Being a grown up I love all the weird ingredients Lush uses like balsamic vinegar, mustard, curry, herbs, spices etc… but I wish they would just make something a little more kid friendly. My kids simple do not have that exotic a palate (yet). Yeah they have chocolate and vanilla but I wish they would add a couple more traditional, simple flavors sans cracked peppercorn, wasabi, and bourbon. So yes. I love Lush. We go there every Friday after school. Naia is my other top pick.

  45. Lush! Where else can you get such rad flavors?! Plum & Italian Balsamic Gelato!?!? Enough said… 

  46. Just over the border, and walking distance from Berkeley is Scream – sorbet. Absolutely the most creative and delicious flavors and what a story! So thick and creamy, it could be ice cream.http://screamsorbet.com/

  47. Scott, it was harrowing for one of the Berkeleyside editors to be barred
    from including Scream. We like to keep the borders for the site very strict,
    even if our lives sometimes stray over city boundaries.

  48. Barry Schenker, a local vegan chef, has developed a line of vegan gelato called Genuto.
    I don’t know if its commercially available yet, but you can contact him: barry@genuto.com
    As for ice cream, I love Bud’s, which  is available at Michelle’s Yogurt and Sweets @ 2430 Durant, where there is no line and prices are reasonable.

  49. Ici, but it’s a far cry from the late lamented Sketch on 4th Street, which had the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten by a longshot.

  50. Ici, but it’s a far cry from the late lamented Sketch on 4th Street, which had the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten by a longshot.

  51. Ici, but it’s a far cry from the late lamented Sketch on 4th Street, which had the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten by a longshot.

  52. I vote Ici. I guess it’s a bit trendy and expensive, but the flavors are unusual and delicious, the waffle cones are amazing, and the decor is delightfully quaint. For gelato, Almare/Lush are tied for me.

  53. I believe all the fruit flavors at Almare gelato are also vegan, and really stupendously good!

  54. This San Leandro native says Loards in El Cerrito Plaza is the only true ice cream in or near Berkeley. Same recipes for — what — over fifty years. None of your weird flavors — just ice cream!

  55. My vote goes 100% to Lush Gelato. Not only do they use local ingredients from farmer’s markets and organic farms, but they always have a huge variety of flavors. You will always find gelato, sorbetto, and even VEGAN flavors made there. They might be small, but they have A LOT to offer, and will never disappoint!

  56. I wonder why you separate frozen yogurt from ice cream but you include gelato with ice cream.  Just wunnering, not challenging.

    I have never tried Tara’s. I pass it on the bus and note that it is organic. I wonder if they charge a little more than Ici, which would help explain why Ici always has lines while Tara’s rarely does. Additionally, Tara is not located in a block that is as heavily trafficked as Ici. Ici is not organic. If I were on College Ave much, which I am not, and looking for ice cream regularly, which I do not do because I have diabetes, I would definitely prioritize organic Tara’s over Ici. Having said that, I did get a scoop at Ici once before or after a movie. Ici is near the movie theater, in a hotter traffic spot. I think that is the real reason it gets the lines.

    My favorite ice cream bought and eaten in Berkeley is Three Twins organic ice cream sold at the Saturday Berkeley farmers market.  I went on a Three Twins binge this spring. They sell reduced six-packs of pints from batches that have some slight flaw, like too much cookie in the lemon cookie, or too much peanut butter in the chocolate peanut butter. These are flaws one can live with, esp. at the price of six pints for $20 instead of their $5 and $6 pints.  I can’t pass up the bargain.

    Three Twins lemon cookie is amazing. All my life (I am 57) I have been a chocolate person. Until a year or two ago, I never tasted any ice cream that did not have a chocolate component unless a host was serving something else. Then I got wind of that lemon cookie. And then a whole vista of flavors opened up for me. I love Three Twins cardamon, madagasgar vanilla and the coffee with chocolate nibs and every flavor they sell.

    I did the six-pack specials several weeks in a row, my blood sugar skyrocketing. I had become a junkie. It’s not just the totally awesome flavors. Three Twins does something special in how they make their ice cream. It is superior to other organic ice cream I have tasted. They do not add an ingredient related to ‘gum’ that virtually all over ice cream makers use, even organic ice cream makers. There is an ingredient used to affect the texture, to hold things together that Three Twins doesn’t use. I have lined up several organic ice creams next to Three Twins. There is a cleanness of flavor, an absence of something, that is special about their ice cream. I have decided it is the absence of the gum-related ingredient but I don’t know for sure. I just know that it is significantly different from other premium and organic ice cream I have tasted.

    Alas, I have taken a pledge. No ice cream for me until my blood glucose measures in the range it is supposed to for six months. And even then, I should not eat ice cream.

  57. I’m absolutely hooked on Lush gelato, no question about it. My parents flew out here from New Hampshire to visit for the first time, and it was the first place we went that evening!

  58. I have to say I love the chocolate in the bottom of Ici’s cones alongwith the delicious ice cream. My daughter swears by Lush gelato — and tells everyone about it — but I think that is more because of the location (next to Cheeseboard among many other dinner options) and lovely sitting area that is the Epicurious garden.

  59. I think the best one is on 4th street at Chocolatier Bleu. Creamy to perfection, none to sweet, accurate flavor and best, no ridiculous line!

  60. I’ve tried Ici, iScream, Naia, Tara’s and Lush.  Of those, my vote goes to Lush for their intense and fun flavors (and I like Naia too).  I was least impressed with iScream.  Tara’s and Ici fall somewhere in the middle.  But none of the East Bay contenders compare to SF’s Humphry Slocombe (which I like better than Bi-Rite), IMHO.

  61. Whoa, I am going to have to check that out.  I hope it’s true!  Thanks for the tip!

  62. I agree, though I’d give the slightest of edges to Tara’s. I suppose it boils down to location and Ici’s more inventive flavors?

    Has anyone tried one of Ici’s baked Alaska’s? Any good.

  63. I agree, though I’d give the slightest of edges to Tara’s. I suppose it boils down to location and Ici’s more inventive flavors?

    Has anyone tried one of Ici’s baked Alaska’s? Any good.

  64. I’ve heard that Cream on Telegraph sells vegan ice cream sandwiches, though I haven’t tried them yet.

  65. Three Twins at the Saturday farmers’ market. Strawberry Je ne c’est quoi is the best strawberry we’ve ever encountered.

  66. Naia Gelato in downtown Berkeley.  They usually have about four different flavors of soy gelato, and I believe all of their sorbets are vegan, too.  The soy gelato are the flavors at the very end of the case, closest to the door.  I believe their tags are brown.

    Ici usually has a sorbet option, too.  I’ve asked if it’s dairy-free, and they said yes.

    Three Twins at the Farmer’s Markets sell rice milk ice cream.  Never had it though.

  67. Lush, for sure!  It has a variety of interesting and out-there flavors, as well as the basics, all seasonal and delicious.  They have good service, no long lines and it always moves fast.  And one of my favorite things about them is that they have beautiful, pleasant outdoor seating.  Best ice cream or gelato in Berkeley!

  68. Naia for gelato.  Hazelnut + dark chocolate, mmmm.  For plain old ice cream it’s worth making a trip north of the border to Loard’s in El Cerrito Plaza.  Reminds me of McCallum’s / Ortman’s.

  69. This reminds me to buy some rock salt, today.    Damn, I bet blueberries are still on sale, too.  And there’s a whole lot of lemons around…

  70. Love Ici’s ice cream and creative flavors but can’t stand the lines or the service so only rarely indulge there.  Lately, I have become more enamored of Lush Gelato in Epicurious Garden.  I wanted to fall in love with Iscream on Solano for geographical proximity but I have only had mediocre cones there (alas!).

  71. I like Ici and Tara’s equally. I’ve never understood why Ici gets the giant lines while Tara’s, only a few blocks away, doesn’t. Chocolatier Blue also has excellent ice cream.