And the winner is… Lush Gelato. It received 22 votes from our readers. Photo: Lance Knobel

When we asked our readers last week to tell us where the best ice cream is in Berkeley, we knew you’d respond in numbers. And you certainly did: last night there were 112 comments, numerous tweets and a healthy number of Facebook Likes. What we didn’t quite expect was the distaste some people had for combining ice cream and gelato in the same survey (we do know the difference), or a significant thread on that old chestnut of why Berkeleyside works hard to avoid straying outside the city borders.

In any case, most of you concentrated on the task at hand — where can you find Berkeley’s best ice cream and/or gelato? And, in an intriguing side stream of observations, what’s the single best flavor to be found?

There were two clear winners, and appropriately, one of them is a gelateria and the other is an ice cream store.

Lush Gelato, in the Epicurious Garden on North Shattuck, garnered 22 votes and a decidedly healthy number of exclamation marks. Typical was commenter Jennybluetooth: “Lush! Oh, how I love thee… Let me count the ways! Their orange zest cardamom and ‘mint chip’ made with fresh mint. Scrumptious!”

Second place goes to College Avenue’s Ici, with 16 votes. Many people, even Ici fans, lamented the long lines (and more than a few felt the prices were too steep). Ici aficionados tended to the terse, like commenter Dan Alpert: “Ici, duh!”

Ici on College ranked second in readers’ votes

The top two were way out in front for our readers, but strong opinions favored a number of others. Two downtown gelateria jostled for third place. Naia, with nine votes, narrowly edged out Almare with eight (although only Almare’s website comes with a soundtrack of an Italian crooner warbling about gelato al limon). Each had their partisans. Tim: “Almare is the real deal.” Kathyw: “I like Naia on Shattuck Avenue. They have so many wonderful flavors, my favorites are canteloupe and honeydew melon.”

Beyond those top four, a number of places received three or four votes: Tara’s, Three Twins, Chocolatier Blue, iScream and Ben & Jerry’s.

Perhaps most unusual were the five votes captured by Sketch, which closed on Fourth Street a couple of years ago. Some people really miss Sketch.

What about the flavors? The names alone should make you salivate. Here are some favorites: Orange Zest Cardamom from Lush, Caramel Balsamic at O Chame (the only restaurant named by our commenters), Lemon Cookie and Strawberry Je Ne Sais Quoi from Three Twins, and Flying Goat Coffee from Chocolatier Blue.

Did we miss anything?

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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10 Comments

  1. I tried Tara’s for the first time last night based on comments from the original survey.  Balsamic Strawberry  and Turkish Coffee.   Delicious.  Very different ice cream from Ici.  I also tasted the lemongrass ice cream – light, fresh flavor with a ginger after taste.  And they make a very tasty sesame cone.

  2. Scream isn’t Berkeley proper but.. nothing else in Berkeley compares to it, not even Ici. Don’t get me wrong, Ici is the tits, but Scream is whole ‘nother level.

  3. Good points about improving serving efficiency.  Ici does now send someone out in line to provide pre-order samples, but the last two times I visited the wait (20-30 min.) was not appreciably shortened by this ruse.
     
    The express line is a must.  I suggested that to them some time back.  I think there are some deeper issues at Ici with the cramped ergonomics of the serving space and, perhaps, the urgency of the work staff.  Let’s say you are with a party of four and, after a fairly interminable wait, you are now at last ordering at the head of the line.  Leaving aside tasting flavors or hemming and hawing about what to choose, you convey to your server the four separate scoops your party has chosen.  But the ice cream bins are so cramped that they really only permit one person to scoop at a time. 
     
    So, more often than not, the person serving you stands around and waits for a minute or more while another server is dredging out someone else’s previous order.  What is a little mysterious to me, is why it seems to take so long to scoop out a decent amount for one cone or cup.  Is the ice cream kept at too low a temperature so that it’s extremely tedious and time consuming to scoop it out from a rock hard bin?  Are the bins too deep so that it’s difficult to reach down towards the bottom of each bin, especially as the evening wears on and the lines grow?  Something is wrong here.
     
    I But what I do know is that in a “rationale” economy, a place as spectacularly popular and crowded as Ici would long ago have moved to a larger location which included seating and a serving set up which could accommodate many more patrons more efficiently (a la Fenton’s).  This being Berkeley, of course, it would probably be too expensive and complicated to actually take over some large, long-vacant store front and turn into a real ice cream parlor….

  4. I like that Ici has started posting a list of flavors at the head of the outside part of the line so that people can get a head-start on ordering before stepping into the store itself.  There is certainly lots of room for efficiency improvement at the popular ice cream shops.  For example, how about an express line for people who know exactly what they want and another line for those who need to taste two or three flavors before making their ice cream investment?  Or a staff person walking the line with samples, or taking pre-orders? 

  5. What an honor!  Thank you all for your votes and kind words.  You are the reason we love playing with fresh, local and in-season ingredients to make the most delicious and exotic gelato and sorbettos possible.  Thank you!

    – Lush Gelato