America's Finest Ice Cream: 4 Must-Try San Diego Ice Cream Shops

Ah, San Diego: America’s Finest City and the land of perpetual summer.  Here I’ve been trying to convince my non-native friends that we do indeed get bad weather and have a cold season, so naturally this sun is showing out with 80-degree temperatures in February to make me look like a lying fool. I want to complain that an unusually warm spring is likely foreboding of a scorching hot summer; really though, how can I be mad when my lunch hours lately have looked like this?

You know what else I can’t be mad at? ICE CREAM. I mean, it’s basically milk in a frozen state, which should tell you everything you need to know to understand my obsession. Luckily for me, San Diego is home to several especially tasty ice cream shops, offering up solid selections of classic flavors as well as more adventurous varieties to tickle your foodie fancy.

While I’d honestly eat ice cream in the throes of a blizzard, this perfect, summery weather is only making it easier and all the more tempting to savor this cool, creamy treat. Here are five of my favorite ice cream shops to enjoy on these beautiful, sunny days, Enjoy!

Oasis Ice Cream Parlor - 1832 Coronado Ave, San Diego, CA 92154 - 619-429-8980 - No Website – straight OG!

My dad has been taking me here since before I could walk, and I still make the trek down there when the craving hits me. Nestled in a small shopping center in South San Diego minutes from Imperial Beach, this understated mom-and-pop establishment with a Mexican twist has a very loyal customer base on account of their delicious product and variety of flavors.

Their decadent, creamy ice cream comes in fan favorites like rocky road and chocolate chip. Their bright and refreshing sorbets come in every flavor from lemon, pineapple and strawberry to my personal favorites: watermelon and cantaloupe. Perhaps best of all though are the real gems: all varieties of paletas. Offered in dairy (de leche) and non-dairy (de agua), I constantly confuse myself in trying to pick which one sounds best – Chamoy? Tamarindo? Pepino Con Chile? Coconut? Strawberry? Walnut? Guava? One of each? SO good.

Know Before You Go:

  • Some of their flavors are seasonal, so don’t be mad if you go down there and find that pepino con chile is out. I warned you, don’t say I didn’t.
  • Cash Only – Look, just do what I do. Grab a twenty and stock up.

Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream - 3077 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104 - 619-220-0231

Ok, I’ve only been coming here for a few months and already I can’t get enough. For one, they offer ice cream flights. Yes – flights! For someone who can never decide on just one flavor and whose waistline can also not afford to be packing in three scoops at a time, this is a dream come true. The flights offer smaller scoops in adorable little cones (either sugar or cake, your choice) and allow you to have just enough of each flavor to leave you satisfied but not gluttonous. You can of course get regular sized scoops in larger cones or cups as well, or a pint should you feel so inclined.

As for flavors, there are 93 of them. Take that, Baskin Robbins! For the purists, the chocolate is rich and indulgent, the vanilla delicately sweet and pure. For those who like a little extra richness, the birthday cake, chocolate coconut macadamia nut and caramel apple pie are out of this world. My personal favorites though are the harder-to-find types, the ones I rarely see elsewhere and that Hammond’s just does so right. They are the matcha green tea, lychee and (drum roll, please)…. honey lavender. Who knew flowers and cream went so well together?

Know Before You Go:

  • Parking can sometimes get a little tricky given their location on University. You'll usually have decent luck with side streets though, just bring your parallel parking A Game.
  • Hammond’s also has a location in Pacific Beach and another coming soon in Point Loma. See website for details.
  • The flavors rotate and the more popular selections sometimes run out by the late evening/afternoon. The team there will however take your name down and call you when your favorite flavor is back in stock – you best believe I ran out of my office last week and hauled my butt to Hammond’s when I got that call. Honey lavender can't wait! 
  • The full list of those 93 flavors can be found here. Feel free to call ahead and see if what you’re craving is in stock.

Tocumbo - 4686 Market St. B7, San Diego, CA 92102 - 619-264-0391 -

Just you wait until you walk in and feast your eyes on the giant wall of Mexican snacks and candies and the humongous menu of ice cream and other antojitos. This place has it all: bionicosfresas con crematortas, tostadastostilocos, raspados, mangoneadas, paletas and a ton more. All of that stuff is excellent, but I really dig their ice cream.

Flavor-wise, you’ll find a mix of classics and Mexican delights. I love the elote (corn), the queso (cheese), mamey (delicious tropical fruit popular in several Latin American countries) and because I am sometimes a child: bubblegum. No lie, I had to ask what some of the other flavors were, like chongos. Huh? I immediately thought of the messy bun I throw my hair into when I get home, not of yummy steamed milk, sugar and cinnamon. In any case, don’t be shy about asking for clarification or for samples, the friendly staff will happily provide you with both.

Know Before You Go:

  • Other locations include Barrio Logan and a new one in Chula Vista. See website for details.

Baked Bear - 4516 Mission Blvd, Suite C, San Diego, CA 92109 - 858-886-7433 -   

The only dessert I probably love more than ice cream is a warm chocolate chip cookie. Ice cream and cookies together then are pretty much my heaven on earth. Enter The Baked Bear, combining both of my loves into one delectable and so not figure-friendly mash-up. The cookies are made right there on site so they’re served up nice and warm and soft. Their ice cream is thick and perfect for slathering between two chewy cookies of your choice. I love the red velvet, the snickerdoodle and the funfetti cookies, while my top picks for the creamy filling are the birthday cake, mint chip and cookie dough.

Know Before You Go:

  •  The lines at this original PB location can get pretty crazy when it’s especially warm out; it’s worth it though. Perhaps you’ll even burn a few (read: one hundredth) of the calories you’re about to consume!
  • The Baked Bear is spreading the love! They have a few locations around San Diego now, including one at Petco Park! They've also recently expanded to La Cañada, San Francisco and Scottsdale, AZ. See their website for details.
  • They offers brownies and waffle cones if cookies aren’t your thing.

That's all I have for you, folks. What are your favorite spots? Comment below or on social media!

Bookishly Yours,