Mention the words 'ice cream' and 'San Francisco' and you'll likely get one of two names in response: Bi-Rite Creamery or Humphry Slocombe. The two famous scoop shops may both be located in the Mission, but their styles are totally distinct. If you're craving ice cream with flavors you've never tried before, that have often been called "wacky" or "adventurous", then Humphry Slocombe is your destination.
The ice cream at Humphry isn't just about novelty flavors, though with scoops like Golden Beet Saffron, Prosciutto, and Peanut Butter Curry, they can be found in abundance. The ice cream is made with ingredients whose quality you can taste, and they're often sourced from local producers like Andante Dairy, Straus Family Creamery, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
But back to those flavors. With a menu that features Fois Gras ice cream one day and Pepper & Mint Chip the next, it can be difficult to try everything you want in one sitting. That is, unless you arrive early and hungry, which is just what we did.
This is one of the few menu regulars, and for good reason. It's made with a mixture of coffee brewed from local Blue Bottle beans, chicory, and sweetened condensed milk. The result? A creamy, dairy-rich scoop that also packs a potent coffee punch. Sweet, milky, and strong, it's truly like a cup of Vietnamese coffee.
Brown Sugar Fennel
Fans of anise-flavored drinks such as Sambuca will appreciate this scoop, which has an herbal, slightly menthol, and licorice-heavy flavor. One caveat? Though plenty sweet, the brown sugar isn't distinct.
This is the most famous Humphry Slocombe flavor, and arguably what put them on the map. The base is mixed with condensed milk, kosher salt, and vanilla beans before being steeped with bourbon (ideally overnight). The crunchy pieces of mixed-in cereal are usually referred to as caramelized cornflakes, though they're actually crispy cornflake cookies that have been mashed up. The result is a rich vanilla ice cream with a pronounced bourbon twang and bites of crispy, sweet cereal.
Vanilla lovers, rejoice. This is big, pure vanilla; a vanilla that stands on its own. You can see the flavor's provenance in the cup—each scoop is covered in little black dots liberally sprinkled from the pod. One taster thought the vanilla had warm tones, similar to a homemade waffle cone "in the best way."
Most people will recognize this combination of red wine and cola by its other name, kalimotxo. But unlike that drink, which ideally embodies a fruity-boozy balance, this sorbet was straight out sweet, like someone poured Doctor Pepper in a glass of Manischewitz.
Black sesame sweets run the gamut between a flavor that's slightly nuttier than white sesame seeds to a flavor that's dark and smoky. This Black Sesame ice cream definitely skews towards the latter with a deep, toasty, earthy flavor. Not bad if you really like black sesame, but with its intensity, it doesn't play well with other flavors.
Limoncello is a southern Italian liqueur made with lemons, a high proof clear alcohol, and sugar. It can be a little sweet and viscous for my taste, but it's saved by its boozy bite. That bite is what this sorbet version is missing. That's not to say that the tasters didn't enjoy this scoop; lemony and sweet, everyone agreed it tasted like an Italian lemon ice (just not an Italian lemon liqueur).
POG stands for passionfruit, orange, and guava, and what you'll get in this sorbet is a very sweet tropical melange. I would have preferred to taste the flavors individually; taken together they are muddled, with the passionfruit lost completely. Overall, too similar to fruit punch.
This flavor proved divisive at first, with some people feeling that it's too sweet. But there are notes of caramel underneath the sugar, making it more complex than the name would imply. A good one to pair with other flavors.
Malted Dulce de Leche
Against expectations, this was a light scoop, with a subtle caramel flavor and a restrained sweetness. Another that would make an excellent pairing or part of a sundae.
Malted Milk Chocolate
Malty with a light cocoa flavor. Like frozen Ovaltine.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip
This scoop screams peanut butter, which will be a relief to serious PB lovers who are sick of watered down, mild peanut butter ice creams. That being said, it overwhelms the chocolate chips so if you're looking for a PBC combo, add a scoop of the Malted Milk Chocolate.
Bourbon Coke Float
I'm usually not a fan of floats that don't involve quality, almost-spicy root beer, but this changed my mind.Two scoops of Secret Breakfast ice cream (recap: a bourbon-based vanilla ice cream with corn flake clusters) is topped with a silky bourbon caramel and a pour of Coca-Cola. Is it sweet on sweet? Heck yeah. But it's got layers of caramel flavor thanks to the toffee notes of the cornflake clusters, the rich, smoky bourbon caramel, the bourbon ice cream, and the Coke. (Bonus, they give you the extra Coke in its glass bottle.)
Gabba Gabba Hey
This sundae won for best presentation. A thick wedge of brownie is topped with a scoop of Balsamic Caramel ice cream, a cloud of whipped cream, and bright red Amarena cherries. If I hadn't read that this was made with Balsamic Caramel ice cream, I wouldn't have been able to pin down the flavor. Overall, the profile of this dessert is more traditional, with the brownie dominating. If you like old fashioned brownie-with-a-cherry-on-top sundaes, that's not a bad thing.
Tin Roof Sundae
Vanilla ice cream and hot fudge are pretty standard, but they're elevated to new heights when they're topped with a blizzard of frosted peanuts and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. Seriously, this is all about those peanuts; with their crunchy, sweet exteriors they're like tiny, addictive pralines.
I was destined to love this sundae because its topped with my favorite thing: marshmallow fluff. It also features vanilla ice cream, bananas, and butterscotch, which, combined with the thick layer of gooey fluff, makes it pretty darn sweet. Don't get this unless you're a mallow devotee.