A rotating exhibit of the things I love most about living in San Francisco.

best ice cream shops of San Francisco series: Humphry Slocombe

ice cream from Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco, brown butter and Harvey Milk (honey & graham crackers)

ice cream from Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco, brown butter and Harvey Milk (honey & graham crackers)

Bold, unique flavors, top-quality ice cream, an irreverent aesthetic and the frequency of new flavors (daily) have made Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream destination eating in the Mission. In fact, the store is nationally known, thanks to the New York Times and Food Network.

Humphry Slocombe certainly is emblematic of the neighborhood in which it resides. The Mission is an eclectic place, even for this city. While most SF neighborhoods boast a unique character, I think this neighborhood has not just one personality but three to call its own. The Mission is of course THE latin neighborhood, first and foremost, and home to the original Spanish Mission from whence it derives its name. But, it is also home to a counterculture inked-and-pierced hipster/student/artist/tweeting/coffee-drinking/laptop warrior crowd, riders of fixie-bikes, wearers of vintage clothing and missionaries of alternative lifestyles of all flavors.

Third, the Mission is home to a vibrant and devoted food lovers’ culture, one that values the holy trinity of local, sustainable and organic and evangelizes those values from the neighborhood pulpit.

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream is where at least the last two of these three Mission profiles converge. Owner Jake Godby himself is certainly inked, with ice cream cones etched on his arm and the Pillsbury Doughboy decorating his leg, and his ice cream flavors include ones that (in current Mission fashion) defy all convention- like Prosciutto, Salt & Pepper, foie gras and cucumber ice milk.

Like the murals on Balmy Alley, kitty corner across 24th Street from his shop, Godby uses every color in the box when devising his ice creams. But while there’s plenty of Mission irreverence and irony in some of the names (like Rosemary’s Baby, Jesus Juice or Elvis, the Fat Years) Godby’s attention to the quality of the ingredients and ice-cream-making process show a reverence of the highest kind. His ice cream is art. Albeit, Dada.

He’s known to make small batches from the best ingredients he can find from blackberries to mushrooms to 100 year scotch and as such, the flavors available change daily. The promise of something truly amazing, or at least a good dare, compels people to follow Humphry Slocombe dutifully on Twitter so as not to miss out on the latest experiment. And followers he has!

All this excitement around the store and of course, the great ice cream make this a favorite spot of mine. I’ve had some flavors that I liked and some I didn’t but I always go back because when it’s good, it’s really good. And, if it’s bad, at least it will probably become a good story for later.

Flavors I’ve tried:

Secret Breakfast, very sweet and rich base, rounded by the alcohol but not overpowered by it. Cornflakes add a nice texture and balance the sweet nicely.

Jesus Juice, sorbet in texture, not milky, rather the intense flavor of wine only slightly curbed by the sweetness of cola. Can be cloying by last lick.

Brown Butter, utterly good, sweet, buttery and rich. You’ll finish it wanting more.

Harvey Milk (Honey, graham crackers), very Milky, very sweet, I’m not much of a honey fan but loved this. The graham crackers really showcase the flavor and add an interesting texture.

Rosemary’s Baby, love the combination of rosemary and pine nuts. Very savory flavor which can be a little cloying after the last bite. The first taste was the best.

McEvoy Olive Oil, the new vanilla. Lovely neutral flavor and not ‘too’ oil-y

Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, intensely bright yet still milky and creamy.

Tahitian Vanilla, this is an incredible vanilla.

Peanut Butter Curry, savory and the best bite was the first. Can be cloying.

Thai Chile Lime, bright and bold, one bite is great but one scoop might be just too much.

Salt and Pepper, try it. It’s a neat flavor but don’t get more than a spoon full unless you love it. A scoop is nearly inedible and  the first ice cream I’ve ever thrown away.

Ancho Chocolate, chocolate with pepper. It’s neat!

Hibiscus Beet, totally unique (to me) flavor profile. Didn’t like or dislike. Try it. One spoonful probably enough.

Limoncello Italian Ice, can’t get enough of this one, like a sherbet, milky and intensely lemoney.

Elvis, the Fat years. Peanut butter with banana pieces and bacon bit. Love the combination of peanut butter and salty, bacon. Banana barely noticeable but on the whole a delicious flavor

Sweet Corn, sounds crazy but really, really good. Very milky and custardy, the notes of egg very present, in a good way. The flavor was subtle and rich, but  not cloying at all.

secret breakfast and jesus juice ice cream from Humphry Slocombe

secret breakfast and jesus juice ice cream from Humphry Slocombe


9 responses

  1. qinnoe

    You know the Aztec warrior in the mural is looking longingly at your ice cream cone.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm

  2. -he can look, but he can’t touch!

    September 10, 2010 at 12:18 am

  3. Many thanks for turning me on to this place. Finally swung by and agonized over the choices and settled on the Boccalone Proscuitto. Loved the first bite because it was so different, but by the time i’d finished the scoop i was wishing i’d had the Ancho Chocolate…or a proscuitto sandwich at Lucca Deli on Valencia.

    October 16, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    • my experience with ‘salt and pepper’ was like that, big example of the principle of diminished returns. The first bite was neat, the fourth and fifth, not so much! Of course the brown butter was . . .revelatory!

      October 16, 2010 at 11:00 pm

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