We made countless drives past The Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley (815 Cole Street, at Carl) while it was still under construction — drooling and plotting our first visit. It opened this month and we finally got our chance to stop in for a banana split and a twirl on the counter stools. The 1930’s ambiance alone (think wood, chrome, servers clad in white hats and aprons) gets a big thumbs up from both me and the kids. If you love vintage, trust me… this will be up your alley. But the menu is pretty interesting too.
The ice cream has it’s hipster moments, but it’s very traditional compared to what you’ll find at other hot spots like Humphry Slocombe, Bi-Rite Creamery or Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. They showcase a short list of flavors among which you’ll likely find versions of old favorites like vanilla, milk chocolate and pistachio. The ice cream is solid, but I think this is much more of a sitting at the counter and having a sundae kind of place. We looked no farther than the banana split because it combined three flavors of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, tart cherry), hot fudge, butterscotch, tart cherries with syrup, whipped cream and toasted almonds. The best part was definitely the caramelized banana which the gal behind the counter bruleed to order, and it was all served up in a perfectly old fashioned stainless steel footed dish with long handled spoons. I can’t remember the last I had a banana split and in these days of olive oil splashed sundaes and bacon brittle, it was a nice return to the classics.
So you can go old school with the ice cream, but you can go, really, really old school at the soda fountain in back with turn of the century style sodas, frappes, phosphates, malts and the like. Their huge list of housemade extracts, syrups, and tinctures is kind of overwhelming with what seems like a hundred flavors ranging from sweet and dessert-y to medicinal — pineapple, pink peppercorn, rosemary, dill, and chicory coffee to name a few. You can get lost in the possibilities but luckily you can also just go with a tride and true made-to-order rootbeer or one of their signature creations. It’s a a really fascinating concept that starts the wheels turning about homemade soda experiments at home, and it’s a great way to take the little ones on a mini trip back in time while discovering some new flavors at the same time.
The Ice Cream Bar place isn’t fast and it isn’t cheap, but that’s just part of the deal here. If you go in the evening or on the weekend, chances are you wont come by a seat too easily, so this is probably most do-able with kids in tow as a special afterschool treat. We hear they are going to be offering beer and wine, sandwiches, hot dogs and snacks in the coming weeks too.
Check out these other ice cream and soda fountain faves: Really Refreshing Fresh Lime Soda, We Love Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, Delightful Treats at the Twirl & Dip Soft Serve Ice-cream Truck , Smitten with Smitten ice Cream