Best Ice Cream - 2002
Joe's Ice Cream
There is reason to rejoice in these difficult times. As topsy-turvy as the world may be, one thing is certain: You can count on the ice cream at Joe's to comfort the taste buds and soothe the soul. The recipes and homemade blending techniques have gone unchanged for the better part of half a century. And it will continue to be so, despite the recent threat that Joe's would lose its lease. Some last-ditch negotiation and a souring economy saved this Richmond District landmark from being turned into an upscale restaurant. "We were lucky. The restaurant people backed off and we could stay," says longtime Joe's owner Mutsuhiko Murashige, who bought Joe's in 1979 when he emigrated from Japan and who has kept the same classic ice cream recipes the original man named Joe had made since the 1950s. Unlike that other local, family-run ice cream landmark, Mitchell's, which has diverted into the overladen, overly sweet Ben & Jerry's model, Joe's flavors maintain a refreshing simplicity. In addition to the classics like black walnut, lemon chiffon, butter brickle, and root beer swirl, Murashige has added new Asian-inspired flavors such as Thai tea, ginger, and mango. But he makes it all himself, in the same way it has always been done. The lease reprieve aside, however, all good things must come to an end. "The time is coming to retire," says Murashige, who will be 62 and have logged three decades of running Joe's when his new five-year lease expires. "I want to pass it on. I want to find someone with youthful energy for Joe's ice cream, who understands that we've become unique by staying the same." Amen.