Best Ice Cream Shop - 2005
Buying ice cream should be a nostalgic event, so stop kidding yourself that Cherry Garcia helps the environment and go to a real shop: the original Swenson's at Union and Hyde. Opened in 1948 by Earle Swenson himself, this place has catered to the Russian Hill community for years, and lines of loyal customers frequently spill out the door. Although the décor is proudly retro, with its ancient sign and ice cream machine in the front window, most people come for the flavor. Swenson's just tastes different. It's creamy and smooth and sticks to your spoon, with old favorites such as Lemon Burst, Wild Mountain Blackberry, and Peppermint Stick. Swenson's also sells tubs in an icebox near the door, the flavors hand-stamped on old-fashioned containers. Seemingly stuck in the 1940s and oblivious to the competitive market, the store does make one boast: "Our Half-Gallons Weigh More!" The curb out front is reserved for customers, a tradition that's surprisingly respected, even in parking-tight Russian Hill.