Sweet creaminess and hilarious slurpy straw noises used to be why we loved getting an ice cream float at the cherished A&W back in the day. Dad would be all tanned and relaxed, and back then none of us had a care that we were slurping sugary soda that today would possibly be fraught with deeper meaning, political tension, and evilly gargantuan calories. Vanilla ice cream with root beer or even Coca-Cola may be a seemingly innocent '80s-tinged intro to brain freezy fun, but it's easy to find major creative variances on this ever-growing genre of dairy delights. Espresso and many flavors of booze are still popular components for "adult" floats (what did brunch restaurants do before this came along?).
National Ice Cream Soda Day hits Thursday, and yes, you can sub the word "float" for the word "soda" since they are one and the same. Here are three San Francisco spots that have the goods for soda/float fans.
Ice Cream Bar (815 Cole) celebrates from 12 noon until 10 pm with $1* off beverages from the fountain menu. Build your own options range from play-it-safe vanilla to bitter or sweet orange varietals; cinnamon, birch, anise fennel seed and more.
Traditional fountain sodas include cold-brewed sassafras root beer ("with 11 herbs and spices"!) in honor of Russell Davis, rightly known as the brains behind the restaurant's soda fountain. We're eyeing the healing properties that may come with a ginger beer, a heady blend of ginger root, lemon and lime extracts, and the appropriately scary sounding hellfire tincture.
*(excludes items with alcohol--remedies, bottled beer and wine).
Mike Clement of the Little Chihuahua mini-taqueria chain (three S.F. locations on Valencia, Divisidero, and 24th Street) says via phone interview that all three locations will have root beer floats with anejo tequila ice cream made with product from Humphry Slocombe. If there's a better antidote for Little Chihuahua's beautiful slashes of habanero salsa across our veggie burrito, we're stumped.
Polly Ann Ice Cream (3138 Noriega St.) is the winner of this year's Best Wheel of Creamy Fortune, but float seekers can also find thrills with 48 flavors of ice cream and 9 flavors of soda, says Polly Ann's Chris Lee. "We do the classic root beer float, and most people go with vanilla." Note that there is ample room to explore, and "a lot of people have been doing mint, coconut or cookie dough," with their beverages. SFoodie's Tamara Palmer says that she tends to order flavors like Bumpy Freeway (rocky road), sesame peanut, maple walnut, E.T., and O.P.P. back in the day: orange peach pineapple. A lil' sweet and saucy nostalgia floats our metaphoric boat just fine, thanks.