People waiting for ice cream at Mitchell's

Every summer, San Francisco makes a paltry attempt at warm weather, but that hardly seems to matter to ice cream lovers – summer’s here and we’re willing to stand in lines often buffeted by wind and nearly enshrouded in fog.

At the latest tally, the Mission boasts a dozen ice cream shops, all hawking either gorgeously simple classics, unconventional flavors, or unique manufacturing methods. All begging to be sampled.

Despite the city re-opening and things returning to a new normal, I wasn’t sure how ice cream shops had fared amidst the pandemic. Where could I get the closest scoop?

Mitchell’s Ice Cream on San Jose Avenue seemed like an obvious first choice. One, because it’s one of the few shops in the neighborhood offering scoops during the pandemic and not just pints for pickup. And two, because Mitchell’s has been a San Francisco staple for more than half a century, lauded for introducing mango ice cream to the Bay Area (still one of their most popular flavors). The shop is a classic, and reliably delicious. 

Even in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday, there was a line of customers snaking around the sidewalk in front of the corner shop. Patrons respectfully distanced from each other using the red tape on the ground while mulling their orders. 

The woman ahead of me ordered two pints of Oreo cookie and went happily on her way. 

Then came my turn. And I saw the glaring sign taped on the clear, plastic divider separating me from my ice cream. 

“Sorry – No Samples!”

Heartbroken, I panicked. I’d never tried to place an ice cream order without at least sampling three different options. 

Fruity? Chocolate? Something edgy, like avocado?

I had no idea what I wanted.

Painfully aware of holding up the respectfully distanced line behind me, I tried a workaround. I asked the shop’s employee to come to my aid. 

What flavors were most popular right now? Were people gravitating more towards comforting or exotic options? What worked better as a scoop versus a pint?

Could he describe the flavor notes of the young coconut?

After listening to details about the mocha chocolate, the mango, the grasshopper pie, the horchata, I was getting nowhere. 

As he explained that people were really into their tropical flavors right now like lucuma, a South American fruit, I blurted out my choice: ube.

He good-naturedly passed my scoop to me under the plastic divider, a small white cup swathed in brown paper napkins, the spoon inserted jauntily into my ice cream.

A single scoop of ube ice cream from Mitchell’s.

Ube is a purple yam hailing from the Philippines, and I’ve had it many times in ice cream. I could see little chunks of ube mixed into the light lavender-toned ice cream. This would be good.

I walked away from Mitchell’s relieved and excited. I carved a section from the scoop, held it aloft, and placed my spoon in my mouth.

My excitement quickly turned to apprehension. Was it just me, or was the flavor too mild? Was the note of vanilla overpowering the gentle yam? Were the ube chunks too frozen, almost gritty?

Or, with COVID-19 robbing me of my usual sampling process, was I just having second thoughts? Could I no longer trust my judgment? 

Maybe trying one more shop will provide the answer.

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18 Comments

      1. It IS a weird headline. I needed the explanation too. I thought it referred to 15 places to go now, during Covid, of which Mitchell’s was one. I kept wondering when I would find out what the other 14 were.

  1. How about not reviewing any businesses right now during Covid unless they violate civil rights. Mitchell’s is a great ice cream shop and wanting to taste three flavors is obnoxious in the first place. Businesses are trying to survive and what you are doing is as bad as a Yelp reviewer in these times.

    1. Tracy — 

      This isn’t a review, and in no way is Mitchell’s given any manner of hard time. There’s nothing negative in here at all. It’s a light article about coping with the minor things we all took for granted and can now no longer do.

      Tasting three different flavors isn’t outrageous at all in a place with dozens of flavors and unusual varieties like Mitchell’s.

      Please direct your righteous anger in a more logical direction.

      Best,

      JE

  2. Try Philmore Creamery at 1840 Fillmore st. Family owned/operated, made on premises, one pan at a time, with local Petaluma dairy and seasonal fruit. ?

  3. I absolutely love Mission Local’s reporting. LOVE it! However, I agree that reviewing business right now is weird and distasteful. Generally I feel Mission Local’s food reviews of somewhat expensive restaurants is off brand with it’s progressive reporting and subtle, albeit noticeable, lean of support towards an anti-gentrification agenda.

    1. This isn’t a review and there’s nothing negative in here. Everyone should take a deep breath.

      JE

  4. Got 3 different flavors there is weekend and they were ao good. Reminded me how much better they are than grocery store ice cream. So glad Mitchell’s is back open! The staff are so nice and patient.

  5. What a waste of time! Who in there right mindset would want to try samples and expose so many people in the community because “I need to try 3 different samples before I purchase” that is sooo stupid!

  6. What s the point of publishing such article? “Journalist” (influencer) should really support business and their employees instead of writing such article. Obviously some people didn’t learn anything from this pandemic.
    Do you open all the cookies pack at Safeway or Traders joe s to find the ones you prefer?
    This article is as good as a review on Yelp.
    The title of this article has been changed. The first one was terrible… It’s time to write positive articles on businesses And their team doing a great job (while struggling to survive).

    1. Sir or madam — 

      There’s nothing negative in this story toward this or any business. That’s plain as day. Take a deep breath.

      Best,

      JE

  7. sistah check your privilege / baggage before you get in line ” Heartbroken, I panicked. I’d never tried to place an ice cream order without at least sampling three different options. “

    1. Lol agreed. I know this was a “lighthearted” article but that’s how it came across…and sure makes me wonder if the author has ever worked food service/retail before?

      And then the Mitchell’s slander to top it off!

    1. The reason people are freaking out is because we are all very concerned about our beloved local businesses like Mitchell’s surviving the pandemic, the workers, etc. I know I am concerned about what city we will end up coming back to, as many will not make it. Mitchell’s holds a special place in th en hearts if those who grew up here, it’s been here long before gentrification.
      Yes, this is not that serious of an article, but it clearly struck a chord.

  8. Burger wars, fried chicken sando wars, ice cream wars…the mob yearns for gladiatorial combat of the culinary variety!

    Bring us more battles, more comparisons, more jousting! Let us know who is coming up next so that we may prepare to debate and argue on behalf of our selected champions!

    A four way melee of Humphrey’s, Mitchell’s, Xanath, and Bi-Rite may cover enough of the local demographics to bring the Mission to a low-grade high-caloric riot

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