July 15th is National Ice Cream Day, and what better way is there to celebrate than heading to your favorite shop serving up the creamy and cold treat.
It’s always tough to choose a favorite, and there are many fabulous local places to try (and many up-and-coming places that we’re still learning about). The best ice cream is also very subjective, but we would like to give you a head start on where to go.
Here is our top 10 list of the must-try ice creams shops in the 805:
10. Choppa Rolling Ice Cream
Lines are often out the door of Choppa Ice Cream, for good reason at this shop in the Holister Village Plaza. It serves Thai-style rolled ice cream from Southeast Asia, which has become a big hit in the U.S. A liquid base of milk, sugar, and cream is poured onto a freeze platter, and you can have flavors, such as cookies, fruit, candy, and more, into the ice cream mixture. After it freezes, one of the store’s “chefs” uses a special tool to scrape the ice cream and turn it into a roll that they put into a cup and you can add toppings. Strawberry, Thai-tea, taro, black sesame, and cookies and cream are just some of the flavors available. It’s fun to watch them prepare your ice cream, and you’ll definitely get an Instagram-worthy creation as a result.
7060 Hollister Ave., Ste. 101, Goleta, (805) 845-5229.
9. La Michoacana Azteca
No list would be complete without a great Mexican-style ice cream shop and La Michoacana Azteca is our favorite. They have a huge selection of freshly-made ice creams, made with or without dairy, in every flavor imaginable that you won’t find at a standard ice cream shop. Our favorites here are papaya, avocado, guavabanana, and tequila con almendra (tequila with almond). You can also get popsicles, mangonadas (a Mexican fruit drink), and other special treats. Lines also can be long here because of the popularity of this shop, so consider yourself warned and go early.
2701 S. Rose Ave., Ste. C103, Oxnard; (805) 240-1057.
8. NITE Creamery
Treat yourself to a scoop of happiness every night is what they say at NITE Creamery, which has two locations for those night owls looking for a treat. They use liquid nitrogen to freeze their all natural premium ice cream instantly, resulting in what many believe is a smoother, creamier, better scoop of ice cream.
You choose your flavor off their menu, which changes frequently. The menu changes, but right now we’re liking the “The Red Woman” with red velvet ice cream topped with red velvet crumbs, and Central Coast Crunchc with salted sweet cream, pretzel crumbs, and caramel drizzle. For those with specific dietary needs, they also have yummy vegan, non-diary, and gluten-free options, such as the Pineapple Picante, with pineapple sorbet, tajin chili powder, and chamoy sauce. 2203 S. Miller St., Santa Maria; and 570 Higuera St., Suite 103, San Luis Obispo, nitecreamery.com.
Nothing is better than cookies and milk…or perhaps you’d rather pair your cookies with ice cream? Batch offers a great variety of pairings of freshly-baked cookies and old-fashioned homemade ice cream to create your very own delicious custom ice cream sandwich. On a recent visit, we witnessed and also tried some of the pairings, including oatmeal cookies with coconut ice cream, peanut butter cookies with pumpkin walnut ice cream, fudge cookies with Irish Cream ice cream, and snickerdoodle cookies with toffee ice cream. You can also get milkshakes, root beer floats, and if you prefer, milk and cookies!
1108 Broad St., San Luis Obispo; (805) 592-2250, batchslo.com.
6. Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab
Sometimes the enjoyment of eating ice cream comes come from the atmosphere. At Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab, it’s a fun vibe that kinda has a Baskin-Robbins feel, but it also has some amazing homemade ice cream in unique flavors. They have so many flavors at this fun store that it’s actually that it’s quite mind boggling. We had the Elvis special (real banana ice cream with ribbons of peanut butter, and the Merlot raspberry truffle (real Merlot wine ice cream with swirls of black raspberry and soft chocolate chunks). You can go with traditional, and those are good too, but maybe a little creativity is just what the doctor ordered!
114 W. Branch St., San Luis Obispo, (805) 548-1986; and 725 E. Betteravia Rd., Santa Maria, (805) 614-7644; and 114 W. Branch St., Arroyo Grande, (805) 474-4068, docburnsteins.com.
5. Ex Voto Chocolates and Confections
You may be tempted with their beautiful hand-painted bonbons, but Ex Voto also has delicious fresh house-made ice cream in lucious flavors, such as dark chocolate cookies and cream, fresh mint and chip, Thai tea, Tahitian vanilla, roasted bananas and honeycomb, roasted strawberry, and lemon blueberry. Menu changes seasonally, so you can try something new everytime you come in. Make sure to get the marshmallow cream topping on your ice cream, and served in a waffle cone. And if you can’t decide on an ice cream flavor, a three-flavor tasting flight is available!
2646 E. Main St., Ventura, (805) 667-9228, exvotochocolates.com.
4. Little Calf Creamery and Cafe
A large ceramic calf, complete with pink and navy blue striped socks, greets you as you walk into this cute cafe located in a strip mall. Scott and Jen Levin opened Little Calf Creamery with the premise of buying locally whenever possible, and making ice cream from California happy, healthy cows. They stay true to their word with their menu, which features fresh ice cream made on site featuring year-round and featured flavors, such as vanilla bean, classic chocolate, fresh strawberry, sea salted caramel, and lavender blueberry. Available the traditional way, in a cup or cone, but if want ice cream drinks, there are also floats, shakes, malts, ice cream sodas and even affogato (espresso over ice cream).
652 E. Janss Rd., Thousand Oaks, (805) 497-2000, littlecalfcreamery.com.
3. Negranti Creamery
Fresh, wholesome and real ice cream crafted with sheep’s milk is what this family owned and operated creamery specializes in.
Traditional cows milk ice cream is also available made with locally sourced milk. Owners Alexis and Wade Negranti also use locally sourced ingredients in their 16 fresh churned artisan flavors, including black coffee, fresh mint and chip, salted brown sugar, and strawberry basil. Sheep’s milk ice cream is a perfect choice for those with dietary needs, since it is more easily digested than cow’s milk, and is lower in saturated fat than traditional milk. Their delicious ice cream is also available in cookie sandwiches and pies.
2989 Limestone Way, Paso Robles, (805) 369-2663, negranticreamery.com.
2. Rori’s Artisanal Creamery
Cookbook author, caterer, and Oprah-favorite Rori Trovato makes all the ice cream, cookies, cones and candy recipes that go into all the products at Rori’s Artisanal Creamery, located in three locations in the 805 (in addition to locations in Santa Monica and Century City).
The smooth, creamy and intense ice cream, made in small batches, are made with just milk, cream, and wholesome ingredients to enhance the flavors. The problem is choosing just one. Among the choices:a black pepper pistachio (made with California pistachios and a hint of black sugar), brown sugar banana (fresh banana ice cream with homemade dark brown sugar), and Biscoff (made with their own Speculoos cookies steeped in cream for two days, resulting in an amazing cinnamon shortbread ice cream).
4191 Carpinteria Ave., Ste. 5, Carpinteria, (805) 220-6019; and 1024 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, (805) 770-2266; and 38 West Victoria St., Santa Barbara, (805) 845-2223, rorisartisanalcreamery.com.
1. McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream
No list is complete without this granddaddy of all ice cream shops in the 805.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams was founded by husband and wife, Gordon “Mac” and Ernesteen McConnell, in Santa Barbara, California in 1949. They wanted something different for their business and looked to Central Coast farms and purveyors for their bounty of year-round, seasonal ingredients, including local grass-grazed milk and cream, fruit, nuts and produce, and all natural flavors with no dyes or additives.
Today, it’s a Santa Barbara institution, with Time Magazine calling McConnell’s “the best in the world.”
Three generations of new owners have continued the McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, and the ingredients are still local. Strawberries come from Oxnard, lemons from Santa Paula. Milk and cream are sourced from local grass-fed cows and pasteurized in house by McConnell’s. And the ice cream has been made in the same factory since 1975–the old dairy on Canon Perdido in Santa Barbara.
Ice cream flavors are seasonal, but must tries are salted caramel chip, churros con leche, and Eureka lemon with marionberry.
McConnells ice cream is also available at local grocery stores and ice cream shops.
3241 E. Main St., Ventura, (805) 650-6410; and 728 State St., Santa Barbara, (805) 324-4402, mcconnells.com.