Hawaiian Drive Hostel, San Jose
Anyone who’s been to Hawaii has probably tasted shaved ice, a smooth blend of finely cut ice pellets and super-sweet syrups in every color of the rainbow. This restaurant serves shaved ice flavored with watermelon, fruit punch, sour apple and tiger’s blood, a strawberry combo with a hint of coconut. They’ll even top it with condensed milk, if you like, so you can enjoy a taste of heaven while numbing your head!
Open 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily at 1095 Tully Rd., San Jose; hawaiiandriveinsanjose.com
Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, Fremont (and other locations)
At the other end of the icy spectrum is soft gelato, which features a mixture of coarser ice particles. Rita’s offers a fancy version with classic flavors like Cherry and Lemon or, depending on where you’re visiting, weirder flavors like Sour Patch Kids and “Unicorn.” They can also mix it into an ice-cold drink or (Philadelphia folks cover their ears) top it with rich dollops of ice cream.
The Fremont location is open 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, and 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday at 39006 Paseo Padre Pkwy., Fremont, CA 94538; for other locations, check out ritasice.com
Milkbomb Ice Cream, Berkeley
What’s better than an ice cream sandwich? How about a donut with ice cream? Milkbomb obliges with a selection of top international donuts – glazed, brioche, Portuguese malasadas, Filipino ube pandesal in the color of Barney the dinosaur, and more – stuffed with ice cream. You can top them with sweetened children’s cereal and torch-toasted marshmallow fluff. The owners are getting creative with their rotation of ice cream flavors, having toyed around with activated charcoal, coffee-mint mojito and imported durian from the Philippines.
Open Thursday-Sunday (check Yelp for current hours) at 2079 University Ave., Berkeley; milkbombicecream.com
This much-loved joint has made a name for itself with classic burgers and garlicky fries, but what some may not realize is that its milkshakes are great too. These are heavy, hand-spun, frozen dairy bombs that you can make even more sumptuous with a variety of blends. Some swear by peanut butter and fresh bananas, others Oreo cookies and toasted marshmallow, but for a unique experience, opt for the shake topped with everyone’s favorite post-apocalyptic snack, Twinkies.
Two locations at 146 Grand Ave. and 4101 Broadway, Oakland; check the website for hours, trueburgeroakland.com
Cauldron, San Jose
Hailing from SoCal, this ice cream shop wowed locals when it opened a few years ago with whipped concoctions in clouds of freezing steam. The flavors change regularly and have drawn from such tasty offerings as Vietnamese coffee, s’mores, milk and cereal, and rose water. The ice cream is stuffed into a “puff cone” made from sweet egg batter that looks like delicious edible bubble wrap.
Open daily (check Yelp for current hours) at 1088 E Brokaw Road, Suite 60, San Jose; www.cauldronicecream.com