The San Francisco GQ Ice Cream Tour…in 3 hours…and tacos…and Shanghai food…and bubble tea…oh my, I am stuffed

Arrive San Francisco late afternoon, head to the hotel in Milpitas outside San Jose, twiddle my thumbs and (gasp) eat at the hotel restaurant.

Nah, that won’t do.

Same-day confirmed to an early flight, same EWR-MSP as my parents (too bad didn’t get upgrade to hand to mom, tough on a Monday morning with same-day confirmed), enjoy a blissful stop in home sweet Minnesota. Reach San Fransisco at 13:30 and start the feast.

Much better.

Last Friday afternoon a business trip came up for me to Silicon Valley this week. And I had just been reading this month’s GQ with a piece by Alan Richman on his 31 commandments of ice cream, “Conehead.” He included sidebars for “The Top 5 Store-Bought Ice Creams,” and “The 10 Ice Cream Shops You Need to Visit.”

3 of those shops are in San Francisco.

I thought I might try to swing by the most famous, Bi-Rite Creamery, later in the week if time allowed, but meetings have a way of interfering, and with a clear schedule Monday afternoon due to the time difference, I rolled out of SFO in the opposite direction of my hotel, bound for the Mission District.

Why not be greedy?

First stop Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Double cone of Richman-recommended Horchata (rice milk flavored ice cream with a swirl of cinnamon honey) and a new flavor, The King’s Favorite with bananas, caramel and more. Rich, satisfying.

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 1: Horchata and King's Favorite at Mitchell's

Mitchell's Ice Cream

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 1: Horchata and King's Favorite at Mitchell's

Mitchell's Ice Cream

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 1: Horchata and King's Favorite at Mitchell's

Mitchell's Ice Cream

Second stop Humphry Slocombe. The exterior gave me that “not another hipster cupcake place” feeling I too often have in New York, but the interior’s Mission District-style murals is cool. Again, one scoop of the Richman recommendation, Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee. And then plunked on a scoop of their most popular flavor, Secret Breakfast (the secret owes something to bourbon). Both are smooth and intense. They should be sold in the brown paper bags favored by the loiterers on the surrounding streets.

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 2: Secret Breakfast and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee at Humphry Slocombe

Humphry Slocombe

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 2: Secret Breakfast and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee at Humphrey Slocombe

Humphry Slocombe

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 2: Secret Breakfast and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee at Humphrey Slocombe

Humphry Slocombe

A respite was needed, and found, on 18th St near the final ice cream stop. A simple taqueira. Did not think they would be so huge. Each of the 3 a different meat: carne asada (grilled beef), lengua (beef tongue) and carintas (roast pork).

SFO GQ ice cream tour: taco interlude

Taqueria's on nearly every corner

SFO GQ ice cream tour: taco interlude

3 kinds of meat succulence

A quick conference call with colleagues in Australia, they wondering at the occasional roar of passing motorcycles, and then in line for Bi-Rite.

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 3: quad cone at Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 3: quad cone at Bi-Rite Creamery

Bi-Rite Creamery

I slipped in a few samples, even the unusual basil and then settled on a triple cone to cap off the binge. The best thing about a triple? They throw in a fourth. Behold the quad:

SFO GQ ice cream tour stop 3: quad cone at Bi-Rite Creamery

Leaning tower of deliciousness

Salted caramel, honey lavender, olive oil and roasted banana.

It was a drowsy slog through traffic over to the Crowne Plaza San Jose-Silicon Valley in Milpitas.

By all rights the day of feeding should have been over but I decided to take a walk to the neighboring, seemingly unremarkable strip mall, Milpitas Square. It turns out to be a massive Asian-themed mall anchored by the gigantic 99 Ranch Market. My wife, sitting in New York, howled in protest as I walked the mall and reported the dining options over the phone.

Milpitas Square

Milpitas Square

Hot pot buffet

Hot pot buffet

Not that I needed to eat a grain of rice, but the Shanghai restaurant irresistably had one of my favorite indulgences, nearly impossible to find outside Shanghai: congyou banmian (literally and appetizingly called onion oil noodles). I was wary, though the manager shouting orders in Shanghainese, combined with the lack of infiltrating Cantonese dishes on the menu, disarmed me. The hongshaorou baiyejie (roast pork with dried tofu knots) was succulent.

Milpitas Center Shanghai Restaurant, hongshaorou baiyejie and congyou banmian, what a delight

Shanghai delights

Always a warm feeling after hours at Chinese restaurants when the staff come out to eat.

The staff having their dinner

Now I really should have stopped yet bubble tea shop Quickly, incomparably better than the (affiliated?) Quicklys in New York, lured me in for a ginger honey milk tea with aloe.

Finishing the day with for ginger honey milk tea with aloe at Quickly

Bubble tea and K-pop at Quickly

Giddy yet hardly able to walk back to the hotel.

Tomorrow I have lunch and dinner meetings, but there is a small mid-afternoon window. I hope my dinner mates don’t object to a whiff of onion on my breathe.

Quickly is open until 2 am, by the way.

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  • Tisha

    Now that’s my kind of trip! 😉 haven’t had the others but Mitchell’s is a favorite for sure! Glad u had a great time visiting the bay! 😉

  • @Tisha – if only work wasn’t going to interfere Tue-Wed I would do a lot more, but then my trousers wouldn’t fit! Tomorrow I will have a dinner after client dinner with friends from Indonesia, I am sure they have picked a great place.

  • You’re right in my backyard!! I go to Milpitas Square all the time to eat haha. Glad you got to enjoy the best ice cream in SF and some authentic South Bay Shanghainese fare!

  • David

    Amazing…I am in the area, and haven’t been to all of these places. Did you eat ALL of the ice cream?

  • LIH Prem

    lol .. well done sir. I miss Laperts Ice Cream in Princeville, Sure there’s one in Lahaina, but who the heck wants to drive from Makawao to Lahaina? 🙂

  • Mason

    I too tried the Secret Breakfast from Humphry Slocombe while in SF last week. It was awesome. And ironically, I had it for breakfast from their stand at the Ferry Building farmers market.

  • @David – I did eat all of the ice cream and everything pictured except couldn’t finished the huge pork dish…and this morning for my 6:30 meeting my body feels awful, though I keep peeking out my hotel window at the Milpitas Square. 🙂

  • BBTBphile

    Holy Gelato! in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset has the best gelato, and many vegan flavors in the City.

  • Maybe “Rapid Travel Chai” needs to be renamed to “Rapid Eating Travel Chai?” What a fun post! I was wondering how you could finish that pork dish by yourself. I don’t miss meat since stopping in 2004, but that picture of the Shanghainese dishes did make me hungry and nostalgic a little. We have been to that strip mall in Milpitas – tried the bubble tea but not the Shanghai food – you just gave me at least one meal idea for our upcoming trip there in October!

  • jackie

    Wow, you are really having the hell of ice cream time!

    In case you are into spicy Hunan food, there is a good one called Chili Palace on 237 close to where you stay. My favorite dish there is the fried jalapeno dish, very unique and it is one of the least spicy dish, ironically 🙂

  • You should post your pre and post weight #s from this eating frenzy!

    There is an amazing ice cream shop in Brooklyn that you have to try out. Let me know when you are interested in checking it out!

  • aptraveler

    Great post Stefan, I am glad to finally see you going back to some fun and informative travel writing! I didn’t know you were such a foodie. I agree with Jimmy@TravelByPoints comment, you can certainly share with the rest of us your knowledge and passion for food, especially Asian food, of which I am also a fan.