Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Foodie Adventuring // Polly Ann Ice Cream in San Francisco

On Noriega, Crossing Sunset in San Francisco
 ^ Driving down Noriega, past Sunset, to get to Polly Ann. Look at that ocean view! ^
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Exterior
 ^ Hi, Mom!^
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Interior
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Counter and Flavors
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Ceiling
^ Is it weird that I took a picture of the ceiling? Nahhh. Perfectly normal.
{This is the kind of thing you can expect when you foodie adventure with me. Hee.} ^
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Seating
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Harassing Employees Sign
 ^ Don't mess. (: ^
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Coffee Fluff Single Scoop
 ^ My single scoop of Coffee Fluff. Note the marshmallow bit. ^
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Banana and Rum Raisin Double Scoop
 ^ Mom's double scoop of Banana (L) and Rum Raisin (R). ^
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Excitement and Anticipation
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Empty Single Scoop
Polly Ann Ice Cream- 39th Avenue
Polly Ann Ice Cream- Parking Spots
^ This never happens. I had to document the number of available parking spaces. ^

Mid-day lunch-substitute with Mom between several prior appointments.


Who: Mom & I
Where: Polly Ann Ice Cream in San Francisco's Outer Sunset District
When: Monday at 12:45 PM

The Restaurant: Polly Ann Ice Cream has been around San Francisco for over half a century {my dad likes to say it was born when he was}, but has only resided in this specific location since 2005. As a San Francisco native, my mother reminisced about its previous location while we were there Monday and how it was part of her childhood back then. You know it's good when it's been around this long.

You could easily pass by its current location, on the corner of Noriega and 39th, without ever giving it a second glance; there is no giant beautiful sign proclaiming the deliciousness of the inhabitant, the beige and dusty rose exterior paint isn't exactly eye-catching, and the building itself looks like just your average, ordinary, everyday modern apartment complex {name that song}. From the outside, there's nothing that would convince you to stop your car, find a parking spot, and spontaneously walk in.

Unless you happened to be in the know. In which case, you too would be willing to double park and send your passenger-seat-companion dashing in for some ice cream, like the retirement home transportation bus idling on the street when we arrived. Them seniors know what's up, man.

When you enter the ever-open double doors of Polly Ann Ice Cream, you immediately think, "WOW, that's very pink," and then "Oooh, that's a lot of flavors!" The day we stopped by, there was only one tiny, older Chinese lady behind the counter, but she was an expert at keeping the ever-growing line of school kids and their parents flowing quickly {sidenote: what private school nearby lets their elementary kids roam free at 12:30 on a Monday afternoon? O.o}.

The decor has changed since I was last there-- back in middle school, the walls used to be lined with newspaper articles extolling the virtues of Polly Ann's unusual flavors, tongue-in-cheek quotes about ice cream, and suggestions for songs to play on your first date, your wedding, your tenth anniversary, your fiftieth anniversary, etc. So many things to look at while you waited patiently in line for your turn at the counter. There were bar stools along the left side {very fifties diner} and a few tables to the right.

Nowadays, the walls have been repainted, the bar stools replaced with more table seating, and most of the signs have been taken down. A few favorites remain {like the one I adore pictured above}, but in general, Polly Ann has become a little less kitschy, a little more mature. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, however much I may miss the visual stimulation, because now you notice the amount of natural light that shines in from the large windows {all you fellow foodie photographers out there, take note}.

There is no outdoor seating here, since this IS San Francisco and if you're going to insist on eating your frozen treat outside, you'll probably take it somewhere more scenic than this mostly residential neighborhood. You can, however, seek refuge inside Polly Ann at one of the four round tables which seat four people each. Groups larger than that might want to take their ice cream to go... or just hope that it's a slow day and you can claim all the tables for yourselves. If you're here with kids in tow, you will probably have to order for them because the counter is pretty high {almost shoulder height on 5'2'' me}, so they won't be able to see very well.

And if you're one of those people who can't decide which flavor to choose {my mom has trouble when there's 31 flavors, let alone the 50 that Polly Ann has on a regular day}, don't fret! The Wheel of Fate awaits you! Behind the counter is a giant wheel lined with all the flavors available that day, along with a few spaces that offer you free ice cream. If you decide to live life on the edge and spin the wheel, you could get something normal {like strawberry cheesecake} or something you never thought to try in a million years {durian, anyone?}. But regardless of what the Wheel of Fate decides for you, you have to buy that flavor or the flavors adjacent, unless you really lucked out and spun "free scoop."
The Food: Polly Ann knows ice cream. If you've ever been to a Ranch 99 {or 99 Ranch if you're from SoCal}, you've probably seen their mango and lychee and taro flavors in the freezer aisle. The 50 flavors on the wall in the shop will vary on a day-to-day basis, though some of the more well-known options remain constant. Milkshakes and sundaes are on the menu as well, if that's your thing.

Trouble narrowing down your choices? Again, you could go the Wheel of Fate route OR you could simply ask to sample a few. If something sounds intriguing, you might as well see if you like it before going full-steam-ahead and getting a double scoop of something called Star Wars {mint with rainbow marshmallows, I hear} or Bumpy Freeway {rocky road}.

This time around, my mother decided on a double scoop {price: $4 for 2-3 flavors} in a cup-- one scoop of Banana, one of Rum Raisin, neither of which I desired to try. Her verdict was that the banana was a little light, but the rum raisin was amazing. Typical of semi-pretend-mature me, I got a single scoop {price: $2.95 for 1-2 flavors} of Coffee Fluff, which was coffee ice cream with mini marshmallows. It was pretty good, although maybe not the most adventurous choice.

The ice cream itself has a harder, more dense texture, so if you're a fan of soft-serve or gelato, this is not quite like that. {Sidenote: the lady behind the counter must have arm muscles of steel because I can't imagine it's easy scooping endless cups of rock solid ice cream all day}. The flavors tend to be pretty spot-on though, so rum raisin really will taste like rum raisin, green tea really tastes like green tea, black sesame really tastes like black sesame, etc.

Polly Ann has a decently wide selection of candy available to the left of the main counter, for those of you who aren't ice cream people {do those people exist? how sad}. Take-home quarts of their most popular flavors and cakes are in a small freezer to the right. And if you happen to stop by with your dog... THEY OFFER DOGGY ICE CREAM CONES. One mini scoop of vanilla in a mini waffle cone per canine. I like dog-friendly places. They're good people.

The Conversation: Because we were here in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, it was an after-school elementary crowd; think kindergarteners with their doting grandparents and older kids in groups stopping by sans parentals to get something to eat before walking home.

Due to the high traffic and high-pitched chatter surrounding us, as well as the fact that we had to be somewhere within half an hour, my mother and I didn't have a lot of deep conversation. Mostly I just eavesdropped on the table behind us {those almost-middle-schoolers. they're the worst. and amazingly hilarious} while Mom concentrated on her ice cream.

My favorite overheard conversation of the day?
Boy #1: Is it jaah-va or jay-va? I just got it because it seemed cool.
Boy #2: It's jay-va.

I mean.

It's one thing to be really, really incorrect. It's a whole 'nother story when someone backs up that mistake and reinforces that incorrectness. Yikes. These kids are growing up in San Francisco and they've never heard of JAVA before? How is that possible.

Conclusion: I may not have tried all the places listed as "Best Ice Cream in San Francisco" {nor do I necessarily agree with their choices}, but I do feel like this is a fantastic place to visit if you have friends in town and they don't want to wait in the media-hyped lines of the more downtown-located shops. Plus, because Polly Ann is located in a more residential area, it's better for all you SF natives {especially those with small kidlets}.

If those aren't good enough reasons to go here, you could view it like a hipster and think, "not everyone knows about this place. I could be cool. I could be different. I COULD KNOW SOMETHING OTHERS DON'T. sold."

There's street-parking only, so if all the spots available in front are taken, you might have to circle the block a few times {I'm talking at night and on weekends. if you go when we did, there's spaces everywhere}. They also don't accept bills larger than twenties, so make sure you've got small bills or a credit card. There's a small restroom on the right side of the shop if you need it.

Overall, Polly Ann Ice Cream is a San Francisco tradition from a different generation. It's quieter and less well-known by the current foodie crowd, but very well loved and frequented by the families who have lived in the city their entire lives. It's small, unpretentious, and friendly. And their ice cream is pretty darn amazing. One of my favorites.


Polly Ann Ice Cream
3138 Noriega Street
San Francisco, California 94122

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love hearing from you-- comments brighten my day! Thanks so much for stopping by, friend! (:

{Do be forewarned that I reserve the right to remove comments that are made to intentionally hurt or provoke others, be malicious, or have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Think before you type, guys. Thanks!}