College is a stressful time, and it’s important to find a balance between academic and social life. The next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, why not take a break and satisfy that sweet tooth with a tasty treat? Through rigorous analysis (and a lot of taste testing), I pinpointed the five best ice cream spots within biking distance of Stanford to enjoy with your friends.
Town and Country holds two of the five ice cream shops on this list: Cudos and Tin Pot. Cudos combines custard and donuts to make its signature name. It definitely has the coolest marketing slogan of the bunch! And I have to admit: the warm mini donuts on the side added a really nice contrast to the cold custard. The main attraction of Cudos isn’t the flavors per se — custard is the only base. The real diversity comes from the toppings. You can choose from a wide assortment of pre-made topping collections, ranging from apple pie to campfire s’mores. I went for the banana split and found that the consistency was thicker than I expected, while the cherry topping had an artificial taste. The custard was delicious, and the mini donut tied everything together.
Just across the parking lot from Cudos is Tin Pot, which prides itself on putting its own spin on homemade ice cream. Of the five places I tried, Tin Pot was definitely the most classical example of an ice cream shop, with a wide assortment of flavors in bins, as well as the option of putting scoops in a cup or cone. They also have baked goods on the menu, and you get the option of having your ice cream sandwiched between two homemade cookies. I tried both the blue jasmine and blackberry lemon crumble in a cup. The blue jasmine had a particularly nice aftertaste, and was overall smooth and delicious, if not a bit basic. The blackberry lemon crumble was very refreshing — I’ve always been a sucker for fruit-flavored ice cream. My only critique was that it felt more like having lemon ice cream with sudden bursts of blackberry rather than an even distribution.
The next three stores — Gelato Classico, Scoop Microcreamery and Salt & Straw — form an ice cream triangle in downtown Palo Alto. Gelato Classico is a quaint shop on Emerson Street. Aside from gelato, there is an assortment of milk teas, coffee and cookies. I’m no math major, but I counted upwards of 40 flavors of gelato alone. Yummy! I ordered the Tiramisu gelato. Gelato Classico definitely had the smoothest consistency out of any of the places I visited because the ingredients and gelato-making process are slightly different from more traditional ways. But this also means that the gelato melts incredibly fast, so you can’t take your time with this one. The waffle cone also had a great, crunchy taste, and I liked the mixing of all the flavors together. Overall, a great spot to pick up a cold treat, but don’t forget — eat it quickly!
After Gelato Classico, I visited Scoop Microcreamery just around the corner. Scoop is known for making its ice cream in small batches on site using liquid nitrogen to get a smooth, creamy consistency. The moment I set foot in the store, a fresh batch of waffle cones were cooking on the waffle irons just inside the door, creating an enticing aroma. What’s more, the menu is packed with things like shakes, sundaes and splits, plus over a dozen seasonal ice cream flavors. The flavor I chose to test was Spumoni, a mix of three flavors with nuts layered in between. I have never been a big fan of putting solid things in ice cream, as I prefer something that goes down easy. But I have to admit the nuts were totally inoffensive to me, and the blending of the different flavors was exceptional.
The final place I went to was a little further down University Avenue, called Salt & Straw. The interior of the shop was dim and homey, with several spots for people to sit down and enjoy their ice cream. As of right now, Salt & Straw doesn’t have any other products beyond scoops and cups on the menu, but plans to add milkshakes starting in January. They offered a multitude of classical flavors as well as holiday-themed ones. The ice cream in the store is made and shipped from Portland two times a week, and there’s a refrigerator full of pints if you just want to grab and go. I tried the gingerbread cookie dough flavor and personally loved the mix of gingerbread and vanilla throughout the ice cream. I also found the ingredients to be well integrated.
Ice cream is a delicious treat for you to enjoy with your friends, and I encourage you to take a break from school and stress and hop on over to one of these locations. Keep these spots in mind for the warmer weather, and explore these stores for yourself and see which flavors and combinations you like the best!