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    Mitchell’s Ice Cream: ‘Take Pride in What You Do and Do It from the Heart’

    By David Landis–

    Growing up in the Midwest, ice cream was always a treat. Howard Johnson’s had their 28 flavors and then Baskin-Robbins came along with even more—31 flavors!

    But nobody has the unique flavors and selection of San Francisco’s own home-grown and family-owned Mitchell’s Ice Cream, a local favorite in the Mission now for nearly 70 years. Their store was the first to introduce mango ice cream (and other unusual flavors, such as macapuno and ube) to the Bay Area. Because it’s made fresh daily with 16% butterfat, Mitchell’s ice cream is always a creamy treat.

    For the San Francisco Bay Times, The Gay Gourmet had the privilege of speaking with co-owner Brian Mitchell about what makes this institution so special.

    Gay Gourmet: How long has Mitchell’s Ice Cream been in business?

    Brian Mitchell: My father Larry Mitchell and his brother, Jack Mitchell, opened the store in June, 1953. I wasn’t born yet. I came along in 1961. Our father passed away a few years ago in his 80s. He came into the shop until he was about 82. Together with my sister, Linda, we have been managing it a good 20+ years now, running the show.

    Gay Gourmet: What’s the secret to running a successful business?

    Brian Mitchell: You have to be consistent in everything you do: manufacturing the product and how you sell it. The people who work for you are very important (we can’t do it without them), and it’s important to train them on good customer service. This place doesn’t run without us all working together. It’s a great team. They realize how important quality and consistency is in everything you do. Marlon and Wanda are great assistant managers who instill pride in our team. I always say, “Take pride in what you do and do it from the heart.”

    Gay Gourmet: What’s your background?

    Brian Mitchell: I graduated from St. Ignatius, then went to Santa Clara University, and graduated with a business degree. I had worked here at Mitchell’s on weekends and I saw the potential. I went straight here and this is the only place I’ve worked. Linda was in Florida working as a trust officer for a bank. She moved out here in 1991 and helped me run the company with my father. She brought varied experience that helped. She’s a godsend.

    Gay Gourmet: What’s it like working with your sister?

    Brian Mitchell: We get along well. We work with each other about 3 days a week—if there are any conflicts, we work it out. You have to be on the same page for the crew. You learn a lot as each year goes along.

    Gay Gourmet: Do you have a favorite flavor?

    Brian Mitchell: I’m a mint person, so I love our grasshopper pie—mint ice cream, chocolate chips, fudge ribbons, and Oreo cookies. It’s one of our top 5 flavors. We had maybe a dozen flavors when we started. In 1965, Mr. Emerson Clark (a customer) came in with the owner of Gina Corporation in Manila, where we buy our fruit. He asked, “Have you ever thought of making mango ice cream?” My dad said, “Mango, what’s that?” Dad was open to some samples of mango and ube, thank God. They got samples, did a test run, and introduced tropical Filipino fruits to the Bay Area. For sure, we were the first to do that in the Bay Area. I highly doubt anyone else was making those flavors then. After we introduced mango, then we tried ube (Filipino purple yam) and macapuno (Filipino coconut). Filipinos started immigrating to the Bay Area in the late 60s—we had a big surge in business. We added baby coconut—buko (mildly sweet) and macapuno (sweeter, meaty coconut). At that point, Dad started wholesaling because the Filipino community started opening Mom and Pop restaurants.

    Gay Gourmet: Your ice cream is now available in a lot of places, not just at the original store.

    Brian Mitchell: We sell now to more than 100 Thai restaurants. We’re also available in a number of grocery stores: Mollie Stone’s, Draeger’s, a lot of Mom and Pop neighborhood stores, Canyon Market, restaurants/hotels like the Four Seasons, and more. We also deliver through Postmates. Retail/wholesale is 25% but you have to supply the restaurants and the grocery stores and scoop shops.

    Gay Gourmet: What’s the secret to why it tastes so good?

    Brian Mitchell: 16% butterfat. Ice cream is 10% butterfat by dairy law. Our dairy is Crystal Cream and Butter Company, now owned by Foster Farms (it was a family-owned operation for around 75 years). We use all-natural ingredients. Our customer base is different. They want old-fashioned ice cream and we make it 6 days a week. We do 2–3 new flavors a year. One of our new flavors is Sticky Monkey: banana, peanut butter swirl, and chocolate flakes. Another new one is Café Serre: Vietnamese coffee with dark chocolate chips. Shortly, we will even have a couple of vegan ice cream flavors. There’s no animal involved, it’s all plant-based. It’s made from potato starch, potato protein, oats, and tapioca. We will sell two flavors: chocolate coconut and Sooooo Mango, vegan mango swirled in with mango sorbet.

    Gay Gourmet: What’s the process for making your ice cream?

    Brian Mitchell: We use a batch freezer. It makes 9 gallons of ice cream. You put in 5 gallons of the ice cream “mix,” the cream; then you put in the ingredients (coffee grounds, fruit, nuts or chips, flavorings). It takes about 10 minutes to freeze. You turn off the refrigeration (if you kept it on, it would become a solid mass). Then you draw it out and fill containers—everything is done by hand. We do about 52–53 batches a day. We stay true to who we are.

    Gay Gourmet: The store has evolved over the years, hasn’t it?

    Brian Mitchell: We remodeled the store more than 10 years ago; Jacqueline Nelson (Creative Designs by Jacqueline) redesigned it. She’s a whiz of creativity. It looks great!

    Gay Gourmet: After all these years, Mitchell’s is still so popular.

    Brian Mitchell: Yes, we have lines at night with waves of people. The ice cream season starts in early May and runs pretty much through the end of October, when it kicks into high gear. People come here after dinner or the movies—it’s a destination. You have to keep evolving.

    Bits and Bites

    With Father’s Day right around the corner, here are a couple of ideas for the Dad in your life:

    O-Yaki Perfectly Portable Grill Set: For the dad who spends his weekends grilling up some tasty eats, he needs this portable grill set. It has all the barbecue accessories: tongs, carving fork, carving knife, skewers, spatula, and a basting brush in a convenient zippered storage case to take wherever you go.

    Wildwood Grilling: Add flavor to your next outdoor BBQ with Wildwood Grilling’s planks, chips, wraps, spices, and more. Wildwood’s products (cedar, hickory, cherry, alder, etc.) pair wonderfully with anything you put on top (meat, vegetables, fish, etc.). New rubs include chicken spice, rib rub, hippie gold spice, and American jerk, perfect for a variety of protein and veggies. Available at Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Amazon, and Albertson’s.

    Golden Hour at The Dorian: The Dorian in San Francisco’s Marina now offers its Golden Hour every Tuesday through Friday from 4–6 pm. Special appetizers and a $6 martini (Tito’s or Hendrick’s) with a twist. There’s live music, too!

    Mitchell’s Ice Cream:
    O-Yaki Portable Grill Set (via Amazon):
    Wildwood Grilling:
    The Dorian:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer and a retired PR maven. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF or email him at: Or visit him online at:

    Published on May 5, 2022