Those of you who live in Russian Hill are no doubt familiar with Swensen’s Ice Cream on Hyde and Union, but I come from the other side of Van Ness so bear with me as I have just discovered the original location of the classic ice cream parlor serving a wide variety of traditional and calorie-conscious ice creams.
In 1948, Earle Swenson opened the little ice cream shop using quality ingredients and traditional ice cream-making techniques. Swensen’s later sold franchise rights to investors which led to about 400 additional stores opening up. Many of these are around today, particularly in Asia, and operate as full-service restaurants under the same name. Earle Swensen served up ice cream himself at the San Francisco location until he was 82.
The Swensen’s on Hyde and Union retains the look of an old ice cream shop: no digitized displays or mysterious shakes here. Probably the biggest change from 1948 has been the addition of light ice cream flavors, for the weight-watching masses.
I, however, opted not to be part of this group during my visit. Like a good ice cream lover, I went with a double-scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough and cookies and cream in a waffle cone. Cue the background moo’ing.
1999 Hyde St at Union Street, SF
Photo credit: Emilia Varshavsky