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Cole Valley’s Ice Cream Bar, Neoclassical Wonderland

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Art Deco Ice Cream in Cole Valley



It’s a dynamic that permeates many art forms and industries: either to look back fondly at old forms and deem them superior to ones perceived as bankrupt in some way or another; or to try and assassinate old mores and start from scratch.  I don’t think anybody would find the assertion that we are in the Neoclassical Phase of our bar/restaurant culture in any way absurd.  But, products of Neoclassicism are never pure; they’re interpretations of the past filtered through contemporary methods and technology.  I’m thinking specifically of establishments that set out to recreate the atmosphere and drink lists of a bygone age, somewhere between 1860 and 1940.

No place adheres more to a certain period ideal than Cole Valley’s Ice Cream Bar.  It’s impeccable, right down to the crisp white uniforms with white, crested hats worn by the “soda jerks” behind the counters.  The soundtrack, like the décor, is carefully crafted to transport you back to an era hazily remembered by few; or perhaps to a version of an era we can too easily confuse with reality, a collective perception woven together from bits of Hollywood celluloid. However, this isn’t any ordinary ice cream shop.  There are tinctures, hand-crafted syrups and fabulous molecular constructs that would blow the mind of your average soda jerk from the John Dillinger era.  Take the Madrid Mistress, classified on the menu as a frappe: “Virgin sangria syrup, citrus extracts, gum foam, soda, hand-pulverized ice, fresh fruit garnish.”  The next time I go to Foster’s Freeze I’m going to inquire of Bobby-Sue, the spotty gum -chewing teenage girl working there for the summer if she could throw a little gum foam on my scoop of chocolate ice cream and watch her slack-jawed reaction.  Not all the items are quite that intricate: you can’t miss with the Banana Split, which in addition to the famous phallic fruit (carmelized, mmm) offers vanilla, chocolate and cherry ice creams, hot fudge, butterscotch, whipped cream and toasted almonds.  Classic and very, very good.

Ps: In the works: obtaining a beer/wine licence from the city, a byzantine process rivaling The Ice Cream Bar’s  byzantine concoctions.

Ice Cream Bar

815 Cole Street (@ Frederick St.)

[Cole Valley]



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Fatt Mink

Fatt Mink

I was born into a family of bookworms and staunch pinkos in downtown San Jose, California.
I lived in San Francisco from 2002-2016, during which time I studied music and Italian at S.F State and worked as a waiter and bartender in restaurants and bars both foul and divine; I credit my considerable experience in the industry with birthing my eternal burnin' love for food and booze, still a driving force in my life. I lived in Rome for 8 months in 2016 and then moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, where I currently write for a newspaper and play music.