Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Baked Bear

Ice cream.  Definitely one of my favorite things, and something I eat near daily.  I'm always excited to try new ice cream shops around town, which finally lead me to The Baked Bear, several years after it originally opened.
Our Mission: To spread joy and create memories, bringing a smile to every customer’s face, one ice cream sandwich at a time.
The main concept at The Baked Bear is custom ice cream sandwiches, where you select the cookies (or brownies) as the bases, then the ice cream, and then any additional things to coat it in, much like CREAM and Over the Moon.  I'll admit that it took me a while to venture in because the focus was on the novelty items, and I assumed that would mean lower quality actual ice cream.

Setting

The Baked Bear started in San Diego, but has franchised, with locations in a number of states.  In San Francisco, we have not one, but two locations, both near tourist areas (North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf).  I visited the former.
Storefront.
The North Beach location is right on Columbus Street, and offers one small table, and a few seats out on the sidewalk.  There just isn't space for more seating on that busy walkway.

The storefront is signature Baked Bear blue.
Interior.
Inside is the ordering and assembly counter, with a handful of tables, although it is still a small place, not tons of seating.  I imagine on warm days it could get busy and seating would be limited.

On my visit, there were only a few other patrons, although they clearly do a very busy delivery/takeout service, as the staff were prepping tons of orders coming in, in-between customers who were there in person.  Ice cream always strikes me as an odd thing to get delivered just due to the melting nature, but, they are listed on most of the major delivery services (and yes, I have been known to get ice cream delivered across the city ... ) .

Staff were friendly and efficient.
Menu.
The menu outlines the steps to take to form your custom ice cream sandwich.

But you can also opt for just cookies, just ice cream (cups, cones), or sundaes (in cookie bowls if you please!).   All categories have a decent lineup with plenty of options.
Fresh Baked Cookies & Brownies.
"Homemade from original recipes and hand-scooped on site, our cookies are made with the highest quality ingredients and baked from scratch daily. We pride ourselves on quality and will only serve you cookies fresh out of the oven today."

Cookies are located right at the counter, easy to view to select your preferred flavor.

I'm not really a cookie girl, but the cookies did look good, very soft and gooey.  When you make an ice cream sandwich, they'll offer to warm them up as well.

The lineup had 10 cookies, including a gluten-free option, and including a variety that switches out every month.  They take the cookies seriously.  Available as singles for $1.25, or by the dozen for $13.
Cookie and Brownie Bowls.
If you opt for a sundae, you can go all out with a cookie or brownie bowl as the base.  Warmed up, I imagine these are awesome.

Toppings include your standard lineup of sauces (hot fudge, caramel, etc), whipped cream, assorted nuts and candies.
Ice Cream.
Ice cream is available in 16 flavors, including a vegan soy option, and including a sorbet or two, with a rotating seasonal flavor as well.

The ice cream didn't look like anything special, to be honest.  Just ... ice cream.

I asked to sample the signature flavor (which I ended up getting) and the Birthday Cake (cake batter with sprinkles, which was fine but pretty boring, just a little sweet with texture), although I did want to try a few others, but the staff were so busy I didn't want to bother them too much.  They weren't exactly cheery about samples like some places.

One noteworthy thing is that the ice cream seemed to be kept softer than many shops - it didn't require heroics to scoop on the server's part, and, it was at a soft, enjoyable consistency right when handed over, no need to wait for it to melt enough.

Ice Cream

"Baked Bear super-premium, craft ice cream is churned with r-BGH-free cream, pure cane sugar, and all natural stabilizers. With a smooth texture, our unique and creamy flavors can be enjoyed on their own, or paired perfectly between your favorite cookies."
But they do make their own ice cream, and claim good quality.
Branded Cups.
Since The Baked Bear is a franchise with a decent number of locations at this point, they are all-in on the branding.  Custom blue cups with their bear logo (eating an ice cream sandwich) are only one example, the staff all wear branded logo shirts, and you can purchase shirts and whatnot yourself as well.
Single Scoop, Bear Batter.  $4.50.
"Blue cake batter with brownies & fudge."

Yes, their signature flavor is blue.  The base is cake batter.  This sounded like something made for Instagram, and trendy factor, not deliciousness.  Likely overly sweet.  I had no intention of getting this flavor, but wanted to try it at least.

But a tiny taste (they give very small samples!) revealed it had promise.  It tasted like one very familiar thing to me: the blue frosting from my precious Carvel cake (don't judge!  I know it isn't good, but I grew up with it as a special birthday thing, and, although I now understand that the ice cream is crazy low quality and want nothing to do with that part, I still adore the blue frosting and the cookie crunch!).  Was my brain playing tricks on me because it was blue?

Since the other sample I tried was lackluster, I decided to get this, to really explore it more, even though, still, not a flavor I'd normally get at all.

I did like the sweet base, creamy, smooth, and ... well, no way to describe it other than Carvel blue frosting!  The brownie smear and fudge chunks throughout were fine, but I think I'd rather have other things mixed in.  I'm just not into brownie smear in ice creams, really (which rules out a lot of Ben & Jerry's for me). 

I enjoyed my scoop, but wouldn't really seek it out again.  That said, the cookies look great, and if they warm them up ... I really should go for an ice cream sandwich sometime.

Pricing is certainly high, $4.50 for a single scoop, but it is quality ice cream.
The Baked Bear Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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