Oakland’s Little Giant Ice Cream Bringing Big Flavors To New Downtown SF Shop

Photo: Little Giant/Facebook

by Geri Koeppel
April 4, 2016

Fans of ice cream and booze are in luck: a new scoop shop combining the best of both worlds is opening downtown at 214 Sutter St., possibly by the end of this month.

Oakland-based Little Giant Ice Cream plans to open a tiny (9–by–12-feet) outlet on the Union Square/FiDi border, dishing up a rotating selection of 12 of its several dozen rotating premium hard scoop flavors, some of which include spirits such as rum, tequila and mezcal.

But there’s a bit of a buzzkill: “The alcohol’s cooked off, but the flavor’s left behind,” said Neil Rideout, who founded the company with Kevin Best. Rebecca Willis, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London, is the pastry director.

Neil Rideout of Little Giant at the forthcoming store on Sutter Street. (Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline)

The shop is too small for seating, but Little Giant plans to have a few tables and chairs just outside, on Claude Lane. Hours are to be determined based on demand. Rideout declined to comment on how much a cone will cost, but Yelp says that prices at the Oakland store are $4 for a single scoop, $6 for a double, and $8 for a take-home pint.

Rideout said one of Little Giant’s most popular flavors is “Dirty South,” with caramel ice cream, a bourbon-caramel swirl and candied pecans. Other popular options include creamsicle—a twist on the old favorite—and sorbet and vegan options, including the green tea matcha flavor. Little Giant bakes all of its own waffle cones and brownies, too.

Ice cream display at the Oakland Little Giant. (Photo: Mark Pinkerton)

Unlike many companies that purchase a pre-made ice cream base and add flavors to it, “we pasteurize and make our own mix,” Rideout told us. “We make our mix 100 percent from scratch. We’re able to customize our recipes for each flavor.” All the dairy comes from Clover, and they use produce from Tenbrink Farms, chocolate from TCHO and coffee from Oakland’s Bicycle Coffee Co. They’re always looking to partner with other local purveyors, he mentioned.

Little Giant’s Oakland production facility. (Photo: Mark Pinkerton)

Rideout and Best opened Little Giant’s Oakland production facility and store, at 1951 Telegraph Ave., in September. They also have a decked-out Airstream they use for events and catering, and hope to bring to various neighborhoods in the city for Off the Grid, farmers markets, street fairs and other community events. They’re also planning to eventually sell their ice cream at the snack window at the Yerba Buena Gardens Ice Skating & Bowling Center.

Little Giant’s Oakland shop. (Photo: Mark Pinkerton)

Best has an “in” at Yerba Buena: he also owns B Restaurant and Bar and The Pin-Up All-Star Diner there, along with Boxed Foods Company in the FiDi and Era Art Bar and Lounge in Oakland. Rideout, meanwhile, is head chef and managing partner at the Cigar Bar & Grill in Jackson Square.

Photo: Little Giant/Facebook

The two became aware of the space—formerly Fiona’s Sweetshoppe and The Brownie and Madam Optical, among others—because Boxed Foods isn’t far away, at 245 Kearny St. They came up with the idea for an ice cream shop because, Rideout told us, not only do they love ice cream, but there are scant few places around downtown to get premium, hand-scooped hard ice cream.

Not to mention, one of his first jobs while in high school was at Baskin-Robbins. “People were always in a good mood,” he said. “Always smiling; always happy. We want to create that great environment.”NeighborhoodsFinancial DistrictOaklandUnion Square