Ici Ice Cream in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

Ici Ice Cream very quietly opened its new downtown Berkeley location on University Avenue Thursday. It is currently in soft opening mode, with a grand opening slated for sometime next week. This is Ici’s second outpost; the original shop opened in the Elmwood in 2006 and is well-known for its constant line of devoted fans who snake out its door.

Final touches to the new shop have yet to be made — including two light fixtures that will look like upside-down ice cream cones and a sign with Ici’s logo for inside the store — but owner Mary Canales, an alumna of Chez Panisse, decided to open the doors (albeit very quietly) to her new store sooner, rather than later.

Canales said that the new location will be open this weekend, but may have irregular hours during its soft opening while they continue to work the last details out. Once Ici has officially opened, regular hours will be noon to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Monday.

Balloons announce the soft opening of Ici Ice Cream in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

When we stopped in Thursday afternoon, there were three employees ready to scoop ice cream for anyone who happened to come upon the newly opened spot.

The following ice cream flavors were being offered by the scoop and by the pint or quart: vanilla, chocolate, Earl Grey, panforte, pink peppermint, frozen hot chocolate, candied Meyer lemon, Thai tea ice milk, cranberry lime sorbet, honey lavender pistachio and malted vanilla chocolate chip. A single scoop of ice cream is $3.75 in a cup and $5.25 in a hand-rolled cone.

A sampling of the flavors available at Ici Ice Cream in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han
The hand-rolled cones — with chocolate filled tips — are worth the extra cost. Photo: Sarah Han

There were also cookies, candies, bon-bons, ice-cream sandwiches and several ice-cream cakes, including an impressive $50 frozen yule log, or Bûche de Noël, made with vanilla ice cream, flourless chocolate cake and meringue mushrooms. All of Ici’s products are handmade and created from scratch, using organic and sustainably sourced ingredients.

Ici also sells candies and cookies at its downtown Berkeley location. Photo: Sarah Han

Canales said that the downtown Ici will be pretty similar in terms of offerings and service to the Elmwood store (located at 2948 College Ave.). The one big difference worth noting is the new Ici will offer milkshakes ($7). Any flavor of ice cream available that day can be blended into a cold, frosty shake. There may also be different cookies and candies at this shop, but Canales said that she will have to “ease into it and see” what the new shop is like before announcing big changes.

Owner Mary Canales at Ici Ice Cream in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

Although it’s not obvious to the customer, the College Avenue location is quite a bit larger, by about 1,000 square feet, because it also houses Ici’s production kitchen. The downtown Berkeley spot — designed by Berkeley-based architecture firm Studio KDA — is retail only.

We got a scoop of the malted vanilla chocolate chip. Photo: Sarah Han

The layout of the University Avenue store is a bit different. It’s a little under 500 square feet, with the ice-cream case located closer to the door. Still, Canales expects that the service will be similar to the Elmwood, with customers ordering at the counter and a line going out the door — and on busy days, with staff getting people started on their tastes while they wait in line.

Speaking of lines, there was no line to speak of and only a single other customer came in while we were there, but we have a feeling that once the word gets out, that’ll quickly change.

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Sarah Han was the editor of Nosh from 2017 to 2021. Previously, she worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In 2020, Sarah won SPJ NorCal's...