It’s It: The San Francisco Treat

| August 10, 2006 | 4 Comments
  • 4 Comments

My noshing life could be illustrated by a colorful parade of individually packaged ice cream treats. First there was the Bomb Pop. For us, it was a delicacy that could only be found in the ice crystalled depths of the ice cream truck, and with three complete flavors in one (count ‘em: red cherry, white lemon, blue raspberry) it was a child’s way of bucking the system, because not only did you get those three flavors in one sticky-running-down-your-hand treat, you also got that bonus gumball at the very top. Plus, those things were ginormous and turned your mouth fancy colors. All good things.

Next came the Kempswich, which was Minnesota’s answer to the ice cream sandwich. Huge chocolate chip cookies, a sweet slab of Kemps vanilla ice cream, and those awesomely tiny chocolate chips rolled around the sides. First, you’d delicately eat the chips off, being oh-so-careful not to let any fall, but if they did, the five second rule definitely applied. Once the ice cream was fully exposed, you’d lick around the cookie sandwich, meticulously carving out a path in the ice cream. Eventually you’d be left with two cookies, a small disk of ice cream that your tongue couldn’t reach, and a powerful thirst that could only be slaked with tap water. Years later, I dug a Kempswich out of a convenience store freezer case and got a bit depressed. I remembered it being so much bigger — something I could barely get my mouth around. Now, I could finish it in about two bites. I guess you have to grow up some time.

In college I discovered the Choco Taco and became entranced by the way the sugar cone taco shell was never, ever crisp. It was damp and chewy and pinched the Choco Taco together with each bite — it was trashy ice cream at it’s very best.

Behold, I’ve just entered my next phase of ice cream treatdom: It’s It. While on break from a shoot, Wendy dragged me up and down Polk Street, intent on running this historic San Francisco treat to ground and gavageing it down my gullet. We finally found one, shared it, and I instantly fell for this eighth wonder of the frozen world. (1. Soft serve ice cream; 2. Soft serve ice cream magically dipped UPSIDE DOWN in chocolate; 3. Magic Shell; 4. Waffle cones; 5. The chocolate stopper in the bottom of a Drumstick; 6. Mitchell’s; 7. The semi-hard ganache topping on Dove ice cream pints.)

Invented in 1928 by George Whitney, It’s Its were enjoyed by San Franciscans at the city’s Playland-at-the-Beach. In fact, for forty long years, Playland-at-the-Beach was the only place you could find It’s It. By the 1970s, Playland-at-the-Beach was gone, and It’s Its started being handmade and sold to mom and pop stores. Even though you can now find It’s It in fifteen states, I had never stumbled before upon this genius of chocolate, cookie, and ice cream. It’s It ice cream sandwiches can be chocolate, mint, capuccino, or the original, perfect vanilla.

Anyone can smack ice cream between chocolate wafers or chocolate chip cookies — it takes a real Icestein to go for oatmeal cookies. Look for It’s It ice cream sandwiches in select stores or order it by the case (BY THE CASE!) from the Burlingame office.

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink

About the Author ()

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED's Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED's Emmy-award winning show "Check, Please! Bay Area." Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater's Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called "hilarious" and "the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn't think he or she wants to read a popular science book." Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport
  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen It’s It in Asian Grocery stores such as Marina Market and 99 Ranch stores all over the Bay Area.

  • Anonymous

    My high school in Orange County actually stocked these in the cafateria! When I realized you could get them EVERYWHERE in San Francisco, I knew I had moved to the right city. Have you tried the Capuccino? My favorite.

  • shuna fish lydon

    I feel like the Its It was my (re) introduction to SF as well. But first I had to get it all over my clothes, face, hands, arms. Because they really do melt fast. Even in the fog.

    Thanks for being as obsessed with frozen sugar vehicles as much as me!

  • wendygee

    This little fun fact is from the “It’s It” website:

    How did It’s It get it’s name?

    Although nobody knows for sure, there are two stories that have been told. The first story recalls how the inventor, George Whitney, yelled “It’s It” when he tasted the oatmeal cookie, vanilla ice cream and chocolate combination. The second story goes back to the old cow races that were held near Playland-at-the-Beach. One day, a cow named “It” won the race. Someone asked who came first, and the answer was “It’s IT”. George Whitney liked that.