The Penny Ice Creamery: Comforting + Seasonal in Santa Cruz

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Ice Cream Santa Cruz

The Penny Ice Creamery brings modern flair to downtown Santa Cruz.

It didn’t take long to learn whether it was worth the wait at The Penny Ice Creamery, an artisan ice cream parlor from chef Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis in downtown Santa Cruz. We lined up outside a low slung adobe building with a cast iron sign depicting a scoop and cone. Slowly, we crept forward, passing a sign that reads, “The Penny Ice Creamery is the only ice cream shop in Santa Cruz making delicious ice cream completely from scratch in house. Our flavors change with the seasons, and feature locally farmed and organic ingredients.” Noted.

Ice Cream Menu Santa Cruz

The Penny Ice Creamery rotates flavors daily, which they write on glass.

A hand-painted glass pane touted flavors like orange-anise and plum blossom-white chocolate. Promising. We finally made it through the front door and saw an Emery Thompson ice cream machine, visible through glass in a clean room, which is where they churn seasonal flavors.

Then, our moment arrived. We faced a blackboard menu that offered many more interesting choices than the five of us could possibly handle. Bon bons, floats and sundaes all tempted us, as did the no doubt over the top Penny Pop with Verve Coffee chocolate almond praline dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in almonds. Then there were the toppings: caramel sauce, chocolate sauce and/or toasted marshmallow fluff. We had to strategize, quick.

Ice Cream Santa Cruz

Jack Daniel’s whiskey custard ice cream fit beautifully in a house-made cone.

They made a Single ($3.50) scoop available in a house made cone or cup. My choice was a crunchy waffle cone with Jack Daniel’s whiskey custard, with reduced whiskey sugar paste folded into rich, creamy, egg based custard.

Donuts Santa Cruz

Made-to-order donuts and ice cream formed a powerful one-two punch.

The great surprise was finding fried-to-order donut holes ($6.50), dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and to pair it with a scoop of ice cream. Our pick was Gonzales Orchard salted almond & Craig’s honey, sweet and balanced, with just the right amount of grit.

Popsicle Santa Cruz

The Penny Ice Creamery also makes seasonal popsicles in flavors like satsuma mandarin.

I also ordered a water-based Satsuma Mandarin popsicle, tart and sweet.

Ice Cream Santa Cruz

Two blocks from the flagship store, a kiosk serves a more limited menu of ice cream and floats.

Two blocks away, The Penny has a separate kiosk featuring unique flavors and floats. It thins out the line at the flagship parlor, helps with overflow, and adds more options. Win, win, though of course they don’t have fried-to-order donuts, so the flagship beckons again.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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