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“Up” in Oakland at Fentons Creamery

Dining in Disneyland columnist Heather Sievers brings back a heartwarming and tummy-pleasing story from her recent visit to Northern California…

You know the adorable scene in Pixar’s Up where Mr. Fredricksen, Russell & Dug are having a tasty treat sitting on the curb of an ice cream shop? Well guess what? That ice cream shop is a real place!

Fentons Creamery As Seen in Pixar's Up

On a recent trip to San Francisco, our good friends took us to a very special place in Oakland, California: Fentons Creamery.

Around since 1894, E.S. Fenton began his business delivering dairy products from a horse drawn wagon. Twenty-eight years later in 1922, the Fenton family opened their first soda shop and ice cream parlor.  Fast forward to 2009 and they’ve got Pixar featuring them in their double Academy Award winning feature film, Up.  Until our visit, I had no idea that Fentons was a “real” place.

Fentons Creamery: Oakland, CA

Our visit to Fentons took place on a Sunday night.  We didn’t even arrive until after 8:00 pm.  In fact, on the way there, I was wondering if our friends had even checked the hours, because what ice cream shop would be open at 8:00 pm on a Sunday evening?  Well, little did we know, because not only was Fentons open, but every table was full and there was a line out the door.  We got in that out-the-door line, put our names on the wait list, and about 20 minutes later, we were seated.

8:00 on a Sunday Night

During our wait, I took a moment to walk around and check the place out.  The first thing I noticed was the friendly vibe; everywhere I looked was a smiling person eating a tasty treat. The tables, chairs and decor were all simple yet inviting.  Very clean and tasteful in design.

We got extremely lucky as they opened the back room for extra seating just as we arrived.  We were able to sit away from the close quarters of the main dining area. Little did they know, we were bringing our own chaos.  Between the 5 kids ages 8 months-9 years, 4 adults, and me snapping a million photos, it’s probably a good thing that we were stuck in the back corner of the back room!

Back Room Seating

"Up" Coloring Sheets for the Kids - Love These!

Happy Customers in the Main Dining Room

There was an immaculate kitchen where homemade ice cream was being created.  Fresh ingredients including marshmallows, crushed Oreo cookies, and gum balls lined the counters.  Fentons makes small, 10-gallon batches of fresh ice cream on a daily basis.  They work closely with their dairy providers and use the highest quality ingredients available.  Local ingredients, including toasted almonds, are also used as much as possible.

Fentons Ice Cream Kitchen

Ice Cream Mix Ins

It was like organized chaos. Servers were taking orders, relaying those orders to the talented ice cream chefs, who then turned out magical creations that in turn ended up in front of a happy customer.

Artists at Work

Organized Chaos: Simultaneous Banana Split Making & Pie Cutting

After perusing the menu, I decided on the “special” of the month.  A Snickerdoodle Sundae.  Not only do I love Snickerdoodles, but I also love the story behind Fentons monthly specials: Every month a special sundae is designed, and visitors to the creamery can vote on a local charity that will benefit from a portion of the proceeds made from the special treat.

Sundae of the Month: Snickerdoodle

This month, 25% of each Snickerdoodle Sundae benefits The Friends of the Oakland Public Library.  What I didn’t know (even though it was printed on the menu) was that I could have ordered the “junior” version of the sundae. When this delicious beast arrived I could barely contain myself.

Snickerdoodle Sundae

When the Snickerdoodle Sundae was set on our table, heads were turning.  The enormous puddle of hot fudge made me want to dive right in, but wait, pictures first.

Getting Ready to Dig In

Everything about this sundae was amazing.  From the cinnamon sprinkled on the whipped cream to the freshly baked, still warm snickerdoodle cookies that were hidden under mounds of chocolate and limited edition cinnamon ice cream, I could not stop raving about it.

I will admit though, that after a few bites, I was worried I wasn’t even going to make it to the Snickerdoodle cookies, so I asked for an extra bowl and filled it with the top layers of ice cream until I hit my gold.

Freshly Baked Warm Snickerdoodles Hidden Under Ice Cream

My favorite thing about this sundae was definitely the limited edition cinnamon ice cream.  It was very much like a churro type flavor, mild and sweet with hints of cinnamon that were not at all spicy or overpowering.  The chocolate ice cream was also delicious, but I much preferred the cinnamon ice cream.  The cookie was soft and warm (until my ice cream froze it up a bit) and the hot fudge, which they make in house & sell by the jar if you want to take some home, was amazing.

Snickerdoodle Sundaes: Benefitting The Friends of the Oakland Library

My husband ordered the “Black & Tan Sundae.”  This one features toasted almond and creamy vanilla ice cream layered with their homemade caramel and hot fudged topped with whipped cream, toasted almonds and a cherry.  My husband said that the almond ice cream was the best ice cream he had ever tasted.

The Black and Tan Sundae

Other orders at our table included chocolate mint one-scoop kids’ sundaes and a root beer float.  Every thing we ordered was just amazing.

One Scoop Chocolate Mint Sundae

Picture Perfect Root Beet Float

Unfortunately, we did not try either of the banana splits or the Fentons Special.  This did not stop me from accosting other people’s orders.

Banana Split

"Junior" Banana Split

According to their menu, The Fentons Special has been around for decades. It’s served in a tall glass layered with pineapple, strawberry, chocolate fudge, and caramel sauces with vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and toasted almond ice cream, topped with sherbet slices, whipped cream, almonds and a cherry. Serious business.

The Fentons Special

The Fentons Special

While visiting Fentons, we noticed that not everyone took the time to sit down and order in.  The take out line was out the door as well.

Take Out Line

Fentons sells prepacked ice cream as well as custom, hand-packed containers in pint or quart sized portions.  Just look at their yummy flavor board, it’s a tough decision.  Something else cool? Check out the little peanut icons! If someone in your party has a peanut allergy, they make it easy for you to order.  There are also little dots letting you know which flavors are low fat and sugar free.

Fentons Fabulous Flavor Board

Pre-Packaged To Go Containers

Some Ice Cream Options at the To Go Counter

In case you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend Fentons Creamery.  If you are visiting the San Francisco area, a trip to Fentons is a must. I love that Pixar has chosen such a legendary local establishment to support.  From what I was told, Pixar employees often celebrate wrapping films with a visit to Fentons. This is what led to the spot in Up.

On our way out, Fentons was still hopping — after 10:00 pm on a Sunday night.  I really wanted to do a family photo reenacting that adorable scene in Up sitting in front of Fentons with our ice cream.  Unfortunately it was too late, too dark, and too crowded.  Next time though, we’re doing it.  For sure!

On a side note, Adventure is out there!  On June 25th, Russell and Dug from Pixar’s Up will be making camp at Disney California Adventure’s Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Guests will have a chance to meet and greet both characters and the kiddos will be given special maps that they can use to complete a series of challenges to earn “merit badges” allowing them to become Senior Wilderness Explorers.  Sounds fun!

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15 Comments

  1. Jeanine says:

    I, too, made a trip to Fentons at the time of my Pilgrimage to Pixar, and can confirm that it was awesome.

    It was not quite as busy on a Sunday morning (“ice cream! Not just for breakfast anymore!”) but the traffic and parking around there was pretty bad–the lot they have is woefully inadequate to the volume of business they conduct.

  2. Melinda says:

    That original Fentons is in a very nice although crowded part of Oakland. For anyone traveling up highway 80 east towards Sacramento, there is another location in Vacaville. That one is much more suburban: right off the freeway and party of a large outdoor mall. There is also a little park with small rides and amusements for kids nearby. We visit it quite often.

  3. Soda Jerk says:

    That’s a true, classic banana split, just as it was first served a little over a hundred years ago (at a soda fountain in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as the story goes): pineapple topping over the vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup over the chocolate ice cream, and strawberry topping over the strawberry ice cream! It’s nice to see the real thing, when so often today you find caramel and other less-traditional toppings, as well as less-traditional ice cream flavors, making their way into the boat (which is the “technical” name for the dish in which it is served). My grandmother and I used to eat them at the soda fountain of the drug store in our little Main Street USA town in the Midwest forty years ago (yes, such places really did exist). The best memories are the delicious ones!

  4. Kelly says:

    This might be one of my favorite posts (sorry AJ!) I had absolutely no idea that this was a real place, how cool!!

  5. Erin says:

    I went to Fentons once, but never noticed that it had a cameo in Up! It was wonderful.

  6. Shayne says:

    How cool! Must make a mental note to try to visit Fenton’s next year while we are in the San Francisco/Napa Valley area!

  7. Andrew says:

    I used to love Fentons when I lived in Oakland mumbltymumble years ago. Now that I’m back in the bay area I really ought to go back. And it was a real kick to see it in UP.

  8. Christina says:

    This is great! I am visiting San Fran in two weeks for work so I hope I can get over there! So funny…hubby and I were just talking about this part of Up on our ride to work this morning!

  9. Laura B. says:

    Ahhhhhhhh! This is totally next to where I work (yes, I pass by Pixar on my commute every morning!). Seeing you enjoy something I take for granted makes it seem all the more special! What a great article!

  10. Heather Sievers says:

    @Jeanine – We had to park pretty far away, their lot IS tiny.
    @Melinda – We loved this location, so much fun!
    @Soda Jerk – LOVED your comment, I had not idea about the “banana split” rules. Thanks!
    @Kelly – Thanks for the awesome compliment!
    @Erin – I didn’t know it was a real place until our friends took us there.
    @Shane – Don’t miss it, it was really a great place to visit.
    @Andrew – Go back! So yummy!
    @Christina – We were staying in San Fran too, the drive isn’t that long & totally worth it too!
    @Laura – Glad you liked the article, go get some ice cream you lucky passerby! ; )

  11. Heather I. says:

    Whenever we have guests in town, we always seem to make a trip to Fenton’s. We actually live about a mile from Pixar:) The black & tan is the BEST. The saddleback brownie is also a fav. Every time we’re there for dinner, I get the grilled eggplant sandwich and husband gets the sliders. It’s the only place where we tend to always get the same things! Great review, this made my day :)

  12. Hazel says:

    There’s one in Vacaville, CA that I go to all the time. My husband and I squealed when we saw Fentons while watching UP! It’s one of our favorite ice cream places!

  13. Pam says:

    I have been to both Fentons. I live closer to the one in Vacaville, and was so happy when I discovered their new location. Both restaurants offer the same great food. My favorite menu item is their crab salad sandwich. Vacaville offers unlimited parking which is a plus. After eating all of that wonderful food, you can walk some of it off across the freeway at the Vacaville Premium Outlets.

  14. Doug says:

    If you don’t mind an early lunch, it’s nice to get there just as they open Mon-Thu which is 11:00. It’s pretty civilized – you can choose a booth or table, and you have a shot at parking in the lot (yes it’s small but most businesses on Piedmont don’t have a lot at all), and you can take your time with it. I definitely recommend getting one of the grilled sandwiches and then getting a smaller sundae for the whole experience. If you feel like a walk after the street has a lot of interesting businesses, and I know this sounds odd but there’s a huge old cemetery at the end of the street that’s very pleasant for walking.

  15. Daphne says:

    I lived in Oakland until 1973. We went to Fenton’s at least every week. My mother liked the grilled egg and black olive sandwich, and my favorite was the grilled crab salad. The chocolate malt was my favorite, and she liked the Black and White sundae. There is nothing like Fenton’s on the planet. To this day, I remember it and count it as a valuable part of my childhood memories. After eating there, we would drive around Piedmont and look at all the fancy houses before going home…those were the days…and yes, it was just as crowded back then…even late into the night…and parking was an issue…but it didn’t matter. Sometimes, parking a long way away was a blessing after the ice cream overload! No place will ever compare.

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