The One about Superior Dairy in Hanford, California


When I was a child, my grandfather who was a well-known chef in the area back in the ’70s and ’80s, would take me to a place called Superior Dairy in the agricultural town of Hanford, California.

Superior Dairy has become well-known in the United States for being one of the must-go to ice cream shops.

It’s a well-deserved recognition as it’s one of the few ice cream places that has been family-owned since the company started back in 1929.

It’s been many years since I have visited Superior Dairy and I figured, it was a good time to finally visit.

Before I talk about my recent experience at Superior Dairy, I wanted to learn more about the history of the popular ice cream shop and its original founder.

And it happens that one of my friends, Ernest Kerr, is the grandson of the founder of Superior Dairy.

What can you tell me about your grandfather?

Before my grandfather (Fitzhugh Judson Bowden) founded Superior Dairy in 1929, he worked for a company in town which made butter and his job was to wrap the butter.  And he saved his money and attended the College of Williams and Mary in Virginia.  And when he saved his money, he and my grandmother moved to Hanford to a home where the current Hanford library is now located.

Did he create Superior Dairy and make ice cream when he moved back to Hanford?

Superior Dairy started out as a milk processing plant.  He would buy raw milk from the local farmers and since he had homogenization, pasteurization and a bottling line, he would have milk trucks deliver milk to homes.

When I was a child, he had around ten milk trucks and milk men who would deliver milk and pick up the empty bottles.  They would deliver cottage cheese and butter and other things.

But when the depression came along, he was fortunate that the people who sold him the milk pasteurization equipment didn’t repossess the equipment.  They left it with him and let him pay what he can, when he can.  And he was able to do that.

Despite struggling through the depression, he paid for the equipment and would work in the building where Superior Dairy is current located.  He bought the building and he would sell milk and cream.

But no ice cream?

My mother graduated from high school around 1936 and somewhere around that time, she suggested to my grandfather to sell ice cream around the 1930’s and although it was not the main feature, ice cream was just a side item he sold.  He set up four stools for those who wanted to buy ice cream and the chocolate ice cream was very popular.  He also had a secret recipe for the making of the chocolate ice cream.  But the ice cream took off and it quickly became a major part of his business.

What happened to the milk business?

During the 1960’s, supermarkets would start carrying milk and so my grandfather ended up shutting down the milk part of the business and focused on ice cream.

What is your favorite memory of visiting your grandfather at Superior Dairy?

We lived in Seattle at the time but when I was younger, we would go to Hanford and visit my grandparents.  He always took us into the ice cream parlor and tell the girls working there to give us anything we wanted.  Those were fun times.

It has been many years since I have visited and eaten at Superior Dairy.

And visiting Superior Dairy, the interior almost looks exactly as I remembered possibly two decades or more ago.

While I’m not exactly sure if the place has changed a lot interior-wise, one thing that that has not changed is how crowded the place can get.

In the past I have driven past Superior Dairy, and the shop has always had crowds of people and it’s no surprise.  Considering the nationwide recognition the place has received for its ice cream.

And while the ice cream is not cheap, as a single cone or cup will cost $5.50 or $6.75 for a double but it’s a generous serving. Some may call it gourmet ice cream or an ice cream with an unchanged recipe, while prices have changed, it has not deterred people from coming and getting ice cream.  If you have a product that good, people will come back and for Superior Dairy, after all these years, the place shows no sign of slowing down.

But it’s important to mention that you can purchase a box worth of ice cream from the location for about the same price, while other supermarkets that sell Superior Dairy ice cream, charge even more than that.

It’s the reputation that the ice cream has received for decades that people pay a bit higher than other ice cream shops but by tasting the ice cream, you’ll realize that Superior Dairy ice cream is nothing like other ice cream shops nor is it anything like you buy at your local supermarket.

The texture is creamy, the taste is delicious.  And for years, I have always purchased lemon and when I visited the shop, I decided to go for lemon…but this time a lemon shake, as I have never purchased a shake from the shop before.

And like the ice cream, the shake is rich, creamy and delicious.

Getting the shake was quite quick and there was no horrendous wait time in line.

Also, there was a good amount of free parking around the area, so one shouldn’t worry about not finding parking.

Overall, Superior Dairy has the designation of being one of the better ice cream shops in the country.  While the designation of being the best is subjective, I will say that it’s one of the better ice cream that I have eaten around the world.

Many people have traveled long and far just to visit this ice cream shop and if you have ever been curious about giving it a try, I definitely recommend Superior Dairy.