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Imperially Good Ice Cream at Cow-A-Bunga

The Gaunin Family in Front
of Cow-A-Bunga Ice Cream
Photo by Cynthia Robertson
Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

On the Imperial Beach pier is a little ice cream nook that helps put "imperial" in this city’s name. Owners Fabrice and Nelly Gaunin, direct from France, have made Cow-A-Bunga a place where people line up for more of the cold, creamy treat.

Having lived in San Diego since 1994, Fabrice used to be a chef at the Coronado Marriott, among other places. His two children, Anais and Mark-Yves, inspired him to go into the sweet business of making his own ice cream.

"I used to work very long hours into the evening when I was executive chef for a 24-hour-room service," said Fabrice. "Now, here I am able to keep kids with me, and they clean the patio, arrange the sweet ‘n lows on the table, and wrap cake in paper.

They also test the ice cream flavors," said Nelly.

"I’ll apply soon for the job," joked 14-year-old Victoria, who was one of the taste-testing customers from La Mesa. Her favorite flavor of the day was "dulce de leche," resembling a caramel flavor.

Over the years during his stint as chef, Fabrice had collected some ice cream recipes, and he took the liberty of making them better, changing them little by little. He and Nelly opened the ice cream shop in 2000, having moved to Imperial Beach from Coronado one year earlier.

"An ice cream shop is a safe place for kids," Fabrice said.

Cow-A-Bunga also makes fresh coffee from Café Calabria every day, at 8:30 in then morning. "Some people come to have our ‘healthy cake,’ which I make, or even to eat ice cream, at 8:30 in the morning," said Nelly.

Nelly Serves a Customer
Photo by Cynthia Robertson
Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

The family keeps everyone’s needs in mind, so there’s even a phenomenally delicious fat-free vanilla yogurt that has the consistency and taste of ice cream.

"We change flavors bucket by bucket for our weekly specials," said Fabrice. "We always have chocolate, vanilla and strawberry on hand. My kids come up with some good flavors, like blueberry.

"We’ve created a Ginger ice cream and even Avocado, which tasted very nutty, kind of like pistachio," said Nelly.

When asked if they like the Ginger or Avocado flavors, both Anais and Mark-Yves slightly crinkled their noses." But ever other flavor is my favorite," said Mark-Yves. Anais nodded in agreement.

"We’ve also created a Hazelnut, which people from Europe go crazy over," said Fabrice. "Spiced Chai Tea is another popular flavor.

The Gaunins make their own waffle cones, making the shop smell wonderful as they bake.

Another feel-good item on the menu is the "House Special," which is espresso coffee poured over ice cream.

Prices for scoops of ice cream are $1.75 for the small, $2.50 for the junior and $3.50 for the regular, in which customers can mix flavors.

Details »
  • City: Imperial Beach, CA
  • Phone: 619-628-0508
  • Name: Cow-A-Bunga Micro Ice Creamery & Espresso
  • Address: 10 Evergreen Avenue., Suite E