Endless summers in Los Angeles mean nonstop cravings for the best ice cream around. Not key lime pie, not jelly donuts—ice cream. When temperatures climb and the Santa Ana winds roll in, treat yourself to the city’s tastiest frozen treats—there are plenty of options to choose from after a hike or even a sweaty yoga class. After all, what’s the point of a great workout sesh if you don’t indulge?
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L.A.’s best ice cream shops
On hot days, Afters Ice Cream may have lines around the block at each of their stores, but for good reason: Their milky buns filled with ice cream and sprinkled with crazy toppings are as addictive as they are delicious. Choose from handcrafted ice cream flavors like cookie monster, banana walnut fudge and jasmine milk tea. (Pssssst—hey, vegans: There are vegan buns and ice cream flavors here, too.)
Fans flock to this perpetually packed emporium for “snow cream”: Hawaiian shaved ice meets ice cream in layers of icy ribbons. Start with a base flavor from original and black sesame to seasonal mango and avocado, then choose your own adventure with toppings like boba, brownie bites and “drizzles” such as condensed milk and chocolate sauce. The blackboard menu guides you through the build-a-bowl process and lists favorite house combos. We love green tea snow cream with red bean, chewy mocha (rice cakes) and sweet condensed milk.
The ever-popular Carmela—which is also sold in a few specialty food shops around L.A.—rides the locavore trend by incorporating fresh herbs and seasonal fruit into flavors like rose petal or spiced strawberry sorbet. Three locations—Pasadena, Beverly Grove and Woodland Hills—offer sweet-toothed Angelenos the chance to sample a few favorites before choosing a flavor (or two) to be placed atop a cone or wedged between two cookies for an ice cream sandwich.
This popular, architecturally-themed ice cream sandwich truck and brick-and-mortars take their name from famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas—fitting, as you can build some great creations here. Construct your own “cool house” with tasty, creative ice cream flavors such as fried chicken and waffles or cherry cheesecake, sandwiched between a variety of housemade cookies. Locals and nearby families stop in for a post-dinner icy treat or sit down to Blue Bottle–spiked hot chocolate beverages.
Despite a move to its current Alhambra location in 1974, this family-owned parlor, which makes all of its ice cream from scratch, has been around since 1919, and the quality shines through. The only downside: Once you’ve tasted winning flavors like rum raisin, mocha almond fudge, Dutch chocolate and taro, you’ll likely feel compelled to buy a half-gallon tub to take home for when future cravings strike.
This family-run operation is one of the Valley’s best ice cream shops, piling scoops of house-made, organic sorbets and ice creams into waffle cones and freshly-hollowed coconuts. Flavors rotate daily, but you can almost always find the lucuma—a fruit-based ice cream with natural nut notes—as well as the raw cacao.
James Beard Award-winning author Jeni Britton Bauer is extending her Ohio roots to Los Angeles with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The shops—now in Venice and Los Feliz—offer an ecclectic choice of more than 20 flavors, including options such whiskey and pecan, and riesling-poached-pear sorbet. Looking for something traditional-leaning? Even the Milkiest Chocolate in the World is killer. If there isn’t something on the signature menu, the limited-edition menu will surely have options that catch your attention.
In case you thought Los Angeles needed more artisanal ice cream, Magpies has arrived with flavors such as green tea brown rice, Cuban espresso, and horchata. But in this case, we’re talking soft serve only, and L.A. could definitely use more of Magpies’ kind. Top your twist with house-made charred marshmallows, toffee rice krispies, spicy candied pecans and a bevy of other crumbled, sprinkled and sticky accessories. Bonus: Those looking for vegan flavors will always find a handful; we’re all about the cornflake.
Forget the vanilla: At Mashti Malone’s in Hollywood, you’ll find delicately perfumed Persian ice cream in exotic flavors such as rosewater saffron, orange blossom, creamy mango and herbal snow. Don’t miss the bitter lemon and cherry syrups on the tables, meant to be drizzled on top.
Founded in Santa Barbara, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has made the jump to L.A. at Grand Central Market and in Studio City and Los Feliz, and for that we are eternally grateful. Where else would you find a scoop of salted caramel so decadent it should be illegal? Where else could you get flavors like cardamom and Swedish gingersnaps? McConnell’s, you make us melt.
This traditional Japanese bakery has been open in Los Angeles for more than 100 years, though not always at this location. Mikawaya offers a few pastries in this retail shop, but it’s best known for its famous mochi ice cream, available in flavors more exxpected—such as mango or green tea—to the more whimsical: plum wine or Kona coffee.
If ever there was a place to satisfy all our guilty pleasures at once, it’s this Fairfax and Silver Lake dessert hot spot, whose bold, colorful exterior carries over to the menu with tongue-staining treats such as blue velvet cake and watermelon ice cream sandwiches. It’s no wonder folks line up down the block.
Sierra Madre locals stop in for root beer floats, milkshakes and ice cream in flavors like chocolate (made with three types of chocolate), and salt and triple milk (which combines buttermilk, cream and non-fat milk). Karen Klemens handcrafts her ice cream using local, seasonal produce and organic milk. Another location recently opened up in South Pasadena if the original is too far of a trek for you.
Everyone knows ice cream tastes best when it’s churned by bicycle. There’s something about a little exercise that makes your sweets even sweeter. Peddler’s Creamery, now with a storefront in DTLA, has capitalized on this universal truth. They offer house-made (and often customer-churned) ice cream, sorbet and vegan desserts prepared with local and organic ingredients. Edward Belden, Peddler’s founder, started his sustainable-centric creamery as a single bike unit that could be set up all over Los Angeles.
Transplanted from Portland, craft creamery Salt & Straw puts an artisanal churn on the standard scoop. Their extensive menu boasts flavors both sinful and curious—many of which feature ingredients exclusive to Southern California, reflecting the company’s “farm-to-cone” philosophy. The best part? You don’t have to choose just one; guests can opt for an ice cream flight including your choice of four flavors from both classic and seasonal menus. The ice cream shop now has locations in the Arts District, Larchmont Village, West Hollywood, Venice and Studio City.
Don’t let its plain Jane exterior fool you: Scoops is a quintessential hole in the wall. The founder, Tai Kim, a Korean-American graduate of both art school and cooking school, flexed his creative muscles and came up with what are arguably the most unexpected flavor combinations in town: Guinness chocolate, brown bread, strawberry balsamic, banana Oreo, and bacon caramel, just to name a few. It gets better: There’s also a rotating list of creamy, non-dairy flavors—varieties change daily and staff are always happy to let you try them.
With a simple idea—made-to-order ice cream—and a genius execution plan—liquid nitrogen—Smitten Ice Cream is another standout option in L.A. Flavors, made daily with natural and local ingredients, include Earl Grey with milk chocolate chips, and cookie dough with pretzels. Seasonal flavors are always available in a cup or cone as well. There’s no doubt you’ll be smitten about your next scoop of creamy goodness.