Endless summers in Los Angeles mean non-stop cravings for the best ice cream in LA. 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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LA's best ice cream shops
There are plenty of artisanal ice cream shops at our disposal in LA, but this might be the first one that inspires us to hop on a plane. The scoops at Wanderlust Creamery in Tarzana (which took over a Cold Stone—a serious upgrade, in our opinion) include Thai Iced Tea, Vietnamese Coffee, Abuelita Malted Crunch and Sticky Rice + Mango—essentially, the vacation you've been meaning to take. Everything is made in-house, including flavored cones (we're partial to the green tea) and macarons (like honey lavender and earl grey blueberry). Make the trip to Tarzana for a couple scoops—you won't even need your passport.
From a 2012 James Beard Award winning author, Jeni Britton Bauer is extending her Ohio roots to Los Angeles with Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. The shop offers an ecclectic choice of more than 20 flavors ranging from Whiskey & Pecans to Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet to traditional favorites like the Milkiest Chocolate in the World. If there isn't something on the signature menu, the limited edition menu will surely have other options that will catch your attention.
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.
The ever-popular Carmela—which is also sold in a few specialty food shops around LA—rides the locavore trend by incorporating fresh herbs and seasonal fruit into flavors like Rose Petal and 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. We're partial to the salted caramel and Intelligentsia espresso.
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.
Sierra Madre locals and families stop in for a root beer float, milkshakes and ice cream in flavors like chocolate made with three types of chocolate and salt and triple milk that combines buttermilk, cream and non-fat milk. Karen Klemens handcrafts her ice cream using local, seasonal produce and Strauss, organic milk. Another location recently opened up in South Pasadena, bringing more of Mother Moo to the San Gabriel Valley.
Transplanted from the hipster-foodie capital of the west (Portland, of course), craft creamery Salt & Straw puts an artisanal churn on the standard scoop. Their extensive menu boasts flavors both sinful and curious, including Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache, Freckled Woodblock Chocolate, Avocado Strawberry Sherbert and Santa Ynez Valley Walnut Oil—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. For $10, guests can opt for an ice cream flight including your choice of four flavors from both classic and seasonal menus. The pristine globules are served in healthy scoops across four individual glass bowls, presented on a (undoubtedly reclaimed) wood tray. Can't decide which to pick? Salt & Straw's staffers, who are about as chipper as you'd expect artisanal ice cream scoopers to be, are thrilled to help you assemble the perfectly complementary quartet. The ice cream shop has locations in both Larchmont Village and Studio City.
Founded in Santa Barbara, McConnell's Fine Ice Creams has made the jump to LA at both Grand Central Market and in Studio City, 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.
Santa Monica darling Sweet Rose Creamery has added a third location to its growing franchise, opening a friendly spot on Beverly Boulevard just a couple blocks east of the Grove. Not one to play favorites, executive chef Shiho Yoshikawa brings her signature seasonal flavors to this outpost as well, where visitors can choose from farmers' market-inspired flavors such as ginger, licorice and cognac prune. Classic options are on the menu as well—vanilla, salted caramel and fresh mint are all staples—but if customization is your thing, try adding one of Sweet Rose Creamery's homemade toppings, like pecan crumble or cacao nibs.
As one of the best NY imports to make its way to LA, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream operates both an ice cream truck and a brick-and-mortar in the Arts District. The company, founded by Pete and Ben Van Leeuwen and Laura O'Neill, uses the finest ingredients to make star quality ice cream in continually rotating flavors, such as pistachio, earl grey tea, espresso and mint chip. Their latest addition, vegan ice cream, flips the stereotype of lackluster dairy-free ice cream on its head—here, the use of raw cocoa butter makes it creamy and rich (try the chocolate peanut butter!). The Van Leeuwen truck can be found on Abbot Kinney throughout the week, as well as Little Tokyo and in front of the LACMA.