Endless summers in Los Angeles mean non-stop cravings for the best ice cream in L.A. 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
There are plenty of artisanal ice cream shops at our disposal in L.A., 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.
Founded in Santa Barbara, McConnell's Fine Ice Creams has made the jump to L.A. at Grand Central Market and in Los Feliz and 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.
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.
In case you thought Los Angeles needed more artisanal ice cream, Magpies has arrived with flavors like green tea brown rice, cuban espresso and horchata. But in this case, we're talking soft serve, and L.A. could definitely use more of Magpies' kind. Top your twist with homemade charred marshmallows, toffee rice krispies, spicy candied pecans and a bevy of other crumbled, sprinkled and sticky accessories.
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 L.A.—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.
If ever there was a place to satisfy all our guilty pleasures at once, it's this Midtown (or Silver Lake) dessert hot spot, whose bold, colorful exterior carries over to the menu, with tongue-staining treats like blue velvet cake and watermelon ice cream sandwiches. While the cafe's signature burger may not be the reason folks line up down the block (safely chalk that up to the league-of-their-own sundaes, cake, and milkshakes), it too is worth a try.
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; 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.
As one of the best NY imports to make its way to L.A., 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.
Don't let its plain Jane exterior fool you: Scoops is a quintessential hole in the wall. The owner, 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, too: There's also a rotating list of creamy, non-dairy flavors; varieties change daily and they are always happy to let you try them.
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. In 2012, he ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to open a brick-and-mortar in Downtown LA and now sweet-seeking foodies can swing by, peddle up a small batch and enjoy quality ice cream.
This popular, architecturally-themed ice cream sandwich truck (Coolhaus takes its name after famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas) has set up shop in Culver City's Arts District with a permanent brick and mortar (another Pasadena location recently opened). 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.
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.
With a simple idea (fresh made-to-order ice cream) and a genius execution plan (liquid nitrogen) Smitten Ice Cream is another standout ice cream 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!
The immaculate, all-white shop gets as creative with its ice cream flavors as its big sister cupcake bakery, which sits right next door (you know, by the cupcake ATM machine. Totally normal.). A rotating list of flavors is offered each week, with red velvet, Cap'n Crunch and salty caramel ranking as the most popular flavors. Just show up ready to wait in line—and keep your eye out for celebs who swear by the famed ice cream shop.
Teenagers, families and sugar hounds alike 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 from boba to brownie bites and "drizzles” such as condensed milk and chocolate sauce. The blackboard menu guides you through the three-step, 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.
This traditional Japanese bakery has been open in Los Angeles (though not at this location) for more than 100 years. Mikawaya offers a plethora of pastries in this retail shop, but is probably best known for its famous mochi ice cream, available in flavors varying from mango to green tea.