Summer may be the season for ice cream, but Los Angeles’s perennially sunny weather means every day here is an opportunity to indulge in the world’s most popular cool, sweet treat. Combine that with LA’s unique blend of cultures and creativity and you have more ways to give yourself brain freeze than you ever thought possible.
Here are seven top shops, offering scoops, sundaes, sandwiches and shaves to keep you feeling frosty year-round.
Beachy Cream updates old-fashioned classics
It might appear to be a typical old-fashioned ice cream parlor with iron stools and marble counters, but Beachy Cream has updated this classic with 100% organic ingredients and a nostalgic wink. Giving equal weight to their dreamy ice cream and perfect cookies, Beachy Cream specializes in ice cream sandwiches, with a fixed menu of surf-inspired signature flavors. Try the Key Lime Cowabunga (Key Lime ice cream on a Coconut Oatmeal cookie), Strawberry Surfer Girl (Strawberry Balsamic Swirl ice cream between two sugar cookies), or fan favorite Surfin’ Safari Chocolate Chip (Vanilla Bean with Chocolate Chip cookies). Or dream up your own custom combo – cookie varieties also include Molasses and an irresistible Peanut Butter/Chocolate Fudge Brownie hybrid.
Like their slightly naughty Beachy Cream Girls (who work the catering side of things and who have their own pinup calendar) these sweets have a little sass to them. Their “Hot” Chocolate ice cream has the zip of cinnamon and cayenne, and boozy offerings include Walnuts & Whiskey and Margarita. The standards are also anything but boring, including Brown Butter Pecan, Candied Ginger and vegan offerings like Toasted Coconut. There’s even Fro-Yo for dogs.
Ice cream sandwiches and fresh-packed pints are available to go, and they also offer Chili and Hot Dogs made with organic, grass-fed beef, if you’re feeling like a little snack before your sandwich.
Beachy Cream, 1209 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90403; (310) 656-4999
HOURS: Sunday-Thursday, 11am – 9pm, Friday-Saturday 11am – 10pm
Sprinkles Ice Cream ups the cupcake game with ice cream
Sprinkles ignited the gourmet cupcake craze, and now they’ve extended their impeccably-defined brand to ice cream and its perfect partner, freshly-baked cookies. Sprinkles’ stock-in-trade – simple but inspired flavors perfected with over-the-top-quality ingredients – is on full display at their Ice Cream and Cookies shop in Beverly Hills, next to their flagship cupcake outlet (and its equally inspired “Cupcake ATM”).
This bright, clean and modern space showcases Sprinkles’ handcrafted ice cream and a small but scrumptious selection of cookies. Like their cupcakes, Sprinkles Ice Cream features a core of regular flavors available daily, including amped-up standards like Vanilla Bean, Butter Pecan and Rocky Road, and a few new classics (the nostalgic Cap’n Crunch, made with cereal-soaked milk, and the seriously addictive Salty Caramel). Their rotating selections include flavors such as Coffee Fudge Almond, Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cup and Blood Orange Sorbet. All of the dense, luxurious ice cream flavors are made with organic California dairy and superior ingredients, like Tcho, Valrhona and Callebaut chocolates, La Mill Espresso, homemade marshmallow cream and imported Morello cherries.
Enjoy an unadulterated scoop of silky Malted Milk Chocolate or a Red Velvet Waffle Cone filled with Red Velvet Ice Cream (layered with bites of the cupcake store’s classic flavor). Ice cream sandwiches are made from their perfectly crispy-chewy cookies (Peanut Butter Pretzel Chip? Salted Oatmeal Cornflake?) or scooped between two unfrosted cupcake tops (the intensely-flavored Banana ice cream paired with the Dark Chocolate cupcakes is a winner). But for the ultimate Sprinkles experience, indulge in an ice cream sundae crowned with the frosted cupcake top of your choice. You can hold the cherry.
Sprinkles Ice Cream, 9631 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, 90210, (310) 274-7890
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 12pm – 11pm, Thursday-Saturday 12 pm – 12 am
Scoops Westside features inventive signature flavors
Scoops Westside is the newest incarnation of this local favorite (with other locations in Highland Park and East Hollywood), which features ice cream artisan Ty Kim’s inspired and sometimes eccentric flavor combinations, including delicious non-dairy alternatives offered daily.
The unpretentious shop tucked into a non-descript corner mall (with plenty of parking) belies the treasures hidden in its cooler case. With the craftsmanship of a mixologist, Kim is willing to experiment and we’re the lucky guinea pigs.
Scoops is generous with their samples (embracing the eco-friendly trend of tiny metal sampling spoons), because not everyone is willing to jump right into a bowl of Avocado Pabst, Peanut Butter Pandan or Kimchee ice cream. The less intimidating flavors might include Chai Tea or Banana Cheesecake, the alcohol-steeped Coffee Bourbon, Raspberry Port Wine or Pecan Kahlua, and non-dairy Salty Chocolate or Maple Oreo. Be sure to have a scoop of their signature flavor, Brown Brown Bread: Caramel ice cream with a caramel swirl, loaded with caramelized Grape Nuts cereal. Be warned – you may never go back to plain vanilla.
Scoops Westside, 3400 Overland Ave., Los Angeles, 90034, (323) 405-7055
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 12-10 pm
Saffron and Rose Ice Cream takes traditional to new heights
Saffron and Rose Ice Cream, on the north end of Westwood Avenue’s Persian restaurant row, features such fresh and purely-flavored ice creams and sorbets that you may forgo dinner altogether and skip right to dessert.
With a cool, lush texture somewhere between frozen custard and gelato, Saffron and Rose’s Persian Ice Cream stands alone among its competition. Traditional flavors like White Rose and Lavender are neither too sweet nor perfume-y; customer favorite Saffron Pistachio is crafted with chunky nuggets of pistachios and the highest-quality imported saffron (which you can also buy here).
Manager Fred Papen, (grandson of the shop’s founder, who’s lovingly pictured on the shop’s take-away containers) is passionate about his product and generous with samples. He’s also a guru with flavor combinations. Try Guava with Coconut, Ginger with Orange Blossom, or Cucumber and Cantaloupe. Or follow the lead of the locals and enjoy a generous scoop sandwiched between two crispy waffle wafers, and be very happy that you live in a city where you don’t have to travel far to taste this traditional treat.
Saffron and Rose Ice Cream Shop, 1387 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, 90025, (310) 477-5533
Blockheads Shavery Co. serves uniquely-textured Snow Cream
The enormous mounds of frozen fluff glissading from the noisy machines behind the counter might look intimidating, but Blockheads Shavery’s unique “snow cream” is unexpectedly light and refreshing. Hard-frozen ice cream given the “shave ice” treatment, you’ve probably never tasted anything like it, and the lines out the door are a sign that this Asian ice cream trend could be the next Pinkberry’s.
The ordering process sounds simple: first select your “snow cream” from a handful of flavors like Green Tea, Black Sesame or Cantaloupe. Step #2, toppings, is where you’ll run into decision-making problems. Here you’re faced with over two dozen options, from Brownie Bites to Toffee Crunch, to fresh blueberries, strawberries and lychees. For the adventurous, there’s Grass Jelly, Egg Pudding, Honey Boba and Red Bean. And as if that’s not hard enough, you get a Step #3 – a free drizzle. Condensed Milk, Coconut Puree, Caramel Sauce, whatever you select, it’s a perfect gooey foil to the pleasantly dry texture of the snow cream. You won’t find any cones or cookies here, but you can come up with infinite ways to cool your palate after a lunch at the nearby Hurry Curry.
Blockheads Shavery Co., 11311 Missisippi Ave., Los Angeles, 90025
Bennett’s Ice Cream in the Original Farmers Market
Bennett’s Ice Cream is old-school and proud of it. This family-run stand, tucked between a donut shop and a Chinese food joint on the east end of LA’s original Farmers Market, has been around since 1963 because they just do ice cream right. “We make our own ice cream – really!” a sign proclaims, and they offer proof by allowing a peek into the kitchen through a window behind the counter.
Bennett’s offers a staggering selection of cool treats, served with a generous helping of humor encouraging customers to indulge. Try a chocolate dipped cone and “screw the diet!” In addition to dozens of flavors of ice cream and sorbets, they have milk shakes, floats, chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, Bennett Bars (an ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and covered with almonds) and something called the Fudge Brownie Monster – “Just ask, we dare you!” (For the record, it’s a brownie with any scoop of ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, almonds and a cherry.) Screw the diet indeed.
All their treats are tempting, but Bennet’s is really the place for a good, old-fashioned $4 ice cream cone. Their flavors range from classic to inspired – Cherry Vanilla is scrumptious with pops of bright red candied cherries; Chocolate Junkie lives up to its name – chocolate ice cream with a dark fudge ripple and chocolate chips. On the lighter side, you could try the Cabernet Sauvignon Sorbet, or just go for it with “Mrs. Bennett’s favorite,” Fancy Nancy – coffee ice cream with bananas and a caramel swirl.”Life is short, lick fast.”
Bennett’s Ice Cream, Farmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St., Stall 548, Los Angeles, 90036, (323) 939-6786
Coolhaus finds a home base in Culver City
An early-adopter of the food truck craze, Coolhaus has ridden the wave perfectly and landed a brick & mortar in a developing neighborhood in east Culver City.
A playful riff on architecture and food (cool ice cream, Bauhaus, Rem Koolhaas), Coolhaus specializes in one or two story ice cream “sammies” – creative cookies combined with near-legendary ice cream flavors that deliver crave-inducing combos you won’t find anywhere else. They rotate over 60 ice cream choices ranging from Butterscotch & Rosemary, Balsamic Fig & Mascarpone and Bananas Foster to their famous sweet and savory flavors like Fried Chicken & Waffles, Beer & Pretzels and Chocolate Chipotle BBQ with Jack Daniels.
Their cookie flavors are just as bold – Double Chocolate with Sea Salt, Chocolate Chunk Pretzel, and a little something called “Snack Food,” filled with cornflakes, chocolate chips, pretzels and potato chips. Well, of course you’d put some ice cream on that – otherwise it might be lonely. And Brown Butter Bacon ice cream smooshed between two homemade Peanut Butter & Cap’n Crunch cookies, well, that right there is a power breakfast.
Not just another LA hyphenate, Coolhaus’s substance matches their style. Dedicated to quality and sustainability, they use seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible, and their sammies are even wrapped in edible (potato starch) paper. What could be cooler?
The Coolhaus Shop, 8588 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 90232, (310) 424-5559
Hours: Monday-Thursday, Sunday, 12pm-10pm; Friday-Saturday 12pm-11pm