The Best Ice Cream Spots
Sure, ice cream is synonymous with summer, particularly if you’ve got littles running around. But its participation in the locally sourced, small-batch food movement has grown-ups lining up around the block for a scoop, too. We scoured some of the country’s biggest cities for passionate young business owners who are taking advantage of local dairies and using seasonal ingredients to create wild, unexpected flavors. And, for the sake of nostalgia, we’ve included long-standing favorites from our own childhoods to round out the roster in each spot.
The Bigg Chill10850 W. Olympic Blvd., West LA | 310.475.1070
With the original '80s logo intact more than 20 years later (there are even old-school pleather chairs and a matching neon sign), walking into The Bigg Chill sort of feels like a time warp. The frozen yogurt stacks up, too, with a wide assortment of flavors and endless toppings. The location is admittedly random, but as anyone who grew up here will gladly tell you, this is the kind of place that's worthy of a drive.
Sweet Rose Creamery225 26th St., Brentwood | 310.260.2663
As far as we’re concerned, Josh and Zoe Loeb can do no wrong—their adorable ice cream shop, which is a partnership with Shiho Yoshikawa (she used to work with Zoe at Tartine), only strengthens their case. Shiho picks up ingredients for her inventive flavors at the Santa Monica farmers market, and her milk and eggs are from local purveyors as well. Favorites include matcha, fig, and goat cheese, and the old-fashioned strawberry, which tastes fresh off the vine. Because this is LA, there are dairy-free options; if that’s your vibe, definitely try the horchata. The original is at the Brentwood Country Mart, but now they have locations all over the city: Studio City, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and the Palisades.
Kippy’s245 Main St., #3D, Venice | 310.399.4871
Kippy's Ice Cream (previously located on Lincoln Boulevard, now on Main Street in Venice) is what vegan dreams are made of. The completely organic, coconut-based ice cream is made from fresh, locally sourced fruit and sweetened with raw honey. Our picks: Mojito, plain and simple, or Strawberry Coconut with the Chocolate Magic Shell topping—why not? After all, it's practically good for you.
Coolhaus8588 Washington Blvd., Culver City | 310.838.5559
Coolhaus makes handmade ice cream sandwiches in crazy (and crazy-good) combinations: Flavors like Beer & Pretzels and Milkshake & Fries are wedged between Chocolate Brownies with Maldon Sea Salt and Fruity Pebbles & Marshmallow. To make it even weirder (in a great way) they're served in edible, calorie-free wrappers. Oh, and there are options for vegans. They have locations in Culver City and Pasadena, along with four trucks, though you can always find their treats at Whole Foods.
Jeni’s1954 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz | 323.928.2668
This is the kind of ice cream shop that excels at flavors the tare out-of-the-ordinary (though not too outlandish): brambleberry crisp, churro, ylang ylang and fennel, Riesling poached pear sorbet, and pink grapefruit buttermilk frozen yogurt, to name a few. Jeni's started in Ohio, founded by Jeni Britton Bauer—James Beard award-winning author of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and has since expanded to other cities. The sole West Coast location is a bright and airy (though tiny) shop in Los Feliz that has a communal wooden bar to perch with your cone, as well as a couple of benches. There are also two shops in Chicago (Lakeview and Wicker Park).
Honey Mee Ice Cream3377 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown
While there’s no dearth of ice cream shops in LA, somehow quality soft-serve is still difficult to find. Honey Mee not only fills the hole in the market but it does so in a way that’s just a little bit healthier. There are no unnecessary flavors added to make the ice cream taste like vanilla, which results in an exceptionally creamy consistency that’s slightly less sweet than the traditional stuff. What’s more, in lieu of sugary toppings there’s granola, honey oats, slivered almonds, and real honeycombs, meaning that both kids and grown-ups can get their fix without going into a full-on sugar coma. There's another outpost on Sawtelle.
Salt & Straw240 N. Larchmont Blvd., Hancock Park | 323.466.0485
The small-batch ice cream business cousins Kim and Tyler Malek launched out of a single neighborhood ice cream parlor in Portland has grown into a family of shops, including two in LA—the original on Larchmont, and a second on Abbot Kinney. The focus at S&S is on inventive flavors: salted caramel cupcake, pear & blue cheese, avocado & strawberry sherbet. On the flip side, the single-origin vanilla is some of the best we’ve ever had. For those who aren’t fortunate enough to live near a shop, the seasonal Pints Club, which sets you up with five unique pints every month and delivers them right to your door, is an excellent option.
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams12073 Ventura Pl., Studio City | 818.308.7789
These purveyors of ultra-creamy ice cream got their start in Santa Barbara in 1948, and the heritage of their brand is hugely important to them. Their dairy is sourced from grass-fed cows which are raised just north of LA on the central coast, and they've been working with the same creamery since they got their start (eggs are cage-free, too). This is the kind of place where classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and the not-so-classic chocolate-covered strawberry reign supreme, and it probably goes without saying that kids can't get enough of it. You can buy this creamy goodness at many upscale grocery stores, but we prefer to have it scooped for us at either their Grand Central Market or Studio City locations.
Blockheads Shavery11311 Mississippi Ave., West LA | 310.445.8725
Understandably, kids go absolutely nuts for this place, and not just because of the miniature penguin mascot. The flavored “snow cream”—it’s a cross between shaved ice and ice cream—comes in four basic flavors (sweet milk, green tea, strawberry, and black sesame) and can be dressed up in toppings that run the gamut from coconut flakes to honey boba to mochi. They’ve recently introduced seasonal gourmet popsicles, like green tea pistachio and pomegranate lychee.
Scoops712 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hollywood | 323.906.2649
Owner Tai Kim creates delicious and imaginative flavors every day, always accommodating for four vegan options—our faves are maple Oreo and lychee grapefruit sorbet. One flavor that's always on the menu is brown bread, made from Grape-Nuts and caramel; it's creamy and amazing.
Gelato Paradiso448 S. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach | 949.464.9255
This teeny Laguna Beach gelato shop is consistently marked by a line that stretch well beyond its adorable alleyway storefront—no matter the time of day. The good news? It's worth the wait: their gelato, which comes in all the traditional Italian flavors plus dozens of fan favorites like cookies-and-cream and salted caramel, is made onsite, in small batches, using time-honored Sicilian recipes. The elaborate gelato cakes make great hostess gifts (but secure yours in advance, as they tend to sell out). There are also locations in Newport Beach and San Diego.
Van Leeuwen8850 Washington Bvld., Culver City | 424.341.0850
Whether you’ve had Van Leeuwen on the streets of Brooklyn or parked up on Abbot Kinney, it’s instantly recognizable by its sunny yellow truck. They’re particularly famous for their vegan ice cream, a combination of cashew milk, coconut milk, cocoa butter, and carob beans that’s incredibly creamy and indulgent (and a major victory for the dairy-sensitive). They’ve got a few locations now: Greenpoint, Boerum Hill, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn; the East and West Villages in Manhattan; and the Arts District and Culver City in LA. You can always track their many food trucks on their website.
Rori’s910 Montana Ave., Santa Monica | 424.744.8572
We first discovered Rori’s ice cream years ago while exploring Santa Barbara and were understandably pretty psyched when an outpost opened right on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. Rori, the mastermind behind the ice cream, insists on using strictly organic, locally sourced ingredients from neighboring farmers and cream from the famed Strauss Family Creamery. The resulting ice cream is rich and flavorful and comes in seasonal options that range from chocolate coconut to wild-berry chocolate crisp to honey-lavender. Their three-bite mini cones are a brilliant choice if you’re looking to sample multiple flavors without going all out.
Diddy Riese926 Broxton Ave., Westwood | 310.208.0448
Diddy Riese is right in the middle of Westwood near the UCLA campus, and while you’ll have to battle a block-long line of college kids to get in, their famous ice cream sandwiches are more than worth it. The ice cream they use is standard Dreyers, but the cookies are made in-house with family recipes. The employees make the sandwiches on-site, so you can pick your own flavor combinations (kids will be psyched that they can actually use two different cookie flavors if they want), and the portions are very generous. Probably the best part of the entire operation is the college-approved prices: Sandwiches are $2 each.