Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 3), we'll be bringing you periodic lists of some of the best things we've found to eat and drink around town. Ice cream sandwiches and bowls of tsukemen, fish tacos and dan dan mien, cups of boba and glasses of booze. Read on.
There's something so perfectly all-American about the ice cream sandwich. It's nostalgia thickened with sugar and cream. It's childhood, edible and handheld. It conjures up memories of ice cream trucks and baseball games and trips to the lake -- and maybe that genius night you got stoned and creative in the kitchen. It's as patriotic as apple pie and much more appropriate for a mid-summer heat wave.
You could go old school and buy yourself some Hood sandwiches from the Pavilions freezer aisle. You could go light and buy yourself some Skinny Cows. But save up your calories and pennies instead for these five stellar renditions of the ice cream sandwiches you know, love, and remember. They are worth every lick.
5. Diddy Riese
If you've driven through Westwood, you've seen the lines snaking out the front door of Diddy Riese; 30,000 college students can't be wrong, right? This place is an ice cream parlor-slash-cookie shop, and they make the whole process easy -- and cheap. You can design your own ice cream sandwich for just $1.75, choosing your filling from a dozen flavors (including peanut butter cup, strawberry, and mint chocolate chip) and sandwiching it between 10 different possible cookie varieties. Total bonus: the top and bottom cookies don't have to match. Go ahead! Sandwich strawberry cheesecake ice cream between peanut butter and sugar cookies. Go crazy! Diddy Riese opened its doors 30 years ago and with lines like these, it'll be there for 30 more. But don't worry -- the crowds move through the assembly line with surprising speed. 926 Broxton Avenue, Westwood; 310-208-0448.
In storefronts on West 3rd St. and in Pasadena, the creamistas at Carmela are scooping small-batch ice creams and sorbets with flavors like Salted Caramel, Strawberry Buttermilk and Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean. Freezer cases by the door offer pre-packaged ice cream sandwiches, but get yours made to order instead. You'll have your choice among brown sugar, chocolate chip and dark chocolate cookies, which are dainty and scalloped along the edges, like buttery wafers. Stuff them with whatever strikes your fancy that day (the Intelligentsia Espresso Chip goes really well with dark chocolate cookies), pull up a café table, and keep the napkins handy -- once the cookie crumbles, it makes a delicious little mess. 495 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena; 626-797-1405 and 7920 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; 323-944-0232.
The ice cream sandwiches at Sweet Rose Creamery, pre-packed and waiting for you in the freezer case, are the truest to the original Hood version in look, taste, and feel. These are not overstuffed cookies dripping messy globs of ice cream on your shorts. The sandwiches here are classic: perfectly rectangular, with straight edges, an even height and a clean little wrapper. The chocolate cookie/vanilla ice cream combo is your childhood sandwich, all grown up -- with chocolate cookies (not too soft... they won't end up coating your fingers) sandwiching vanilla ice cream in a neat and tidy little package. Even better, though, is the ginger version: two gingersnap rectangles paired with ginger ice cream. It's the perfect balance of spice and cream and would remind you of Christmas, if it weren't so darn hot outside. If you want exotic ice cream flavors -- think Blood Orange Buttermilk, Earl Grey, and Horchata -- you can scoop them on a cone, but if you're in the mood for a traditional sandwich, Sweet Rose Creamery is the place to get it. In the Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th Street, Suite 51, Santa Monica; 310-263-2663.
Ok, ok, so this sandwich isn't necessarily all-American, as it's served in one of the better Thai restaurants in town. But the reaction is the same: you close your eyes, savor every bite, lick your fingers when you're done, and wish you had one more because it's just not freaking big enough. On the menu, it's called simply "ice cream sandwich," and it is exactly that -- the most literal translation of the dish. Chef Kris Yenbamroong grills what looks like a hotdog bun (but tastes vaguely sweet, like Hawaiian bread), and stuffs it with coconut sticky rice and a scoop of coconut ice cream. It's incredibly simple and remarkably delicious. You don't think it would work, but after a bracingly hot meal from Night + Market, it's a winning formula: Rice+Bread+Ice Cream = amazing. 9043 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (enter through Talesai); 310-275-9724.
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It started as two chicks with a food truck, slinging sandwiches with weird ice cream flavors and crazy cookie combinations, and has evolved into a mini-empire of trucks, storefronts, and space in the local Whole Foods freezer case. Their hype is not unwarranted: these little sammies are delicious. The cookies -- including chocolate/pretzel, red velvet, potato chip/butterscotch, and gingersnap -- are flavorful and just soft enough that they give when you bite into them, keeping the rest of the cookie (and sandwich) intact. The ice cream flavors, always different, are creamy and creative and even boozy -- on a recent day they offered Guinness Chip, Chocolate Stout, Makers Mark Manhattan, and Whiskey/Lucky Charms. Smear a couple of gingersnaps with Bananas Foster ice cream and you've got yourself seven minutes of heaven in your hand. Oh, and the "paper" wrapper around your sandwich? It's made of potato starch, so it's completely edible. Look, Ma, no mess! 8588 Washington Blvd, Culver City; 310-424-5559 and @CoolHaus on Twitter for truck locations.
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