L.A.'s Top 10 Ice Cream & Gelato Spots

[Catch up on the full 30 Scoops in 30 Days trek in our sweet, creamy archive.]

Americans remember President Ronald Reagan as any number of things: The Great Communicator, a proponent of trickle-down economics, a hack former actor with a penchant for chimpanzees. Few, however, know of his greatest political act: making National Ice Cream Day an official holiday in 1984. It's celebrated the third Sunday of July, which would be yesterday. In honor of this obscure food holiday and the completion of our 30 Scoops in 30 Days odyssey and the dawning of brutal summer weather, we present Los Angeles' Top 10 Ice Cream & Gelato Spots.


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ICE CREAM

5.1. Rite Aid (everywhere): Their ice cream isn't chic and artisanal, but it's cheap, ubiquitous and features their standout flavor, Chocolate Malted Krunch. Milky, creamy and slightly tart, it's flecked with soft shavings of dark chocolate that melt on your tongue while a wealth of crisp, malted mini-bombs explode under your teeth.

5. Saffron Spot (Artesia): The flavors at this shop come in vibrant candyish hues, sporting names that sound like particularly festive planets in the Star Wars universe. Rajbhog? Chikoo? A working knowledge of Hindi would help, but it's hard to go wrong at Saffron Spot, where vanilla and chocolate play second fiddle to Indian flavors like guava, jackfruit, Masala Tea and Kulfi Kreme.

4. Jerry's Soda Shoppe (Canoga Park): Let's not equivocate: Jerry's Soda Shoppe serves the best ice cream soda in all of Los Angeles, if not the world. It begins with a frosty glass mug dipped in chocolate sauce. It's then filled with Lappert's vanilla ice cream, fizzy soda water and more chocolate syrup. Crowned with whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and a maraschino cherry, it's served with a sidecar of soda water and arrives on a plate, to catch the inevitable overflow as you dig in for the first bite. (Pro Tip: Take several long, hard pulls off the straw before trying to extract the spoon.) As you work your way through this behemoth -- even the small size is a bellyfull -- you can break off stalactites of hardened chocolate or scrape away at the mug like Rodin carving his Thinker. This brilliant aberration is located in the De Soto Pharmacy stocked with a Cronenbergian array of medical devices.

3. Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars (Culver City): This small, stunningly colored ice cream shop dishes out a fantastic selection of gelados, paletas and jugos in flavors not often found in these here parts: smoky leche quemada (burnt milk), passion fruit, tamarind, gaunabana and more. Mamey, a creamy Mexican fruit with a subtle flavor that's halfway between peach and pumpkin, turns into an even creamier pink ice cream with a floral hint. The stunner is the coffee and chocolate ice cream, easily one of the best in the city. This is no frou-frou frozen frappuccino. Strong, slightly bitter and riddled with nibs of chocolate, it seems designed to ensure you never forget its coffee essence.

2. Sweet Rose Creamery (Brentwood): Sweet Rose Creamery is Josh and Zoe Nathan's (Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon) ingredient-driven ice cream shop in the Brentwood Country Mart. That means fresh olallieberries, peaches, lemons, basil, coconuts, carrots, nectarines and sweet corn. Sweet Rose's flavors aren't flashy or extreme, but the shop makes some of the best sundaes (including one topped with slices of bacon) in town. Their banana split is a delicate but meticulously crafted work of art, made with the best of everything: two scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, butterscotch, real whipped cream and toasted, lightly sugared almond slivers. At $7.50, it's worth every penny.

1. Carmela Ice Cream (Pasadena): The most famous flavor at Carmela Ice Cream is its salted caramel. Listed first on the menu, it's almost always in stock. If it wasn't, the Pasadena shop might have a riot on its hands. After working the farmers market scene in the vanguard of the upscale ice cream brigade, co-owner Jessica Mortarotti finally opened a brick-and-mortar ice creamery. Mortarotti blends blueberries with thyme and transforms Guinness into a creamy, can't-put-it-down-until-the-last-bite treat. Honey ice cream that would be too sweet in most other hands is deftly lightened with lavender. Spiced Strawberry is tarted -- and tartened -- up with a hit of balsamic vinegar and black pepper. There's a mellow intensity to all of the flavors that lingers but doesn't punch you in the throat.

Honorable Mention: Kind Kreme (Echo Park, Studio City, Pasadena), Bennett's Ice Cream (mid-city West), Milk (mid-city West), Handel's (Upland, Redondo Beach).

Bonus: Dr. Bob's (Claremont): Technically, Dr. Bob's, located on the LA County Fairgrounds, only operates as a retail shop during the fair, but we have it on good authority that if you arrive Monday through Thursday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. (drive up to Gate 1 and say you have an appointment at Dr. Bob's), you can walk in and buy their ice cream by the gallon, though not the scoop.



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