The Best Ice Cream in Los Angeles
Though some might try to make the case that ice cream is a dessert best suited to winter (high calories equal higher body heat, or at least that's what Benjamin Franklin said), almost everyone associates it with summer. To get into the spirit, we've compiled a list of the best purveyors of ice cream, sorbet and gelato across town. Each shop offers some kind of rarely found flavor — but you can always find chocolate, too.
Coconut bowl at Helados Pops
Helados Pops specializes in fruit-based ice cream, using products found at local farmers markets whenever possible. Obviously, the tropical flavors require imported frozen fruit. Owner Marthin Ken points out that one can’t follow an exact recipe, "because fruits aren’t the same.” Sometimes this means far more or far less of a particular fruit. Ken also believes in using as little sugar or sweetener as possible. One of the most interesting sorbet flavors is marañon, the cashew fruit. It requires seven to eight pounds of the fruit, acidic skin removed, to get the true flavor. The flavor is a sort of a melding of mango and pineapple. Another sorbet you’re unlikely to find elsewhere is arrayan, known in English as the sartre guava. And yes, you can get it served in a coconut. —Jim Thurman
450 N. Maclay Ave., San Fernando; (818) 371-3538.
Salt & Straw's fermentation series
Salt & Straw
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Salt & Straw brings a little more flair to the local ice cream scene. With flavors such as tomato water, Ojai olive oil sherbet, and avocado and strawberry sherbet, this is definitely not your grandmother’s ice creamery. For noncommittal types, there's a flight of flavors, which includes four choices for $10. Other sweetly sensational options hail from the drink side of things: a lavender bitters and spruce cola float and a barrel-aged maple syrup and walnut shake. Everything for the Los Angeles shops is made from scratch at Salt & Straw’s kitchen in Boyle Heights. —Angela Matano
Multiple locations; saltandstraw.com.
Based in Santa Barbara since 1949, this company — with a stall in Grand Central Market — uses milk and cream from its own grass-grazed cows. The flavors are a mix of old and new, and the ice cream itself is creamy and rich without being too sweet. The McConnell’s version of the now ubiquitous (but still worthwhile) salty caramel is a salted caramel chip with enough depth of flavor to approach the intensity of coffee. The chopped-up, bittersweet Guittard chocolate balances out the sweetness, making for a decidedly sophisticated flavor. The Earl Grey tea float is another unusual and delicious choice. —A.M.
Multiple locations; mcconnells.com.
Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars
A little Culver City Mexican ice cream shop, Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars serves up paletas, jugos and house-made gelados in a stunning array of flavors: smoky leche quemada (burnt milk), passion fruit, tamarind, guanabana 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 hint of something floral. Playing with ice cream pairings among the 18 or so flavors is a fun game. (The tart passion fruit is perfect for cutting through the sweetness, and coconut works with just about anything.) Several of the flavors are made without dairy, but even the sorbets are so dense and creamy, we'd be hard-pressed to pick them out in a blind taste test.The stunner is the coffee and chocolate ice cream, easily one of the best in the city. This is no frozen frappuccino, struggling to mask the flavor of coffee with enough sugar to turn an elephant hyperactive. This ice cream seems designed to ensure you never forget its coffee essence, and it's riddled with small hits of chocolate. —Elina Shatkin
4929 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City; (310) 313-7625.
This one's a bit of a sleeper: Mashti Malone's has been around practically forever, so in the last few years, with the deluge of new ice cream shops around L.A., it's nearly been forgotten. But the Persian dessert shop is still churning out a high-quality product, sometimes in flavors hard to find elsewhere, such as cucumber, rosewater and ginger. Those fall under the "refreshing" category, but the store also has good ol' all-American flavor extravaganzas too, such as peanut butter cup and cookies 'n' cream. Have a scoop of one, and then the other. —Katherine Spiers
1525 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood; (323) 874-0144, mashtimalone.com.
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