It has to be the most déclassé shop on Rodeo Drive, but there it is, amid David Yurman tennis bracelets and Christian Dior handbags, buried in the parking structure of an office building dedicated to aesthetic self-improvement and expensive housewares: Carvel.
Largely an East Coast brand, Carvel has a handful of Los Angeles outposts (here and here), the most notable of which is Carvel 90210, hidden amid the opulence (sometimes obscene, sometimes gently restrained) of Beverly Hills. Need a couple blood diamonds to go with that swirly soft-serve cone? De Beers is just down the street.
To find the shop, you have to head down to the valet level of the parking garage at 421 N. Rodeo Drive, where you'll find an underground courtyard more pleasant than most of the apartment buildings in this city. Classy benches with comfortable cushions, a lovely mural with a floral motif, a cherubic fountain. This is how the other half parks. Actually, the garage is more appealing than the Carvel store, which seems barren and fluorescent.
Carvel specializes in housemade soft-serve, which tastes as unremarkable as any other mass-market soft-serve. You can doll it up with “Shotz,” squirts of cheap chemical flavoring agents in a rainbow assortment. It's similar to the stuff you get on shaved ice. The ice cream cupcakes are pretty but awful: dry and flavorless cake-like matter heaped with hardened soft-serve. So Carvel hasn't kept pace with the modern world of artisanal ice creams and market-driven flavors. What Carvel does have is… Fudgie the Whale. Also, Cookie Puss. (Yes, both of Carvel's signature products sound like obscure sex acts.)
This ice cream cake in the shape of a smiling, sleepy-eyed whale is hard to resist, especially if you grew up watching Carvel commercials. In that case, Tom Carvel's gravelly tenor may be permanently imprinted on your brain. The cake is hard and dry (once again, soft-serve that's been frozen solid defeats its titular description), but Fudgie is just so adorable. His name is Fudgie! And he's best friend with Cookie Puss, a potato-faced prankster with a sugar cone for a nose and a rakishly handsome Irish cousin, Cookie O'Puss.
Carvel actually has an array of festive ice cream cakes (cats, butterflies, footballs, racecars), but if they're anything like Fudgie and Cookie Puss, they look far better than they taste. Unlike Papaya King, whose hot dogs we're definitely crushing on, Carvel is one East Coast import that's left us a bit baffled. Still, if you are on a West Coast quest for Carvel and its ice cream creatures, there's only one secret locale where you can savor your soft-serve as Porsche Cayennes and Benz M-Classess ascend into Beverly Hills.
Bonus: Carvel does kosher and vegan ice cream.
- Day 15: Delicieuse
- Day 14: Manhattan Beach Creamery
- Day 13: Jerry's Soda Shoppe
- Day 12: N'ice Cream
- Day 11: Gelato Bar
- Day 10: Kind Kreme
- Day 9: Rite Aid
- Day 8: Saffron & Rose
- Day 7: Carmela Ice Cream
- Day 6: Mikawaya
- Day 5: Grom Gelateria
- Day 4: Sweet Rose Creamery
- Day 3: Fosselman's
- Day 2: Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars
- Day 1: Scoops Westside
- Day 0: It Begins!