Is your ice cream too ... vanilla? Lately, we’ve noticed long lines forming on sidewalks around the city, with customers studying complex menus like they’re cramming for the SATs before ordering. These days, cocoa is to chocolate as curry is to cherimoya.
While your feet cramp up waiting to satisfy these curiosities, we decided to test out some of the more unconventional flavors found at ten Los Angeles stores. With the constant sunshine, our ice cream makers have a chance to experiment all year long (another talking point the next time you find yourself in a heated NYC vs L.A. battle).
Most of these flavors are seasonal, making multiple trips mandatory. Some left a bad taste in our mouth, while others sounded crazy on paper, but not on our palate. Here’s what’s actually worth scoping out and scooping up.
10. Sweet XO
Need some soap shaped like ice cream? A T-shirt covered in cones? A ceramic sundae dish? This mall store has all of that – and actual frozen treats, too. The walls are filled with soft-serve options, but the real draw is the ice cream case, where cereal milk gets a whole new meaning in the form of Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes. Top your ounces off with some Jelly Beans or caramel sauce, then watch their specially-formulated spoon change colors for a pleasant, psychedelic trip. Twin Oaks Shopping Center, 5825 Kanan Rd, Agoura Hills, CA 91301.
9. Mashti Malone’s
A rose is a rose is a rose — except when it's at Mashti Malone's. At this ice cream institution known for its Persian flavors (family-mastered for over 75 years), a rose is a Rosewater Saffron, is a Ginger Rosewater, is a Rose Sorbet with Wild Cherries. The floral flavor may be reminiscent of Grandma Doris’ perfume, and according to their website, it will regulate your menstrual flow. (And if you don't need help in that arena, check out the Peanut Butter Cup – not “weird” but one of the best in the city.) 1525 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046.
8. Mother Moo Creamery
“Mother” is Karen Klemens, a fruit expert (and the preserving whiz behind Mothercluck Preserves) who uses organic, local ingredients in her daily repertoire. When I stopped by the shop, Sweet Basil and Orange Blossom Cardamom stood out – the latter reminiscent of deeply sweet Chai tea. Whatever your age, this Sierra Madre store will make you feel like a kid again – buzzing for new experiences and open to possibility. (Among ice cream flavors, anyway.) 17 Kersting Ct, Sierra Madre, CA 91024.
7. Kindkreme (at Sage)
These raw, vegan sweets get their creamy base from cruelty-free sources: coconut, almond, and cashew milk. Seasonal specialties range from beet ginger grapefruit, loquat carrot-orange, and cumquat gogi. Want a nutritional boost? Order a “Fresh” (cucumber, kale, lemon, Himalayan sea salt) or “Superfood” (acai, E3Live, goji berries, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, chia seeds, maca and macadamia nuts). If you can’t wrap your mind around the idea of seeds/greens in your ice cream, ask for your scoop on a gluten-free waffle or brownie – that’ll make it a lot easier to stomach. Two locations: 1700 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026; 4130 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230.
At this old-fashioned ice cream parlor, you’ll cozy up to traditional flavors you’d expect from a place that’s been churning for almost a century. Of the 48 menu items, a few are usually rotated in to liven things up. We ordered Black Sesame, a recent client-requested concoction that migrated into their freezers. I also sampled the Black Licorice – a candy many aren't fond of, but happily, it lost its sharpness in cold, creamy form. 1824 W Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801.
5. Cookies & Cream
If you’re having a taro craving, this South Pasadena shop is your savior. When we visited, there were three varieties on the menu: regular taro, a vegan (coconut-based) version, and “Heavenly” – mixed in with salty toffee. Pandan inspired multiple options as well – with or without chocolate. But don’t leave without trying the Earl Grey Mango Amaretto, a mellow richness that will satisfy both your high tea and happy hour urges. 1010 1/2 Fair Oaks Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030.
4. Sweet Rose Creamery
This is the little black dress of ice cream shops. Stick to the classics, or accessorize them with toppings or flavors that have a little more flair. Current fall-inspired options include Butternut Squash with Sage Brittle, Bay Leaf with Thyme Roasted Jujube, and Quince Ripple with Manchego. Whatever you end up ordering, ask for some freshly ground sea salt to complete your perfect dessert ensemble. Three locations: Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St, Suite 51, Santa Monica, CA 90402; 826 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405; 7565 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
Weird is the norm at Scoops, where flavors boogie on and off the menu on a daily basis. B.F.G.B. (Before Foie Gras Ban), flagship store founder Tai Kim even served up the liver with sweet cream. At each of the five franchised locations, what’s in store is a gamble. Flavors are spiked with everything from Guinness to Jackfruit. Regulars know the Grape Nuts-studded Brown Bread is their version of vanilla – a flavor steeped in familiarity, even if it’s your first time trying it. Three locations: 712 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90029; 3400 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034, 3400 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034; 5105 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042.
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2. The Springs
Question: Where can you shop for artisanal soap, take a yoga class with live music, detox in an infrared sauna, and eat raw, vegan ice cream? Answer: The Springs, in downtown L.A.’s Arts District. We sampled several options, including Wasabi Pea and Smoked-Avocado Cilantro – all made from an organic, coconut cashew base – but were especially intoxicated by their beer-infused flavor. Made from Eel River Brewing Company’s Brown Porter, it’s slightly foamy with a hoppy aftertaste. 608 Mateo St, Los Angeles, CA 90021.
1. Salt and Straw
Every time we pop into this Larchmont shop, strange things tickle our taste buds in the most unexpected, pleasant way. Think Santa Ynez Valley Walnut Oil, Tomato Water and Ojai Olive Oil, Black Olive Brittle and Goat Cheese. In November they were scooping up Thanksgiving flavors: Honey Bourbon Corn Pudding, Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple Pecans, Spiced Chevre Pumpkin Pie, or Cranberry Walnut Stuffing (an L.A. exclusive). And don’t forget the main course — Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey, made from fried poultry skin brittle and turkey fat caramel ice cream. With elaborate, ever-changing themes like these, we can't help but come back, and back, and back. 240 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004.