Cheesecake can be crafted from base ingredients such as ricotta, goat cheese or cream cheese, bolstered with fruit or nuts, anchored by a graham cracker crust and built to the sky. Of course, it can have none of those things, too. And while the dessert's mellow sweetness and creamy richness is a beautiful union that's hard to screw up, not all cheesecakes are created equal.
Here are our 10 favorite cheesecakes in Los Angeles, in alphabetical order.
The Arthur J
Pastry chef Uyen Nguyen — previously the co-owner and resident St. Honoré crafter at the former Sunset Strip French restaurant Gorge — started working for David LeFevre and crew in late 2015. She’s shown considerable range at The Arthur J steakhouse by implementing desserts such as her seasonal cheesecake. Leading up to the holidays, she served pumpkin cheesecake with poached pears and a vanilla sage ice cream cap, but the most recent version is a vanilla bean cheesecake with a crust made from graham cracker crumbs, fennel seed and pine nuts, topped with key lime curd. 903 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach; (310) 878-9620, thearthurj.com.
Canelé chef Corina Weibel and front-of-house business partner Jane Choi turn out plenty of crave-able dishes at their Mediterranean-inspired Atwater Village restaurant, and chief among them is their Buena Chica cheesecake ($9). Weibel’s neighbor supplied the recipe, which stars cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and eggs. A buttery graham cracker crust helps support the cake and its tangy sour cream topping. 3219 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village; (323) 666-7133, canele.la.
Christian Page spearheaded this revival of an all-American diner in Koreatown, and his wife, Elia Page, an accomplished chef in her own right, is in charge of the pastry program. In the rotating case by the entrance, you’ll typically find whole cheesecakes that yield sizable slices ($6). She’s currently baking cheesecakes with a burnished top, rich mascarpone filling and a layer of house-made raspberry jam spread against the dense crust. 3600 W. Sixth St., Koreatown; (213) 387-5502, cassellshamburgers.com.
Brooklyn-born pizza chain Grimaldi’s expanded to El Segundo in 2014, and the indoor-outdoor restaurant with red-and-white–checked tablecloths and wine bottle chandeliers is considerably larger than the original location. It serves big slabs of cheesecake ($5 each), with classic New York–style cheesecake available year-round. You’ll also find Oreo cookie cheesecake and seasonal selections such as caramel-apple cheesecake made with rich caramel, tart green apple and a hint of cinnamon. 2121 Rosecrans Ave., El Segundo; (310) 648-7503, grimaldispizzeria.com.
Harriet’s Cheesecakes Unlimited
Harriet Parks first opened her tiny Inglewood cheesecake shop in 1986. Daughter Robin now helps to run the bakery in the Centinela Center strip mall; it features a marble counter, mottled aqua walls and blackboard menus. Lore has it that Harriet's sister found a cheesecake recipe in the paper and challenged Harriet to do better. Thirty years later, Harriet's Cheesecakes Unlimited is selling 8-inch cheesecakes for $25.50 and slices for $6.50. During our visit, the cheesecake variations included praline, banana pudding and cookies 'n' cream. The sweet potato cheesecake is justifiably popular; a layer of sweet potato incorporates boiled sweet potato puree and secret spices, and it's finished with a sour cream top and pecans sautéed with butter and tossed with sugar. 1515 Centinela Ave., Inglewood; (310) 419-2259.
In 1983, Naples natives Maria Marino and her husband, Ciro, opened their Italian restaurant on a quiet stretch of Melrose Avenue near Paramount Studios. Now sons Mario and Sal Marino (Il Grano) are making sure that Marino Ristorante is still going strong. One of their selling points is a tantalizing ricotta cheesecake. Each rectangular slab of dad's famous, fluffy torta di ricotta ($9) is studded with dried fruit and coated in crushed crumbs and powdered sugar. 6001 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; (323) 466-8812, marinorestaurant.com.
Pacific Cheesecake Company
In 2009, longtime banker Karen Freeman teamed with her three sons on Pacific Cheesecake Company. The family, who relocated the shop from Glendale to Valley Village in 2013, now have more room and 30 flavors in their cheesecake rotation, which shifts daily. Most cakes are served as minis ($3.25 and up), though you can find a few full-sized cheesecakes on hand and can always obtain them with advance notice. Flavors could include blueberry chocolate chip, summer citrus or sweet pear with Gorgonzola. They've also been known to roll out savory offerings such as spinach and feta. During their Glendale days, we even encountered pungent blue cheese with cracked black pepper. PCC's frozen cheesecake pops, another popular seller, are well suited to warmer weather. 4820 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; (818) 763-1488.
Canelé isn’t the only Atwater Village establishment to produce great cheesecake. Proof Bakery owner Na Young Ma bakes a scintillating fromage blanc cheesecake ($5.50) at her glass-fronted cafe. Each fluffy slice arrives on a graham cracker crust with a topping of seasonal fruit. Try the Proof Bakery cheesecake with black Mission figs and grapes. 3156 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village; (323) 664-8633, proofbakeryla.com.
Peter Georges, who hails from the Greek stronghold of Astoria, Queens, was inspired to create a baklava cheesecake after tasting a disappointing version in Tarpon Springs, Florida. When Georges and partner Dave Dickert opened Rodini Park late last year, they leaned on pastry chef Gabe Frost and Le Cordon Bleu instructor Gena Lora to create a better mashup of the two iconic desserts. At Rodini Park, you’ll find slabs of baklava cheesecake ($5.95) made with a crust of graham cracker and phyllo dough, the rich cream cheese filling topped with a slab of baklava made from phyllo, ground walnuts and almonds, cinnamon and sugar. 11049 W. Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 358-4802, rodinipark.com.
Sky’s Gourmet Tacos
In 1992, Barbara J. “Sky” Burrell opened Sky’s Gourmet Tacos, offering “Mexican food with a splash of soul” in Mid-City. She’s best known for seafood tacos with aggressive seasoning, but she also makes a smooth, ultra-creamy cheesecake. She based her recipe on South American traditions, and four different varieties are available — original, pineapple, caramel crunch and mango (when in season). The menu offers cheesecake either sliced (“I’m being good”) or served whole (“I’m sharing”). Slices cost $2.69 to $3.29, and whole cakes cost $14.49 to $16.49. 5408 W. Pico Blvd., Mid-City; (323) 932-6253, skysgourmettacos.com.