In making our 2017 Best of list, the L.A. Weekly team identified six truly excellent purveyors of sweets across the county. Here we've collected them into one handy list — keep it on hand for whenever the craving strikes and you're in need of sweets guidance.
Sari Sari Store
We're a few years into Grand Central Market's renaissance, but it's not yet old news. Somehow, with the exception of a very few missteps (Anheuser-Busch? Seriously, guys?), GCM only becomes more of a culinary wonderland every day. The most glorious addition of the year is Sari Sari Store, a stall in the seating area that's been designed to look like — and is named after — convenience stores in the Philippines. But there's an excellent chance the food served at this uppercase Sari Sari Store is better than the rest. That's due to its owners, Margarita and Walter Manzke, a restaurateur dream team. The rice bowls and other savory items are excellent, but it's the buko pie, the star of the dessert menu, that will imprint itself on you after just one bite. “Buko” means “young coconut” in Tagalog — in other words, a coconut that still has a green and smooth exterior. This is a custard pie made with the liquid from the fruit, but mixed into that custard are big slices of coconut meat, just firm to the bite and perfectly (with apologies for using a foodie word) succulent. Topped with shredded coconut, served in Margarita's famous pie crust (usually only available at République), a slice of buko pie is rich enough to fulfill the day's caloric needs, and ethereal enough to make you rethink everything you knew about pie. —Katherine Spiers
317 S. Broadway, downtown; (213) 624-2378, grandcentralmarket.com.
The catharsis of the mosh pit is given form — albeit a soft, doughy one — within the punk-fueled deep fryers of Donut Friend, Highland Park's DIY/vegan/straight-edge answer to sugary desserts. Founded in 2014 by Drive Like Jehu drummer Mark Trombino (who also produced such tasty classics as Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American and Blink-182's Dude Ranch), Donut Friend and its panoply of 100 percent animal product–free, post-hardcore treats have withstood the shifting tides of culture, retaining a devoted underground fan base as gimmicky mainstream trends (the spaghetti doughnut?) come and go. You don't have to be a music lover to enjoy these doughnuts, but it helps. The “Jets to Basil,” stuffed with goat cheese, strawberry jam and fresh basil, takes on new depth if consumed to Jets to Brazil's third record. The “GG Almond,” with its Gruyère-honey filling and topping of toasted almonds, is as transgressive as its degenerate namesake, GG Allin. Punny names aside, Donut Friend stands out thanks to its punk-rock ethos, best expressed through its DIY, build-your-own-doughnut menu. Raspberry habanero, olive oil and maple pumpkin butter on vanilla cake? Sure, why not? At Donut Friend, it's OK to be weird. —Caroline Ryder
5107 York Blvd., Highland Park; (213) 995-6191, donutfriend.com.
De Soto Pharmacy
Merely thinking of ice cream can cast a magic spell. The idea conjures indulgence mixed with childhood memories, simpler times and even whispers of a bygone freedom. Once upon a time, when our country seemed far less complicated, soda fountains inside pharmacies, with their long laminate counters and vinyl stools, were among the de rigueur places to see and be seen. Although they filled the dual purpose of being a place to have fun and being a place to take care of otherwise boring errands, such as filling prescriptions and buying household necessities, such pharmacies have pretty much disappeared. Thankfully, the charm of this old-fashioned experience has been re-created by De Soto Pharmacy, which went back to its midcentury roots and opened up the quaintly cool Jerry's Soda Shoppe inside the drugstore just over a decade ago. Serving amazing shakes, sundaes, sodas, egg creams and sandwiches, its specialty is ice cream served in a sundae glass coated with delectable hardened chocolate. Taking care of business while channeling your inner bobby-soxer has never tasted so sweet. —Nikki Kreuzer
20914 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park; (818) 341-9515.
While food courts rarely offer surprises, there are exceptions, including one located in a supermarket food court in Rosemead. A display case filled with a colorful array of rainbow-hued desserts and beverages awaits you at Hien Khanh, the SGV branch of one of Little Saigon's leading sweets purveyors. The vivid, almost neon colors can provide a guide to flavors, particularly with the sticky rice desserts: green for pandan, orange for a spiky, southeast Asian fruit known as gac in Vietnam, and yellow for the infamous durian fruit, known as much for its stench as it is for its rich, custardlike texture. Desserts made from glutinous rice flour and using coconut and coconut milk feature prominently, as do tapioca, cassava, mochi and sesame balls. Che, Vietnamese dessert beverages, come with a variety of add-ins based on drink size. Sweetened beans are a popular item, with che bau mau — literally, three-color dessert — a real favorite. —Jim Thurman
8150 Garvey Ave, Rosemead; (626) 288-8128.
Lucuma and soursop are just two of the tropical fruit flavors you'll find at Helados Pops in San Fernando. Lucuma, an orange-fleshed fruit popular in Peru, has a unique flavor described variously as maple-like or like a candied sweet potato. Owner Marthin Ken doesn't follow an exact recipe for his pops, “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 rarely seen tropical sorbet flavors is marañon, the cashew fruit. It requires seven to eight pounds of the fruit, acidic skin removed, to get the true flavor, which is a sort of a blend of mango and pineapple. Another sorbet you're unlikely to find elsewhere is arrayan, known in English as the sartre guava. Other tropical ice cream flavors include raw cacao, mamey and coconut. For that final tropical touch, you can get your ice creams or sorbets served in a coconut or a pineapple. —J.T.
450 N Maclay Ave., San Fernando; (818) 371-3538, heladospopsicecream.com.
You could choose Dutch chocolate, rum raisin or toasted almond when you go to Fosselman's ice cream parlor. You could even go for the more exotic flavors of taro, lychee or the seasonal Cookie Monster ice cream, resplendent in luminescent blue. But it is the chocolate shake at which the family-owned Fosselman's absolutely excels. It's a veritable chocolate Matterhorn, made only with chocolate syrup and chocolate ice cream in a ratio that remains a closely guarded secret. It melts slowly and gracefully, threatening to burst the bonds of its plastic cup with all the power of maximum chocolate heaviosity. A draw on the straw is not as uvula-shattering as some chocolate shakes tend to be, nor is enjoying a Fosselman's chocolate shake the diabetic coma-bomb awaiting you at those corporate fast-food places. It's challenging to do a simple thing exceptionally well, yet Fosselman's has, perhaps due to the fact that it's had decades to perfect the craft since opening in 1919. —David Cotner
1824 W. Main St., Alhambra; (626) 282-6533, fosselmans.com.
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