Los Angeles’ Ice Cream Moment
The City of Angels might just be the best place in America to enjoy a scoop.
Los Angeles is a city of guilty pleasures. From chili-slathered Pink’s hot dogs and animal-style In-N-Out burgers to French dip sandwiches at Cole’s, it’s a town that’s not afraid of a good nosh. (Don’t worry, LA’s juice bars and macrobiotic restaurants balance out the gluttony.) You can add to that list of delicacies ice cream. With daytime highs that rarely fall below 70 degrees, it’s no surprise that Angelinos crave the frozen treat year-round. While you could certainly always get a great cup or cone, the city is having an ice cream moment with a new generation of scoop shops popping up around town. Here are the top spots to check out:
Cool Haus specializes in inventive and delicious ice cream sandwiches with architecture-themed punny names like I.M. Pei-nut Butter and Mies Vanilla Rohe: They’re cool houses, get it? The business was founded by a pair of native Angelenos who both happened to attend Cornell University. They started experimenting with cookie and ice cream recipes, and in 2009 bought a beat-up old postal van, filled it with ice cream, and took it to music festival Coachella, where they were a big hit and Cool Haus was born. Today, the brand has a fleet of 10 trucks in LA, New York, and Dallas; two brick-and-mortar scoop shops in Southern California; and a line of packaged pints and sandwiches you can find at grocery stores nationwide.
Open since 1924 in Alhambra, a suburb about eight miles east of downtown (and still run by members of the Fosselman family), this old-school soda fountain and ice cream parlor has hardly changed in nearly a century. And that’s for good reason: Fosselman’s milkshake was named the best in the world by The Guardian. Besides the shakes and malts, there are some four dozen flavors of ice cream available for scooping, including longtime favorites like rocky road and spumoni as well as new varieties like lychee, green tea, and taro.
This import from Santa Barbara now has three LA-area scoop shops. What makes it different? McConnell’s buys direct from local grass-fed dairies, pasteurizes its own raw milk, and turns it into ice cream in a 70-year-old dairy that’s been making nothing but McConnell’s ice cream since the 1970s. You can’t go wrong with any of the tasty flavors, but the Sweet Cream is perhaps the purest expression of the shop’s philosophy.
Open since 2015 in the San Fernando Valley north of the city, Helados Pops specializes in tropical flavors. The sorbet and ice cream options include nanche, a fruit popular in Central America and the Caribbean; marañón, the fruit attached to cashew nuts; and mamey sapote, a rich, sweet and creamy fruit from Mexico. The shop is a true family affair: All the ice creams are made in-house by owner Marthin Ken and his father-in-law, who goes, of course, by Pops.
If you’re a UCLA alum, you probably have fond memories of waiting in line for Diddy Riese’s ice cream sandwiches. Pair a scoop of one of its 12 ice creams with warm fresh-baked cookies. You could spend hours debating the best cookie-ice-cream-cookie combo, but that line moves pretty quick, so think fast!
Another transplant, this one from Portland, Salt & Straw now has five scoop shops throughout LA. This spot is all about its special flavors: Each month, there’s a new list of fantastic and unusual combinations that will blow your mind and delight your taste buds. A recent menu featured Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake, inspired by a Portland bakery, and made up of malted and salted chocolate ice cream loaded with chunks of chocolate-coffee cupcakes, pieces of chocolate-covered potato chips, and a caramel swirl.
In 1980, Mashti Shirvani and his brother bought a run-of-the-mill ice cream parlor called Mugsy Malone, changed its name and started adding flavors from their homeland, Iran, to the menu. Today, the store is a Hollywood landmark, serving delicate ice creams and sorbets spiked with traditional Persian flavors like rosewater, saffron, pistachio, and pomegranate.