Between Hawaii’s extended travel restrictions and the fact this is the palest you’ve ever been in September, Summer 2020 hasn’t exactly gone as planned. But as LA ramps up for a triple-digit heat wave this weekend, just because you’re not literally in the 808, doesn’t mean you can’t cool off like you are: Here are five of the best, chillest, most ono spots in LA for Hawaiian Shave Ice.
Note from the writer: “For the record, as a true Big Island girl, the title of this piece should be “5 Spots For Hawaiian Ice Shave,” but due to (very real) SEO reasons, it must remain as is. But just know… that I know. Also, Wilson’s By The Bay for life.” -Kat
Yes, the rumors are true - the dill pickle shave ice at TastyBlock is the best in Los Angeles. Which might sound a little crazy, but this tiny dessert shop in Carson smashes every pillar of the Perfect Shave Ice Pyramid. For starters, they use a real, proper ice machine, which finely shaves the ice from a block (rather than crushing it), creating a super-fine snow-like base. They’re generous, yet judicious, with their toppings - never overdoing portions of condensed milk, chamoy, or li hing mui powder. And the syrups are, of course all pretty tasty, from blue raspberry to a killer keiki rainbow, but let’s get back to the dill pickle. A secret passion project created by the owner, it’s a bright green, vinegar-heavy syrup poured over soft, powdery ice. It’s a little shocking at first, but once your brain gets used to the amalgamation of unfamiliar tastes, much like all of us in quarantine, it will adapt.
This unassuming shop in Norwalk is the real deal - the ice quality here is superb, so finely shaved it more resembles Japanese kakigori than the more-coarse American snow cone. If you’re feeling adventurous, their menu is filled with original concoctions, like the Nintendo Crash, which comes with lime and cherry, or Tropical Swell topped with macadamia nut ice cream, but we prefer to keep it simple, with just one or two flavors (like mango or Melona) in order to highlight the incredible ice quality.
With locations in Sherman Oaks, Tarzana, and West LA, Brian’s is a solid, reliable choice whenever the heat becomes unbearable and your landlord “keeps forgetting” to fix your AC unit. There are a ton of classic flavors to try here, but stick to their more creative ones - “Tiger’s Blood,” which is a mix of watermelon, strawberry, and coconut, is unique and creamy, and pairs particularly well with a drizzle of condensed milk. Or their POG (passionfruit, orange, guava) flavor, which is tart, light, and refreshing - and tastes just like the little juice cups they hand out on flights in Hawai’i.
Big Island Eats and Shave Ice serves some pretty decadent local treats out of a mall in Palos Verdes. Their menu offers everything from kalua pork to Spam musubi, but make sure to save some room for shave ice - all of the syrups here are made in-house, like lilikoi (passion fruit), guava, and a subtle, surprisingly fragrant sugarcane flavor, and are served with hard-to-find toppings like Melona bars and pieces of chi chi dango (mochiko). Could the ice be shaved a bit finer? Of course. But, much like our continued crush on Dev Patel despite his role in the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s by no means a deal-breaker.
Admittedly, this one is a bit of a cheat. The shave ice at Nakas isn’t very traditional - Lava Ice, as it’s called, is a frosty, innovative treat that combines blended ice cream with scoops of shave ice. There are two bases to choose from - strawberry or pina colada - but if you’re looking to fill that summer vacation-shaped hole in your heart, get the Island Escape. Sweet and creamy pina colada ice cream is poured over a bed of slightly-tart pineapple shave ice, and while it may not be the tropical getaway you deserve, it’s as close as you’re going to get from the front seat of your car. Which counts for something, right?