If it’s 85 degrees outside and you aren’t holding an ice cream cone (preferably on social media), does your happiness even count?
After a long winter, things are finally heating up again - and that means ice cream season is upon us. LA is absolutely stacked with incredible options, so there’s no excuse for getting stranded in a heat wave on your couch with an expired pint of bad grocery store ice cream. If you’re going to be eating ice cream, you need to be doing it right. Which is why, after extensive scientific analysis (eating a bunch of it all at once), we’ve built our official LA ice cream power rankings. From classic 100-year-old institutions to much-hyped new spots that are actually great, these are the 24 places you need to be eating ice cream in LA right now.
Thank you, Portland. No, not for your unironic use of year-round wool beanies, but for gifting us with the best ice cream in all of LA. This might even be the best ice cream of all time. You’d probably assume a place with flavors like avocado sherbet and black olive brittle with goat cheese wouldn’t be for everyone, but you’d be wrong. Because Salt & Straw puts stuff you should never put in ice cream and makes it better than any ice cream you’ve ever had before. Now, with locations from the Arts District to Venice, you’re never too far away from its glory.
This nearly 40-year-old Middle Eastern shop on La Brea is an LA institution that serves the kind of ice cream that keeps us up at night. What’s Middle Eastern ice cream? Think rosewater, saffron, and roasted pistachio-infused heaven. This is aggressively fragrant ice cream (you’ll understand when you try it) that’ll take you by surprise at first, and then you’ll never want another kind of ice cream again.
Sweet Rose Creamery opened in Santa Monica in 2010 and instantly became one of LA’s best. You can stick to their classic flavors, like salted caramel and (easily) our favorite mint chocolate in the city, but the move at Sweet Rose is to try at least one of the daily specials. Flavors change with the seasons (and are legitimately based off what they find at the local farmer’s market) so expect things like rose geranium, ginger, and lemon. Also, all the toppings are made in-house and you should definitely be taking advantage of as many as possible.
Pops is located in San Fernando, which, according to our ice cream GPS, is about 15 minutes north of Burbank. Nope, that’s not convenient to anything. But it doesn’t matter, because the ice cream coming out of this place is good enough to drive twice that distance. The family running Pops is from Belize, and they’ve integrated Latin American flavors into the majority of their ice cream - and the result is out of this world. There’s the insanely sweet zapote, the nut-flavored lucuma, and a coconut ice cream we want to fall asleep next to every night. Skip the cone and cup, and put it all in a hollowed out half-coconut husk to make your friends even more jealous they still haven’t come here.
Greetings from the grandaddy of all LA ice cream. Established in 1919, Fosselman’s is the definition of a classic, and if you haven’t made the pilgrimage out to Alhambra at least once, you can’t really say you know LA ice cream. Now, just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s good. But luckily, Fosselman’s is both. This is the kind of creamy, old-school ice cream you crave when you’re home sick with a bad sore throat and plowing through a season of Law & Order you’ve already watched. The fudge sundae is a must. Cash only.
Honeymee proves that good ice cream doesn’t have to involve crazy flavors and a drunk toddler’s choice of candy dumped on top. Here, it’s all about two things: vanilla ice cream and honey. And when both of those are as good as they are at Honeymee, you don’t need anything else. It’s simple, fresh, and light enough to not leave you in a late-night dairy coma. The place is all over the suburbs, and it’s starting to sprout up around LA proper, too - so now you have even more opportunities to get the honey-covered Sweetie with added honeycomb.
“Secret Breakfast” is not just what we call that breakfast burrito we order after finishing our waffles - it’s also the best flavor at Humphry Slocombe in Venice. This Abbot Kinney (by way of San Francisco) spot has all kinds of particularly interesting flavors, even in a city where you can find cheese and olives in ice cream. Think Mango Mojito (with actual rum) and Blueberry Boy Bait - blueberry ice cream with brown sugar streusel.
Saffron & Rose is one of the largest brands of Persian ice cream in America and can be found in markets nationwide, but nothing beats a visit to its original location in Westwood. Located just south of Wilshire in Little Tehran, the tiny shop has been cranking out thick, Persian-style ice cream for almost four decades and still has lines out the door. Almost everybody is eating the saffron and pistachio flavor, but we never leave without getting at least one scoop of the orange blossom as well.
Van Leeuwen is big-deal ice cream in their native NYC, and they’ve started taking over LA too, with trucks and stores in the Arts District, Franklin Village, and Culver City. Flavors don’t get too wild, but there are enough rotating special flavors to keep things exciting, and the classics are excellent (their plain chocolate is maybe the best we’ve ever had). The earl grey tea and honeycomb are our go-to’s, and if you see the lemon meringue yogurt tart in the case, do not hesitate. And for non-dairy eaters, Van Leeuwen has the best vegan ice cream we’ve ever tried - the coconut cream base isn’t too overpowering, but it’s just as creamy as the dairy-filled original.
The all-day offshoot of the pasta shrine that is Angelini Osteria, Angelini Alimentari is a great spot for a quick, casual breakfast or lunch and espresso. However, if you leave without getting at least one scoop of their gelato, you’re living a lesser existence. Made in-house daily, this is hands-down our favorite gelato in the city. Flavors change often, so don’t get too attached - but the good news is every flavor is good. Power move: skip the cup and get it served all on brioche for the gelato sandwich of your dreams.
You might be able to buy McConnell’s in every semi-decent grocery store in LA, but that just means you can eat one of our favorite ice creams every damn day of the week. This Santa Barbara original has been making ice cream for 70 years, and it shows. They know their way around the classics (the vanilla bean is a real best in show), but also make fancier flavors like boysenberry rosé milk jam. Pop into one of their stores in Grand Central Market, Studio City, or Los Feliz and build the sundae of your dreams. Always get the Turkish coffee ice cream.
Magpies is arguably the most popular ice cream place in the city right now. And for good reason - this Silver Lake strip mall spot is making the best soft serve you can find on the Eastside. Lines during peak hours (and unexpected heat waves) can get downright heinous, but the wait is worth it, especially if soft serve is something you get excited about. If it’s your first time, order their signature sweetened cream, and then get involved with their daily flavors (like maple French toast) on return visits. And don’t worry, you will certainly be returning.
If you’ve been on the internet at least once in the last five years, you’ve probably noticed that people get excited about ice cream cookie sandwiches. But decades before people started taking photos of themselves eating (but not really eating) food, there was Diddy Riese. The Westwood classic has been around for almost 35 years, and even though you can get a solid ice cream cookie sandwich anywhere these days, this place is always full of people wanting a taste of the original.
Lost in the crazy ice cream world of bright colors and bizarrely-shaped cones on social media is mochi, the very unflashy Japanese-style ice cream dough balls. Many places have attempted to replicate the little dessert babies over the years (we see you Trader Joe’s), but the original creator is Mikayawa. The LA-based Japanese dessert shop has been open since 1910, and its current Little Tokyo store is a necessary pit stop for all serious ice cream fans. Our go-to order tends to be mango, green tea, and strawberry, but at $1.50 a piece, feel free to try them all.
Rolling into town from Columbus, Ohio, Jeni’s is moving into LA in a big way, with shops in Los Feliz, Calabasas, and Venice. Narrowing down the huge choice of flavors can be more than a little overwhelming, but they’ll let you keep tasting until you find your ice cream soulmate(s). Some options can be very subtle or a little too sweet, but we’re partial to the brambleberry crisp (even if we don’t know what a brambleberry is) and the darkest chocolate. You can usually try some flavors they’re testing out, if you like feeling like an ice cream lab rat. Which seems like the best kind of lab rat.
Located inside The Original Farmer’s Market on 3rd and Fairfax, Bennett’s is another classic LA establishment and your go-to spot when Grove anxieties have hit unsustainable levels. Serving house-made ice cream since 1946, you can feel confident picking up one of their famous frozen bananas or ice cream sundaes - but for our money, the best thing here is the Cabernet Sauvignon sorbet. You read that right. It’s slightly sweet, incredibly fresh, and legitimately tastes like wine. Cash only.
On name alone, it’s impossible to dislike this order-at-the-counter dessert shop in Sherman Oaks. Luckily, their excellent Italian ices and ice creams seal the deal. Their menu is broken up into three sections - traditional ice cream, Italian ice, and something they call creme ice. The guy behind the counter explained to us that it’s, “75% less dairy than ice cream, but with the same exact flavor,” and he was telling the truth. It’s like eating regular ice cream, but still feeling like you could go for a jog later...if you’re the kind of psychopath who works out after dessert.
Wanderlust’s schtick is ice cream inspired by countries around the world. What does that look like in your cone? Stuff like olive oil with chocolate-dipped baguette (Catalonia), Thai Tea, pretzel and rye crumbs (Iceland), and their signature purple flavor, Ube malted crunch (Philippines). The whole thing could be stupidly precious, but the ice cream itself is great, and the Atwater Village location is no-fuss (aside from line, which is often out the door). They have another location in Tarzana, and judging from the crowds they’re only going to get bigger.
If you aren’t putting every dollar you have towards matcha stock at the moment, you need a new financial guy. You can’t escape the green tea powder in LA right now, and while every ice cream store in the city has a matcha flavor on their menu, the absolute best is at Midori Matcha in Little Tokyo. The cafe itself has everything from matcha iced tea to eclair cakes, but the soft serve is why you’re there. It’s creamy and refreshing, and gives you what you need to get through the rest of the day.
Ginger’s is a relatively new addition to the LA ice cream scene, but this corner shop in Culver City has become a local favorite thanks to the huge number of flavors, flexible tasting policy, and super creamy and smooth ice cream. They’ve got everything from raspberry panna cotta to Vietnamese coffee, but you’ll probably find it hard to go past the Billionaire Brownie. You can get your ice cream in sandwich form, or you could go the ice cream pop route. Live your truth.
Why have regular ice cream when you can have liquid nitrogen ice cream made in front of you in a matter of seconds? Welcome to Smitten, the weirdest ice cream experience in LA that actually also tastes good. The San Francisco import opened a few years ago in El Segundo, and aside from catering to our never-ending desire for dramatic fog, the flash-freezing process for every single scoop at Smitten essentially amounts to some of the smoothest ice cream you’ll ever taste. The earl grey with chocolate chips is the must-order, but just be aware, it can get pricey here.
It’s currently closed for renovations, but make sure to visit this palace of all things dessert when it reopens in June. And if you don’t walk out with at least one scoop of ice cream, you’re doing it wrong. Flavors change regularly here, but if the s’mores is on the menu when you walk in, get one for yourself, your imaginary friend, and another one for you later tonight in bed.
Thrifty Ice Cream
If you grew up in Los Angeles, you grew up eating Thrifty Ice Cream. (If your parents didn’t take you there, some other kid’s less-responsible parents definitely did.) And while Thrifty might not taste quite as good as it did when you were five, it’s still solid ice cream - and moreover, it’s exhilarating to be able to get a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough at the same time as your mundane Advil/Band-Aid/deodorant errand. That cylindrical scoop shape is straight-up iconic.