Chilling Out at L.A.'s Coolest Artisan Ice Cream Shops



I accidentally ate my weight in ice cream (my sacrifice for the sake of research). If you didn’t already know, July was National Ice Cream Month so it was the perfect time to sample ice cream all over the City of Angels and I did just that. 

Naturally, my 10-year old didn’t mind coming along. She just finished elementary school, forever (cue the tears), and we’re squeezing in as many summer memories as we can before those potentially trying middle school years. What better way than slurping up frozen treats in the land of eternal sunshine?

We started by checking out some of the kooky flavors at local hotspots whose reputations precede them, particularly at Salt & Straw and Sweet Rose Creamery. Then we branched out, to Beverly Hills, DTLA and even the valley, braving many frustrating freeways to visit newer and somewhat lesser-known shops. Guess what? We were disappointed with exactly zero of them. And we were especially crazy about the recently opened Ginger's Divine Ice Cream in Mar Vista. 

But don't take my word for it. Go check out these lip-smacking “artisan” creameries for yourself. YOLO.



10
Creamistry
Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea


 

Have the camera ready for the cloud of smoke that fills the room when creamologists inject -321 F. liquid nitrogen into a bowl of all-natural, organic ingredients. They say the instant freezing delivers the ultimate creaminess. Having tasted it myself, I can attest to this fact. Even the coconut milk base was ultra-creamy. First choose your base (premium original cream, organic cream, coconut or sorbet), then your flavor (matcha, perhaps?) and then your mix-ins. Their signature flavors include Thai tea, steeped daily, and birthday cake. Beware the price tag,one small cup will run nearly $8 with the toppings. (Locations also in Koreatown, Irvine, and Alhambra)


9
Smitten Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea


 

This San Francisco-based shop migrated to Los Angeles with its first store at the upscale shopping center, The Point, in El Segundo and a second opening soon on Sunset Boulevard. Another follower of the flash-frozen liquid nitrogen craze, Smitten uses patented Brrr machines that they claim are better than others at reducing the size of ice crystals, thus producing a creamier texture. Standout flavors include the mascarpone with peach, brown sugar with cinnamon shortbread, and Tcho 60.5% chocolate, which is used as a chocolate ganache starter. (They had me at ganache.) What started as a cart at San Francisco street markets has many people smitten, indeed.


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Creams & Dreams
Photo courtesy of Creams & Dreams


 

Transport your taste buds to Italy and "get woke" by ordering the affogato, ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen and submerged in espresso. Or you can sip on a nitrogen-infused cold brew (not advised to do both for fear of never sleeping again). Like most on this list, they eschew artificial preservatives and stabilizers and use only fresh ingredients at their flagship Santa Monica store and Chino Hills location. Signature flavors include orange honey, maiz con queso (corn and cheese) and avocado. Of course it's dramatically prepared to ensure it makes it on to your Instagram feed... every mad scientist's social media dream.


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Culver City
Coolhaus
Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea


 

Culver City-based Coolhaus ice cream rose to fame sandwiched between a couple cookies that were all the rage at the Coachella Music Festival nearly 10 years ago. It's barely slowed down since then. Originally served out of an ice cream truck, they now have a small brick and mortar location in Culver City where much of the magic takes place. And it's not just ice cream cookie sandwiches. They also make handmade chocolate dipped bars and serve up a variety of unique ice cream flavors like "Peach Don't Kill My Vibe" (sweet tea ice cream with moonshine, pie crust crumble and peach chunks), sweet corn and blueberry, and buttered French toast, to name a few. You can also find the sandwiches in local grocery stores, but what's the fun in that?


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Fairfax District
Milk
Photo courtesy of Milk


 

If you're gluten free, like me, the idea of ice cream squished between two light but crispy French macarons is all it takes to whip out the wallet and dole out the cash. Milk makes some of the tastiest and most decadent since you can opt to have the edges rolled in a topping of your choice. This mid-city and Silverlake hotspot is popular among the hip and trendy (this is Beverly Boulevard, after all) who flock here for the freshly-made ice cream and sorbet. They also serve up some fun with their Banana Peanut Malt shake, the Espresso a la Mode sundae and homemade drumsticks.


5
Magpies
Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

 

While most soft serve is machine-made with a mix, the owners of Magpies, Rose and Warren Schwartz, are among the few (if not only) ice cream makers in Los Angeles who have crafted their own recipe for this nostalgic frozen food. The fact that it's soft serve may be the only thing that's nostalgic about it. The flavors run the gamut from brown bread (really) and cotton candy to their most popular flavor: corn almond, which just happens to also be vegan. There is also a wide selection of other dairy free flavors, as well. Magpies' original location is in Silverlake but they recently to expanded to Tarzana where valley dwellers are making a beeline to beat the valley heat.


4
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

 

This Midwest staple has been popping up in various locations throughout the southland, including Venice, Larchmont, Los Feliz and Calabassas, as well as other parts of the country. One of the first ice cream makers to use whole ingredients and dairy from grass-pastured cows, Jeni's has received a lot of attention over the last 15 years. Like every other shop, they have a killer salted caramel, theirs popping the taste buds with its potent flavors. Other mouth-watering but unusual options include coriander, hard cider, cream puff and cocoa curry, to name a few. The ultimate, though, may be the 'darkest chocolate'–a chocolate lovers dream that incorporates the maximum ratio of cocoa to dairy.


3
Sweet Rose Creamery
Photo courtesy of Erica Allen


 

Every day but Sunday a mere eight to 10 people whip up some of the best ice cream in southern California. Made and packed by hand in small batches in their kosher kitchen on Pico Boulevard, the folks at Sweet Rose Creamery pasteurize the cream on site and they also make all the mix-ins and toppings other than the sprinkles. Brainchild of chef and restauranteur Zoe Nathan, her husband Josh Loeb and their business partner Shiho Yoshikawa, Sweet Rose has become the favorite of Angelenos. There are five locations and it's also available via mail (shipped on dry ice) or at Erewhon Market, Bristol Farms (West Hollywood) and Vicente Foods in Brentwood. People drive from far and wide to get their tongues on a scoop of the infamous mint chip, which tastes like mint leaves plucked fresh from the garden.


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Salt & Straw
Photo courtesy of Salt & Straw


 

Beets in ice cream? Don't knock it until you try it. The "Top of the Beet" flavor currently being offered by Salt & Straw in their L.A.-area shops, is one of the flavors created with the intention of repurposing food that might otherwise be wasted. Beet greens are collected from local farmers on their way to the markets and are then cooked down into a jam with lemon and sherry vinegar. It's then added to a sweet, crunchy brittle and folded into a lightly spiced salt and pepper ice cream. The results are not only memorable but a delight to the palate. No, really. And if you don't believe me, there are plenty of more traditional flavors (Double Vanilla, Freckled Woodblock Chocolate) from which to choose.


1
Ginger's Divine Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

 

Ginger's is the new kid on the block (they opened in January 2017) but has caught up to its local counterparts by serving up some outrageously tasty treats and quickly building up a following. It's hard to choose between the handmade gourmet popsicles, such as Oaxacan chocolate habanero, birthday cake, or a memorable mocha, or go for a big, fat waffle cone filled with massive scoops (not skimping here) of tuxedo salty caramel or burnt sugar. If you're a fan of liquor, the whiskey de coco or white Russian flavors are a must try. Ginger's exudes sunshine, from the bright yellow-accented exterior to the long freezer case with so many options you're likely to be frozen by indecision.


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Meet Wendy O'Dea

Born and raised in western New York, Wendy O’Dea moved to Los Angeles to attend the USC graduate School of Journalism and stayed for the innovative and creative lifestyle the city offers. Other...  More About Wendy

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