I grew up in Massachusetts one mile from a cow pasture, so we would get local ice cream all the time. The craziest ice cream flavor we ever saw was asparagus, or as the locals called it, “Hadley Grass.” My neighbor, a man with many names and a fake knee he acquired after fighting in WWII with whom I weeded dandelions with on the regular, painted a picture of a cow to go inside the ice cream store. I thought of him as the celebrity of Amherst, Massachusetts and bragged to all of my friends that it was indeed Hoke/Charlie who painted the elegant portrait.
Sure, I paint the picture (of my neighbor painting the picture) that I’m some wayward farm girl in an idyllic land from the golden age when Keats and Shakespeare wrote pastorals full of shepherds, but I am not naïve. I enjoy traveling and have eaten many types of frozen treats in my life, including gelato from all around Italy.
Yet nothing prepared me for the strange and eclectic ice cream land that is Los Angeles.
From spiced peanut, to avocado, to mole, the inventiveness is endless. Yet, with inventiveness comes a higher price—so although I love a good $7.50 sundae from Jeni’s in Loz Feliz with homemade extra bitter hot fudge and a fresh (not Maraschino) cherry, I am also aware that many people have more important and pressing things to spend their money on, and like Flayvors of Cook Farm in Massachusettes, some delicious ice cream does not come with an absurd price tag. Therefore, my list is reflective of the best ice cream in L.A., keeping in mind the various price levels.
#7 Kind Kreme at Sage, Echo Park
Sage is the go-to vegan eatery in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Echo Park. In fact, it’s the only vegan eatery in the neighborhood, and admittedly the only reason I go to Echo Park at all unless I am visiting a friend. That is, until recently. I used to love their flavorful sauces and gluten free mac and cheese balls, but a few months ago all their food started going downhill. Okay, so why am I writing about it on this list? Their ice kreme has never out me off and is totally dairy free! (Duh). Sage also has another location in Culver City, which I have not tried, but the menu is similar, albeit not identical.
Top Picks: Superfood (a dark chocolate with a hint of berry), and green tea.
Plus: They give you giant containers of water, so for a thirsty person like me, you don’t have to constantly ask the server to refill the tiny glasses in this drought land. You can also sit outside at any time of the year because they have heat lamps if it’s too cold.
Minus: The rest of the food plays Russian Roulette with your stomach.
Cool Snack: They have a raw brownie sundae, as well as a plethora of smoothies and other vegan desserts. I love the greena colada smoothie.
#6 Mateo Ice Cream and Fruit Bars, Culver City
My cousin lives in Long Beach and I live in Atwater Village, so instead of meeting halfway in a warehouse in Commerce, we tend to opt for Culver City. This place had come up on Yelp multiple times, but in the past, we had primarily been interested in eating dinner. One abnormally hot day in March, we both wanted ice cream, so I knew exactly where to go.
Top Picks: Coconut milk Popsicle. Some of the popsicles are water-based, which in mine (and their) opinions, are not as good as the milk-based popsicles. That being said, if you have a dairy allergy, the water-based ones are still a delicious treat.
Plus: The employees are friendly and helpful, and the overall vibe is very unpretentious. The ice cream is reasonably priced and you’ll find an eclectic mix of people here, mostly with their families having a good time. This is not a pretentious artisanal L.A. place.
Minus: It’s in a strip mall, so it can be easy to miss. The parking is iffy and there are very few seats. I commandeered a bench for a long period of time, but when others joined me, I spent the rest of the time standing in the parking lot.
Cool Snack: Try a chocolate-dipped Popsicle or a smoothie.
#5 Pazzo Gelato, Silverlake
I adore Italian gelato, so one might imagine I’d go around saying obnoxious things like, “The gelato in America is not nearly as bono!”—which I do, unless I am at Pazzo in Silverlake or Popbar in New York (but we will save that for another time).
Top Picks: Thai Iced Tea. I’ve never seen this flavor of gelato anywhere else. The sweet and smoky tea flavor pairs perfectly with the richness of the cream. I always say Thai tea tastes like a sauna (in a good way). The green tea is great, too. You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors.
Plus: It’s very laidback and doesn’t try to hard to be “super hip,” which we all know Silverlake is. The prices are reasonable.
Minus: There isn’t one!
Cool Snack: This place is focused on gelato and they do it well.
#4 Milk, Silverlake
There was a wooden panel on Silverlake Boulevard for the longest time that read “Go Kale Yourself,” which, if not an accurate description of the neighborhood, I don’t know what is. When “Go Kale Yourself” was removed, an artisanal ice cream shop was born. This shop was Milk.
Like its trendy counterparts Jeni’s and Salt and Straw, always has a ridiculously long line. Yet, Silverlake Boulevard is filled with shops and cafes that close on the early side, so it is relatively low-key late at night; thus no line at this location of Milk.
The first flavor I tried immediately hooked me. It didn’t taste frozen at all, which might sound strange for ice cream, yet this flavor was Nutella and tasted essentially like I was eating a cup of pure milky Nutella, which once again reminded me of Italy. I think I should save my money and book a flight back to Florence ASAP.
Top picks: Nutella. Nutella. Nutella. Nutella. Nutella. Also, mint. I love a good mint.
Plus: When the lines get too long elsewhere, Milk stays relatively chill. Also, Nutella.
Minus: There aren’t many places to sit and parking on Silverlake Boulevard can be iffy.
Cool Snacks: In addition to ice cream, Milk also has a large selection of drinks and desserts. It’s great to come to with a group of friends who are all craving different sweet treats. There is something for everyone.