Every now and then, on a hot day in northeast Los Angeles, you may wish for something sweet and ice cold and refreshing, and just then a raspado vendor will show up. The serendipity in it! When he rides in a magnificently converted golf cart, honks his horn as if responding to a local emergency (as he in a way is), he carries ice cream, sorbets, bottles of chamoy sauce and syrup, fruit and a large selection of bags, spicy snacks to suit your order.
Most of the time, however, you have to walk further from home, into the scoop shops, shave ice cream parlors and neverías that form a network of sweet frozen treats all over town. My favorites come in a wide variety of shapes and flavors, and meet very specific texture needs. They often surprise me with specialties, volatile menu items and new combinations.
Here are 10 that stand out, and make their goods locally:
Sweet Rose Creamery
Weekly visits to Sweet Rose reveal the micro-seasonal changes in production at the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market – from cherries, strawberries and blueberries, to plums, apricots, melons and grapes – while Shiho Yoshikawa kernels local fruits, herbs and flowers to amazing ice creams. Grasshopper sundae, made with a soft, fresh mint chip ice cream, dense chocolate fudge, crunchy chunks of homemade waffle cones and whipped cream, is thankfully available year-round.
2726 Main Street, Santa Monica, California; 310-260-2663; sweetrosecreamery.com
It’s hard to wrap your head around the delicacy of Awan’s ice cream, which is so thoroughly and intensely flavored, and melts in your mouth in such a pleasing way that it’s simply not vegan. Zen Ong makes its ice creams with Indonesian coconut cream and Balinese vanilla beans, and even a single spoonful of vanilla can feel like a luxury. Unlike so many coconut-based vegan ice creams, the taste of the coconut is almost imperceptible. This makes it an ideal canvas for other flavors, which rotate, and are often made with local fruits such as strawberries, cherries, cherimoya and guava.
866 Huntley Drive, West Hollywood, California; 424-283-1053; enjoyawan.com
Elaine Marumoto-Perez and her brother, James Marumoto, run a small, unique ice cream shop in Gardena, cooking just a handful of ice cream each week. They have volatile, effervescent flavors such as Japanese puffed caramel corn and a piece of mint fortified with Thai and sacred basil. The waffle cones are all made in the house, as are the matcha jellies and the tender shiratama mochi that goes into the matcha parfait, layered with cornflakes, red bean paste and whipped cream.
18515 South Western Avenue, Gardena, California; 310-953-7110; kanshacreamery.com
Mateo’s ice cream and fruit bars
Priciliano Mateo learned to make palettes from his grandfather, who pushed a cart of frozen fruit popcorn along the beaches of Oaxaca, Mexico, and opened Mateo’s in 2000, while working as a dishwasher at a Los Angeles restaurant. There are now four locations, and since Mr. Mateo died in 2018, they have been run by his wife, Sofia Mateo, and their children, Oscar and Elizabeth Mateo. All rivets and palettes are made in Culver City, and all Mateo’s have an amazing and unsurpassed selection of fruit flavors throughout the year, such as soursop, guava, pumpkin and mango.
1250 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles; 213-738-7288; mateosicecreamla.com
Ginger’s Divine Ice Creams
Margaret Dietl (a redhead who embraced her nickname, Ginger) makes a Fun blood orange ice cream with chocolate chips, using juice from Polito Family Farms, and a strawberry ice cream containing the Gaviota strawberries from Harry’s Berries. The flavors are fun and always changing, and almost all ice creams are also available in dairy-free versions, including the excellent pickled-strawberry-and-blueberry pie with crumbled graham biscuits.
12550 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles; 310-437-0246; gingersicecreams.com
At the back, workers freeze ice cubes in four flavors – mango, green tea, strawberry and milk – so they are ready to make a wide variety of bingsoo. The Korean-style shaving ice, which is cut on a machine as thin as possible, has an airy, almost creamy texture, but with tiny, satisfying crystals that disappear on the tongue. The mango melon bingsoo, topped with honeydew melon balls from California Market, a local Korean grocery store, can be adjusted to your liking with a splash of sweetened condensed milk.
3300 West Sixth Street, Unit 2, Los Angeles; 213-387-1002; oakobing.com
Roxana Gaeta grew up going to Los Alpes, which opened as a paleteria in 1979, and bought the store from Margarita Flores, its original owner, nine years ago. Although she has preserved the store’s old-fashioned feel and hand-painted murals, she often adds new flavors to the rotation, such as blackberry lemonade, roasted coconut and vegan strawberries. The classic, ornate mangoneada is perfection: large balls of homemade mango sorbet, lightly sprinkled with chamoy and chili-lime salt, with half a fresh lime juice right over.
6410 Rugby Avenue, Huntington Park, California; 323-587-4246; no website
In contrast to the original location of Fatamorgana in Rome, Alessandro Jacchia’s American outpost has rotating flavors that reflect a more Californian sensibility. The pistachio is pale in color, but deep and properly flavored (and textured!) With soft and fragrant crumbs of fresh nuts. The ice creams and sorbets are sourced in Studio City, and although the best ones tend to use local fruits such as guava, passion fruit, mamey, dates and figs, it would be sad to miss the extensive range of chocolate flavors, especially the sumptuous gianduja.
12021 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, California; 818-606-0273; fmgelato.com
Sari Sari Store
Known for its French baking and pastries at République, Margarita Manzke puts together an extraordinary Angeleno version of halo halo, the Filipino dessert, at her small restaurant inside the Grand Central Market, using homemade flan and jelly along with the season’s fruit. The halo halo changes often, but there is always a wonderful stir of textures – smooth, chewy pearls of tapioca, crispy barberry, dense creamy pieces of flan, coconut and passion fruit jelly and sour squishes of raw fruit, all under a spoonful of slow-melting coconut. ice.
Grand Central Market, 317 South Broadway, Los Angeles; 323-320-4020; sarisaristorela.com
The menu at Mashti and Matt Sirvani’s long-standing Iranian ice cream bar is immediately refreshing, even reading: Sour cherry-rose water ice cream with rice starch noodles. Saffron rose water with pistachios. My favorite flavor, known as “herbal snow”, is especially exciting: lemon, rose water, herbs and hydrated basil seeds, even more satisfying in a sandwich of fine, delicate wafers.
1525 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles; 323-874-6168; mashtimalones.com