Every now and then, on a hot day in northeast Los Angeles, you might wish for something sweet and icy and refreshing, and at that exact moment, a scraped vendor will appear. The serendipity of it! Riding in a magnificent converted golf cart, honking the horn as if responding to a local emergency (which he is, in a sense), he carries ice, sorbets, bottles of chamoy sauce and syrups, fruit and a vast array of bagged, spicy snacks to customize your order.
Most of the time, though, you have to venture farther from home, into the scoop shops, shave ice parlors and neverías that form a network of sweet frozen treats across the city. My favorites come in a wide variety of forms and flavors, and meet very specific textural needs. They often surprise me with specials, ephemeral 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 microseasonal shifts in produce at the nearby Santa Monica Farmers Market – from cherries, strawberries and blueberries, to plums, apricots, melons and grapes – as Shiho Yoshikawa churns local fruits, herbs and flowers into marvelous ice creams. The grasshopper sundae, made with a mellow, fresh-mint chip ice cream, dense chocolate fudge, crunchy bits of homemade waffle cones and whipped cream, is thankfully available year round.
2726 Main Street, Santa Monica, Calif .; 310-260-2663; sweetrosecreamery.com
It’s hard to wrap your head around the deliciousness of Awan’s ice cream, which is flavored so thoroughly and intensely, and melts in your mouth in such a pleasing way, that it simply doesn’t compute as vegan. Zen Ong makes his ice creams using Indonesian coconut cream and Balinese vanilla beans, and even a single scoop of vanilla can feel like a luxury. Unlike so many coconut-based vegan ice creams, the taste of the coconut is almost imperceptible. That 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, Calif .; 424-283-1053; enjoyawan.com
Elaine Marumoto-Perez and her brother, James Marumoto, run a tiny, outstanding ice cream shop in Gardena, churning just a handful of ice creams each week. They feature fleeting, exuberant flavors like Japanese puffed caramel corn and a mint chip that’s boosted with Thai and holy basils. The waffle cones are all made in house, as are the matcha jellies and tender shiratama mochi that go into the matcha parfait, layered with cornflakes, red bean paste and whipped cream.
18515 South Western Avenue, Gardena, Calif .; 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 pops along the beaches of Oaxaca, Mexico, then 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’ve been run by his wife, Sofia Mateo, and their children, Oscar and Elizabeth Mateo. All the nieves and paletas are made in Culver City, and every Mateo’s has a mind-boggling and unrivaled selection of fruit flavors throughout the year, like 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 Moro blood orange ice cream with chocolate chips, using juice from Polito Family Farms, and a strawberry ice cream incorporating the Gaviota strawberries from Harry’s Berries. The flavors are fun and always changing, and almost all of the ice creams are also available in dairy-free versions, including the excellent pickled-strawberry-and-blueberry-pie with crumbled graham crackers.
12550 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles; 310-437-0246; gingersicecreams.com
In the back, workers freeze ice blocks in four flavors – mango, green tea, strawberry, and milk – so they’re ready to make a wide variety of bingsoo. The Korean-style shave ice, which is cut on a machine as thinly as possible, has a fluffy, almost creamy texture, but with tiny, satisfying crystals that disappear on your tongue. The mango-melon bingsoo, topped with scoops of honeydew melon from California Market, a local Korean grocery store, can be adjusted to your taste with a drizzle 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 shop from Margarita Flores, its original owner, nine years ago. Though she has preserved the store’s old-fashioned feel and hand-painted murals, she often adds new flavors to the rotation, like blackberry lemonade, toasted coconut and vegan strawberry. The classic unembellished mangoneada is perfection: big scoops of housemade mango sorbet, lightly drizzled with chamoy and chile-lime salt, with half a fresh lime juiced directly over it.
6410 Rugby Avenue, Huntington Park, Calif .; 323-587-4246; on the website
Unlike 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 deeply and properly flavored (and textured!) With the soft and scented crumble of fresh nuts. The ice creams and sorbets are churned in Studio City, and though the best tends to use local fruits like guavas, passion fruit, mamey, dates and figs, it would be sad to miss the extensive lineup of chocolate flavors, especially the lavish gianduja.
12021 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, Calif .; 818-606-0273; fmgelato.com
Sari Sari Store
Margarita Manzke, who is known for her French baking and pastries at République, puts together an extraordinary Angeleno version of halo halo, the Filipino dessert, at her small restaurant inside Grand Central Market, using housemade flan and jellies along with seasonal fruits. The halo halo changes often, but it’s always a delightful commotion of textures – slippery, chewy pearls of tapioca, crunchy shave ice, densely creamy pieces of flan, coconut and passion-fruit jellies and tangy squishes of raw fruit, all under a scoop of slow-melting coconut ice cream.
Grand Central Market, 317 South Broadway, Los Angeles; 323-320-4020; sarisaristorela.com
The menu at Mashti and Matt Sirvani’s longstanding Iranian ice cream parlor is immediately refreshing, even to read: Sour cherry-rosewater ice with rice starch noodles. Saffron-rosewater with pistachios. My favorite flavor, known simply as “herbal snow,” is particularly exhilarating: lemon, rosewater, 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