The emperors of L.A.'s soft serve ice cream
The founders of Carvel and Dairy Queen may both have claims on the creation of soft serve ice cream, but regardless of the origins of the addictive stuff, it’s showing up on the menus of more and more restaurants and dessert shops. And not just in old school flavors, but with fun toppings, seasonal fruit and premium dairy from farms like Straus Family Creamery. Here are eight great places for soft serve in L.A., listed alphabetically.
Big Gay Ice Cream at the Ace Hotel — Downtown’s Fashion District is still gearing up for the launch of a full-fledged Big Gay Ice Cream location, but until Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff debut, they’ve hooked the Ace Hotel up with a soft serve machine and some of their signature toppings. The hotel’s rooftop lounge, Upstairs, features soft serve with toasted coconut, 5 Leaves granola, chocolate or rainbow sprinkles. 929 S. Broadway, Downtown (213) 623-3233, www.acehotel.com/losangeles.
CVT — Joe Nicchi and wife Tyler roam the streets of L.A. in their vintage two-tone truck that more or less matches the colors of their soft serve flavors: chocolate and vanilla. Get each flavor solo in a cake cone, or join both in a delicious twist. Possible toppings include rainbow sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, or if you prefer a savory note, a dusting of sea salt. www.cvtsoftserve.com.
Hamada Ya Bread Bar & Coffee — This Japanese bakery in Mitsuwa’s West L.A. food court features an orange front and fun items like a matcha dusted Danish, “egg donut” and yakisoba sandwich. Still, the best reason to visit is for soft serve ice cream. Choose matcha, vanilla or a swirl and pile on toppings. We’re particularly enamored of kinako (nutty soybean powder) and kuromitsu (bitter black sugar syrup). At the base of each cup, surprise Golden Grahams add crunch. 3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 390-7307.
Honeymee — In Brown Derby Plaza, which is now best known for the Boiling Crab’s overflow crowds, Honeymee offers sweet relief. This Korean-owned “true milk” ice cream cottage serves rich, luscious soft serve with either a drizzle of honey, honeycomb slab with a waxy finish, or Ghirardelli chocolate sauce sprinkled with sea salt. Their Babee takes matters to another level, serving ice cream in a sweet bun with granola and honey. 3377 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown, (213) 267-0020, www.honeymee.com.
Jon & Vinny’s — Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have found their sweet spot with their latest restaurant, which features Italian American comfort food and a strong commitment to local sourcing. Their Soft Serve features a base from California’s Straus Family Creamery. Order chocolate, strawberry or swirl, served with a wooden stick to spoon silky soft serve from a branded cup. 412 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 334-3369, www.jonandvinnys.com.
Manhattan Beach Post — Sous chefs Linda Lau and Robert Lee teamed to deliver delectable soft serve sundaes in this retooled post office from David LeFevre and the Simms brothers. Earlier in the year, they riffed on two Mexican tastes by serving horchata soft serve on a bed of rice pudding with a tiny churro topper. For summer, you’ll find milk & honey soft serve with Regier peaches, Graham streusel and tart lemon. 1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-5405, www.eatmbpost.com.
Pitfire Pizza — This local fast-casual chain fronted by Paul Hibler also sources soft serve from Straus Family Creamery, since people can’t live on pizza, pasta and salads alone. Pitfire serves one flavor, organic vanilla, which arrives in a cup with toppings of your choice. House caramel sauce and Maldon sea salt is a winning combo, but bittersweet chocolate sauce and extra virgin olive oil are also at your disposal. At the Westwood location, a wall-painted polar bear seemed to look down at our cup longingly, not that we’re sharing. 2018 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 481-9860; and other locations, www.pitfirepizza.com.
Sweet Rose Creamery — Chef Shiho Yoshikawa’s menu rotates based on what she finds at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The branch she owns with Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan near Santa Monica High School is the only location where they sell soft serve. Depending on the time of year, you might find peanut butter, which swirls beautifully with non-dairy Kyoho grape. Vanilla is also a dream with sweet-tart citrus. Honey milk and apricot sorbet feel like long lost cousins. No matter the flavors, this calls for a house-made waffle cone. 826 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 260-2663, www.sweetrosecreamery.com.
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