Every Angeleno has developed his or her own way of keeping cool in a heat wave. Some people drown their sorrows in frosty beverages. Cold beer is probably what comes to mind first, though milkshakes and LaCroix have their devotees. But whatever is first on your list, the Mexican shaved-ice slushies called raspados should be right behind.
Raspados are usually blended ice drinks made of various fruits, often (and at their best) seasoned with a generous hit of the savory and spicy condiment chamoy. The combination of chamoy and tamarind, for example, is known as a chamarindo, and the ingredients in a chamango (chamoy and mango) should be similarly evident. Blended together they are sweet, salty and a little spicy, streaked in electric shades of red and yellow, and served ice cold with an oversize straw. They make a beautiful Instagram alternative to your friend's corporate coffee milkshake, if such things matter to you.
There are raspado specialists all across Los Angeles, and there's even a local chain devoted to them called Raspado Xpress. Here are three great places to get raspados.
In the Pico-Union neighborhood, an area crowded with raspados, Bionicos Daisy stands out. This is not because of how the shop looks — it's a nondescript storefront in a stucco row on busy Pico Boulevard, mostly hidden by a large ficus on the sidewalk. Inside though, the store is cheerful and bright, with colorful walls and a pictorial menu. There are fruit salads, banana splits and a fun snack called tostilocos (tortilla chips topped with lime juice, hot sauce, jicama, etc.), but the chamango is the reason to visit. It's blended until smooth, heavy on the fruit and punchy, but not as spicy as some other versions of the drink. It comes with five slices of freshly cut mango arranged like an M.C. Escher staircase around the straw, which makes the drink as pretty as it is refreshing. 2010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 351-9561.
There's been an influx of new restaurants along Figueroa Street in Highland Park. But whatever shifts the neighborhood undergoes, there should always be room for raspados, and La Palapa serves some of the best. La Palapa adds fruity ice cream instead of plain ice to its raspados, so they are rich and creamy, closer to a milkshake than the more traditional shaved ice versions. This technique also bumps the sweet-spicy contrast up several notches. The effect is such that when you hit a pocket of green lime ice cream, it feels a little like coming up for fresh air after a long lap in a pool of hot sauce. 5560 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; (323) 255-2311.
The drinks at Tucoz show no mercy. Behind the counter are red and yellow squeeze bottles that resemble ketchup and mustard at a hot dog stand. But these bottles are full of chamoy and lime juice. The man behind the counter is not shy in the application, mixing your drink like a bartender angling for a big tip. The raspados at Tucoz pack a serious punch. Every sip is a little flavor bomb at the intersection of salty, sour and spicy, with a hint of fruit and the occasional piece of tamarind candy dropped in for good measure. It's the kind of thing that will both cool you down and make you sweat. Just think of it as welcome relief from those sweltering San Fernando Valley afternoons. 6857 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys; (818) 616-3223.