Mateo’s, Kansha Creamery, Awan: Where to get LA’s best ice cream

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy

Hot days are here, so why not treat yourself to tropical fruit ice cream? Photo by Shutterstock.

Today marks the official start of summer, which means ice cream season. Tejal Rao, California restaurant critic for The New York Times, shares where you can get some of the best frozen treats in LA.

Sweet Rose Creamery (two locations)
2726 Main Street, Santa Monica
225 26th Street, Suite 51, Santa Monica

-Chef Shiho Yoshikawa makes mostly custard-style ice cream but also experiments with vegan fare and local fruit. 

“It can feel really inclusive if you're taking kids who have allergies, who can't necessarily have dairy ice creams. … Then there's things [sic] that are on the menu all the time like this grasshopper sundae, which is made with the mint chip ice cream, but she uses fresh mint leaves to make it. And it just has the most wonderful mellow minty taste,” says Rao.

Kansha Creamery
18515 South Western Avenue, Gardena

-This is run by a brother and sister who make everything themselves. They focus on Asian-inspired ingredients and seasonal ingredients.

“They make their own waffle cones. They make all the garnishes that get layered in the sundaes. And that includes little matcha jellies and homemade mochi that go into the matcha parfait. They change their flavors all the time.”

866 Huntley Drive, West Hollywood

-The ice cream here is all vegan, made with a coconut base. 

“It's a really like dense, creamy, luxurious texture. It melts really beautifully. The chef, Zen Ong, is behind this business. He runs the Indonesian pop-up called Inda. So he uses Indonesian coconut cream, Balinese vanilla beans. … He's also using local fruits like cherries, cherimoya, guava, strawberries. So if you do go in, I recommend the fruit flavors too.”

Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars (four locations)
1250 South Vermont Avenue, Pico Union
4234 W. Pico Blvd, Victoria Park
4929 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City
11551 Santa Monica Blvd, Sawtelle

-Founder Priciliano Mateo, from Oaxaca, learned to make paletas (frozen popsicles made with fresh fruit) from his grandfather. 

“I love that they have this absolutely mind-boggling selection of fruit all year long. And a lot of it comes from the wholesale markets downtown. … Some of it comes from Mexico. … They always have soursop, and guava, and pumpkin, and usually several versions of mango.”

3300 West Sixth Street, Unit 2, Koreatown

-Here, you can get Korean-style shave ice called bingsoo. The staff freezes and flavors the ice right in the shop. 

“It's really fluffy and airy, but there's still these [sic] teeny, tiny ice crystals that dissolve on your tongue when you take a bite. … One that's particularly magical is … with fresh honeydew melon. So it's this big pile of mango-flavored shave ice, and then it's topped with little scoops of honeydew melon, and it comes with a little cup of sweetened condensed milk, so you can drizzle it over the top and make it as sweet as you like.”

Sari Sari Store 
Grand Central Market, 317 South Broadway, downtown Los Angeles

-This is Margarita Manzke’s Filipino spot, where she puts an LA spin on her halo-halo. She’s best known for making some of the best and most beautiful pastries you can find in LA – at République. At Sari Sari Store, she uses local seasonal fruit to build delicious textures. 

“There's the tapioca, which is in coconut milk. … There's little pieces [sic] of flan that are super creamy. And … passion fruit jellies and coconut jellies. And then there's raw fruit. And then on top of all of that, there's a big scoop of coconut ice cream. It's incredible.”



  • Tejal Rao - California restaurant critic for The New York Times, author of “The Veggie” newsletter