America’s National Ice Cream Day is celebrated each year on the third sunday in July in the U.S., which is July 19 this year — it’s perfect timing to use the excuse of a summer indulgence for a trip to one (or five) of the best LA-born and bred ice creameries in the Greater Los Angeles area.
There are few things in this world that I love more than ice cream — and both luckily and unluckily, the Greater Los Angeles area is enormous which makes it very difficult to narrow down to just seven shops for this list. Therefore, I must also link to these top LA ice cream shop lists via Thrillist, Eater, LAist, and TripSavvy to offer plenty of opportunities to properly celebrate this once-a-year treat.
Here are five of the best ice cream shops in LA (in my opinion) that I’ve had the privilege of visiting here in LA — with a bit of backstory on what makes them each so special (in addition to their stellar ice cream, of course).
The Dolly Llama (Koreatown, DTLA, Sherman Oaks)
The Dolly Llama and its creation has an interesting background. The shop’s name was inspired by a real life llama that resides on a farm in the South of France, which had a significant impact on Samuel Baroux, owner/founder of The Dolly Llama! Sam wanted to bring his passion for food and dessert to the United States while tying in a touch of nostalgia and fun from his home back in France and viola- “The Dolly Llama” became a real conception in Los Angeles, in 2017.
My bubble waffle cone itself has a backstory too. Also known as an “egg waffle,” this dessert originated from Hong Kong as the #1 most popular Hong Kong street snack- but The Dolly Llama puts its own special twist on this dessert by using hand-made batter and stuffing the voluptuous cone the brim with added sweet treats right in front of your eyes.
You can choose one of their formulas, or build your own (why yes, I’d like whipped cream on top!). Traditionally, there’s there’s seating downstairs to watch all of the ice cream making action happen, as well as an upstairs enclave to enjoy in elevation — but right now, it tastes just as good as take-out.
Coolhaus (Culver City)
[Images above courtesy of the @coolhaus Instagram account]
Coolhaus (was founded by Natasha Case and Freya Estreller in 2009 when the two realized they felt that Millennials, women, and especially gay women, were not properly represented by any dessert brands that were currently sitting up on shelves. They left their full-time jobs in architecture and non-profit real estate development to create a brand that they themselves would want to buy (and which apparently a lot of other people still want to buy, too).
As a women-founded and women-led company, Coolhaus’s mission seeks inspire women and younger generations to rethink the industries in which they want to succeed (and then go out and do it).
This is all in addition to creating fantastic frozen desserts. Coolhaus offers neat flavors such as fried chicken and waffles, horchata, and street cart churro dough…
MILK (Silver Lake, Fairfax)
MILK business Owner Nayla Audi was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, and always had a particular infatuation with world of gastronomy — after completing her degree in Political Science, she embarked her chosen career in Los Angeles, CA because it’s a land of culinary opportunity.
She spent time in the kitchen of restaurant PATINA in LA and learned the art of Ice Cream making, which grew into becoming her true passion. Audi then returned back to Beirut in 1997 and founded her own Ice Cream company, naming it OSLO (which also has a fascinating story you can read about, here).
In 2007 Audi brought her talents of making frozen treats back to Los Angeles, and MILK’s first location was established on Beverly Boulevard near The Grove. These treats are made with natural ingredients — and include MILK’s specialty blue velvet cake, classic desserts such as sundaes, banana splits, brownie and blondie sundaes, shakes, malts, floats, cones, and my favorite — macaroon sandwiches — there’s certainly no shortage of treats to enjoy.
Gelateria Uli (DTLA)
Gelateria Uli is a small-batch gelato shop with a rotating assortment of experimental flavors located in downtown Los Angeles’ Historic Core district. The shop’s name is inspired by founder Ulviyya Nasibova’s nickname — “Uli!”
Nasibova who is originally from Baku, Azerbaijan and immigrated from Baku on a full scholarship from the Colorado College in the United States to earned a degree in liberal arts. In 2014, she quit her stable job working at an investment management firm in Los Angeles to cash out her 401(k) and began constructing the dream which has successfully become Los Angeles’ beloved Gelateria Uli.
“My goal is for my gelato to taste and look like Los Angeles,” Uli states on her website. Offering diverse flavors that mirror the diverse backgrounds of Los Angeles such as horchata and black sesame, yellow peach sorbet and California pistachio represent the region’s seasonal produce; and stracciatella and pistachio pay homage to classic Italian gelatos. Uli is able to do this and more, by offering happiness through delicious ice cream.
Wanderlust Creamery (Multiple Locations)
Adrienne Borlongan and Jon-Patrick Lopez’s Wanderlust Creamery began as just a small shop in Tarzana (a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region). After the two opened a booth at the well-known Smorgasburg LA outdoor food market, their dream quickly grew into a successful, local franchise with locations all over the Greater LA area.
The shop speaks true to its name — it specializing in artisanal small batch ice cream made in-house with flavors that inspired by international destinations such as Thai-inspired “Sticky Rice and Mango, “Japanese Neapolitan” that combines matcha, hojicha, & black sesame, as well as “trademark ‘Ube Malted Crunch’ – a playful take on the ubiquitous Filipino purple yam flavor” and purple cone made from purple yam.
Wanderlust Creamery offers an ever-rotating, seasonal menu. This month’s July seasonal flavors include: “Gaz” (Persian Nougat) which was inspired by Isfahan, Iran and “Australian Pavlova” which was inspired by Australia. As the team is always adding new and seasonal flavors inspired by worldly locations, there are no shortage of dreamy destinations to inspire these creamy creations at Wanderlust.
This is just a small sampling of the shops that I’ve been lucky enough to visit so far, while I’ve been living here (I have a lot of work to do). Even though times are tough and this summer looks a lot different than summers of the past, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: worldwide appreciation and love for good ice cream.
One might dare to say that you can travel the world, this National ice cream day through the diverse flavors inspired by the flavors from cultures across the globe, at these local businesses…. Check them out to celebrate, today!
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