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 raspado 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 the 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 paletas 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…