For a health-conscious town filled with frozen yogurt stands—Pinkberry kick-started the tangy trend here—Los Angeles lately is all about frozen custard, the Midwestern soft-serve that’s usually made with egg yolks (making it even creamier than ice cream).
Somehow, the delicacy found its way west and is heating up the city’s dessert menus. New-kid-in-town gourmet scoop shops include Portland’s Salt & Straw and Ohio-based Jeni’s, making the idea of an even richer cone deliciously irresistible. Herewith, a treasure map of L.A.’s frozen custard territory, which covers old fashioned-style soft-serve and gourmet variations.
Top Round Roast Beef, Mid City (pictured)
Known for their killer sandwiches with homemade cheese “wizz” and “dirty” fries, this soon-to-be-franchised eatery proudly proclaims, “the only thing in our kitchen that’s frozen is our custard.” You can order it as a sundae with toppings or as a “concrete” with ingredients mixed in. The custard itself is vanilla, but you can choose from 13 house combinations—including Southern Belle (peaches, praline pecans and butterscotch) and Elvis (bananas, salted peanuts and hot fudge)—or design your own.
Bruxie, Various Locations
This Belgian waffle sandwich chain has soft-serve, Wisconsin dairy, frozen custard available in vanilla, Belgian chocolate (of course), strawberry, dulce de leche and seasonal flavor shakes.
Rita’s Ice Various Locations
Founded in Philadelphia in 1984 as an Italian ice stand, this national chain offers the usual vanilla and chocolate—and twist of the two—along with rotating flavors including strawberry, orange cream and coffee. If a cone’s not enough, try a frozen custard cookie sandwich or a cake with a swirl of mango gelato.
Pier Burger, Santa Monica
You might not necessarily go to the Santa Monica pier for a burger, but at this seaside stand, you can opt for vanilla, chocolate and a flavor of the day available in cups, cones, shakes, floats and sundaes—including the chocolate custard Route 66 with Oreos and M&M’s.
Lucky’s Tavern, Hollywood
This Hollywood Boulevard bar and grill has burgers, pizza, grilled cheese, mac and cheese and salads on the menu, but the prize goes to its dessert: Nutella-flavored frozen custard.
Freddy’s, Westlake Village
Founded in Wichita, Kansas by WW II vet Freddy Simon, Freddy’s still sports the retro red-and-white stripes of a classic burger spot. With franchises across most of the U.S., it dishes up vanilla and chocolate custard with more than 30 fruit, nut, cookie, syrup and candy toppings.
Hache LA, Silver Lake
Gourmet burgers and triple-cooked fries are the hallmarks of restaurateur Michael Scheper, who’s also made a revolutionary stride in frozen custard here, using liquid nitrogen and a stand mixer to whip up flavors such as bananas foster, strawberry cheesecake, apple pie and cookie butter. It takes longer that the typical scoop or soft-serve, but it’s worth every minute of the wait.
David A. Keeps is Travel + Leisure’s Los Angeles-based correspondent. He was the host of Ovation TV's "Art and The City," and he writes regularly about travel and design.
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