For when your body (and brain) needs a freeze—Hawaiian shave ice, Oaxacan-style paletas, and so much more.
We’ve already covered the best ice cream and soft serve in the city, but like Abby Lee Miller in a competition rehearsal, we need more. And with summer temps inching up, what we need on these hot, hot days is a delicious, cold treat in our sweaty little hands, A.S.A.P.
So, we hit the streets, pounded the pavement, and sampled the coldest, frostiest treats to create this: a guide to our favorite frozen treats in Los Angeles. Below, you’ll find cups of frozen custard, Hawaiian shave ice, Oaxacan-style paletas, and so much more.
photo credit: Annie Lesser
Philadelphians (shoutout to our writer, Candis R. McLean) know about water ice, or as real Philly natives call it, “wudder-ice.” But for those unfamiliar, it’s a dairy-free dessert that’s half-sorbet, half-movie theater Icee, and a complete summer staple thanks to its soft texture, fruity flavors, and colorful aesthetic. In LA, none do it better than Happy Ice, an extremely popular water ice shop with multiple trucks throughout the city and a brick-and-mortar on Melrose. There are bright, punchy flavors that range from watermelon lush to mango madness, but first timers should go for the Rainbow Rocket—a blended explosion of color that swirls together every single flavor.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Unlike many versions of the beloved Filipino dessert, which include large scoops of purple ube ice cream, the halo halo at this Grand Central Market shop keeps things simple. Literally translated as “mix-mix,” shaved ice, fresh fruit, baked custard, tapioca balls, and sweet, sweet coconut cream are layered in a tall, parfait-like glass. It’s a kaleidoscopic dessert that transforms as you eat it. By the end, the flavors and textures melt together until they’re indistinguishable and deliciously soupy.
photo credit: Oakobing
With brand ambassadors like Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, it’s clear that Oakobing is LA's best option for Korean bingsoo. The shaved ice dessert looks like a feathery mountain: delicate shavings of ice draped on top of itself, creating a slightly woozy visual effect akin to a Salvador Dalí painting. Toppings range between rich decadency (think Oreo tiramisu or caramel macchiato drizzles) to tangy fresh fruit, but our favorite is the injeolmi. Compared to Oakobing’s other flavors, the injeolmi is wonderfully subdued—a roasted soy bean powder that’s sprinkled over a bed of snow and accompanied by sweet, glutinous rice cakes and red bean.
photo credit: Talia Mayden
Between the Oaxacan-style paletas, silky gelatos, and sorbets that taste like fresh-squeezed juices, Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars reminds us of a magical bow and arrow—it simply doesn’t miss. Their storefronts in Mid City, Koreatown, and West LA are packed with rows and rows of juicy, colorful paletas. There are over 30 flavors including watermelon, mango dusted with chili, and leche quemada—a smoked milk concoction that tastes like someone kippered a gallon of dairy over an open flame.
photo credit: Awan
Decadence is a given at Awan, a tiny takeout window in West Hollywood that serves creamy, plant-based ice creams. Flavors change often, usually around what’s available at the farmers market, and are often inspired by the owner’s Indonesian heritage. We’ve had ice creams infused with vanilla beans imported from Bali, Harry’s Berries strawberries (IYKYK), premium French chocolate, and a beautifully purple ube and Oreo swirl called “Gemini Rights.” For scoops, walk up to their window at Dayglow, or order pints online for local delivery.
The rumors are true: the best Hawaiian shave ice in LA can be found in Carson. And the best flavor? Dill. Pickle. Let’s dive in. TastyBlock uses a real, proper ice machine, which shaves fine layers from a block, creating a fluffy, snow-like base. The ice is allowed to shine, never overdone with too much condensed milk, chamoy, or li hing mui powder (a salted dried plum powder that makes your mouth pucker). The standard syrups here, like blue vanilla or strawberry or guava are good, but let’s get back to the dill pickle. It’s the owner’s special creation, a lime green elixir that tastes like sweet vinegar and will boggle your mind in the best way.
From the name alone, it’s understood that you’re in for a good time at this Sherman Oaks dessert shop. The menu is divided into three sections: traditional ice cream, Italian ice, and something called “creme ice.” As the employee behind the counter explains it, the idea is a frozen treat that has “75% less dairy than ice cream, but with the same exact flavor.” Which, after tasting it, sounds like the truth. The consistency is slightly icy and comes in flavors like cherry vanilla chocolate and cappuccino chunk.
photo credit: Los Alpes
Open since 1979, Los Alpes in Huntington Park is a neighborhood institution that serves paletas, fruit bars, milk shakes, ice cream, and the one, the only: mangoneada. It almost looks like a science fair project: huge scoops of mango sorbet are covered in chamoy, lemon, and red-hot chile salt, which runs down the sides like lava on a paper-mache volcano. This gorgeous contrasting sweet and tart flavors are exactly what we want whenever temperatures hit triple digits and standing in front of the fridge with the door ajar isn’t going to cut it.
photo credit: Kat Hong
LA Rose is a real charmer—a sunny cafe in East Hollywood where you’ll eat homestyle Filipino foods and be told tales by the owner, like the time he catered the Playboy Mansion. In addition to a good halo halo, LA Rose Cafe also serves buko pandan, a mint green treat filled with every gelatinous thing under the sun. There are chewy tapioca balls, strips of pandan jelly, young coconut, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a cherry on top. It’s refreshing on a hot day and wonderful to slurp up while listening to the owner cheerfully describe Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite dish.
photo credit: Angela H
Along with having one of the cutest names ever, Little Bean is a mom-and-pop Taiwanese boba tea and shaved ice spot in Rowland Heights that looks like an old school soda fountain: there’s a long marble counter and bins filled with candy sold by the pound. Though the tea is great, most people are here for bowls of ultra-fluffy shaved snow, topped with things like tapioca pearls, coffee jelly, and squiggles of condensed milk. Unlike those franchise boba/dessert shops that seem to appear and disappear every week in the SGV, there’s a homey quality to Little Bean that feels totally timeless.
photo credit: Jessica T.
It’s day three of a heatwave, your AC is busted, and you need multiple freezer pops to cope: head to Viva Oaxaca. The Koreatown shop has over 20 Mexican paleta flavors, plus dozens of ice cream options like coconut, mango with chamoy, and a bright pink concoction called the Oaxaqueño. The signature flavor is a mix of leche quemada and pitaya ice cream, creating a sweet, creamy, and tart scoop with a surprisingly smoky aftertaste that we’re really into.
photo credit: Garrett Snyder
This neighborhood fruit juice and dessert store in Lincoln Heights is basically a Swiss Army knife of Mexican treats: bionicos, licaduos, mangonadas, agua frescas, sundaes—you name it, they’ve got it. They’re especially famous for their nieves, silky smooth sherberts that come in milk-based or fruit-based flavors (watermelon, tamarind, melon, and mamey are some of our favorites). But you shouldn’t leave without sampling the shop’s namesake beverage, a tart and tangy fermented corn drink known as tejuino, which Los Reyes serves with a big scoop of highlighter-green limon sherbet on top like a float—the ultimate hot weather refresher.
photo credit: Kat Hong
From lychee-flavored milk to purple lemonade and ice cream, Bagan Burmese serves many frozen treats ideal for days when your sweat glands are working overtime. Our favorite item at this traditional Burmese shop (located between Westlake and Virgil Village) is the shaved ice. It’s chunkier than Hawaiian shaved ice—you’ll most likely hear a loud crunch while biting into it—but if we had to compare it to anything, it’d be finely crushed ice from the refrigerator door, drizzled in condensed milk and your choice of fresh fruit or jelly.
photo credit: Sul & Beans
Even after an all-out KBBQ feast, make space for a bingsoo from Sul & Beans. This milk ice at this chaotic sit-down dessert restaurant in Koreatown is fresh, light, and delicious, with plenty of options for toppings. It’s best to come with a group so you can try a few flavors—we tend to prioritize the mango (for something sweet and juicy) and the injeolmi (for something nutty and more savory). No matter what, consider adding housemade mochi to your refreshing mountain of bingsoo—the roasted flavor contrasted with the shaved ice has us in a chokehold.
photo credit: Fluffy's Sno-Balls
Fluffy’s in downtown Long Beach is one of a handful of LA places that makes Sno-Balls, a New Orleans style of snow cone that is painted with colorful syrups that come in flavors like Tiger’s Blood and Polar Punch. But Fluffy’s is the only place in LA that does “cheesecake-stuffed” Sno-Balls, an even more specific New Orleans thing that involves stuffing a slice of cheesecake in a cup and covering it with strawberry-soaked shaved ice and a single sour gummy bear. It’s an odd combo that amazingly works. The way the slightly tangy cheesecake contrasts with the slushy sweet ice feels as sophisticated as a pair of elbow-length white gloves.
photo credit: Andy
Rita’s is a Philadelphia chain that keeps things simple by only selling two things: refreshing Italian ices and some of the best frozen custard we’ve tasted. You can also order something called a Gelati, which is a cup of Italian ice with a tall swirl of custard on top. Not only does it eliminate the issue of having to choose, but the creamy, dense custard goes hand-in-hand with tart ice flavors like lemon and cherry. Portions at this Sawtelle shop can get pretty big, so maybe pre-select a podcast to listen to before you carve away at a 12-ounce gelati on your lunch break.
photo credit: Pressed Juicery
Yes, Pressed Juicery made the list. While it’s easy to make fun of the trendy cold-pressed juice shop with locations in Venice, Silver Lake, Beverly Hills, and wherever else people in athleisure wear are found, hear us out. They also have incredible plant-based soft serve. Called “Freeze” and swirled to the heavens, it comes in vanilla, chocolate, acai, and dragon fruit flavors and tastes refreshingly light, like it was infused with holy water. It’s perfect for a post-beach snack, or to bring you back to reality after spending 30 minutes in a Glossier store.