The Best Ice Cream Sundaes in Los Angeles

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Fair Oaks sundae at Fair Oaks Pharmacy | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Ice cream is one of the most important building blocks when creating a sundae, but unlike a cup or cone, a sundae’s collective ingredients transcend the core product. Sundaes can be more forgiving, and the toppings can help cover for ice cream imperfections. However, why not have it all? Here are 10 of the top sundaes in Los Angeles.

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Fair Oaks sundae at Fair Oaks Pharmacy | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Fair Oaks Pharmacy

This corner hangout in South Pasadena dates to 1915, when the business was known as South Pasadena Pharmacy. The space received a revamp to start the '90s, and now touts a green awning, marble tables, wood-framed mirror behind the bar, and a substantial gift shop. Thrifty Ice Cream fuels the soda fountain, along with an energetic teenage workforce. Their “fancy sundae” selection captures local names like Raymond, Arroyo and Mission, with the difference primarily coming down to the sweet sauce. We’re partial to the namesake Fair Oaks, featuring two scoops of chocolate ice cream, one with chocolate sauce, the other with raspberry sauce, whipped cream, crushed peanuts and maraschino cherries.

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Malibu Pier Banana Split at Malibu Pier Restaurant | Photo by Joshua Lurie

This handsome restaurant, located at the mouth of the restored Malibu Pier, features nautical design flourishes, binoculars if you’re seated by the window, plus a sunset and surf report printed at the top of each day’s menu. Yes, the setting is chic, but chef Jason Fullilove and the team can still cut loose, as evidenced by options like the Malibu Pier Banana Split. Rafts of caramelized banana flank scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Braised pineapple, strawberries, crushed candied peanuts, chocolate sauce, caramel, chocolate cookie crumbs and a generous dollop of whipped cream complete the sweet picture.

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PB&J sundae at McConnell's Fine Ice Creams | Photo by Joshua Lurie

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams - Grand Central Market

This branch of iconic Santa Barbara dessert concept from Michael Palmer and Eva Ein is centrally located in the revived Grand Central Market. Yes, they’ve got plenty of premium ice cream that draws primarily on California ingredients that need no alterations, but they also know how to embellish. Sundaes include the outstanding PB&J, featuring sweet-tart milk chocolate and raspberry jam ice cream, peanut butter sauce, chunks of dark chocolate raspberry brownie, whipped cream and a subtle hit of salt.

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Caramel copetta at Pizzeria Mozza | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Pizzeria Mozza

The Mozza Restaurant Group has become a juggernaut, and part of the reason for that success has been the sweet vision of co-founder Nancy Silverton and longtime pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez. Their desserts permeate every part of the Hollywood compound, including Pizzeria Mozza. Sure, the butterscotch budino is dessert gospel, but just as potent is the caramel copetta with caramel ice cream, which coasts on a waffle-like anise cookie and gets treated to a shower of gooey marshmallow sauce and salted Spanish peanuts. In summer, they also serve an apricot and boysenberry copetta in a glass with tart lemon verbena gelato, fruit, and almond sbrisolona, an Italian crumble from Lombardi.

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Frozen banana sundae at Playa Provisions | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Playa Provisions

Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts have created a multifaceted beachside destination in Playa del Rey, which includes the Small Batch ice cream parlor, Dockside restaurant, Grain whiskey bar and King Beach café. Part of the fun at Playa Provisions is due to pastry chef Kristin Feuer. One of her most playful desserts at Dockside is a frozen banana sundae with banana ice cream, frozen banana, hot fudge, candied peanuts, and whipped cream with a cherry on top, which you can enjoy with a complimentary ocean breeze.

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Warmed Brownie & Hot Fudge Sundae at Salt & Straw | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Salt & Straw - Larchmont Village

In September 2014, Kim Malek and cousin Tyler imported their Portland phenomenon to Larchmont Village, and the initial excitement resulted in long lines. The space features an awning with mismatched swaths of stripes and solids, a wood-tiled floor, shelves of gourmet ingredients (all for sale), and a seasonal blackboard menu that leans local. Sundaes include PB & SQIRL Jelly Sandwich, Lemon Caramel & Walnut Oil Sundae, and our choice, Warmed Brownie & Hot Fudge Sundae. Choose two different scoops of ice cream, crafted using Rockview Dairy. May we suggest Almond Brittle & Salted Ganache and Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts? The base is a hot, gooey slab of rich chocolate brownie. Whipped cream, crushed almonds and a salty flourish help to fill the rest of the paper boat.

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Waffle sundae at Shaky Alibi | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Shaky Alibi

R.J. Milano drew on beloved childhood memories to open this Mid-City café, which features vine-coated brick walls, sidewalk seats shielded by blue umbrellas, and an indoor coffee bar. The menu revolves around sweet and savory Liege waffle preparations, perhaps none more compelling than the waffle sundae. The Shaky Alibi team starts with a firm waffle studded with rocks of sugar, and tops the base with scoops of McConnell's Fine Ice Creams. Yes, there are options - we suggest the sea salt caramel ice cream flecked with chocolate flakes, whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.

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California Cliché at Three Twins Ice Cream | Photo by Joshua Lurie

This Bay Area import opened up their first Southern California branch right by the beach, featuring a raw wood and lime green color scheme. They serve sundaes like the Slop Bucket, Cookie Monster, and our personal preference, the California Cliché. This particular sundae consists of a choice of two ice cream scoops with pistachios, olive oil, sea salt, burnt caramel sauce and whipped cream. If you’re feeling indulgent, they also compose the 20-scoop Absurdity and The World's Most Expensive Ice Cream Sundae ($60,000 for one person, $85,000 for two), which is designed to bring attention to climate change. Mount Kilimanjaro's glaciers will melt within 10-15 years. In the meantime, you can join Three Twins owner Neal Gottlieb at the summit, where he'll hand churn a batch of ice cream with glacial ice. This package includes first class airfare to Tanzania, five-star accommodations, a guided climb, all-you-can-eat ice cream and an organic souvenir T-shirt.

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Bittersweet hot fudge sundae at Twohey's | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Twohey's Restaurant

Known as the "Home of the Little Stinko," a notoriously pungent burger, Twohey's dates to 1943 and still features a neon logo depicting a man crying and a clothespin on his nose. Inside, the coffee shop’s retro décor includes white aqua and orange accents. Their hot fudge sundae is locally famous, available with caramel, milk chocolate, or if you play a proper hand, bittersweet chocolate sauce. Each goblet comes with multiple scoops of ice cream, fresh whipped cream, roasted almonds and a cherry on top.

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Ginger Caramel Crunch Sundae at Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Van Leeuwen Franklin Village

This New York City import with a decidedly Dutch name is the product of bi-coastal work from Ben Van Leeuwen, Laura O'Neill, and Pete Van Leeuwen. Their company launched in 2008, touting "hormone and antibiotic free milk and cream, cane sugar, egg yolks and the best fruits, chocolates, spices and nuts from small producers locally and around the world." Van Leeuwen operates three brick and mortar locations in Los Angeles: the Arts District in Downtown L.A., Culver City, and its newest shop in Franklin Village.

They sell a variety of sundaes from their pastel yellow truck, including a Ginger Caramel Crunch Sundae with spicy ginger ice cream, crunchy crushed sugar cone slabs, caramel sauce and whipped cream. For daily locations, follow Van Leeuwen on Twitter: @VLAIC.