Where to Find the Best Soft Serve in Los Angeles

Classic cones and artisanal creations

Mixed Feelings (Vanilla + Activated Charcoal & Pineapple) with Homer Simpson Donut at BAE Little Tokyo | Photo: @lovetram


Soft serve has come a long way from Fosters Freeze and Dairy Queen — combining creativity, whimsy, and decadence with a certain amount of health and environmental consciousness. Along with all that, it tastes better than ever. With several trendsetting shops in a two-mile radius, Koreatown seems to be the hub of some of the most innovative soft serve around. From the classic cone to artisanal chef-driven creations with amusing toppings and quirky names, here are ten of the best soft serve places in L.A.

Maui Maui at Bumsan Organic Milk Bar | Instagram by @bumsanorganicmilkbar

Bumsan Organic Milk Bar



As you drive along Western Avenue in Koreatown, it’s hard to miss the stand-alone pink building with an oh-so-Instagram-ready visual scheme. This is the first outpost of the Korean brand, which arrived in the U.S. in the summer of 2017. It’s regaled for its milk from the largest organic dairy producer in Korea. The decorated cones with various types of sprinkles look like the base of a flower. You could choose a cup, but why would you when the cones ($1 more) are such sparkly fun? There are usually six flavors from which to choose—the original True Milk, Matcha, Chocolate, Taro Milk Tea, Dragon Fruit Lychee, and the newest flavor, Maui Maui. Make it extra special with one free topping, including cornflake crunch, fruity pebbles, mixed nuts and oreo. Tip: The soft serve melts quickly, so hurry up and take your photos!

CottonHi | Instagram by @sandylikespink

CottonHi



Organic cotton candy meets soft serve at CottonHi, a bright dessert parlor in a Koreatown strip mall with a front glass wall covered in colorful scribbles. Choose one of three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and salted caramel. Top it with distinct cotton candy flavors - strawberry, lemonade, double mint, chocolate, salted caramel, or coffee. If cotton candy isn’t your jam, then choose from seven other combination toppings, such as raspberry sauce drizzle, crushed cookies and cream, chocolate flakes; mango cheesecake; or the Rock n’ Pop—composed of crunchy caramel popcorn, caramel and chocolate drizzle and Lucky Charms marshmallows.

Cremia topped with Matcha & Oreo at Creme | Instagram by @worldwidefoodie

Creme



This Japanese soft serve import located in Koreatown called “cremia” is uniquely known for its creamy milk-based flavor, shortbread and charcoal/Oreo cookie cones, flavored powders, and sprinkles, and serving stands with spoons. Other dessert offerings include a milkshake with Intelligentsia coffee, affogato, churros, and tiramisu served in a goblet. The ice cream is dispensed from a special machine that creates waves of creamy ice cream that result in a delicate top curl. The drink list includes all the usual coffee suspects, as well as tea and Italian soda.

Photo courtesy of Drips & Swirls, Facebook

Drips & Swirls



The name of this shop is a play on what is served—coffee and nitro (drips) and soft serve (swirls). The whimsy carries over to the structure itself—a tiny stand-alone shop at the edge of Koreatown’s 8th Street Plaza with a walk-up window, partially corrugated tin roof, and a miniscule wood deck with limited seating. With a rotation of handcrafted, innovative flavors, only two or three choices are offered per day. Owner Chef DJ is clear to state they “never have vanilla.” Among the repertoire: charcoal crispy rice (an Asian trend touted to be a healthy option), Captain Crunch, green apple with chili powder, popcorn, and PBJ—or get any flavor as a shake as well. Make it a combo with a nitro float.

HONEYMEE Wilshire | Photo @shane.garvin

HONEYMEE Wilshire



Real California milk from a certified Kosher dairy factory is married with raw honey and honeycombs from a local certified bee farm to make perfect batches of soft serve that’s taking Southern California by storm (or rather by twist), with ten locations in just a few years. L.A. dwellers can find this “true milk” icy treat in Little Tokyo in Downtown L.A., on Sawtelle in West L.A., and a window kiosk in a Koreatown strip mall. Order it plain, with honey, or top it with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce or caramel syrup. Or go for the special “Babee”— soft serve in a bun. Coffee lovers will certainly buzz over the Honey Affogato.

True Milk & Green Tea Swirl at SomiSomi

SomiSomi



Koreatown hot spot, SomiSomi stands alone with freshly made cones shaped like fish. Modeled after a trendy Korean street food called “Ah-Boong,” this soft serve is only one part of a very imaginative dessert. The cone, called Taiyaki, tastes like pancakes and has a chewy texture. It’s filled with red bean, custard, or Nutella, and then topped with your choice of soft serve flavors—true milk, green tea, banana and chocolate, plus a sprinkling of toppings and accented by a small skewer of strawberries or marshmallows. Find this dessert shop surrounded in glass—and most likely a crowd—on the second floor of Madang Mall plaza in Koreatown, a short walk from The Wiltern Theatre.

Mixed Feelings (Vanilla + Activated Charcoal & Pineapple) with Homer Simpson Donut at BAE Little Tokyo | Photo: @lovetram

BAE Little Tokyo



This Little Tokyo spot with an oh-so-now name opened in January 2017 with a menu of donuts, pastries, and coffee. The soft serve names are a riff on relationships a la “bae”, including First Date (vanilla), Heartbreak (activated charcoal & pineapple), Mixed Feelings (First Date + Heartbreak), and Morning After (espresso). There are also cereal nods, such as Pebbles (fruity pebbles), Toasted Milk (cinnamon toast crunch), and Pegasus, a combo of Pebbles + Toasted Milk. Make it special with matcha, charcoal, or red waffle for an extra $2. Toppings are 25 cents a pop. The best bet is the morning happy hour from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Bob's Freeze | Instagram by @reinixhaha

Bob's Freeze



Bob's Freeze is the real deal: an old-school street-side, order-at-the-window stand that’s been an East L.A. favorite for 70 years. Get vanilla soft serve every which way—swirled plain on a cake cone, dipped in chocolate, smothered by decadent sundae toppings, paired in a banana split, blended in a shake, or a “suicide float” (different slushy flavors poured over the ice cream). Cash only.

Stardust Sundae | Photo: Halo Top

Halo Top Scoop Shop



The hugely popular high protein, high fiber, low calorie grocery store brand recently made a jump to brick and mortar “scoop shops” with locations at Westfield Century City and Westfield Topanga. With the expansion, they added six soft serve flavors to the usual rotation—vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, peanut butter, and cake batter—from 90 to 100 calories per solitary 4 oz. twist in a cup, with more flavors making guest appearances. Make it special (and more caloric) with toppings and a cake, sugar, waffle, or ‘puffle’ cone. Or check out the series of “secret” surprise sundaes featuring vanilla soft serve. The Stardust Sundae is topped with holographic sugar free vanilla sauce, cosmic star sprinkles, and a geode crystal wand inside a waffle cone swirled with black, purple, blue, turquoise, and pink batter. Facts: Halo Top clocks in at 280 to 360 calories for an entire pint (compared to 900 to 1200 for other brands). The key ingredients are erythritol and prebiotic fiber. https://www.halotopscoopshop.com/

Almond-charcoal flavored swirl at Little Damage

Little Damage



Often referred to as “goth” ice cream for its signature almond-charcoal flavored swirl served in hand-rolled charcoal black cones, this DTLA family-owned shop is known for producing small-batch ice cream in a variety of unique colors and flavors. Only three or four flavors are offered each day, but they aren’t flavors you’ll find anywhere. Unicorn Tears (neon blue), Mother of Dragons, and spicy Wango Tango are just a few contributing to the fun. And of course the black and white walls set off by a neon sign that reads “cute, but psycho, but cute” contribute to this Instagrammer’s dream ice cream shop.

Animal Crackers at Magpies | Photo: @magpiessoftserve

Magpies Soft Serve



Chef Warren Schwartz has spun his sophisticated culinary training into made-from-scratch soft serve at his small, modern dessert parlor in a Silver Lake strip mall. After visiting a Dairy Queen on a family vacation, Warren said he and his wife Rose thought to do a “chef-y Dairy Queen.” Rich flavors such as corn almond, apple pie, and chocolate honeycomb taste exactly as you think they should. Add toppings like butterscotch rice krispies, graham cracker streusel, and salted caramel sauce. Everything is made in-house with flavors changing daily and vegan options always available. And, if you’re looking for a special occasion dessert, do not pass up the soft serve pies—made from scratch, of course.

Smothered Cookie | Photo courtesy of Pitfire Artisan Pizza, Facebook

Pitfire Artisan Pizza - Culver City



Yes, the pizza at Pitfire is among the best in L.A., but this mini-chain with five locations is worth a stop just for the organic vanilla soft serve from Strauss Family Creamery. Of course you can get a perfectly delicious single swirl, but why do that when you can up the experience to spectacular? For an extra $1, you can add toppings like cordillera 'Sumapaz' bittersweet chocolate sauce, house-made dark caramel sauce and Maldon salt. But, truly, the best bet is to go for the Smothered Cookie - a warm cookie topped with your choice of ice cream and sauce.

Milk & Honey at The NoMad Truck | Instagram by @chibi_gaga

The NoMad Truck



Fancy comfort food is all the rage from The NoMad Truck, which roamed L.A. streets as a mobile introduction to Chef Daniel Humm's refined cuisine at the NoMad Hotel, which opened in January 2018. The menu features the likes of a chicken burger with black truffle mayonnaise and a bacon-wrapped hot dog with gruyere. Foie gras has even appeared. And what goes better with elevated comfort food than ice cream, especially the Milk & Honey—fanciful vanilla soft serve drizzled with buckwheat honey amidst crumbles of honey-oat shortbread, honey brittle, and cylinders of crunchy milk meringue. It’s like a golden ticket of soft-serve. The robin’s egg blue truck has made fewer public appearances since its launch - it recently parked at Smorgasburg - but you can follow @nomadtruck on Instagram for updated locations.