Los Angeles, a city with seemingly endless summer, frequently calls for a cool treat. One of my favorite forms of refreshment is the ice cream sandwich. However, just because a place makes great ice cream does not guarantee a great ice cream sandwich. Learn about 11 of my L.A. favorites, featuring cookies, macarons, macaroons, bread, wafers and more.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
1. Coffee + Milk Milkwich ($7) NO LONGER AVAILABLE
This burgeoning Patina Restaurant Group café chainlet, which started at LACMA and spread to Irvine’s Park Place and West LA’s Westwood Gateway, has a strong pastry program. Carlos Enriquez and his staff carry on traditions that former Ray’s and C+M pastry chef Joshua Graves helped establish. Creamy vanilla milk sorbet incorporates Tahitian vanilla, organic sugar and premium Straus Family Creamery dairy. Form a Milkwich by sandwiching the frozen “milk” between a pair of chocolate chunk cookies, or if a barista is willing to bend the rules, a pair of sticky coconut macaroon slabs.
2. Carmela Ice Cream Ice Cream Sandwich ($5): Jessica Mortarotti and Zachary Cox first found success with their seasonal ice cream at L.A. farmers markets. The duo now dispenses scoops at storefronts in east Pasadena and near The Original Farmers Market. Their blackboard menu always changes, but expect to find signature flavors like Salted Caramel, Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean and Mint Cacao Nib. Any flavor’s available between a variety of pliable shortbread cookies, but sometimes, prescribed combinations work best. For instance, brown sugar discs with tangy fruit-studded strawberry buttermilk ice cream, a particularly devastating combination.
3. Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwich ($5): Freya Estreller and Natasha Case started building their L.A. based ice cream sandwich empire in 2009 by launching silver and pink truck with architectural underpinnings. They’ve since expanded the fleet to include Austin, Miami and New York, and opened a pair of shops in Culver City and Pasadena. Unusual flavors include Beer & Pretzels, Fried Chicken & Waffles, and Cuban Cigar (for Miami, natch). My favorite ice cream sandwich to date consists of chewy ginger molasses cookies and Maker’s Mark Manhattan ice cream folded with Amarena cherry syrup. Yes, Coolhaus swaddles their sandwiches in edible potato starch paper.
4. Diddy Riese Ice Cream Sandwich ($1.75): Long before Sean Combs arrived on the hip-hop scene, the original Diddy was already going strong in Westwood Village. Diddy Riese has let customers build their own ice cream sandwiches since 1983, and the value is unsurpassed. UCLA students flock to their storefront for house baked cookies and Dreyer’s ice cream. Owner Mark Perry’s crew makes cookies in flavors like white chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin nut, and sugar cinnamon, which house ice creams like rocky road, mint chocolate chip, and strawberry cheesecake. I enjoyed soft peanut butter cookies studded with peanut butter chips, cradling chocolate ice cream. Fun fact: the top cookie doesn’t have to match the bottom cookie.
5. Mashti Malone’s Mashti ($4): Mashti and Mehdi Shirvani opened their Persian-tinged ice cream emporium in a Hollywood strip mall in 1980, replacing a frozen treat predecessor called Mugsy Malone. Their northern Iranian upbringing inspired flavors like orange blossom and ginger rosewater, though cookies ‘n cream, mango, and vanilla bean are also available. No matter the flavor, they press ice cream sandwiches, called Mashtis between twin wafer discs. Rosewateter saffron ice cream studded with pistachios is my preferred filling.
6. MILK Ice Cream Sandwich ($5): Lucy Danovic’s corner bakery and cafe piles on the frozen treats, including ice cream and sorbet in flavors like banana dulce de leche, blueberry crumble pie and blood orange. More unique are the ice cream sandwiches made with oversized macarons, which have more give than standard cookies, and bring colorful French flair. They’ve got coffee toffee and Thai tea fillings, but I prefer the version with watermelon sorbet and chocolate chips subbing for “seeds.”