Culver City, CA

With its bubblegum pink walls, oozy ice cream decals and bright atmosphere, Coolhaus breathes its bold energy into you the moment you cross its threshold. Founded in 2008 by Natasha Case and Freya Estreller, Coolhaus began as a lone truck and has since grown to 10 across LA, NY and Dallas, with 2 shops in LA and selling to over 6,000 grocery stores nationwide.

We landed in their Culver City shop location, relieved to have a considerate server since their ordering process runs as follows: select your ice cream, a cookie (or two different types) for your sandwich, then any toppings. With many choices laid before us, it took a few samples and asking for suggestions before we landed on something. Paige went with the Ginger Molasses cookie and the Chocolate Chip, sandwiching Street Cart Churro: vanilla ice cream with sugar coated fried dough crumbles as well as Coffee Oreo: just as it sounds, coffee ice cream with oreo pieces. Katherine also chose the Ginger Molasses cookie, sandwiching Street Cart Churro and Brown Butter Gingerbread Man: brown butter ice cream with gingerbread bits.

Though quite pricey, this ice cream is dense and slammed with flavor. The overarching taste is sweetness - we're mostly to blame for choosing such action-packed flavor combinations of cookie to ice cream. But what's not to love about that? We're sure you'll have a different kind of experience at one of their trucks or by purchasing a pint at your local grocery store, but no matter where you get it Coolhaus delivers on fun, colorful ice cream sandwich creations.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.50

Flavor Variety: 3.75

Product Quality: 4.00

Skoops: 3.75


Manhattan Beach Creamery

Manhattan Beach, CA

Where to begin? Well, we were looking forward to visiting the Manhattan Beach staple, owned by the Rothman family since 2009 - our interests piquing as we approached the shop and found a line to the door. It was upon entry however, that our hopes dissolved. The shop is a bland space jam-packed with overpriced candy, cheap bakery desserts, odd kitsch and random tacky decorations. EDM music blared while Rio 2 played on a TV overhead. Overwhelmed by such a haphazard scene, we fell into silence as we stood in line.

The ordering process is disorganized at best; with haggard, distracted servers just trying to keep up. Each sample they passed us tasted about the same as the last. Concerning. Paige chose a single scoop of Mocha Almond Fudge: mocha ice cream with tiny specks of almond and one minuscule blob of fudge, which had the taste and consistency of something that sat out all day. Katherine got a scoop of Heath Bar Coffee: coffee ice cream with barely there chocolate specks and no toffee to be seen. They were poor quality, with tasteless flavors that didn't even match their descriptions. We would have been better off buying any pint at the grocery store.

There are a couple other ice cream shops in Manhattan Beach and plenty of better options to treat an ice cream fix; so if you have any respect for ice cream or your own taste buds, go elsewhere for your next scoop.

Establishment Aesthetic: 1.00

Flavor Variety: 1.50

Product Quality: 1.00

Skoops: 1.25

Sweet Rose Creamery

Brentwood, CA

Originated in the Brentwood Country Mart, Sweet Rose Creamery falls under the successful Rustic Canyon Family umbrella, led by Zoe & Josh Loeb. Since opening in 2010, they've expanded to three additional locations around LA. And as one of the sister restaurants, Milo & Olive, is a true favorite of ours we were primed walking through Sweet Rose's door. 

We understand that Sweet Rose is an LA favorite, but for us, it just doesn't quite rank as high as our faves. Their attempts at unique flavors reminisce of weak tasting, basic homemade ice cream. And when we're paying steep prices, we expect complex flavors or at least a hefty scoop. 

A few of the standing menu flavors we tried are Old Fashioned Vanilla and Salted Caramel, which are unchanged if not depreciated takes on classic flavors; Cookies and Cream, lacking the sweetness and weight of the necessary 'cream', and containing a less than tantalizing 'cookie' mix-in; and Fresh Mint Chip, tasting as if sprigs were minced and tossed into a nearly dairy-less ice cream. Don't get us wrong, we love farmers market fresh ingredients, but the flavors here just taste a bit too oversimplified. 

The quality of their seasonal flavors is limited as well - Blood Orange Sorbet, Kiwi Sorbet, Peppermint Paddy, Horchata, and Gingerbread with Persimmon. The names were great and we were hopeful, but they just didn't satisfy.   

With its lack of ingenuity and basic acceptable flavor, the meager serving size and high cost, it's best to look elsewhere for your sweet dairy fix.  

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.75

Variety: 3.00

Product Quality: 2.00

Skoops: 2.00

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

Venice, CA

Maybe it was the lack of buzz, the quiet shopfront appearance or just the funky spelling of the name, but we weren't tripping over ourselves to try Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. Whatever the reason, our spirits lifted upon walking through the door. At the Venice location just off the main drag, their space may not be terribly unique but it's certainly clean and bright, with glass walls and house plants placed throughout the shop.

The founder Jeni Britton Bauer founded Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in 2002 and has since won the James Beard Award for Desserts with her 2011 book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home. The ice cream is produced in Ohio and shipped to shops across the nation, with four locations in LA.

Sadly, their samples are perhaps smaller than 1/16 tsp size and they don't boast generous scoops like Salt & Straw. But Jeni's flavors are definitely full-bodied and lasting. 

We both had their Standard, with 2 half scoops: Paige tried Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chunks as well as Coffee with Cream & Sugar, and Katherine went with Wildberry Lavender as well as Coffee with Cream & Sugar - we usually don't have the same kind, but Jeni's take could not have achieved a lovelier balance of flavor and we both just had to take part.

All in all their brand was a bit more packaged than we prefer, and their servings were definitely too small for the price. Though we might not recommend you make it your regular spot, do check out Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream for it's true depth of flavor.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.75

Flavor Variety: 4.25

Product Quality: 4.50

Skoops: 3.75


Sundae School

Cape Cod, MA

On a quick trip to Cape Cod for our cousin's wedding (cheese n' crumb, wedding season has begun), nothing sounded better than to dive into some ice cream on our way out of town. Well, after asking everyone at the reception where we should go, Sundae School came top recommended. It's been serving homemade ice cream since 1976 and was voted #5 in Top Ice Cream Parlors in the country in USA Today 2016. 

The exterior of the building resembles a sweet old barn house and includes a cubby of bird houses displayed over the walk up service window. On the inside, the place is packed with local historic dairy paraphernalia - signs, scoops, photographs, a coin belt, as well as an antique ice cream churn. With a true variety of flavors to choose from, we each had a combo - Paige selected Coffee Oreo as well as Pirate Pandemonium: vanilla fudge swirl ice cream with dark chocolate covered pretzels. Katherine went with Grasshopper: mint ice cream with chocolate wafer cookie as well as Bass River Mud: coffee ice cream with fudge strip, chocolate chips and almonds.  

Though the flavor names are certainly more fantastical than the taste of the ice cream itself, this Cape staple is well worth the visit.

Establishment Aesthetic: 4.75

Flavor Variety: 4.50

Product Quality: 4.00

Skoops: 4.00


Salt & Straw

Venice, CA

Goodness, how to begin! Okay, we were skeptical at first. We knew Salt & Straw hails from Portland, OR (rad) but waiting in the 15-20 minute line while choosing between some really bougie looking flavors worried us. Would it be just another overpriced, overhyped LA haunt? Well, once we had our first sample we heard Jim Carrey's Grinch yelling in our ears, " Wrongo!"

Salt & Straw was founded in 2011 by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek. Since starting with an ice cream cart in Portland, they have expanded with multiple shops in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Downtown Disney in Anaheim - though we always hit Venice, there are 4 other LA locations.   

Although there is an ebb and flow, you can safely bet you'll have ample time in line to consider your flavor choices and bask in the aroma of fresh ice cream and toasting waffles. Luckily the servers are calm and attentive, walking down the line offering you samples - we've never turned down the full list of monthly specials (barring meaty flavors) because why not, we're here for the adventure.   

Salt & Straw isn't cheap, but their serving sizes are more than generous. Our favorite is the Split Scoop, essentially 2 medium scoops plopped in one of their hefty waffle cones. Each artisanal flavor (dairy packed or vegan) is so well crafted you can't go wrong, but during our series of visits, some of the flavors we've tried include Chocolate Gooey Brownie: chocolate ice cream with large brownie hunks; Salted Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: vanilla ice cream with large bites of salted, malted cookie dough and malted fudge swirl; Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache: vanilla ice cream with family recipe almond brittle and chucks of salted chocolate ganache; and lovely seasonal flavors like Toasted Coconut Milk & Cookies (v), Sugar Plum Fairy, The Great Candycopia, and Nibbles 85% Peruvian Chocolate Sorbet (v).

When in LA, stop by Salt & Straw in Venice and take your ice cream on a stroll down Abbott Kinney or along the Venice Canals nearby. 

Establishment Aesthetic: 4.50

Flavor Variety. 4.50

Product Quality: 4.75

Skoops: 4.75


Coffey Ice Cream

Marblehead, MA

Located in the heart of Marblehead’s Old Town, Coffey Ice Cream has been serving since 2000. Through it’s wall of windows, you can see their string of vintage ice cream scoops suspended over the display case, and chalkboards listing their menu across the back panel. Opposite the register is a wall covered with pinned photographs of patrons and employees through the years.

Coffey carries a wide selection of New England flavors served a number of ways – from regular cones to a variety of frappes, egg creams, floats and sundaes. We can’t give full marks as the ice cream isn’t made in-house. But their supplier is the Massachusetts classic, Richardson’s Ice Cream, made on the family farm running since 1695.

We ordered our usuals, Paige with a Crunch-a-Saurus: blue vanilla ice cream with chocolate coated krispies and Green Monster (a Boston flavor in spirit of the Sox): mint ice cream with mashed Oreo cookie and fudge swirl. Katherine went for Bubblegum: pink bubblegum ice cream with bubblegum pieces (you’d think it’s pretty self-explanatory, but some establishments don’t add bubblegum bits or just use vanilla ice cream! Crazy, we know) and Chocolate Peanut Butter: chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirl.

If you’re looking for an easy stop during your time in Marblehead, Coffey Ice Cream is just the spot.

Establishment Aesthetic: 3.75 

Flavor Variety: 4.75 

Product Quality: 4.50

Skoops: 3.75