California Cones: Best Ice Cream from the West-Coast

By Jack Southan on July 15th, 2016

Summer’s here and the Golden State knows better than most how to keep it cool when temperatures start to soar. With upwards of 280 annual days of sun it’s no wonder they have a history of creating some of the world’s most fantastic varieties of that frozen, creamy, fruit-filled perfection: Ice Cream.

The history of this world favorite can be dated back to as far as 3000BC. The ancient Chinese would flavor frozen ice and serve it as a refreshing delicacy to those who could afford it. But ice cream, as we know it today, came from that heartland of elegant and luscious cooking, Italy.  Frozen cream and fruits were magically mixed together sometime in the 17th century and from there the recipe quickly spread throughout the world as people became infatuated with it.

California took it upon itself to turn ice cream into a societal staple, and my goodness have they done well. Ice cream parlors and stalls have popped up all over the state and could easily number well into the thousands. So, to save you the time (and multiple brain freezes), we have selected our essential Ice Creams to try whilst travelling the top Californian cities!

San Diego – Extraordinary Dessert



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Karen Krasne, Owner, Founder and head Pastry Chef at the critically acclaimed ‘Extraordinary Desserts’ eatery in downtown San Diego, is something of a big deal. She has received multiple awards for her desserts and international fame for her work, having even been featured in Forbes Magazine. So it’s no wonder that her Ice Cream has a reputation for being special amongst both locals and visitors. Sporting a list of flavors as long as your arm, there is something to please everyone - from Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk to Blackberry Cheesecake, the list of hearty classics and modern twists is exceptional. Handcrafted in small, exclusive batches on site, this ice cream is worth a trip to this city in itself. Try them all, but we recommend the Vanilla ice cream partnered with the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding.

San Francisco – Bi-Rite Creamery



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Known as ‘the favorite scoop in the city’, the Bi-Rite Creamery is a paradise for lovers of the creamy-cone. Sporting a list of around 20 regular flavors, it can be a challenge to choose between them all. But fortunately there’s always a queue (even in the dead of winter!) so you’ll have plenty of time to decide. Our favorite and our expert’s number one choice, was the Salted Caramel cone. A balance of sweet and salty, smoky and a touch of bitterness, makes for a texture and richness that will keep you queuing for more.

Los Angeles – CVT Soft Serve



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Remember the tasteless 99 (as they called it in England)? A flaccid, ever-melting dollop of processed ice cream on a cardboard cone, delivered to you by a strange looking man in an beat-up ice cream van. Well, it’s back - but not quite as you remember it. The husband and wife team at CVT Soft Serve, who cruise the streets of downtown LA in their vintage tan truck, have changed the game in ice cream van quality. Partnering up with a local California dairy, they have produced one of the tastiest soft serve ice creams we’ve tried. Boasting a clientele of A-list celebs, including Bill Murray no less, this ice cream has marked itself firmly on the list of best cones on the west coast. Try a cone with sprinkled sea salt for something rather special.

Ojai – Ojai Ice Cream



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Open since 1979, current owner Doug Rydbeck maintains the shop’s appeal as an old-school ice cream parlor. Hand-drawn signs and homemade penny fudge joins popcorn, pretzels and walls of bulk candy jars. The generously portioned scoops of ice cream come in colorful flavors such as "Ojai Orange" and "Pink Moment Strawberry,” poetically named after the rosy hue the surrounding hills take as the sun sets each evening. The shop features hundreds of flavors, but some run as purely seasonal options due to the fruits and herbs they incorporate. For instance, when the annual Lavender Festival occurs in Ojai every June, the shop sells delicious scoops of lavender-flavored ice cream. The parlour has made a name for itself around the country and has in fact featured in some big name movies - The 2010 movie “Easy A” was filmed in Ojai, which included a scene at Ojai Ice Cream. Not many places can boast that! Ask at the counter for advice on what’s good and be adventurous.

Los Angeles – Scoops Westside



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Scoops, on Overland Avenue, L.A., is famous for making flavors of ice cream which seem almost unimaginable. They offer a Lychee Plum wine flavor for example or a Mascarpone Burnt Sugar – the kinds of choices you look at and think “I have absolutely no idea how that’s going to taste..” Well this is the beauty of this outstanding Los Angeles institution: To push the limits of taste and create something truly special. The owner, Tai Kim became known around town for his brown bread ice cream, which he served up in his original shop by the Los Angeles City College. But since then he has expanded his concept and, with the help of Matthew Kang, opened a second venue - Scoops Westside. Here he has created our favorite scoop of all – The Brown Brown Bread: Dulce de leche ice cream, packed with sugared Grape Nuts and rich caramel. It is smooth, cold and delicious, and everything you could ask for on that hot California summer day.


Meet the author
Jack Southan

Jack Southan is a freelance journalist specialising in food and travel. He has worked his way around the world sampling the tastiest dishes and strongest local brews, but now lives in London and writes for magazines from the comfort of his armchair. ... More