In the land that launched the frozen yogurt revival (Los Angeles is home to Pinkberry, after all—but let’s face it, the original frozen yogurt craze probably started in Southern California too), there’s a new way to chill out: Shave Ice. In storefronts that used to house Red Mangos (a Korean Pinkberry competitor that lost), “shaveries” are grinding icy treats Hawaiian-style or into super-thin, fluffy sheets of ice cream (how they probably serve ice cream in heaven). Leagues beyond your basic childhood snow cone, these ice palaces will soon be taking over the rest of the country, just wait and see.
Hawaiian-style shave ice (like what you get from Matsumoto on Oahu’s North Shore) is the classic. It takes the Asian hot weather treat (what you would find at most boba* joints–Volcano Tea House being my favorite) and adds a tropical twist, such as lilikoi (passion fruit) or pineapple syrup. The end result can look like a striped Italian ice, just blown up to ginormous proportions.
A couple of doors down from Volcano on Sawtelle (West Los Angeles’ answer to Little Tokyo downtown) is Brian’s Shave Ice. Now Brian offers over 30 flavored syrups, from POG (passion, orange, guava) to red velvet cake (I’ve been too scared to try that one), as well as sugar-free options (which just remind me of the crushed ice sprinkled with Crystal Light that my friends and I called dessert in high school), but the real winner in this adorable island-themed outpost is the root beer float. Snowy shave ice is packed around a scoop of vanilla ice cream and blue vanilla syrup and root beer syrup (as well as a healthy dose of condensed milk) are drizzled on top. This has been my go-to dessert since the weather got warm and it hits the spot every time!
Another Sawtelle neighborhood favorite is Blockheads Shavery Co, which opened up last year and introduced me to a new kind of shaved ice. More like a very very thinly sliced (it’s translucent!) ice cream than crushed ice, this elegant dessert melts on your tongue and feels lighter and fresher than frozen yogurt. The texture is how I imagine angel wings after flying through a snowstorm (not that I’d be eating angels, but you know what I mean). Blockheads serves up Asian-themed flavors such as green tea or sesame, but my favorite is strawberry. It tastes like thin sheets of strawberry milkshake, melting on your tongue like delicate snowflakes. Yum!
New kid on the block (or a couple of streets over on San Vicente in tony Brentwood) is Sweet Crush Ice Bar, which just opened this past weekend and was introduced to me by The Luxury Spot‘s Bryce Gruber (thanks Bryce!). Similar to Blockheads with the shavings of milky deliciousness, Sweet Crush has even more flavors that Yael (who calls herself the “Ice Queen” but is really friendly and looks exactly like former Madonna pal Ingrid Casares from Miami) dreams up. Think Peanut Butter, Coconut, Earl Grey (which basically tastes exactly like earl grey milk tea shaved into paper-thin sheets—it’s barely sweet and perfect for when you don’t want a sugarbomb of a dessert). I was blown away by the Blood Orange Pure Crush, a non-dairy shave ice that tastes like fruit sorbet that’s shaved instead of scooped (and nothing like scary non-dairy frozen dessert soft serve—what is that stuff anyway? frozen non-dairy creamer?). Imagine the most delicious blood orange juice you’ve ever tasted, but ten times better. If you’ve ever tried Berthillon‘s fraises des bois sorbet on the Ile St-Louis in Paris, you know what I’m talking about—I almost cried the first time I tasted that wild strawberry perfection, because I had nobody nearby to share the experience with. When I finished my cup of Pure Crush, my boyfriend asked if we should order another (yes, he knows me a little too well). It’s that good.
* Did you know that “boba” is Chinese slang for big boobs? It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?