Valentine’s Day simply wouldn’t be done right without a sweet finale, and luckily for you Angelenos, Los Angeles desserts rank among the best worldwide, with everything from build-your-own-donuts to deluxe shaved ice to $7 milkshakes (that’re worth every penny).
Southern Californians aren’t just spoiled by the eternal summer weather–we’re positively drenched, day by day, with news of the latest imported ramen shops, rising food truck dukes, and of course, the ecosystem of evolving dessert boutiques, seeking to outdo each other with the next biggest sweet-tooth teaser. We’ve got you covered with seven of SoCal’s richest, fruitiest, and best, all guaranteed to leave a mark on the tastebuds come Valentine’s Day (if you’re still floundering for V-Day date ideas, check out our guide).
For those Valentine’s Day purists looking to recreate the archetypal American date, sipping milkshakes together from across the table is absolutely requisite. And if milkshakes are in order, MILK is in order; located on a busy street corner on Fairfax, and boasting a line of dairy devotees out the door and around the corner at all times of day, MILK makes the idea of a 6-7 dollar milkshake seem credible. My personal favorite? The mint chocolate crunch shake, blended with mint chip ice cream and malted chocolate balls for a devastating crunch to go with the crisp flavor. All of their shakes are basically diabetic meals unto themselves, meaning I couldn’t even finish mine in one sitting–BUT, lo and behold, the thing was still tasty as sin the next morning, and if that isn’t testament to their confectionary master craft, I don’t know what is. Even if shakes aren’t your thing, MILK still makes foodie headlines for their unique blueberry velvet cake, and especially the grasshopper ice cream sandwich–mint ice cream between flat macarons, dipped in chocolate. Unbelievable.
Nothing beats the gooey comfort and texture combo of a fantastically made pie, and Pie Hole has made such impeccable pie-dom their business. Located in the walkable and frequently bustling Arts District, Pie Hole is a fixture of Los Angeles desserts for its selection of both traditional and modern pie flavors like Earl Grey tea, Mexican chocolate, and maple custard. The Earl Grey’s a particular fan favorite, boasting a chocolate underbelly, a layer of tea cream, all topped off with whipped cream for a delightful lightness. So swing by after your V-Day dinner, grab two slices, and patronize a gallery or two while you’re in the neighborhood.
While there’re several Scoops locations by now, I prefer the Chinatown iteration for my craft ice cream delights. Any establishment that builds a name for itself with brown bread-flavored ice cream has to be doing something miraculous–other ice cream parlors can keep their basic candy bar-injected sugarbombs to themselves. I want the Guinness chocolates, the jackfruit lemons and coconut burnt caramels and beyond, and Scoops always delivers. Additional perk: a single scoop actually nets you two mini-scoops, all the better for you, since I guarantee you’ll be torn between at least two flavors. Like I said, my favorite spot is located in the same Chinatown plaza as the Angeleno gem, Roy Choi’s Chego, as well as the up-and-coming Ramen Champ, for those looking to build a date night around their dessert spot.
The Los Angeles desserts landscape is littered with Mexican bakeries galore, but to put it simply, having a champurrado, sugarbread, or cafe de olla from La Monarca is like having it for the first time. Their expertise runs the gamut from coffees, to pastries, to breads, to brunch items like the suspiciously delicious soy-chorizo torta. But perhaps the most memorable menu items are the simplest: the milky-sweet cornbread is too creamy to be legal, and they manage to make even a simple wheat bolillo bun endlessly snackable. Highly recommended, and perfect for if you want variety in your Valentine’s Day indulgence.
Donuts don’t exactly leap to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day Los Angeles desserts, but you’ve likely never seen donuts like this. It’s the Chipotle DIY-formula as applied to donut creations: customers pick a donut base, then embellish with toppings ranging from candy bar crumbles to fruit glazes to nutmeg and lemon zest, and finish with fillings beyond your wildest dreams: I’m talking goat cheeses, hazelnut spreads, and artisanal jams. That being said, I always go for the house creations like the Husker Blu, a cake donut injected with fresh blueberry fillings and dressed in blueberry glaze. Did I mention their creations are all named after bands? Donut Friend is your new best friend.
There’s a long line of desserts out there, all waiting for their time in the hyped-up foodie limelight, and if B Sweet has their way, it’s bread pudding’s time to shine. If you’re skeptical about getting excited over a dessert made out of the most basic foodstuff in the world, know that they have over forty varieties of bread pudding, including pineapple upside down cake, maple donut, and Kahlua. But most importantly, even if you strip away all the extra flavoring, their basic bread pudding formula is rich beyond belief, with a fantastic, ooze-y texture. Once they top it off with an ice cream scoop, its a straight shot to food coma heaven. If you’re somehow still unconvinced, people also come back for the ice cream-injected donuts, pies, and dressed-up brownies. In terms of a V-day date spot, B Sweet is conveniently located in the middle of bustling ‘Little Osaka’ on Sawtelle Boulevard, where foodie hotspots like Tatsuya Ramen and Hide Sushi bring the dinner crowds, with the Giant Robot store and GR2 gallery to top off the night.
A list of Los Angeles desserts simply wouldn’t be complete without a nod towards that crown prince of Asian dessert-dom: shaved ice. If you’ve never had it, know that we’re not talking about your neighborhood snowcones drizzled with Icee syrup. Asian shaved ice comes in a dozen sub-varieties, but always involves toppings of copious fruit, condensed milk, and any combination of red bean, mung bean, mochi, boba, etc etc. Now ask anyone for the best shaved ice in LA and you’ll get a million different answers, but a large chunk will say Sul & Beans in Koreatown, where they serve patbingsoo (the Korean variety of shaved ice) like no one else can. Their secret weapon? Injeolmi toast, injeolmi being traditional Korean rice cake, and injeolmi toast being gooey injeolmi between slices of toasted bread sprinkled with almonds on top, like some carb-tastic, inexplicably delicious rice version of a grilled cheese. Devotees swear by injeolmi toast as the perfect complement to the mountainous bingsoo ice-and-fruit plates, and I’m inclined to agree.