Los Angeles

First Look: Tyra Banks' Inspiring New SMiZE Cream Shop Opens in Santa Monica

The premium frozen custard is available locally in LA, and via nationwide shipping.

Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana

Before getting discovered and quickly catapulted into a life as a working supermodel at the tender age of 17, Tyra Banks’ school weeks were punctuated by a beloved Friday afternoon ritual with her mom. After picking up her daughter from school at the end of each week, Banks’ mother Carolyn London would treat them to ice cream and the two would dish over boy drama, surprise pop quizzes, and everything in between. Even after Banks landed her first magazine cover with Seventeen and began booking international modeling gigs, their Friday afternoon ice cream dates remained constant. 

Banks would go on to make a successful career out of breaking boundaries: she was the first woman to grace the cover of GQ Magazine, the first Black woman featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and has been twice recognized as one of TIME Magazine‘s most influential people. She taught the world how to smize (smile with your eyes) as host and executive producer of America’s Next Top Model, a reality contestant show that mentored young models and ran for 24 seasons, and dominated daytime TV as the host of The Tyra Banks Show, an Emmy Award-winning talk show that ran for five seasons. 

And while it might be a stretch to say that Banks’ success is owed entirely to ice cream, she’s quick to recognize how those sweet heart-to-hearts with her mother served as an incubator for some of her most ambitious dreams. Now a mother herself, Banks wanted her next venture to motivate others in a similarly delicious fashion: enter SMiZE Cream

The original plan was for Banks to launch her ModelLand theme park in Santa Monica in May 2020. The multilevel theme park was based off of Banks’ semi-autobiographical novel by the same name and intended to be a place where any and everyone could live out their model fantasies with photoshoots, runways, shopping, and more. When that was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic, Banks decided to refocus her energy on an ice cream brand that would capture the nostalgia of her favorite childhood memories. She sought out the best of the best, tapping the world’s only ice cream scientist Dr. Maya Warren to help her develop flavors and create an inspiring ice cream brand that evokes everything from the wonder of Willy Wonka to Black girl magic and more. SMiZE Cream opened its doors to the public and launched nationwide delivery on Friday, July 2, just ahead of Independence Day weekend.

Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana

The result is an ice cream shop unlike any you’ve ever stepped foot in. Located in the heart of Santa Monica Place just a short walk from the neighboring pier, beach, and promenade, SMiZE Cream sports a futuristic, flying saucer-shaped storefront with a colorful multi-scoop ice cream cone acting as a beacon on its roof, plus a cast of outrageous characters based on Banks’ friends and family that decorate the doors and interior of the shop. Gold spray-painted vinyls and headphones hang from skylights inside, and behind the sparkle-studded ice cream display case hangs a wheel with the faces of various SMiZE Cream characters. 

Whenever “SMiZE ‘o’ Clock” strikes (approximately 20 times a day), a SMiZE Cream employee spins the wheel to choose a prize for a lucky winner. Meanwhile, “I Want That SMiZE Cream,” the catchy electro-pop single from DJ Splitz, the main SMiZE Cream diva who’s modeled after Banks’ mother, serves as the shop’s anthem and plays on repeat over the speakers, featuring vocals from Banks and musician Stori (and an adlib from Banks’ son York).

But behind this fantastical facade is ice cream that’s just as decadently over-the-top and delectable, with compelling, unheard-of flavor combinations courtesy of months of trial and error between Banks and Dr. Maya Warren. And technically, as Banks is quick to point out, it’s not ice cream at all, but a premium frozen custard made with egg yolks in addition to milk and cream.

Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana

SMiZE Cream launched with seven signature flavors-The Best Vanilla I Ever Had, Strawberry BirthYAY! Cake, Brownies, I Love You!, Purple Cookie Mon-STAR & Me, Salted Caramel King, Cookie Caramel Queen, and Chocolate Barbeque-with additional flavors and vegan options coming soon. At the bottom of each cup is a Cracker Jacks-inspired surprise-a sizable, sprinkle-covered chunk of edible cookie dough, with each SMiZE Cream flavor revealing a different cookie dough flavor and sprinkle combination. The cookie dough surprise acts as another reminder from Banks that those who dig deep are rewarded for their efforts.

Just like her SMiZE Cream characters, the flavors Banks’ chose to debut with are also close to her heart. For example, Chocolate Barbeque-a rich and smoky creation that evokes visceral memories of family picnics and long holiday weekends-was created in honor of Banks’ father. 

“Some of my favorite memories of Inglewood, California, are at home with my dad,” Banks said. “Every time I smell smoked meat, no matter where I am, I always think of my dad. I think so many people share similar experiences and I wanted to create a flavor that would bring up those sense memories.”

While the entire endeavor of opening her SMiZE Cream shop and preparing the brand for nationwide shipping has been a dream come true, Banks is especially proud to be unveiling a brick-and-mortar so close to her hometown of Inglewood. 

Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana
Photo by Massimo Campana

“It means everything to me,” Banks said, revealing that, “We have some stuff planned with Inglewood proper soon, but it was really important for me that the ice cream shop be in an accessible location for people who come from where I’m from.”

With inclusivity representing a cornerstone of SMiZE Cream’s mission, Banks wants everyone who enters the shop to feel welcome and seen.

“For people to come to an ice cream shop where the founder is Black, the mascot is Black, the fictitious family is Black, with non-binary characters… I’m so excited that people are going to be able to come here and have that,” she said.

But SMiZE Cream is about so much more than delicious frozen treats, catchy beats, and fun characters. The brand is only a reality because Banks was encouraged by people like her mother and able to partner with experts like Dr. Maya Warren to help her execute her vision. To ensure that others have similar resources to achieve their goals, she launched The SMiZE Goalz & Dreamz Factory and partnered with global mentoring platform Eldera to connect hopeful entrepreneurs with professionals with at least six decades of life experience. Those interested in taking advantage of the mentoring program are encouraged to submit their dream goal for consideration.

The most exciting part? SMiZE Cream is just getting started. Throughout the summer they’ll be launching pop-ups, have a big-name international collaboration coming up in August, as well as another flagship on the docket for 2022, and international franchises on the way. 

For those unable to visit the Santa Monica shop in person, SMiZE Cream is available for nationwide delivery, with each package arriving in a Creamz & Dreamz Box themed to SMiZE Cream’s mascot, DJ Splitz and her beats, plus unique AR experiences and other fun surprises.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist. 

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.