Salt & Straw changed everything.
Before that "farm to cone" product hit the streets, ice cream wasn't trendy. Gelato, maybe, for people into futbol and Vespas. But, in 2011, longtime marketing pro Kim Malek and her young cousin turned their Northeast Alberta Street shop into the new Voodoo Doughnut—but for out-of-towners wearing yoga pants instead of sweatpants and Raiders jerseys. The Maleks have three Portland shops with long lines for a scoop of pear and blue cheese, a massive industrial commissary kitchen off Southeast 7th Avenue, and plans to open in Los Angeles this month.
It's a once-in-a-decade success, and arguably the defining moment when Portland's brand transitioned from "weird" to "artisanalesque."
Has the success of Salt & Straw sparked a local ice-cream renaissance, as happened when Stumptown Coffee Roasters made Portland into a top-tier coffee town? We wanted to find out, so we set out to visit the newer scooperies in town. We found a few interesting new places, some with out-of-left-field flavors of ice cream, others with organic, artisanalesque froyo. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Eb & Bean
1425 NE Broadway, 281-6081, ebandbean.com.
A kombucha-sipping distant cousin of Salt & Straw, this new shop on Broadway is going for a health-conscious demographic and locavores. Eb & Bean is serious about the farm thing, buying its milk at family-run organic dairy farms within 100 miles of Portland. No hormones, no artificial sweeteners, no corn syrup. The look is contemporary modern: Flavors are listed on a big chalkboard, and a polar bear in stocking hat serves as mascot. You don't pay by weight, as at most froyo joints. Instead, build yourself a sundae ($3.75 small, $4.75 large) by picking a yogurt in fairly standard flavors like vanilla, chocolate, raspberry or coffee, then choosing toppings ($1 each, or unlimited for $1.75) from a long list that includes local honey, gummy bears and orange cardamom caramel corn. The only problem is the froyo, which lacks the flavor punch we've been conditioned to expect in a dessert. Everything we tried was surprisingly tepid in flavor, but we'd definitely try more. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Mix 'n' Match Creamery Cafe
2144 SE Oak Grove Blvd., Milwaukie, 971-678-5653, mixnmatchcreamery.com. Cart at Southwest 3rd Avenue and Ankeny Street open Friday-Sunday.
Mix 'n' Match is exactly like Bill Nye, except you can taste the science. The little shop—which first opened as a cart across from the Old Town Voodoo last summer, and as a Milwaukie creamery just this spring—uses liquid nitrogen to insta-freeze its cream, which means flavors are limited only by your imagination and the shop's stock of syrups and mixers. You want habanero ice cream with bacon? No problem. It'll be just a sec, plus $4, $6 or $7 for one to three scoops. You want cheesecake-flavored ice cream with tart raspberries fresh from the Oregon fields? They'll freeze that right up for you in a metal mixing bowl that brims with heavy vapor, as children peer gape-mouthed. Extra flavors are 50 cents, extra mixers 50 cents, which frees you to make your own terrible mistakes: French vanilla-grape Kahlua with mixed-in Sour Patch Kids, Twix and cashews. Worse things. Awful things. They don't care. With science, everything is possible, and some of it is terrifying to behold. For 50 cents, they'll even pack your ice cream with some extra nitrogen so you can drive it 20 minutes home in a car in 90-degree heat with no air conditioning and still have unmelted ice cream. Because science is magic. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
2021 SE Clinton St., 954-294-8868, fifty-licks.com.
Only a few blocks from Salt & Straw, you'd expect this cart-turned-shop to get some overflow traffic. Not really—people who want the Salt want it enough to wait as long as they need to. Fifty's scoops are handmade, and thus with limited but well-designed flavors. The Toasted Milk recalls the leftover milk from a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, while the Grapefruit Rosewater sorbet tastes like an iced and creamy version of the fruit. A bite of their Bourbon Cherry is indeed a lot like a shot of whiskey. Ask for bee pollen sprinkled over your cone of Blood Orange Creamsicle—or just combine drinks and dessert with a sorbet cocktail. KATHERINE MARRONE.
1650 NW 23rd Ave., 971-271-8756, twistfroyo.com.
Froyo shops can get pretty generic pretty fast. Most seem to have the same fruity flavors, with the same crushed Oreos and peanut butter cups scattering the countertops. Fortunately, Twist Frozen Yogurt & Coffee Bar takes it up a notch: Instead of just yogurt, it also offers coffee from local Ristretto Roasters and gluten-free, vegan pastries from Portland's Petunia's Pies and Pastries. It's cozy, too, with couches, a fireplace and Scrabble. Twist also offers what it calls "healthy" smoothies—though the "Super Green" (made with tart yogurt, fruit and spinach) didn't taste as "green" as advertised. All in all, if you find yourself with a hankering for a cup of your standard froyo and an espresso, this is a nice place. KATHERINE MARRONE.
Blackberry Yogurt Lounge
2137 E Burnside St., Suite C, 894-8205, blackberryyogurtlounge.com.
Blackberry is something of a throwback to old, weird Portland. Not in any calculated way, but just because this "yogurt lounge" definitely looks (and, oddly, smells) more like a hookah bar near a college campus, or the set of a late '90s Dandy Warhols video, with dark walls, trippy faux-classic paintings and translucent red plastic chairs. There is also, oddly, one of those gaudy YOGURT banners you see out in Gresham fluttering on lower East Burnside. The froyo, though, is quite like other froyo. MARTIN CIZMAR.