When the idea for our month of ice cream, Scoops' out for Summer, was first floated, arts and culture editor Martin Cizmar called shotgun on frozen custard. He was shocked—shocked—to discover there isn't a single frozen custard shop in Portland. So we found him one in Milwaukie.
3650 Concord Road, Milwaukie, 659-1374, jgelati.com.
Price per scoop: $2.50 for small custard, $2 for small Italian ice
Most popular flavour: Mango gelati
The person in front of me: A woman of about 20, her father and a young man who appeared to be her suitor, possibly meeting her father for the first time.
Best for: Before a Bon Jovi concert.
j. Gelati advertises itself as "the first Italian ice and frozen custard shop in the Pacific Northwest." This boast could not be independently verified using our archival telephone books, but it certainly seems likely.
Start with the fact that the Milwaukie shop, housed in a strip mall on 99E, has the only local frozen custard stand in the Portland area (a Kansas chain has an outpost in Vancouver). I'm not sure why frozen custard—which has egg yolks, plus more fat and less air than regular ice cream—is conspicuously rare here, but it is. Portlanders generally love rich foods, and that dollop of protein from the egg yolks means custard is about as rich as frozen milk can get. Where I come from, it's the only dessert that can properly follow chicken and jojos.
Italian ice—dairy-free sorbet sweetened with fruit juice—is another rare bird in Portland. Gelati's flavors, which range from root beer to passion fruit, are light and crisp.
j Gelati's real oddity is combining them. You may forget about it, sir: no place else in Portland layers extra-thick custard with sorbet like they do in Philadelphia and South Jersey. If you're going to have gelati—not to be confused with totally unrelated gelato—you're going to have it here.
There are some other Philly touches—yo, check out dem mismatched signs and lack of recycling bins!—but Gelati is a pleasant little place. I ended up sitting out on the curb, eating a mix of chocolate custard and cherry ice that didn't quite work. I'd suggest youse either opt for custard alone, or stick to the clean vanilla matched with a bright, citric flavor of ice.
More Scoops' out for Summer
Day 6: Cool Harry's Yogurt
Day 5: Ohana Hawaiian Cafe
Day 4: Roses Ice Cream
Day 2: Oregon Ice Works
Day 1: What's the Scoop?