The Shop: Salt & Straw
Location: Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA (with more coming soon)
You taste the large ice cream sample that the smiling staff has handed you. The first sensation is a deliciously creamy strawberry ice cream, with a subtle but perfect hint of balsamic vinegar. This taste is followed with a richer, sweeter strawberry jam swirl. Salt & Straw’s “Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper” is literally the best ice cream flavor you’ve ever had in your life. But now, the most difficult question you’ll face today: “What flavor should I pair with this?”
I recommend “Salted Almond Ganache”. Or “Freckled Chocolate Zucchini Bread”, if they happen to have it (it’s a seasonal special).
Yes, Salt & Straw is my favorite ice cream shop, hands down. What won my heart, my very favorite part of Salt & Straw, actually has nothing to do with the ice cream. It’s the incredibly friendly staff, specifically with offering samples. They will never rush you and they will genuinely encourage you to try as much as you want; I advise you to take advantage of it! I always make a habit of trying every seasonal flavor. Sometimes they come up to you while you’re still waiting in line to get some samples started.
The other best part of Salt & Straw is, of course, the flavors. They have crazy, unique flavors, and one which sounds weird might become your new favorite. The “Pear and Blue Cheese” generally surprises people, and the “Arbequina Olive Oil”, which melts on your tongue in rich deliciousness, has been named one of Oprah’s favorite things. They also have seasonal flavors which change every month. On my most recent trip, the seasonal theme was “Farmers Market”. I got the “Freckled Chocolate Zucchini Bread”, and the cinnamon and nutmeg spiced zucchini bread chunks mixed with the chocolate so perfectly that it was my favorite seasonal flavor of all time.
Salt & Straw predominantly uses local ingredients, and therefore their flavors are different in different cities. Of course, this is an excellent excuse for me to travel to other cities so I can try them all! My all-time favorite in Portland is the “Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper” (the black pepper is a trick to bring out the sweetness of the strawberries), and my favorite in San Francisco is “Peach Vinegar Cobbler with Toasted Nutmeg”.
If you go, you’ll be back. I’d give it three Michelin stars if I could- it’s worth a trip to the West Coast just to go to Salt & Straw.
The Good: Delicious, unique flavors and very friendly staff
The Not-so-good: Might not the be best for “normal”, one-ingredient flavors
Pro Tip: They have multiple locations in Portland, and the ones that aren’t downtown always have shorter lines. Go to a further away location, or go before 12:30, for a shorter wait.
Bottom Line: I go daily when I’m in a city with Salt & Straw. You should, too.