Salt & Straw opened in 2011 with a food cart and four $16 used ice cream makers.
On Friday, the Portland-based purveyor of unusual ice cream flavors opens for the first time in Vancouver. The shop at Vancouver’s glitzy new waterfront is Salt & Straw’s 40th location nationwide.
“I remember the day we opened on Alberta 13 years ago, a lot of people came from Vancouver,” said Kim Malek, co-founder and CEO of Salt & Straw. Malek spent years searching for the right Vancouver spot.
“When I looked at this space the clouds parted and the angels were singing,” she said.
Malek was taken with the beautiful river view, the mix of nearby restaurants and the continuous foot traffic both day and night.
She founded the ice cream business to create a neighborhood gathering place in Portland’s Alberta Arts District and partnered with her cousin Tyler Malek to develop flavors. The company’s name is a nod to the early days of ice cream making in the United States, when cold water and rock salt sat under a churning barrel to cool sweetened cream. The finished product was wrapped in layers of straw to harden.
Salt & Straw now has storefronts in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas, as well as nationwide delivery.
The newest spot at 740 Waterfront Way opens Friday with free hot chocolate from renowned Portland chocolate maker Cloudforest, an appearance by Oswald the Clark College mascot, and live music from 6 to 9 p.m. The shop will sell scoops ($4.40-$7.95), flights ($15.50), pup cups ($3.75), spritzes of their edible culinary perfume (50 cents) and pints ($12) daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The Vancouver shop features Salt & Straw’s 13 West Coast classic flavors including Chocolate Gooey Brownie and Strawberry Honey Balsamic With Black Pepper. Their Dairy Free Decadence Series runs through January with five plant-based flavors including Marionberry Oatmeal Cobbler and Death by Chocolate Cake with a rich, nutty barley-milk base made with upcycled barley-rice protein from EverGrain, a subsidiary of AB InBev tasked with repurposing barley protein from beer production.
The sign on the back wall — “We Highly Recommend Tasting It All” — isn’t just window dressing.
“We do encourage tasting all the flavors,” said Tyler Malek, co-founder and head ice cream maker. “We’re selling the experience of tasting and talking. Our employees spend a lot of time learning about the flavors.”
Heading into 2024, Tyler Malek is developing flavors that go back to the core of the business by sourcing ingredients from brewers, chefs, coffee roasters, as well as other artisans and growers. He’s particularly intrigued by Oregon hazelnuts.
According to Kim Malek, every Salt & Straw storefront feels a bit different. She’s enthusiastic about the new scoop shop on the waterfront.
“The vibe here is epic, I think this ice cream shop wins for best view,” Malek said. “Disney has always been the most fun shop to work, but I think now it’s Vancouver.”