In just six years, innovative ice creamery Salt and Straw has become one of Portland’s top food icons, growing from a pushcart to three perpetually-mobbed stores throughout PDX (plus a soft-serve counter called Wiz Bang Bar) and five shops in Los Angeles, with two more in the works for San Francisco. Well, add Seattle to the list, as the latest expansion will bring co-founder and head ice-cream maker Tyler Malek back to his Seattle-area roots by mid- to late summer.
Salt and Straw will occupy prime real estate at the corner of E Pike St and Boylston Ave on Capitol Hill. It’ll join a cluster of businesses — including Redhook’s upcoming brewpub — in the major Pike Motorworks development. The spot is surrounded by windows, and Malek said it’s one of the more incredible spots he’s seen in a long time. “It’s an honor to have grown this quickly and have this opportunity to open in Seattle near where I grew up,” the Snohomish native told Eater. “There’s been so much growth, finding a lease in that neighborhood and building was amazing.”
Salt and Straw joins a neighborhood now teeming with highly regarded ice cream shops, from local chain Molly Moon’s to vegan newcomer Frankie and Jo’s, but Malek said the variety makes things more thrilling for him and his cousin/co-founder, Kim Malek. “We’re friends with a lot of other ice cream makers and they’re doing incredible things, and I think what we have is different from what Molly’s doing and Cupcake Royale’s doing,” he said. “Hopefully we can expand the market in the city.”
Salt and Straw is famous for changing its wild flavors every four weeks, pulling in everything from pear and blue cheese to fish sauce. What’s more, aside from a few evergreen flavors like sea salt with caramel ribbons, each city gets its own unique recipes, like LA’s avocado and strawberry sherbet.
The company also partners with dozens of culinary contemporaries, from big-name chefs to farmers to students (as in its April Student Inventors series), so don’t be surprised if last year’s Tom Douglas team-up, based on Dahlia Bakery’s legendary Triple Coconut Cream Pie, reappears at the Seattle store, for example. Rachel’s Ginger Beer has also been a frequent collaborator for the ice cream whizzes, and Malek has close ties with Cupcake Royale, where he said he helped get the ice cream program off the ground.
Malek refers to himself as a story hunter, seeking connections whose tales can be told through frozen cream and sugar. “When you come into our shop, it’s almost a reflection of the city, you get to taste and learn through the city through the ice cream, and we get to learn about the city with our creations,” Malek said. “It’s a bit of a lofty goal, but I think that’s why we’ve been successful with our recent growth in LA and the most critical part of how we’ll create our story in Seattle.”
Stay tuned for more as Salt and Straw pops up around town in the coming months and fights to open its first Washington store before Seattle’s summer season slips away.