With a mix of Portland and Seattle flavors, Salt and Straw opens on Capitol Hill

At 4 AM, Portland is even closer to its bigger, richer Pacific Northwest sibling Seattle. It’s a good thing. The Salt and Straw delivery truck is coming through.

“Making it all in Portland, driven up every day, that was a huge decision for us,” Salt and Straw’s head ice cream nerd Tyler Malek tells CHS. Building a big, strong Rip City kitchen team gives Salt and Straw a center to its ice cream creation process and make hiring the best talent easier, Malek says.

Capitol Hill customers are getting their first scoops of the I-5-imported ice creams and frozen creations as the shop made its E Pike debut Friday at 11 AM. Ice cream for breakfast. Ice cream for lunch.

The Capitol Hill expansion of the Portland-born West Coast chain is the company’s second in the city. Ballard opened last week. Run by cousins Tyler and Kim Malek, S&S was born as a pushcart business and now operates shops in Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and, now, Seattle. It now employs more than 300 people. Both Kim and Tyler have Seattle roots — Tyler grew up in Snohomish and attended Western Washington University.

While Salt and Straw is planning to slow down its pace of expansion, it also undertook planning the Seattle shops as more scaled, uniform concepts with a shared look and feel based on the company’s roots as a pushcart mixed with some local elements. Portland firm Osmose Design collaborated collaborated with lighting designer Erich Ginder for the Capitol Hill shop’s large “crafted tapestry” light fixture.

The Capitol Hill Salt and Straw is located at the corner of Boylston and Pike — ten years ago, you would have been standing in line in a surface parking lot filled with new BMWs for sale. Fast forward, and the corner is now part of the massive, block-filling Pike Motorworks Development. Salt and Straw represents one of the last retail puzzle pieces to fill in the mixed-use project’s ground floor though there’s still one more empty space next door. The project’s anchor food+drink tenant debuted last summer as the Redhook Brewlab finally opened its delayed eight-barrel brewery and pub. You can expect Redhook and Salt and Straw to hook up on a new creation or two — they already know each other from projects involving Redhook big beer sibling Widmer Brothers, Malek said.

The Capitol Hill Salt and Straw opening will mark the second ice cream addition for the neighborhood in 2018. In January, Full Tilt and its pinball machines brought their game to 15th Ave E. Capitol Hill and the nearby’s now robust ice cream and frozen delights roster runs strong: Sugar Plum, Molly Moon’s (x2), Menchie’sOld School, Cupcake Royale, TroveRachel’s Ginger Beer, and even Chuck’s offer ice cream or frozen soft-serve. Kurt Farm Shop has set a high bar for ice cream deliciousness in Chophouse Row, plant-based ice cream shop Frankie and Jo’s debuted in late 2016, while the Central District Ice Company followed closely behindBluebird Ice Cream, meanwhile, is looking for a new Capitol Hill home.

The Seattle Salt and Straw scoop shops feature 17 flavors including the only S&S ice cream Tyler says he still chooses purely for pleasure — not R&D: Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons. Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache, and Honey Lavender round out the S&S “classics” the shop will start with in Seattle. Salt and Straw is also known for its “collaborations with regional artisans” — here in Seattle, the I-5 corridor will be transporting creations based on ingredients from Elm Coffee and Westland Whiskey, Beecher’s Cheese, Ellenos Yogurt, and Rachel’s Ginger Beer. New seasonal flavors are expected monthly.

Malek tells CHS the vegan sherbet creation made coconut and Rachel’s Ginger Beer is definitely worth a try for anybody looking for a lighter experience. “The Beecher’s,” meanwhile, “people are freaking out about,” Malek says, describing it as almost like a bite of spicy, savory cheesecake.

Single scoops will cost $4.95 and, yes, tips are accepted. While the Malek cousins have done everything they can to shape a business around higher wages, “tipping is a big part of it,” Malek said.

Like any good scoop shop, part of the experience at a Salt and Straw is the line. Malek, the ice cream expert, remember, offers two strategies for you to mix and match as needed.

In the first, you should savor your time. There’s no rush and Salt and Straw has been designed to accommodate you. “When you get up there, it’s like your time,” Malek said. If you like, sample the entire menu — Malek suggests following the menu’s flow as it’s written in a sort of “tasting order.”

The second strategy is for enjoying Salt and Straw on the run — especially with a large group. “Grab the pints, get the waffle cones, and go scoop it in the park,” Malek suggests.

Ultimately, the ice cream expert suggests a balance.

“I think like in life you should try both,” Malek said. Good suggestion.

The Capitol Hill Salt and Straw is located at 714 E Pike. It is open daily 11 AM to 11 PM.You can learn more at saltandstraw.com.

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17 thoughts on “With a mix of Portland and Seattle flavors, Salt and Straw opens on Capitol Hill

  1. Didn’t see the pricing for kids cones – or maybe they don’t allow that in Oregon ?

    A future column should compare ROI in journalism and ice cream…

  2. Note that this is a West Coast chain that started in Portland, with ambitions of national expansion. Their ice cream tastes as such. And $5/scoop? I don’t know how they expect to compete with other, established, local businesses.

    Try it if you want, but I’ll stick with Bluebird (RIP Pike location) or Cupcake Royale. Much better.

  3. I love these posts on local businesses and openings/closings. A great way to keep up on happenings in a fast-changing neighborhood. Not every post needs to be on depressing problems and intractable policy dilemmas. Sometimes it’s just good to have a summary of one’s ice cream options.

  4. I appreciate there being a mix of stories, and when new places open.

    If, like me, you are a bit over the obsession with fancy food, just do what I do. Don’t go to the shop. Easy! You can still get plain ice cream cones at Dick’s.

  5. Please keep posting stories like this. Unless reincarnation or second lives exist, I’ll never be opening a chain of ice cream shops. I think it’s interesting to read about small business owners going for it. 300 employees. 300 people with a job. I’d like to be optimistic about that, even though there will probably be a few replies arguing that all the employees are being exploited. There’s a lot we need to work on, but for a few minutes, let’s enjoy the ice cream. (I haven’t got a sweet tooth, so if I do get ice cream, I’ll probably go to Cupcake Royale)