As summer finally arrives in Portland with glorious sunny days and uninterrupted blue skies, it’s time for Portlanders to make some tough decisions about how to best enjoy our blissful bit of summertime. Neighborhoods Notes did some rough research and tedious taste-testing to provide you with a short list of the best ice cream in town for the perfect accompaniment to a warm July afternoon.
Ruby Jewel Scoops
If you haven’t tried an ice cream sandwich from Ruby Jewel Scoops on N Mississippi Avenue, you haven’t truly tasted summer. With grown-up ice cream flavors in a package reminiscent of a summer day from your childhood, the sandwiches can’t be beat. You can select your cookie of choice (including a lemon gluten-free option) and the filling of your choosing. NN highly recommends the to-die-for caramel with salted chocolate ice cream packed inside two double chocolate cookies. Just rule out any ambitious activities afterwards as Ruby Jewel’s ice cream sandwich has a Thanksgiving-like effect on your motivation level. Another delightful treat for the elevated taste bud is the honey lavender ice cream sprinkled with rosemary pecans.
Ruby Jewel Scoops, 3713 N Mississippi Avenue, 503.505.9314
Salt & Straw
Salt & Straw is a budding “farm-to-cone” ice cream company with a cart parked on 18th and NE Alberta Street and a scoop shop set to open mid August on 22nd and Alberta. On a hot Saturday afternoon, people were lined up to try the tempting concoctions dreamt up by the owner and head ice cream maker, cousins Kim and Tyler Malek. The name Salt & Straw is a nod to the traditional method of making ice cream by hand with rock salt by stashing the mixture in ice and insulating it with straw. With that homage to tradition taken care of, Salt & Straw sees it fit to diverge from the old-school notion of ice cream. With adult-minded flavor combinations, Salt & Straw offers a well-rounded experience for grown-up taste buds. Their creamy concoctions include honey balsamic strawberry with cracked black pepper, pear with blue cheese, melon and coppa (ham), and brown ale with bacon.
Laura Barber had come to get her daughter an ice cream cone and couldn’t resist trying the brown ale with bacon ice cream.
“It’s analogous to having the stick of gum that Willy Wonka created. You know, you can get the entire meal in a stick of gum. They have managed to transcend all the different portions of the meal and combine it into one easy-to-eat serving of ice cream. It’s perfect,” she said of the experience.
Salt & Straw, 1725 NE Alberta
The Fifty Licks ice cream truck may be getting kind of famous, but that doesn’t mean it’s too busy to roam around Portland’s city streets to bring their top quality ice cream to the masses. When the Fifty Licks ice cream truck driver (and owner) Chad Draizin arrived as an extra on the set of a Wild Flag music video, the truck was asked to be in the video. Since its debut, the Fifty Licks ice cream truck has been asked to appear in the second season of Portlandia by Carrie Brownstein (who is in Wild Flag) and to be in an episode of the locally shot TV show Leverage.
While the ice cream truck is off getting famous, Fifty Licks fans will be glad to know that they can still enjoy their favorite ice cream at the cart parked at the food cart pod on SE 43rd Avenue and SE Belmont Street.
Fifty Licks offers simple, balanced flavors by making the most of the best local ingredients and international spices. With ice cream made with coffee from the iconic Stumptown and their Slabtown whiskey flavor made with booze from the House Spirits Distillery, Fifty Licks keeps Portland beverages as ice cream flavors locked down.
Fifty Licks also knows how to incorporate the best from abroad into the mix with a surprisingly complex Tahitian vanilla and their decadent (and dairy free!) coconut lemon saffron sorbet made with cardamom and star anise. This ice cream, made with coconut milk, is NN’s top pick for a cold cow-free treat.
Fifty Licks, 4265 SE Belmont Street
Scoop is an ice cream truck stationed at the North Station food cart pod on N Killingsworth and N Greeley that opened in April of 2010. Their signature flavor, salted caramel, beats out the other salted caramel ice creams that can be found around town. The just-right combination of sweet and salty is a winning balance that makes it Scoop’s top seller. Scoop utilizes seasonal ingredients to support local businesses. They will be participating in the “Taste of the Market” event at Pioneer Courthouse Square throughout the summer, where vendors offer food made from the bounty of local farms. With their espresso flavor made from Trailhead coffee beans and their fruit sourced from Groundworks Organics, Scoop is creating tantalizing ice creams with home-grown goodness.
Scoop, 2730 N Killingsworth Street
Cool Moon Ice Cream
In Northwest Portland, Cool Moon is the resident handmade ice cream shop with over 28 flavors to choose from, including four non-dairy options. Their long list of flavors brings about an air of international flair. Lychee sorbet sits alongside Thai iced tea ice and black sesame-flavored ice cream reminiscent of some trip to Asia. Their kulfi flavor is a nod to an Indian dessert made from pistachio and cardamom with a splash of rosewater. Saffron sunshine, Saigon cinnamon and spicy Thai chili (made with coconut, chili and hot peanut and hot chili—wow) will transport you to another land with every lick of your ice cream cone.
Cool Moon Ice Cream, 1105 NW Johnson Street, 503.224.2021
But don’t take it from us! Set out on your bike and do some taste testing of your own. How to better spend a hot July day in Portland?