Salt and Straw, known for its unconventional flavors, round-the-block lines, and Disneyland eateries, is about to start scooping in Las Vegas. Early next year, the Portland, Oregon-based ice creamery will open a shop inside the UnCommons shopping and dining complex in southwest Las Vegas. There, visitors will get their hands on flavors like strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper, spiced goat cheese pumpkin pie, and salted, malted, chocolate chip cookie dough.
Co-founder and head ice cream maker Tyler Malek started selling ice cream via pushcart with his cousin over 10 years ago in Portland. “We started using our ice cream to talk about stories around the city. And so it was really just like, these fun ways to integrate unique ingredients,” says Malek.
For Salt and Straw’s strawberry ice cream, for instance, Malek combined strawberries from a local farmer, vinegar from a fourth-generation beekeeper, and imported black pepper. He sampled some 60 different salts from a Portland salt shop before making his sea salt with caramel ribbons ice cream. And he tracked down an award-winning blue cheese maker in Oregon for his pear and blue cheese flavor. “I’ve got a couple flavors that might be a little provocative,” says Malek. “I love provoking conversation with ice cream.”
The Salt and Straw menu rotates regularly, with five of the 20 or so flavors swapping out each month. In October, Salt and Straw blends its own versions of Kit Kats, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Snickers, and Heath Bars into a salted butterscotch ice cream for its Great Candycopia flavor. And then there’s the flavor with insects. “I love this idea of using these flavors to kind of just be a little creepy and kind of like push you out of your comfort zone a little bit,” says Malek. He sources the bugs from a Bay Area bug farmer to make the Creepy Crawly Critters flavor, which has a matcha ice cream base with coconut-candied mealworms and chocolate-covered crickets. “She was one of the first bug farmers in the country,” says Malek. “And she now is making all of these candied edible bugs for us.”
For November, Malek is already planning the Thanksgiving menu takeover at shops along the West Coast and Florida in which all the typical Thanksgiving dishes — including the turkey— will be represented in ice cream flavors. January will introduce a seasonal menu of vegan ice creams. “My hill to die on is to prove that vegan ice cream can and should be more delicious than non-vegan ice cream,” says Malek. Classic flavors that Las Vegas can expect include the Arbequina olive oil with its surprisingly complex and almost tropical flavor, the herbaceous honey lavender, and the Ooey Gooey Brownie with fudge-like brownie pieces.
Malek plans to staff the Las Vegas Salt and Straw with 10 to 18 people so that visitors can sample two or three or 20 flavors before placing an order. When it opens sometime in early 2023, the shop’s interior will feature lots of wood and tactile elements. “We feel like we want the same hand-madeness of the ice cream to kind of be conveyed in the design of the shop,” says Malek. At the UnCommons (6880 Helen Toland Street), Salt and Straw is located between what will be Nicole Brisson’s Amari, the Nikkei restaurant Kaiyo, and the now-open Urth Caffe. “That’s how they talked us into coming out here and making it our first-ever Las Vegas location,” says Malek.
Malek’s wheels are already spinning in regards to what a Las Vegas flavor would look like. There’s always the Vegas standby: prime rib and 99-cent shrimp cocktail. “Prime rib might be fun,” Malek says. “Horseradish might be okay?” He floats the idea of an all-you-can-eat prime rib ice cream. Maybe it’s topped with edible gold. Maybe if you finish the gallon, it’s free. “Or 99 cents,” he says.