Like so many food trends, ice cream has gone hipster gourmet in this town. Has it done the same in yours too?
To date we have at least a half dozen specialty gourmet ice cream shops in Portland proper serving up exotic flavors like Bacon Kale Eggplant Cardamom Meatball Sub and Toasty Pine Nut Kale Yam Blood Pudding Bacon.
Totally kidding about those particular flavors.
But, you get the idea: ice cream artisans taking everyday savory ingredients mixed with sweet. We're being asked to stretch our palates, folks. And in some cases, I think a bit too far. At way too much of a hit to our wallets.
But then, there's Fifty Licks.
What started as a mobile cart (aka food truck) sensation in 2010 blossomed into two trucks plus a brick & mortar storefront ice cream shop that opened in August of 2013.
As soon as you approach the shop on SE Clinton, a velvety cloak of sugar and sweetness gently drapes over your shoulders and pulls you in with its intoxicating hints of gluten-free waffle cone goodness. I exaggerate not, people. I entered on a cold, rainy day and believe it or not, this ice cream shop was a cozy, warm, fun antidote to the night's cool temps.
When you visit, chances are, Fifty Licks owner Chad Draizin will be there to greet you. Draizin is an energetic and passionate entrepreneur. As he shares his story behind opening Fifty Licks, and as he dives into detailed discussion about how he created each flavor, you realize he is part mad scientist (in the best possible definition of the word), part genius, part kid in a candy -err, ice cream- shop.
Draizin, a South Florida native, warmed up our group with some incredibly toasty Cuban coffees.
What I like about Fifty Licks compared to other ice cream shops:
- it's small but in a warm, cozy way
- the branding is minimal and gorgeous
- the flavors aren't I-Dare-You-To-Eat-This insane but rather thoughtful concoctions of creative tastiness
- and they have a cocktail menu.
Wait: that last one. Say what?
Yep. The sign is correct: Pints to go, ask about COCKTAILS.
Fifty Licks is an ice cream shop that not only serves cocktails, but carefully crafted cocktails that are enhanced by Fifty Licks' current ice cream and sorbet flavors.
My two faves:
- the Bitter Rose: scoop of Grapefruit and Rose sorbet with orange bitters and Cocchi Americano Rosa
- the Nordic Palmer : a scoop of RI Style Frozen Lemonade with Sparking Iced Tea Mead
Ice Cream + Sorbet Flavors & Toppings
Like most Portland establishments, Fifty Licks rotates its flavors each season. Right now, you can choose from eight different ice cream flavors, including a very fall-friendly Caramelized Apple, and five sorbet flavors, including my fave: the Rhode Island Style Frozen Lemonade. Because Draizin and his team use simple ingredients with no fillers, you get an incredibly smooth, velvety texture. This is what ice cream should taste like. It's divine.
You also have your choice of additional toppings, which also rotate but currently includes classic faves like Ovaltine (ahh brings back memories from my childhood!) and potato chips (hellooo sweet + salty!).
If you like spicy, try the ghost pepper topping. Warning: if you've never had ghost pepper, these tiny little dots look innocent, but they are H-O-T and spicy! But then again, I am a spice wimp. If you love spicy + sweet, you'll love the combo of ghost pepper on your ice cream (pictured below)!
You can also get bee pollen as a topping, which provides a very unique texture to the ice cream... I liked it, and then I didn't like it... but I liked it enough to keep digging my spoon in for more in order to decide. ;) (bee pollen topping pictured below)
So in a sea of innovation which breeds imitation which breeds more deliciousness than often one city can handle, I give big props to Fifty Licks. Draizin's passion for the true science behind making high quality, delicious ice cream is infectious, and he's been doing it in this town longer than most of his competitors. I like that his flavors aren't in your face nor are they made for shock value or novelty, but rather for creativity and quality.
In the end, I'm a boring old purist foodie and my favorites are the classics, which Fifty Licks does exceptionally well. Like all of their items, they are made with the finest, purest ingredients.
I took a pint of Tahitian Vanilla for the kids and Stumptown Coffee for me after this visit (which I enjoyed with boring ol' toppings of dark chocolate chips. YUM). The Tahitian Vanilla was gone in a flash.
2021 SE Clinton
Portland, OR 97202
Hours: Sunday - Thursday 3-10pm; Friday-Saturday noon - 11pm
Thanks to Fifty Licks for treating me and a group of Portland food bloggers to complimentary tastings of their products, with absolutely no obligation to post. As always, the content on this blog is 100% my opinion and mine alone. I only write about content that I personally believe in and think you might be interested in.