[San Francisco] Portland's Salt & Straw coming to SF

Hmmm… even though I’ve had Bi Rite’s several times, my memory might be tainted by more recent experiences with the far less good Three Twins version I’ve been getting at Gross Out. IIRC, compared to Bi-Rite’s, the salt is more prominent in S&S’s version, its silkier, not as homogenous (it has a ribbon of caramel), and the caramel is less assertive. I think I prefer S&S’s version, and thought the same when I was in Portland, but I’d want to do a side by side at some point.

I visit the one on Larchmont in LA fairly frequently. Their single scoops are $4.90 and it’s $10.50 for a pint. I can’t imagine it’d be any cheaper here. I like their ice cream a lot, though I’m not a big ice cream guy. Their seasonal flavors tend to be more memorable. I never feel like going back to Bi-Rite and only end up there if someone else wants to.

I probably shouldn’t say I grew up in a time and place when ice cream was a nickel a scoop. Maybe not “artisanal” but it was made on site.

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Even more? the salt in Bi-Rite’s is already quite prominent to me…

S&S has a split scoop. For $1 extra they allow you to get 2 flavors in kid sized portions. It ends up being much more economical and allows you to get 2 flavors without pigging out on a double scoop. Plus it’s like Chipotle when you get 2 half scoops of meats but it ends up being more meat than 1 scoop. The people who work at the S&S down in LA area are very generous and the scoops and 2 split scoops are plenty.

So, I am 45 and things have changed a lot even since what I remember of my youth. I marvel at how prices have increased and count myself lucky that I can still afford things like this. It’s crazy here, no question. I’ve traveled extensively internationally starting in 2008. At the beginning I did feel that stuff was expensive abroad, but in recent years, everything seems cheap compared to mid-to-high end restaurants in the bay area. With the possible exception of Switzerland.

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USD vs Yen, Euro, GBP, etc… has been exceptionally strong these past few years. Wife and I have been very pleased at what we need to spend in countries that have previously been known to be “expensive”.

Prices for food and beverage mid to upper tier in the Bay Area are unsustainable. Unfortunately, rents and labor costs are too high. New restaurants just come and go, turnover is probably greater than the national average.

Anyone been yet? Single is $5. Double is $7.

The line of people outside the door had around 15 people at 2:30 PM today, a Tuesday afternoon. Maybe another time…

I went over the weekend. A double-scoop ($7) with waffle cone ($1.25) for Olive Oil w/ Lemon Custard and Roasted Strawberry with Tres Leches. My friend’s scoops were more successful - the Cinnamon Ancho and the Carmelized Almond S’More.

Maybe it’s just not my thing - mine was too sweet and I actually only ate half. Yes, I was probably the only one to throw mine away half uneaten after waiting 1.54 hours. The problem with mine was that the lemon custard and the roasted strawberry was like eating macerated fruit, or fruit jam, with dense cream. It was too much. The texture is very dense, but I didn’t taste the olive oil, and overall just too sugary. The waffle cone is excellent, though.

We waited for 1.5 hrs - just before 9:30pm until just before closing (11:00pm). Skip the line and go grab a pint! But that’s why the line takes so long, people do that and go straight to the sole cashier. So, customers who just got their ice cream scooped have to wait, and it holds up the line. They really need two cashiers - one dedicated for the take-out pints.

Completely empty at 11:30 on a chilly Sunday morning.

The base is smooth, not sticky or dense. Salt notable in a few flavors in and I suspect is responsible for the texture.

For me, palate fatigue kicks in quickly for savory/novel ice cream flavors so the four ice cream flight is the way to go. Also, samples can be misleading because it is difficult to get all the components in one spoonful for some of the flavors.

Out of 12 flavorswe tried, not everything was successful but nothing was out right gross. I’m excited to see them partnering with local businesses like dandelion chocolate, but disappointed that they haven’t connected with any restaurants like they do in Portland (e.g. Pok pok)

Favorites

  • Chocolate zucchini bread: like zucchini bread ala mode—zucchini bread showed no signs of deterioration from freezing. Chocolate bits taste like single origin chocolate.

  • Roasted strawberry tree leches: a+. matches my nostalgic ideal, rather than reality, of McDonald’s strawberry parfait. Creamy, acidic and not too sweet soft strawberries.

  • Green fennel maple: tame fennel. maple flavor not discernible, but puts ice cream into better balance than herbal/spiced ice creams at Tara’s or Xanath. Palate cleanser, or good on its own.

  • Coffee and chocolate

  • Baobab juice: vegan, so coconut milk base was icy. Unlike SO coconut ice cream or Garden Creamery, coconut flavor thankfully in backdrop, with baobab taking the lead. Reminded me of a ginger beer float

would get again

  • Peach vinegar cobbler with nutmeg: another full fledged dessert that transcends ice cream. Tough to get perfect mixture of flavors in a single spoon, but achievable.

  • Eggplant honey custard: bitter assertive flavors of eggplant work well when tamed in sweet environment.

wouldnt get again, but had positive points

  • Honey lavender: honey distracted from hand soap association I normally have with lavender.

  • Olive oil and lemon custard: one bite of lemon custard was magical, but olive oil added nothing detectabl and no one else could taste custard in scoop. Oddly tasted woody, like a popsicle stick.

  • Chocolate date shake: date flavor poory distributed.

  • Double fold vanilla: unremarkable.

  • Sea salt caramel ribbons: physical separation of salty caramel and cream is desirable, but too salty

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Completely empty at 11:30 on a chilly Sunday morning

Coals to Newcastle effect.

That was my initial thought, but there was a line out the door by noon! Bi-rite and Boba Guys also had a surprisi long lines today considering Outside lands and the gloomy weather.

Line around the corner for $5-a-scoop meh!-quality ice cream. Welcome to what’s become of San Francisco.

Got a chance to drop by the new Hayes Valley location yesterday. No line at 11:30am on a very warm Tuesday. Agree with the assessment above on the Peach Vinegar Cobbler. It was really superb and a nice balance between sweet and sour. I was wondering if they increased the milk fat content somehow for that flavor as it seemed impossibly creamy to my taste.

I also tried a couple of their rotating flavors: one with blood pudding and another with mealworms and crickets on a matcha base (both Halloween-inspired flavors). The blood pudding flavor was legitimately interesting. I noted a good deal of salt and umami, and even a little Full English effect within the creamy sweetness of the cream. Certainly nothing I’ve tasted before. Sadly the cricket ice cream was less interesting. It was basically a good matcha ice cream with crunchy texture. More of a gimmick, but worth getting if you’re into that particular gimmick.

Everything I tried was good, but I’m a little lost on why one would wait more than a few minutes in line for it. It’s very good ice cream, but that’s it.

The Hayes Valley location is open.

I returned to the Fillmore location today and tried their five limited edition flavors.

The high sweetness, saltiness, and slight slight taffy-like consistency jumped out at me. Curious about the consistency, I looked at the ingredients, and learned they include tapioca syrup, guar gum, and carrageenan.

With the exception of the Meyer Lemon Meringue, the limited edition flavors didn’t feel integrated and seemed more like random flavored stuff suspended in ice cream base. I did like the corn flavored bits in the Sweet Corn and Waffle Cone favor, which tasted good within the creamy surrounds.

Have you tried Garden Creamery yet? They have interesting flavors and not crazy sweet. I checked Shakedown on Geary and it’s temporarily closed, I wonder what happened.

I can’t remember specifics, but remember liking everything I’ve had there, including coconut-based ice cream. I’ve had the chimney cone on my bucket list since reading your post about it!

Salt & Straw also opened in Burlingame. The Dracula Blood made with pigs blood seemed kind of gimmiky but it actually works. I ended up getting honey/lavender which was pleasant and milky, the lavender present but not overwhelming and tenfold better than the cloying perfumey version at Bi-rite, which is an ice cream shop I just do not get the appeal of. The waffle cup cone was ok, not particularly different or distinguishable from the standard issue. They don’t do the simple flavors like chocolate or vanilla , mint etc. That’s probably a good thing because you could get a good version from McConnells or Jeni’s at the local supermarket. I usually never go for the unique flavors, but I’m going to say Salt & Straw lives up to the hype for me, they do that niche pretty well based on the limited flavors I tried. I usually I find creativity in ice cream gimmicky and misses the mark or is just downright disgusting. The blood ice cream tells me they know they’re thoughtful at what they’re doing.

If you’re going to the Burlingame shop, go after 6p on a weekday. (just went right now) Busy, but only a couple people ahead of me. A half an hour earlier, the line was out the door. On weekends, probably forget about it. It’s open til 11p.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

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