It’s 9:30 p.m. on a Monday night — a school night! — and the line at Salt & Straw in West Hollywood is 15 people deep. For the past hour, it’s been solidly 12 to 16 people deep. And this is one of the tucked away, tamer spots.
“You should see the lines at the other shops in LA,” a customer laughs, overhearing Delish’s producer, Chelsea Lupkin, mention how busy it is. Apparently, the one in Larchmont has a line that regularly juts out the door and around the block.
Salt & Straw has only been open six years, but in that time, it’s built a cult following. Its first store was 15 years in the making, as cousins Kim and Tyler Malek dreamed of opening their own scoop shop. After Tyler announced he was going to culinary school, the duo started planning out flavors and testing ideas, landing on unconventional blends that seemed worthy of a Portlandia sketch, like Pear & Blue Cheese, Freckled Woodblock Chocolate, and Arbequina Olive Oil.
It wasn’t long before the brand started expanding, from an initial shop in Portland to three, then another five shops in Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. With each new store comes a set of classic flavors (like the aforementioned Freckled Woodblock Chocolate), as well as a handful unique to that location. In West Hollywood, for example, you can try a scoop of Black Olive Brittle & Goat Cheese, Baked Alaska, or Truffle Mix-Up, a blend of strawberry, banana, truffles and marshmallow.
Beyond having flavors you can’t get anywhere else, many people in line said they were drawn to the shop because of the texture of the ice cream. It’s made in small batches of 5-10 gallons, using 17 percent butterfat in its base — instead of the usual 10 percent — making it creamier and heartier than the typical scoop.
Salt & Straw’s also being featured in the LA Food Bowl. Held throughout the entire month of May, the festival features a series of talks, cooking demonstrations, and endless opportunities to eat, eat, eat your way through the city. The ice cream company will be featuring a set of special flavors created in partnership with Food Forward, a nonprofit that uses surplus produce to feed those in need. You better believe the diehard fans will start lining up early to get a taste.