Confession: At one point in my life, self-serve frozen yogurt comprised roughly half my diet. This sweet phase eventually ended when I went vegan and realized my abundant topping and flavor options had suddenly shrunk to one sickeningly sweet, chemical-y Jolly Rancher concoction and a few sad slices of unripe fruit.
When the Maple Parlor opens in the former Swirl space on Hawthorne this summer, I may well revert to my froyo-only (froyonly?) diet—but this time, it will be plant-based, all-natural, Northwest-sourced, and, presumably, even more delicious.
Here’s five reasons why you should get excited about this self-serve sundae bar:
1. No science lab-sounding additives.
As the New York Times reported, Original Pinkberry frozen yogurt includes 23 ingredients from propylene glycol esters to sodium acid pyrophosphate to maltodextrin—and most froyo spots are no better. In contrast, the Maple Parlor promises a healthful, whole-foods approach with recognizable ingredients like butter, cashews, and maple syrup.
2. Inclusive menu that accommodates all diets.
Eight rotating soft-serves will all be made in-house: five from organic dairy, and three from vegan-friendly coconut milk. Decadent potential flavors include cashew milk maple syrup and browned butter with crème brulee shards, as well as the classic super tart.
Toppings also cater to any diet, from vegan to Paleo to low-glycemic. Expect house-made pistachio praline, ginger lemon curd, and avocado mousse, as well as collaborations like Stevia-sweetened chocolate from Seattle’s Lily’s Chocolate, gluten-free goods from Kyra’s Bakeshop in Lake Oswego, Asian pear compote made from Hood River produce, and nuts sweetened with Bee Free Honee. Also on the menu: Jade Bistro’s vegan sesame balls and baklava crumble from a local Lebanese baker.
"This is what you deserve to feed your kids," says founder April Eklund.
3. A veteran Portland restaurateur at the helm.
A native Portlander, Eklund has worked in local restaurants since her preteen years, and opened Sellwood’s Jade Bistro with her family in 2008. After six and a half years running front-of-house at Jade, Eklund is striking out on her own, leaving her parents and brother to run the bistro. (Jade's coconut ice cream will be revamped for the Maple Parlor's menu.)
4. Self-serve style.
Unlike Portland’s other artisan froyo shop, Eb & Bean, the Maple Parlor puts the serving spoons in the hands of their customers, allowing eager patrons to pile on as many toppings as they can cram into the sundae bowl. Prices will be between one and two times the standard price per ounce at spots like YoCream—so as long as you keep your child from making a mountain of chocolate-covered strawberries, you should end up okay.
5. Old-school fun.
Inspired by childhood birthdays at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, Eklund hopes to create a space that feels “familiar to all ages by evoking the nostalgic, friendly atmosphere of sundae shops of yesteryear. Décor will center on found pieces from Portland’s past, like a lit marquee from an amusement park and a wall of 999 antique silver spoons.
(A word about those spoons: Kickstarter backers who join the “Spoon Social Club” will have their names engraved on a spoon, and receive invites to taste preview parties and an annual vaudeville dance party bash. Club members will also receive a Golden Ticket on their birthdays, which earns them access to a “Sundae Fish Bowl” that serves 4-6, inspired by Farrell’s similar gimmick.)
The Maple Parlor is slated to debut in the ideal ice cream month of July. In the meantime, catch the first annual vaudeville dance party at Oaks Amusement Park on Friday, April 24, and watch the Kickstarter video below for more details.