Word of Mouth

The Inside Scoop on Fifty Licks, Portland's Suddenly Hot Ice Cream Shop

With two locations and a killer affogato Cubano, Chad Draizin's spot is finally ready for its close-up.

By Karen Brooks June 12, 2017 Published in the July 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Fifty Licks’ blackstrap gingersnap ice cream with café Cubano

Image: Karen Brooks

Nine years ago Chad Draizin escaped to Portland from soul-killing south Florida, a place he calls “all about status.” The only things Florida had going for it? Good ice cream and Cuban coffee. So, inspired by Portland passion projects like Stumptown Coffee Roasters, he dreamed up his own ice cream company. (No matter that he’d only churned six batches total at home up to that point. Portland does that to you.) Early on, he grabbed a yellow pad and jotted down his goals for Fifty Licks: 1) Perfect texture. 2) Pure flavors—nothing can rely on novelty. 3) Delicious. It must be delicious.

He launched an ice cream truck in 2009, then opened a Clinton shop in 2013. Now, with a second location on East Burnside across from the Laurelhurst Theater, Fifty Licks is finally ready for its close-up. At 37, Draizin—a science nerd with an innate feel for flavor combos—has found the missing ingredient for his manifesto: consistency. His ice cream is almost gelato-like: textures concentrated and dense, flavors poised between surprise and familiar, and blessedly not too sweet. The days of waltzing into Fifty Licks may be over. Lines at the new shop are already to the door. Join the queue and order these must-have flavors.

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Chad Draizin with a double scoop of Blackberry Bomb

Image: Karen Brooks

Blackstrap Gingersnap

If you like the idea of licking a dark, peppery, molasses-hammered gingersnap, this is your chance. Draizin attacks ginger like a nose-to-tail butcher, incorporating dried ginger powder, juice, and crystallized bits—plus crushing in a secret stash of gingersnap cookies. 

Thai Rice

Jasmine rice gets the Fifty Licks treatment: milled in-house, oven-baked with half-and-half under sheets of pandan leaves, then churned into a cold, custardy, Thai rice pudding–like scoop

Any vegan flavor (really!)

Dairy-free scoops, four to six options daily, are as fanatically formulated as regular flavors, and no two alike. Coconut lemon saffron, lush and zingy, is a house signature for good reason, while the complexly spiced Pirate puts the swashbuckle in lactose-free, with roasted bananas and “flambéed Jamaican rum.”

Affogato Cubano

Café Bustelo coffee, the strong, sweet-bitter stuff loved by Miami’s old guard, gets the proper stove-top Cuban treatment here, the first splash of espresso whipped with little sugar. Pour it over any ice cream—perhaps boozy ButterScotch, the buzzy Water Avenue Coffee, or, damn, that blackstrap gingersnap. Even Tony Montana would crack a smile.

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