Salt & Straw is an upscale ice cream scoop shop at Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney. In this review, we share photos, offer our take on the ambiance of Salt & Straw at Disneyland, and discuss whether it’s worth your time & money.
In terms of basics, Salt & Straw is an artisanal ice cream company with a handful of locations on the West Coast, with roots in Portland, Oregon. Salt & Straw has gained traction in the world of envelope-pushing ice creams by offering inventive flavors of handmade, small batch ice cream sourced from local, organic, and sustainable ingredients.
Our experience with Salt & Straw pre-Disneyland was in Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard, “the coolest block in America.” Between the flavors and the pricing, it’s easy to see why Salt & Straw is right at home in places like Abbot Kinney. Disneyland Resort is a less organic fit for the nascent ice creamery, but we’re very glad someone at Disney convinced them them otherwise…
Before we get to the characteristics of Salt & Straw that make it a different kind of ice cream, let’s talk basics. Salt & Straw is about a 10 minute walk from the Esplanade between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. It’s closer to the three Disney-owned hotels than it is the parks, but isn’t a particularly long or unpleasant walk from anywhere at the resort.
Of particular note, Salt & Straw is inside the Disneyland Resort security perimeter. This is significant because you don’t have to go through security again to access Salt & Straw or when you return to the parks. If you’re trying to get to Salt & Straw from one of the off-site hotels in Anaheim, you’ll have to go through security, which makes it less attractive of an option…unless you’re continuing on to the parks.
In terms of ambiance at Salt & Straw, there really isn’t any. The inside of this new location has been totally gutted and redone, and I think the initial press releases talked up the design. The exterior certainly looks cool, but the inside is mostly industrial. In any case, you’re going to be eating outside, so the ambiance is essentially that of Downtown Disney.
Now, let’s turn to the ice cream, which features a variety of flavors that…let’s just say are very Portland. These include options like Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies & Cream, Honey Lavender, Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, and Pots of Gold with Rainbows, Black Olive Brittle & Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese.
There are more conventional flavors, like Double Fold Vanilla, Gooey Chocolate Brownie, and Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons, but if you’re looking for something basic like chocolate, vanilla, or mint, you might want to look elsewhere. The whole point of Salt & Straw is its inventive flavors.
Over the course of our visits to Salt & Straw, we’ve tried a little over half the menu, including the various seasonal flavors. The one thing we found with some consistency is that these flavors are pretty much universally palate-dependent. As noted, Salt & Straw is not a purveyor of straightforward, crowd-pleasing flavors.
The way Salt & Straw mixes and melds savory, sweet, sour, etc., is masterful, and flavor combinations that have no business “working” are somehow exceptional. Without exception, we’ve found everything to be varying degrees of good. However, there has been almost no consensus between the two of us as to which flavors are good and which are holy cow that’s incredible.
The point here is that we don’t think it’s particularly useful to ‘review’ specific flavors at Salt & Straw. Try samples before ordering and go for what appeals to you most. You should be able to find one–or a few–that are holy cow that’s incredible to you. For what it’s worth, our absolute favorites are Honey Lavender and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper.
With that said, let’s talk price as this is certainly going to be a threshold issue for many people. Salt & Straw is not cheap. Single scoops are $6 and double scoops are $8. These prices are high even accounting for “Disney inflation.” This is about a $1-2 premium over Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street at Disneyland.
However, Salt & Straw is actually good ice cream that’s handmade from locally-sourced ingredients. Even if a flavor doesn’t quite hit the mark for you, the quality is readily apparent with Salt & Straw. You know you’re getting ice cream that took tremendous effort (and cost) to produce.
By contrast, Gibson Girl serves up the exact same Dreyer’s ice cream that you can buy from Target or Wal-Mart. Just like at those stores, you might even get freezer burned ice cream from Gibson Girl! If you like Dreyer’s, cool. I’m not an ice cream snob–any ice cream is better than no ice cream.
While I’ll eat whatever, I can recognize that not all ice creams are of the same quality. Dreyer’s isn’t in the same league as Salt & Straw. The two brands are barely even playing the same sport. The gap between Dreyer’s and Salt & Straw is more pronounced than that between a burger at McDonald’s and one at In-N-Out.
When it comes to value for money, I’d argue that Salt & Straw is far superior to Gibson Girl. Salt & Straw is pretty close to ‘market price’ for similar artisan ice cream in the Los Angeles area. Whether it be McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams (my personal favorite) or Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, these scoop shops are not cheap in the ‘real world’ either. By contrast, you can pick up an entire half gallon of Dreyer’s for less than the cost of a double scoop at Disneyland.
Overall, this might be unpersuasive to you, and you still might view Salt & Straw as a gimmicky ‘hipster thing.’ We’d implore you to at least give it a try, as we think Salt & Straw is far and away the best ice cream at Disneyland Resort, and an introduction to the burgeoning artisanal ice cream ‘scene’ in Los Angeles. The only real downside to that is it might cause you to take an impromptu trip to L.A. for a proper ice cream crawl. Scratch that, there’s no downside to such a glorious idea.
Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the Downtown Disney’s Salt & Straw? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!