With our warm climate and enthusiasm for spicy food, Phoenix should have dozens of good ice cream shops — not just destination creameries that make their own product, but also small shops that just sell frozen treats. Unfortunately, these stores are scarcer than they should be. Maybe because it’s sometimes just too much trouble to drive to yet another destination for dessert. It’s therefore fitting that when independent ice cream outposts flourish, it’s often in walkable areas that allow effortless combination of a meal at one place with a stop for a cold treat a block or two away.
Melt, a small store just off Downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, fits that description. Its location on the bohemian block of Fifth Street between Roosevelt and Garfield puts it within walking distance of not only the Roosevelt / Central light rail station, but also the numerous restaurants of the surrounding Evans Churchill neighborhood. Like most of its neighbors in this artsy area, Melt has a look that might be described as shabby chic. Hand-painted signs identify the shop, and the small interior is filled with stickers and street art. The seating is all on the front patio.
Melt’s main supplier is Udder Delights, the kitchen and creamery associated with Superstition Farm. With Udder Delights located in Gilbert and the actual dairy farm situated in far southeast Mesa, neither is particularly close to Roosevelt Row, but this is an urban-suburban-exurban partnership that works well. There are two cases full of ice cream and sorbet flavors every day with plenty of rotating options to satisfy most palates. The counter staff can describe unfamiliar flavors and provide samples.
Some, like the source’s namesake Super Farm flavor, loaded with Nutella, are the same as they are in the East Valley. Others seem more specific to Melt. Gansito, vanilla with a Twinkie-like pastry mixed in with a bit of raspberry flavor, shows a Mexican influence. Some flavors are over the top. Cookie Monster not only contains bits and pieces of several popular supermarket cookie brands, but is also dyed blue to match the Muppet’s fur. Flavors such as lemongrass poppy seed and bourbon pecan are just as inventive but a bit more restrained in their level of sweet indulgence.
In the sorbets, the taste and texture of the actual fruit shines even more, whether the choice is mango or raspberry pomegranate. For a more savory style of sorbet, cucumber is sometimes available. All ice creams and sorbets are served in a style distinctive to Melt: a miniature Chinese restaurant takeout container in which the ice cream is topped with a fortune cookie. Cake and waffle cones are available, and for those who want to sample several flavors, a flight of five scoops is served in a muffin tin with the extra slot reserved for a fortune cookie.
Toppings are limited to just sprinkles and a few types of nuts. Don’t expect Melt to be like a pay-by-the-pound frozen yogurt shop with seemingly every variety of cereal, cookie, or fruit available on top of ice cream. Then again, with ice cream flavors incorporating cereals such as Fruity Pebbles, there’s already plenty going on within the frozen dessert itself. Shakes are available with any flavor of ice cream. The menu overhead lists a few more items such as nachos and mangoñadas, a Mexican fruit drink, but these items are often unavailable.
Parents and anyone easily offended should be aware that there is a bumper sticker near the cash register that uses some colorful language to describe a presidential candidate. Similar words are sometimes audible in the music played inside the shop (but not on the patio). There’s nothing here that will scar children for life, though, and a good sugar high is likely to overpower any awkward moments. Melt has its quirks, but they’re the kind that make it fit well on Fifth Street. As the summer heat approaches, Phoenix can always use more shops like Melt to help keep cool.
910 N. 5th St., Phoenix AZ 85004
Roosevelt / Central Station