With our warm climate and enthusiasm for spicy food, Phoenix should have dozens of good ice cream shops. Unfortunately, these stores are scarcer than they should be. Maybe because it’s sometimes just too much trouble to travel 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 cart parked outside of the Jobot coffee house on Roosevelt Row, fits that description.
Melt’s location on the ground floor of the Roosevelt Point apartment building 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. Bike racks are found right in front of Jobot, as well in the Roosevelt Point parking garage, which is in the back of the building. In addition to Jobot’s dining room, Melt has a few tables of its own along the sidewalk. If those are full, the underutilized Shadow Play art installation across the street offers another place to sit.
Like its bigger sibling Jobot, Melt relocated from Fifth Street. With that move, the shop was forced to downsize, reducing its palette of flavors and add-ons while still retaining some variety. Because Melt’s small size limits its ability to offer toppings, its flavors often incorporate bits of pastry and fruit, providing contrast in both taste and texture. Apple pie, strawberry shortcake, and blueberry muffin are flavors where the “a la mode” tradition of adding a scoop of ice cream to pastry is inverted, with the ice cream coming first and the pastry playing a supporting role.
In the sorbets, the taste and texture of the actual fruit shines even more, whether the choice is mango or raspberry pomegranate. The mango flavor is taken to another level entirely in a mangonada, in which the sorbet is combined with tangy and salty flavors of chamoy, peanuts, and tamarind. For a more savory sorbet, cucumber is usually 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 also available.
Melt doesn’t offer shakes and sundaes, but it does feature two specialty items that take advantage of Jobot’s presence behind the ice cream stand. One is a donut sandwich, essentially an ice cream sandwich in which the frozen layer is placed between two halves of a cake donut rather than two cookies. It’s a decadent treat that works well with a flavor like blueberry muffin. The other is an affogato, a scoop of ice cream floating in a glass of espresso. Vanilla or salted caramel seem ideal for this caffeinated mix of sweet and bitter tastes.
Basic flavors like chocolate and vanilla are usually available, but never guaranteed. it’s best to approach Melt with an open mind and a willingness to try flavors like Gansito, which incorporates bits of the Mexican equivalent of Twinkies, or Cocoa Pebbles, dappled with the sugary cereal it is named for. Operating from a cart on the sidewalk, Melt isn’t trying to offer 31 flavors, extensive toppings, or complicated creations. It is, however, a welcome bit of sweet and cool relief right along the street in one of Phoenix’s most pedestrian-focused areas.
333 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix AZ 85004