22 Below is a unique ice cream shop that you’ll want to experience for yourself. Instead of scooped ice cream, 22 Below makes traditional Thai-style rolled ice cream. The owners, Kady Chen and her fiancé Yao Zhang came up with the idea while they were traveling abroad a couple years ago. After searching for a place to set up shop, they moved into the Valley River Center next to the movie theater last April.
Their rolled ice cream is made right in front of you by freezing liquid cream on a pan that is chilled to -22 degrees Celsius, hence the name 22 Below. The cream is folded together then spread out into a flat square. Once cold and soft, the ice cream is shaved off the surface of the pan into beautiful spirals and served in a bowl. The ice cream is also lactose-free, but you would never be able to guess from the taste of it.
In terms of flavors, 22 Below uses a vanilla base, or chocolate upon request, and allows you to choose from a selection of combined add-ins that are crushed and folded into the ice cream.
“We try and come up with as many new flavors as possible every week, and we discover a lot of flavors that a lot of places don’t have,” Chen said. “A really neat thing about this is that you can mix anything in.”
On top of the mixed-in flavors, you’re given the choice of whipped cream, chocolate, or caramel sauce, and three additional toppings for no extra charge.
If you’re not in the mood for ice cream, 22 Below also offers fresh crepes, cotton candy, and Italian sodas.
“Our focus is definitely an ice cream shop, but we also wanted to offer things that you don’t find anywhere else in the mall, that people would enjoy,” Chen said. “We make fresh cotton candy to order and a lot of kids and adults love it.”
The location has a full-wall chalkboard and a pail of colorful chalk for people to draw whatever they’d like. Zhang said that the chalkboard was his idea and that it will be a staple of future 22 Below shops. Chen and Zhang said that they have a new shop planned to open in Salem later this summer and that they are also looking at locations in Portland to hopefully open a shop there before the end of the year.
“Whenever there is something new or exciting it’s always in the big city, it’s never in Oregon,” Chen said, “so bringing something here is not just for me…everyone’s going to be able to enjoy it.”