What is rolled ice cream and why is it so darn-tootin’ delicious? This creative concoction took root less than 10 years ago in Thailand, where street vendors would pour an ice cream base or milk onto a steel plate chilled to below freezing. The recipient’s choice of chocolate, fruit, nuts or syrups are then added, chopped and stirred into the milky mixture as it crystallizes into a creamy ice cream form, which is spread thin across the steel plate. The ice cream artists then glide their metal spatulas under the sheet, roll up the ice cream into small scrolls of creamy goodness, arrange them in a cup and top with a delightful assortment of Pocky sticks, whipped cream, cookies, sprinkles and more.
Hannah and Greg Slamen discovered this mesmerizing process on an online video, and given their longtime dream of opening an eatery, their minds were blown. Fireworks went off. Alarm bells sounded. “At the time no one was doing it in Birmingham. We loved how fresh it was and that you could customize each order as your customers’ ice cream was being made,” says Hannah. Add in Greg’s vision of a hangout where live music might play on the weekends while kids savored ice cream and adults enjoyed a beer or wine — and Lucky Cat Rolled Creams was born.
Greg, an IT manager at Big Communications, and Hannah, a California native who came to Birmingham on a synchronized swimming scholarship at UAB and more recently worked in the nonprofit sector, set about making their dream a reality. They are currently working on the “adult libations” side of the dream, hoping to have their liquor license in March, when they will serve beer, wine, champagne and sake. But for now, the duo is impressing Birmingham palates with their creative rolled ice cream creations.
“We believe less is more,” says Hannah. “We wanted a simple menu that will rotate seasonally.” So, they source their ingredients from local vendors as much as possible with their ice cream base from Working Cows Dairy and ingredients like Fudge Family Farms bacon, Forest Bear Bakery cookies, and Better Kombucha kombucha. “Our vanilla isn’t local, but comes from my home state of California and is 100% organic Madagascar vanilla, and our Maja rolled ice cream features Taza’s Stone Ground Chocolate,” says Hannah.
These organic, artisan ingredients are the building blocks for their wildly creative rolled cream creations. The current crowd favorite is the Trolley Car, a vanilla ice cream base with Ghirardelli chocolate and caramel sauce and brownie, served with whipped cream chocolate sticks. Hannah hopes that some folks will step out of the delicious chocolate box and into more daring terrain to try options like the Ginger Belle, a vanilla base with candied ginger and peach reduction served with white chocolate sticks, or their Sugar Moon, a vanilla base with maple syrup and Fudge Farms bacon pieces, served with chocolate-dipped bacon and a mini waffle cone.
We simply salivate at the Maja, a vanilla base with Taza Mexican chocolate and cinnamon, served with a butter waffle cookie. And kids love the Fairy Tale, a vanilla base with marshmallow Fluff, served with Pocky sticks, sprinkles and a mini waffle cone. Be on the lookout for their Valentine’s Day specials, which will feature kombucha and cookies. They even have plans for food specials like chicken-and-waffle cones.
“Growing up, ice cream was something that we did as a family, and it always made me happy,” says Hannah. “We wanted to create a space for families and friends to gather, talk, have a drink and share an ice cream.” The interiors were designed by Hannah and Greg and follow their “less is more” approach and focus on cultivating a joyful experience. “We kept it simple and clean and hope our guests will fill it up with their happiness,” says Hannah.
Maneki Neko, or “Lucky Cat,” is thought to bring good luck and happiness to its owner, explains Hannah of the shop’s name. And it seems to have delivered on its promise. Hannah and Greg have been overwhelmed by all the support from neighborhood locals and shop owners. Hannah’s favorite part, she says with a smile, is “seeing how happy people get when we hand them their ice cream — their faces light up.”
Lucky Cat is located at 2908 18th St. S., Birmingham, AL, 35209. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m; closed on Mondays. Learn more at luckycatrolledcreams.com, or call Lucky Cat at (205) 407-4500.
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