Get Your Licks

By Jessica Dupuy
Photography by Dustin Meyer 

Not many retail businesses can pull off a name comprised simply of a single verb and expect to garner attention. Unless of course they’re selling all-natural ice creams in an array of flavors like Pecan Rum Pie, Too Hot Chocolate and Breakfast Bacon. Who needs extra words? A place like this could only be named for the simple action you’d be compelled to take if one of these sweet, tasty treats was placed before you. And ever since Lick—a quaint and cheerful little ice cream shop on South Lamar—opened in October 2011, that’s all anyone wants to do with their heavenly fare.

 

Walking into Lick, one can’t help but don a goofy, gleeful smile—like a kid hearing the merry melody of the ice cream truck just blocks away. The walls are a bright, robin’s-egg blue with thin, linear red accents; a charming assortment of small, antique white-and-red painted milking stools lines the storefront, while a sleek, glass-top ice cream case holds court center stage. But Lick’s creamy delights put the average ice cream truck stock to shame. On any given day, about 20 flavors are written on large index cards and clothespinned to a slick ladder along one wall of the shop. Top sellers include Cilantro Lime; Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey; Coconut, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Swirls (100 percent vegan); Roasted Beet and Mint; and Caramelized Carrot and Tarragon—of which kids can’t get enough, according to Lick co-owner and ice cream maker, Anthony Sobotik. And just beneath the Lick name is a tagline that reads, “Honest Ice Creams.” It’s a phrase that refers to the wholesome ingredients Sobotik uses to make his ice creams, like non-homogenized, low-temperature pasteurized milk, light cream and natural sweeteners such as brown rice syrup to replace conventional sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup.

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Originally from the small town of Hallettsville, near Shiner, Sobotik grew up surrounded by a farming community. Early on, he developed a love for food that helped put him through college at The University of Texas and supported him for almost a decade in New York—working for, and eventually managing, his own catering company. While catering, he perfected the art of cleverly pairing a variety of different ingredients for the many menus he created for clients. “There was this one hors d’oeuvre we used to serve that was just goat cheese, thyme and honey on a sliced fig or date,” Sobotik remembers. “I used to think, ‘this should be an ice cream flavor.’” Somewhere in the back of his mind, a whole catalog of ice cream flavors began to form.

While in New York, he met his current life and business partner, Chad Palmatier, an interior designer. Palmatier was from Pennsylvania and had spent many of his formative years in the Amish countryside among farms, dairies and creameries. Visiting Palmatier’s hometown, the two were inspired by the farmers markets, the collaborative farming community and the small-town shops serving local foods. It was through visiting the country dairies and creameries that the idea for an ice cream shop set in for Sobotik.

Seven years later, the two moved to Austin, hammered out a business plan, tweaked ice cream recipes and secured a retail space. The next step was to find a dairy. They eventually found Texas Daily Harvest, a certified-organic family farm in East Texas. The farm was once a conventional dairy farm, with around 1,100 cows. But in 2006, owners Kent and Ramy Jisha began the process of transitioning the farm to a fully organic operation with a much smaller herd of Jersey cows grazing on natural grass. “I love their milk and I love their cream,” says Sobotik. “We could have easily sourced from a larger dairy, but I didn’t want to go that way. I wanted to source our milk from a place where I could see where the product was coming from and trust the people who are selling it.”
At the heart of what the two wanted to achieve was celebrating seasonal ingredients and the local food community through the ice cream. “There are so many flavors that stick in my mind as distinctly Texan,” says Sobotik. “Flavors like cilantro and lime are things I grew up with. We want everything we serve to have a specific Texas connection.”

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The duo sources as many Texas ingredients as they can, and when they can’t—as with their vanilla beans—they add a local component to it to create something uniquely localized, like their big seller, Hill Country Honey Vanilla Bean, featuring Round Rock Honey.

“Ice cream is such a blank slate to showcase local farms and purveyors,” says Sobotik, who uses bacon from Salt & Time, goat cheese from Pure Luck Farm & Dairy, chocolates from Delysia Chocolatier, bourbon from Garrison Brothers Distillery, eggs from Vital Farms and produce from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Rain Lily Farm and more.

While Palmatier doesn’t hail from a food background, his career in interior design lent a significant contribution to the overall look and feel of Lick—from retail interior to logo to website. And though they ran into the usual city permitting and building delays, Lick opened last fall to an enthusiastic audience of ice cream lovers.

With a steady stream of daily customers popping in for a flavor sample or two before settling on a scoop with or without a homemade cone, Lick’s future looks very bright. And while Sobotik and Palmatier are in talks with some of the city’s grocers—such as Wheatsville Co-op and Royal Blue Grocery—about carrying Lick ice creams, they’re committed to growing their own retail location first. “We want to make sure we’re really serving the best we can from our shop before we take it to the wholesale market or even to a second retail location,” says Sobotik. “We have the space and the capacity to grow, so we’re not ruling anything out.”

Lick
2032 S. Lamar Blvd.
Sun.–Thurs. 12:30–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 12:30–11:30 p.m.
512-363-5622  •  ilikelick.com