Roll Shack adds crepes to menu at new second location in downtown Abilene – Abilene Reporter-News

Add Roll Shack to the growing list of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and boutiques livening downtown Abilene as a shopping and date-night destination. 
The ice cream shop Saturday celebrated the grand opening of its second location, at 202 Pine St., Suite 105, in the Motis Building, and brought along a new sweetie: crepes.
The crepes are exclusive to the downtown location, not the original shop at 2526 Buffalo Gap Road. 
Jerry Salinas and his wife, Dr. Stefanie McCain, introduced rolled ice cream to Abilene in November 2019 after discovering the dessert the previous January during a family ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. 
“We’re eating ice cream outside in 7-degree weather like somebody’s going to take it away from us,” Salinas said. “My wife says, ‘If they can sell us ice cream in 7-degree weather, we can make this work in Abilene.'”
On the plane ride home, the couple and their children began crafting a business strategy for rolling out the frozen dessert locally.
Rolled ice cream started in Thailand as a street vendor food, Salinas said.
A thin layer of a neutral-flavored ice cream base is poured onto a subfreezing griddle set at about minus 21 degrees. As the mixture hardens, ingredients are added. The frozen dessert is then rolled into cylinders served vertically in a cup and topped with whipped cream, a chocolate drizzle or other tasty flourishes.
That kind of made-to-order takes a few minutes. And at peak hours, the wait at the Buffalo Gap location can stretch to 45 minutes or more, especially if big groups enter at once, Salinas said. 
Salinas said the shop is not just about the flavors worth the wait but also the experience of seeing the dessert made and then enjoyed casually with others over conversation or games. 
At the Buffalo Gap location, large groups of all ages are common. Customers can sit indoors or lounge in oversized, colorful deck chairs outdoors. Adults visit with youngsters at picnic tables or play corn hole on the grassy area.  
Since the downtown shop’s soft opening in late September, the clientele have tended to be couples strolling the sidewalks, Salinas said. 
“Making downtown an experience is something that I believe Abilene needs to grasp,” he said. 
Ice cream – and now crepes – are a way to create those experiences, he said.
The couple’s previous restaurant experience was strictly on the customer side. 
She is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist while he a manager for a trucking and freight company.
They practiced rolling ice cream at home to perfect their base recipe and craft signature combinations. They learned the food-service industry and were inspired by their pets for menu names and décor.
“We came up with the idea to name everything after our dogs, our one cat and our horses,” Salinas said. 
Artistic photographs of the family’s animals adorn the shops’ walls. Their bios are on the rollshackabilene.com website. 
Leading the pack of top sellers is the double-dappled Dachshund Levi, featuring Oreo cookies and chocolate. Annie – named after a red roan Appaloosa – also tempts many customers with bananas, Nutella and strawberries. The horse Wall-E was rescued from a kill lot and is now symbolized with banana pudding ingredients with caramel sauce. 
Doug, a world-champion Appaloosa, is the flavor of the month. 
“We try to use something that we do not have on the menu,” Salinas said about the transitory flavor. “This month we’re doing a pumpkin spiced latte and a pumpkin cookie,” he said. 
The base is handmade daily, with as much as 20 gallons flowing a day during peak season at the Buffalo Gap shop alone, Salinas said. 
A crepe trailer, again in Breckenridge, inspired the couple to add the French creation to the downtown menu.
“If the trailer was open, the line was a hundred yards long,” Salinas said.
They did further “recon” at other crepe shops in Texas, he said. 
Roll Shack customers can watch as their crepes are crafted one at a time on a dedicated crepe griddle.
After a liquid batter is poured onto a hot griddle, a T-shaped wooden utensil is used to swirl the mixture into a thin pancake. The crepe is flipped, filled with ingredients, folded and served with powdered sugar and whipped cream.   
The sweet fillings can be fruit, chocolate or any ingredient that can go into a rolled ice cream. Signature crepes include the Mugsy with cinnamon apples and caramel and Priscilla with chocolate, peanut butter and bananas.
The King is for customers who can’t choose between a warm or cold treat. It’s any crepe with two Mexican vanilla ice cream rolls. 
For those paying attention, three menu names – Elvis, Priscilla and the King – are connected.
“My wife’s an Elvis Presley fan,” Salinas said.
Elvis décor even adorns the restroom, including a gold-framed, velvet-style painting.  
Signature ice cream rolls are $7.50, and crepes start at $8.75. The King is $10.50. 
Salinas relishes seeing children enjoying ice cream while talking and playing. 
Also rewarding – and sometimes challenging – is working with young employees, some finding their first job at Roll Shack, Salinas said.
While their immaturity can make them unreliable, such as not showing up or calling in sick a few minutes before a shift, watching them thrive in the work environment is gratifying, he said. 
Part of nurturing in the employees a sense of pride and ownership is letting them help develop the flavor of the month.
After the couple picks a flavor profile, “I’ll run and go get the ingredients, and say, ‘Y’all experiment with this,'” Salinas said.
The employees test combinations and flavor proportions. After multiple tastings, the next reincarnation of Doug is ready for customers.
With Roll Shack’s new spot, Salinas hopes to address what he saw as a deficiency is Abilene’s character, based on his 14 years of living in Grapevine. The Dallas suburb is known for its walkable historic downtown with shops, live entertainment, restaurants, art galleries, festivals and more. 
“‘Why can’t downtown Abilene be like downtown Grapevine?’ I said that forever,” Salinas said. “… It’s neat to put our money where my mouth is, to be part of the downtown experience.”
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News.  If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com

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