Nico Vergara, the owner of Nico’s Ice Cream, wants to be clear: He’s not a sweets person. But when he first tried New-Zealand-style real-fruit ice cream, he found himself transfixed.
New Zealand-style real-fruit ice cream blends ice cream with scoops of fruit, which swirl together to create something similar to soft-serve. In Portland, a few spots have dabbled in real-fruit ice cream: the ice cream cart Zeds, where Vergara used to work, and Moberi, the local smoothie chain. “It’s all made to order, and it’s just really, really fresh,” Vergara says. “It’s not heavy whatsoever; that’s something I love.”
At the end of 2020, the Zeds team — including Vergara — moved to Austin to open an ice cream shop; Zeds will reopen its Portland location at the Oregon Zoo in early June. Vergara, however, returned to break out on his own. Nico’s Ice Cream, which will open as a North Portland ice cream cart in the early summer, will swirl Willamette-Valley-grown fruit like Marionberries and strawberries with vanilla ice cream using Oregon dairy. To start, he’ll use a vanilla base from Tillamook, but by 2022, Vergara will be making his own ice cream base. Vegans will get a swirl using Oregon’s own Coconut Bliss base.
But Vergara wants to branch out even further, offering one-off specials incorporating other Oregon businesses. For instance, he’s planning on collaborating with mochi doughnut pop-up Heyday to create an ice cream doughnut, and making a coffee ice cream using Push X Pull coffee. Before the cart opens, Vergara’s ice creams will show up in Portland businesses like República. “I decided to take a leap of faith,” Vergara says. Nico’s Ice Cream should open by June.
Updated May 12, 2021, 5:35 p.m.
This story has been updated to include information about Zeds reopening in Portland.
• Nico’s Ice Cream [Instagram]
• Portland-Based Fruit-Blended Ice Cream Shop Is Coming to Austin [EA]