There are only so many ways to dress up a potato.
No one knows this better than Rob Kratochwill, owner of the food cart Pots-n-Tots. Over his tenure as self-proclaimed “Tator Tot King,” he has come up with 75 different dressings for the little spuds.
He has made blueberry muffin tots, apple pie tots (customers would swear there was actual apple inside), chicken “tot-pie” and a nacho-themed “totcho” bowl. He made honey harissa tots and strawberry short cake tots.
It was time for a new flavor canvas.
Kratochwill’s girlfriend Maggie Jingga, owner of Jakarta Cafe food cart, suggested he use ice cream as a new medium, but Kratochwill wasn’t convinced.
Ice cream is overdone, he said. Not like this, Jingga told him.
The two headed to Chinatown in Chicago to try the latest ice cream craze at Legend Tasty House: Thai ice cream, or ice cream rolls. Also called stir-fried ice cream, the craft creates rolled-up tubes of ice cream made to order.
That moment was the conceptual birth of Fancy Roll, a new ice cream creation from Jingga, Kratochwill and Jingga’s sister Dewi Jingga, which recently opened in a large kiosk in West Towne Mall. It’s past the food court, in the old Ben’s Soft Pretzels space.
Jingga had first seen the dessert on a trip to Thailand, and it’s become a trending dairy option in the U.S. In Chicago, Kratochwill could immediately see that Legend Tasty House was popular, with 75 people in a line just to get inside the building.
But he was still skeptical — all this for ice cream? Then he and Jingga finally got to the front of the line, and he witnessed the roll making process.
It’s a mesmerizing mini show. Liquid ice cream made of heavy whipping cream, yogurt, soy milk and sugar is spread out thinly like a crepe on an “anti-griddle,” a metal surface kept at below-zero temperatures.
The cream is allowed to solidify. Then the ice cream jockey spreads it out and mixes, Coldstone Creamery style, with ingredients like strawberries, Nutella and peanut butter.
Then each server, using their undoubtedly strong wrists, scrapes the solid ice cream from one edge to another in one fluid motion to roll it up.
Kratochwill loved that the customer gets to watch the process in action. Before he’d even left Chicago, his head was rushing with all sorts of new flavor combinations.
“Once this canvas — dairy — was laid out for me, I could come up with so many flavors,” he said.
And he has. The menu at Fancy Roll has standard ice cream combos, mixing flavors like chocolate and peanut butter, strawberry and blueberry, and coffee and caramel.
But there’s also apple pie and s’mores, and Kratochwill cycles in several new “Flavor of the Day” options throughout the week.
He’s working on a “Parenthood Porter” in collaboration with Ale Asylum, which infuses the cream with porter and gets pretzel stick garnish. “The American Dream” layers blue raspberry and strawberry cheesecake ice creams. Topped with whipped cream and sprinkles, it was inspired by fireworks on the Fourth of July.
For fall, diners can try “Pumpkin Patch,” pumpkin ice cream infused with caramel.
One of the most intriguing flavors he’s working on recalls Mexican hot chocolate, blending chocolate and cayenne. The aftertaste brings the heat while the whole thing is cold.
“Your brain is spiking ... ‘What’s going on here?” he said. “I’m about trying to make people experience new things.”
I tried “Chocolate Monster,” a classic peanut butter and chocolate combo. It was delightfully smooth, rich and came with a peanut butter cup.
More than Instagram fodder, it was fun. Who doesn’t love the idea of ice cream in a different shape? (Let’s take a moment to remember that Dippin’ Dots, “the ice cream of the future,” still exists.)
The Fancy Roll kiosk isn’t in the mall’s food court, it’s a bit further in. Kratochwill and Jingga like that set up because it puts them in the thick of things and allows for maximum views of the creation process.
The trap is apparently working. Fancy Roll is doing great so far, and they’re not surprised: Jingga test-ran the venture at the Taste of Madison, and it was a smash. Kratochwill had to leave his neighboring Pots-N-Tots food cart to help out with the long lines.
Afterward, customers began emailing Jingga, asking when she was going to open a store, she said.
It was similarly popular on its first opening day at the mall, just a few weeks ago. They served 250 rolls that day, and the mall asked them to get one of those rope barriers to contain the customers bunching up in the walkways.
Kratochwill said that if things continue at this rate, they’ll open a second store within a year.
“This is the start, the baby,” Jingga said. ￼