On a recent Wednesday afternoon, a swirl of pale yellow pineapple soft serve and I contemplate each other. I have forestalled lunch to try, for the first time, the pastel delicacy known as Dole Whip.
Assembly Hall, Tom Douglas’s counter service spot on Sixth Avenue in Denny Regrade, is one of the few and latest places in Seattle where one can score this rare, sunshine-hued treat most famous for its ability to draw lines at theme parks. While I've visited both Hawaii and Disneyland, I'm told that I've been deprived of Dole Whip on those trips. Worse still, I only heard of it for the first time this week.
Treading carefully, I gather a small portion in the tip of my spoon, giving distance to the tiny cocktail umbrella therein. It tastes exactly like what pineapple soft serve sounds like: sepia-toned nostalgia of waiting in line at the Enchanted Tiki Room for the better part of an hour—creamy undertone, kind of like the pleasant mellow of a piña colada. It beats your average citrusy, tropical sorbet. By the end, as the iciness that balanced out the acidity of the melted pineapple the mixture mimicked, surprisingly well, the mouth-tingling effect of the actual fruit.
Assembly Hall started dealing Dole Whip back in June. Someone in management went to Hawaii, got stirrings of inspiration from the stuff, then threw it on the menu for $3. According to Molly Melkonian, the general manager, it was originally slated as a limited time offering for summer. (GoPoke in the International District keeps the proverbial tiki torch burning year round and riffs with their own Hawaiian-style add-ons.) Melkonian noted the treat’s steady popularity might mean it stays around for as long as there’s this level of demand for it.
Most customers at Assembly Hall take their Dole Whip plain, sans frills, though toppings are an option: Some go for bits of lemon snicker cookie or the less intuitive chocolate chip treatment. Naturally, rum seems like a prime fixing as well, if you want to take your day in that direction.
But that’s kind of the point of finding Dole Whip displaced from Disneyland and the Pacific islands it’s most associated with—isn’t it? Dole Whip still carries an air of rarity, even when it’s within reach. Having it is titillating, if not festive.
As I licked spoonfuls of Dole Whip out of a compostable cup in a Tom Douglas establishment, two cops wearing shorts sat in front of me with their coffees, beyond them, through the window, I had a view of one of Jeff Bezos’s glass spheres and a group protesting something else Amazon is up to. I guess, if anything, Dole Whip took me on a tangent of wishful thinking that I was somewhere as tropical as the dessert in my hand.