Here at First We Feast, we’ve made a habit of tracking down the wonkiest, most eye-grabbing food mash-ups for the benefit of
our your amusement. But one newcomer that seemed to especially explode on to the scene last year was the churro ice cream sandwich—two small, flat, sugar-coated, beignet-like disks holding together ice cream flavors like horchata and spicy Mexican chocolate. The treats were hand made by L.A.-based Churro Borough pop-up owner Sylvia Yoo. Safe to say, the entire Internet went apesh*t for it—like it was the second coming of the Cronut. At her pop-ups, lines wrapped around the block, sometimes clocking in at two hours.
Yoo had stints working at wd~50, Jean-Georges, and Red Medicine, but gave up her kitchen dreams to have a steady career in interior design. After the first wave of pandemonium hit, she decided that the time was right to get back on the horse. Only a year later, Churro Borough will be opening its official brick and mortar space tomorrow in Los Feliz, much to the enjoyment of…well…pretty much everybody.
We caught up with Yoo to ask her what it was like to experience the initial craze, what it means for her business now that Disneyland is selling churro sammies, and what new things we can expect on her menu.
Now that almost a year has passed, do you have any new perspective on this phenomenon? What was it like to have something of yours go viral?
It was excitement at first. Definitely not something I had anticipated or expected. Churro Borough was a side project, a hobby of mine. At the same time it was nerve wracking, because I never really thought about that aspect of getting huge. It was scary. I’m a very private person, and now something that was very personal to me was shared to the public. You’re now in the line of fire and critiscism, and I wasn’t prepared. At that time, I had been doing pop-ups by myself for three years. We moved quickly to open our new space. By January we were looking for a place; mid March we were training the staff. We really did this for our fans.
What has happened in the interim? Have any major players approached you about deals, and have you seen any copycats?
A lot of people have approached me about collaborating. The biggest one so far is a vendor who supplies churros to Disneyland. He reached out to me but I wanted to keep my brand solo. The thing is, you can’t trademark a food item—although you can trademark a name like he Cronut. Anyway, this guy was one of the first to go public with a similar invention, and developed an audience for it. It’s a form of flattery to be honest. There are definitely a lot in California now, even internationally too. If you Instagram churro ice cream sandwich, you’ll see stuff in Spain and Asia. We’ve had people approach us for licensing our product to make it pre-packaged. But for now I like the integrity of keeping it fresh.
— Reddit Pics (@redditpicsbot) March 22, 2015
Do you see it in the same vein as the ramen burger or cronut?
Yes and no. Dominique does amazing things. He’s probably one of the best pastry chefs out there. I don’t come close to what he does. He might be known internationally for the Cronut, but he does so much more. He’s practically unreachable. The churro is a doughnut at the end of the day. I’m glad I spurred something on in that sense, that I planted an idea. I hope that I’m not a trend—that was never the intention. If it were one, it would have taken off when I first started it.
You had lines out the door and were selling out of product almost instantly. How will you prepare for that kind of audience now?
We’re trying to prepare for long lines, but now that we have a permanent location, it might be different. Pop-ups are temporary, and people rushed out to get it. So hopefully the lines will die down and people can enjoy being here as opposed to waiting for long periods of time. But at the end of the day, this is a small-batch, hand-crafted dessert company. We’re not a huge corporation, and we don’t have a production facility on site. Everything is made in a small kitchen, so we can only make so many in a day. When we’re out, we’re out.
Any menu updates?
We have a full selection of ice cream, sherberts, and sorbets. The reason I got into this is because I love making ice cream. We’ll have our staple four, of course: Spicy hot chocolate, Vanilla custard, Spanish latte, and Horchata. You’ll see strawberry buttermilk, chocolate cookie malt with crushed oreos, brown butter cookie sorbet with house-made Speculoos cookies, matcha green tea, and blackberry cheesecake sherbert. We’ll have some paletas like spicy mango with tajín and raspberry jamaica; churro fries that you can dip in shakes; and fruit-based sorbets like coconut kaffir lime—a throwback to nearby Thai Town.