The titular attraction at PortLand Malt Shoppe is worth both the wait in line and the steep price tag ($7.50 😮). The Duluth stand has been a staple of the North Shore ever since husband-and-wife team Mark Marino and Sandra Ettestad opened it down the block from the Fitger’s Hotel and Brewhouse.
Its location on top of a picturesque Lake Superior lookout point and a walkway that leads to Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge helps, but the malts sell themselves. They’re cold comfort in a cup, pulled from a soda fountain playbook written by Walgreens back in 1922. (Company lore credits Ivar “Pop” Coulson for being the first employee to blend chocolate malted milk with vanilla ice cream.)
PortLand sells straightforward strawberry, coffee, and dark chocolate flavors as well as scoopers-gone-wild mashups like praline pecan, black raspberry truffle, and coconut almond fudge. Indecisive peeps may feel overwhelmed by the options: Marino and Ettestad claim there are thousands of possible malt combos once you consider the topping options: butterscotch, marshmallow, caramel, banana, hot fudge, honey… and each nostalgic order includes a generous dollop of whipped cream, a juicy cherry, and a crisp vanilla wafer.
The PortLand Malt Shoppe just wound its 30th season down and won’t reopen until April 2020, but you can still find Marino and Ettestad tending to their other baby, Lark O’ the Lake Café, co-run with Don Monaco. The aviation-themed eatery serves naan pizzas, classic diner sandwiches, and Happy Days-caliber malts—even in the dead of winter.
PortLand Malt Shoppe
716 E. Superior St., Duluth, MN; no phone.