Salt & Straw’s Tyler Malek on his essential eats in Portland

Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw in Portland, Ore. and Los Angeles, Calif. Photo credit: Leela Cyd Ross.
Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw in Portland, Ore. and Los Angeles, Calif. Photo credit: Leela Cyd Ross.

Hometown: Lake Stevens, Washington
Occupation: Head Ice Cream Maker, Salt & Straw
Years lived in Portland: 5
Awards: “30 Under 30” Food and Drink categoryForbes (2015)
Best of the West for Ice CreamSunset (2013)
The 10 Ice Cream Shops You Need to Visit,” GQ (2012)
Phenom of the Year, Portland Monthly (2012)

Go to Tyler Malek’s shortlist

What do you love best about Portland’s food scene?

I love how supportive the food community in Portland is. Every cook in Portland is consistently going out on a limb trying to create something new, memorable and delicious. I love that the food scene is conducive to this creativity and that customers appreciate both when you get it right AND when you get something wrong.

Name the top restaurants that you think every visitor in Portland should try. 

AviaryBollywood TheaterSunshine Tavern.

What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out at?

I live in NE Portland and love going to Free House on 15th and Fremont. Their back patio is so perfect to bring your dog to, sit with drinks and relax!

Since it’s Portland, we have to ask: what’s your favorite food truck?

I LOVE a lot of food trucks! Actually, we’re currently working with five different food carts for a special ice cream menu. Right now, I’ve been jamming on lefse roll-ups from Viking Soul Food

If you had to name one personal favorite flavor from Salt & Straw, what would it be and why? 

All of our flavors are like children so I’m not allowed to play favorites. BUT, I eat the most of our Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons ice cream with hot fudge on top!

Salt & Straw opened its first shop outside of Oregon this past September. Are there any further plans to expand or even start distributing in retail stores?

We fell in love with Los Angeles because it feels like there are a lot of creative people doing creative things and our ice cream has a unique ability to bring all of these people together! Our focus right now is building on what we’ve got in Portland and L.A. and making sure we are constantly finding new partners to work with and new ice cream flavors to create!

You’re known for unique flavor combinations. What do you turn to for inspiration when you’re brainstorming new flavors?

Typically our flavors are strongly driven by the unique ingredients the city has to offer. In L.A., for example, we found this amazing distillery called Greenbar Distillery (the first in L.A. since Prohibition) that is working with all organic ingredients and runs the company at a carbon-negative! Their liquors are ridiculous and highlight local flavors like poppy flowers and local citrus. This company’s story alone led us to multiple flavors, including a Grand Poppy Lemon Sorbet.

Tyler Malek’s Shortlist:

Salt & Straw, 3345 SE Division Street (Richmond); ice cream, open daily.
Second location: 2035 NE Alberta Street (Alberta Arts); open daily.
Third location: 838 NW 23rd Avenue (Nob Hill); open daily.

Aviary, 1733 NE Alberta Street (Alberta Arts); French/Asian, dinner only Monday-Saturday.

Bollywood Theater, 2039 NE Alberta Street (Alberta Arts); Indian, lunch and dinner daily.
Second location: 3010 SE Division Street (Richmond); lunch and dinner daily.

Sunshine Tavern, 3111 SE Division Street (Richmond); American, lunch Saturday-Sunday, dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

Free House, 1325 NE Fremont Street (Sabin); bar, open daily.

Viking Soul Food, 4262 SE Belmont Street (Sunnyside); Scandinavian, lunch and dinner (if not sold out) Wednesday-Sunday, closed Monday-Tuesday.


About Tyler Malek: Tyler Malek’s love for ice cream started at a young age, creating ice cream sundaes when his parents let him “babysit” himself. “The best was a bowl of ice cream with melted Otter Pops poured over top in a Technicolor extravaganza.”

He was a year into studying fine dining at culinary school when he got a call from his cousin, Kim, who had recently moved to Portland. She had a longtime dream to open an ice cream shop, and before long, Malek was onboard as head ice cream maker. Now, with three shops in Portland and one in Los Angeles, the Maleks are establishing a loyal West Coast following with their exotic-sounding flavors, the majority of which are made with local ingredients. Think Pear & Blue Cheese ice cream featuring Oregon Trail Northwest Bartlett pears and blue cheese from a Crater Lake creamery (exclusive to the Portland shops), or Avocado & Strawberry Sherbet complete with strawberry vanilla bean jam ribbons from Los Angeles’ own Laura Ann’s Jams (exclusive to the L.A. shop).

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