re: Karl Gerstenberger
It is indeed. When the Staghead opened in Red Wing years ago, I was there within its first few weeks and had a great meal. The chef came out to talk with me and my dining companion, introducing himself just as "Greg," and we had a nice long chat. Afterward my DC and I both said, "why did he seem so familiar?" Then we looked at the business card he'd given us and both nearly dropped our teeth. We were big Husker Du fans back in the day. :)
Norton's isn't actually in Bay City itself, it's located out near the airport.
Anyway...the cuisine is a TOTAL ripoff of the Staghead in Red Wing, where the chefs formerly worked. The tuna with miso (or there's also a preparation with molasses glaze) are both items you can (or at least could) find at the Staghead, as are the scallop penne, white pepper chicken wings, duck breast, mussels (though this is a pretty standard recipe anywhere), macaroni and cheese, and wild mushroom risotto. The elk tenderloin is an undisguised take on the Staghead pork tenerloin. It also appears that they have imported the entire Staghead Fat Tuesday menu (Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, and Gumbo.
I visited with a larger group one night, and left disappointed. The service and food were middling at best. Also, being a resident of the area, I had highly anticipated this restaurant, looking forward to an alternative to the Harborview and Staghead. The complete lack of menu creativity, however, makes this not so much an alternative, but rather more of an overflow room if the Staghead itself is full.
Maybe worth a try, but I'm going back to Red Wing and to Pepin.
re: Juha the Estonian Minnesotan
A ripoff? Excuse me, but Chef Greg Norton and his wife Sara created the menu at The Staghead. And The Staghead hasn't been the same since they left. To say they're ripping off something they created, instead of the other way around, is an injustice to them. The new chefs at The Staghead are the ones with no creativity. Instead of putting their own mark on the restaurant, and creating something new, they kept the menu that the Norton's created and, I can tell you, the food is not prepared nearly as well or with as much flavor or expertise as when the Norton's were at the helm.
I've eaten at The Norton's twice and both times the meals rivaled the Harbor View in Pepin, which is why I'll be returning again later this evening.
You can have the Staghead. That's where I'LL never return. I'd rather eat somewhere where the food has flavor, is inventive and ORIGINAL. Not somewhere where the chefs try and walk in their predecesors food steps.