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Aug 8, 2007 07:02 PM

Duluth, MN/Superior, WI and en route to Duluth from Twin Cities?

So, I’m heading to Duluth (Minnesota Point). I’m envisioning barbeques and picnics on the beach, leisurely walks and bike rides along the shore, maybe a picnic on a sailboat…

We know we can stock up before leaving home, but we'd rather not if we don't have to. Where are the best places in Duluth (or Superior) to stock up on or replenish stores of…
...Grocery basics?
...Meats and fishes to grill?
...Creamy and pungent cheeses, cured meats, smoked fish (Northern Waters Smokehaus?), and crusty baguettes for our picnics and lunches?
...Good wine and beer?

Do you know of any spots along the shore we can stop for ice cream or a refreshing beverage while on our bike rides and walks?

How about comfy, relaxed places in Duluth (or Superior) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and maybe one splurge meal or two?

Are there any cute little places actually located on Minnesota Point?

New Scenic Café—would it be good for our splurge meal?

Where is Hell’s Kitchen (I can't get the places link to work)—is it good?

Chester Creek Café—is that more of a breakfast spot or a lunch spot? Still worth stop at?

I’ve heard of a restaurant on an island in Superior Harbor. Is that place any good and, if so, what is it called?

I liked the rootbeer at Fitger's--is that still worth stopping at? How's the chow there?

Are there any must do stops en route to and from the Twin Cities for a snack or lunch?

Thank you very much!


Fitger's Brewery Complex
600 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

New Scenic Cafe
5461 N Shore Dr, Duluth, MN 55804

Chester Creek Cafe
1902 E 8th St, Duluth, MN 55812

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  1. The exit for Toby's is usually a good halfway point between the Twin Cities & Duluth. However, skip Toby's altogether and go across the interstate to Cassidy's. They have a decent breakfast and lunch.

    For a comfy spot in Duluth, I have enjoyed the shrimp & black bean burrito at the Lake Avenue Cafe in the Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace down in Canal Park.

    1. I used to work about a half an hour southeast of Superior and we'd head in to Duluth nights on the town. I haven't been to any of the following places in many a year (10-15?) but these were some of my favorites back then:

      Sir Benedict's on the Lake: Great sandwiches and wide beer selection.
      Hacienda del Sol: Pretty good Mexican - although probably not the most authentic. They used to have a deck out back that was a great place to hang out.
      Taste of Saigon: Decent Vietnamese food in the Dewitt-Seitz marketplace
      Portland Malt Shop: The best malt I ever had was here. (I can't find any info on this. It was just down the street a half a block from Sir Benedict's on the other side of the street - a converted gas station i think.)

      From what I can tell, these places are still around, but I have no idea on the quality. (I'd love to hear the latest on these old favorites, by the way.)

      Have fun!


      Hacienda Del Sol
      319 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

      Sir Benedict's Tavern
      805 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

      Taste of Saigon
      394 S Lake Ave Ste 105, Duluth, MN 55802

      4 Replies
      1. re: bob s

        Taste of Saigon, unfortunately, does not serve Vietnamese food. On our last visit to Duluth we were very excited to get some pho or a vermicelli bowl - the basics of the basics - but no such luck. When pressed, the waiter admitted the menu is pretty much 100% Chinese inspired, and that they don't serve *any* Vietnamese dishes. I was pretty surprised to see such brazenly false adverstising, as the window was covered with signs touting "Vietnamese Cuisine" and the like. The food is fine, but please do not confuse the style with anything Vietnamese!!!

        Sir Benedicts is awesome as is the brewery.

        I would go with the New Scenic Cafe, which is consistently wonderful and cozy, over Nokomis, which we found overpriced and underflavored (though they had just opened a few weeks before our visit).

        Have a great trip!

        1. re: lisa13

          Fair enough on Taste of Saigon. Now that you mention it, I can't recall any true Vietnamese food. But it's been 15 years...

          Glad to hear that Sir Benedict's is still going strong.

          1. re: bob s

            I had the same exact experience at the Taste of Saigon ... I walked in, wanting to try pho, only to be told by the waiter that they're more an "Asian" restaurant than a Vietnamese one!

            There is Vietnamese food in Duluth, however, believe it or not: actually a few different restaurants serve it (always alongside Chinese food). You can find pho or banh mi at Saigon Cafe (two locations: one in the long strip mall below Slumberland, off of a side road off Maple Grove Rd. near Best Buy in the "mall area" and another on 319 Blackman Ave. in the Duluth Heights neighborhood), at the Lotus Inn (in the Gary neighborhood at the very western end of the city), and at Lan Chi's in Superior. I've eaten at every time, all take-out.

            I had beef pho at the Saigon Cafe, which I believe was $6.95. It was pretty good, though my first time eating pho. They gave you the broth, noodles, bean sprouts, and lemongrass in separate containers, and you put them together how you wanted it.

            At Lan Chi's I ordered Bun Bo Xao, and it was also good-tasting, and fairly cheap.

            The Lotus in Gary is an exception to Vietnamese restaurants in that it is rather pricey. I took out some curry from there, which was delicious (and extremely spicy ... you order hot here, you get hot!), but expensive...$11 or $13 I think. They have pho on the menu for $10.95! It's also way out of the way, but the food is high quality.

            Saigon Cafe
            2224 Mountain Shadow Dr, Duluth, MN 55811

            Vietnamese Lotus Inn
            1314 Commonwealth Ave, Duluth, MN 55808

            LAN Chi's Restaurant
            1320 Belknap St, Superior, WI 54880

            1. re: tvdxer

              Thank you so much for those recs, tvdxer - we are visiting over labor day and will definitely check out at least one of these options!

              but 10.95 for pho? I can get a bowl the size of my head for about 6.00 here in the Boston area....I certainly feel spoiled.

      2. Ah, Park Point. Nice.

        Hell's Kitchen is in Canal Park, on Lake Ave. S. Walk down the street and you'll find it. Haven't been there quite yet. I planned on going as soon as it opened, but didn't end up doing that.

        I sometimes stop at Chester Creek Café on my way from school to work. They serve traditional café food as well as some Middle Eastern specialities (as do many other Duluth cafes, for some odd reason). From what I've had there, I can say they're good but not quite exceptional.

        Know nothing of New Scenic Cafe, other than where it's located (out of the way).

        As for Minnesota Point (what Duluthians refer to as "Park Point") - I don't believe there are any restaurants on it. In fact, the only businesses present I'm aware of are a gas station, a marina, and what I think is an art gallery.

        Some of the better places here include the highly-ranked India Palace downtown on 3rd Ave. W. and Superior St. Environment is fairly casual. The lunch buffet ($8.95) runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily and has become a hit-and-miss affair in the past year or so, though on Sunday it appeared the owner's family was eating there and the food was excellent. Dinners are reliably good but somewhat expensive (most entrees with rice $12 - $17), and a fairly large beer / wine selection is available.

        Be sure to try the wonderful burfi, an imperdible Italian sweet I've had a lot of trouble finding elsewhere.

        The Amazing Grace bakery / cafe, a short bike ride out of Park Point in Canal Park, has a really cool ultra-casual hippie sort of ambiance and serves up some really good bread and soups. Try the hummus sandwich. Most people associate it with coffee, but I like the Italian sodas. It's always filled with people and has excellent al fresco dining in one of Canal Park's busiest areas.

        Va Bene is an Italian "caffe" with a pasta bar (not buffet-style; you tell them what to put on your pasta, $6 lunch / $9 dinner) that I've always found to be very delicious and a gelato bar I haven't tried yet but have heard good things about. It's become a popular place and can be a bit busy at times, but it has a really nice, very casual environment. There's a beautiful view of the lake, either from inside or the outdoor dining deck overlooking (and accessible from, via stairs) the Lakewalk. It's located near the Fitger's complex, off the Lakewalk on one side and Superior Street on the other. Rather small building, so you'll need to keep your eyes open. Interestingly enough, they also sell various imported Italian meats, olive oils, and other products. There's a decent selection of Italian wines and other beverages.

        For Duluthians, the Pickwick, also right by Fitger's, is the traditional place for a splurge. They serve traditional American food, and the entrees are around $20 - $25 if I remember correctly. I personally don't care for it (mostly slabs of meat), but that's not what most people think.

        Awesome malts can be found at Portland Malt Shoppe, again near Fitger's on Superior St. Look for the tiny little building.

        Bellisio's in Canal Park, right by the Aerial Lift Bridge across from Park Point, is another Duluth splurge, a bit newer, serving Italian food and lots of wines. I've heard both good and bad about them from others, but really like it myself. They have a gigantic wine list spanning dozens of pages.

        The new Burrito Union on 4th St. and ~14th Ave. W (maybe 15th?) sits right below Chester Creek park and serves up some awesome, huge burritos as well as local Fitger's brews. It's become very popular (especially for the college crow who have wanted a similar-niche Chipotle for a long time), but having been there a few times for a "custom" burrito I've never had to wait any longer than I would at a Subway.

        My next suggestion is a bit out of the way, but no more than a 20 minute drive from Park Point. Starvin' Marvin's is a very unassuming little joint connected to a gas station on Highway 2, about 3 miles north of Proctor. It might not appear to be anything more than an old truck stop, but the breakfasts they serve (the only think I've ever had there, but many times) are absolutely delicious and inexpensive. Wonderful omelets, gigantic pancakes, etc. Not many tourists come here, considering the odd location (a few miles from my house) but it's worth it.

        For some delicious Mexican food, try Mexico Lindo in Downtown Cloquet, about 15 miles south of Duluth on I-35. Great for a stop on the way back, or if you're very adventurous, a bike ride (you can ride into West Duluth via Superior St. and Grand Ave, get on the Willard Munger trail, ride the 14 miles into Carlton, and make a final 4 or 5 mile stretch up the highway to Cloquet - you'll certainly burn all the calories you eat there! - especially on the ride up).

        Hope I've been helpful and you have fun up here.

        Bellisio's Italian Restaurant
        405 S Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802

        India Palace
        319 W Superior St Ste 100, Duluth, MN 55802

        Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe
        394 S Lake Ave Ste 106, Duluth, MN 55802

        Starvin Marvin
        5691 Highway 2, Hermantown, MN 55810

        508 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

        Burito Union
        1332 E 4th St, Duluth, MN 55805

        Va Bene
        734 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

        Mexico Lindo Restaurant
        915 Cloquet Ave, Cloquet, MN 55720

        2 Replies
        1. re: tvdxer

          we love going to the north shore.

          scenic cafe is always good, but we have liked the new nokomis just a mile up the hwy for the wonderful views and excellent food.... interesting in the way that scenic cafe is.

          in superior, across the bong bridge is a great coffee house owned by local artisans called the red mug. potters and artists sell their wares as well as having studios in the same great old building. great coffee which is roasted in duluth "alakef". the red mug folks told us we could buy their many types at a great family owned grocery in duluth called mount royal fine foods. we could and did...the espresso primo is terrific! anyway, red mug has a great vibe, and oh, the bars are sinful.

          we have always enjoyed bellisios, tho it's owned by the palucci empire. like the wine flights, bread with olive oil and every dish we have tasted has been excellent.

          wanted to like the new cafe va bene, but after two times there, was very disappointed. long, long waits. last time it was a 45 minute wait for a slice of pizza. we ordered a slice of their pizza which was as dull as could be (margarita - didn't taste like a margarita at all) and the time before that my sandwich which sounded interesting was as blah as could be. after two tries, we have crossed it off our list.

          we have enjoyed bennetts on the lake in the fitgers building- for the view and for pretty good food and even the pickwick for the history and lake view and the since 1914 longevity of the place. portions are h u g e ........ always enjoy the walleye in its various forms.

          the place in superior is the boathouse cafe. we ate there 2 years ago and loved it for the atmosphere and the food. well worth checking out.

          oh, the bakery called positively third street on about 3rd street and 12th ave. is a coop with a wonderfully hippie feeling and low priced and delicious cookies - especially the thunder and monkey cookies.

          enjoy the magical north shore!

          1. re: carolita

            The bread from Positively Third Street is great stuff, but it's available in the Twin Cities - I've seen it at Seward Co-op. Just so you don't make a special trip up there just for the bread. (Like I did once, only to experience a strange feeling of deja-vu when I saw the labels on the bread. So I got a brownie instead - it was great.)


            Positively 3rd St Bakery
            1202 E 3rd St, Duluth, MN 55805

        2. Ah, Duluth! Have a lovely time!

          Definitely go to Northern Waters Smokehaus for great fish, meats, cheese, and other delicacies. The buffalo pastrami is fabulous. (I'd ask you to bring me some, but my mom just went through Duluth two days ago and bought lots of pastrami back.) They make good sandwiches, too.

          There's a Whole Foods Co-op - but not part of the Whole Foods Market chain - at 610 East 4th St. It's a relatively big store, and they have everything you'd expect.

          I really like the Amazing Grace coffee house, in the same building as Northern Waters Smokehaus. The sandwiches and desserts are ENORMOUS. Their tomato basil soup is a poem. And I'm not 100% sure, but I think they sell loaves of their great bread.

          I used to love the Lake Avenue Cafe, but the last few years I've been underwhelmed. It's still pretty decent, though. But not particularly fancy. I like the Chester Creek Cafe (I've had great breakfasts and good lunches there - never been for dinner), but it's not a "splurge place". It's casual-fancy with several of organic/whole food options. And I was underwhelmed by Belisio's the one time I was there, but perhaps I ordered badly. Plus, I was cranky because they claimed it was "all non-smoking" yet allowed smokers in the bar. (I hope that's changed.) Me, I'd probably go to the New Scenic Cafe for my splurge.

          I'm looking forward to trying tvdxer's recommendations on my upcoming trips - I'll be driving up for more pastrami in a month or so.


          Whole Foods Co-Op
          610 E 4th St, Duluth, MN 55805

          Northern Waters Smokehaus
          394 S Lake Ave, Duluth, MN 55802

          3 Replies
          1. re: AnneInMpls

            > Me, I'd probably go to the New Scenic Cafe for my splurge.

            Or maybe I'd go to Nokomis, based on this positive report:


            Any place that has Osso Bucco, Lake Superior Whitefish, and Fig-coated Elk on the same menu is a place I need to try!


            Nokomis Restaurant & Bar
            5593 N Shore Dr, Duluth, MN 55804

            1. re: AnneInMpls

              The view @ Pickwick is hard to beat on a sunny day...though the chow is best described as a poor man's version of Jax Cafe, which ain't that great to begin with.

            2. re: AnneInMpls

              Anne, thanks for the note about the Lake Avenue Cafe. I haven't been in two summers, so it's good to get a more current opinion.

            3. I've also forgotten the name of the restaurant over on Barker Island in Superior. But it's great. Wonderful, fresh white fish. And a great whitefish soup. It had been recommended on the Slow Food - Lake Superior web site. Just find Barker Island and it's there.