Thanks for the recommendations. I made it to Sammy's pizza for lunch and liked it enough for what it was. I was especially delighted they had a brewed, unsweetened iced tea. For dinner I chanced it on El Potro, which had some good to great recommendations on another website. I found the salsa tasted like ketchup, the ground beef in the taco and enchilada was essentially unseasoned. It wasn't awful, but Taco John's down the street probably would have been tastier.
I've just returned from an extended weekend about 30 minutes north of Grand Rapids. Also, I used to travel to the area quite a bit when taking care of my grandparents' home in Calumet, 16 miles away.
For lunch, I recommend the soups and bagel sandwiches at Brewed Awakenings. I also recommend it for coffee for evening entertainment when there is music on the calendar. I can support the recommendation of Bixby's without about the same level of enthusiasm. I also feel the same way as diesel does about Forest Lake. Sammy's is the best place for pizza. Beleive it or not, another spot for lunch is the clubhouse of the Eagle Ridge golf course in Coleraine, 6 miles east. Or the clubhouse of the Wendigo golf course south of town.
For some good jerky or snack sticks, I recommend S & S Meats. They are located in a Spur gas station on Hwy 2 on the west end of town. If you are traveling by car with a cooler, purchase some of their hand-made sausages (beef wild rice, spple cherry, strawberry pineapple, and more), and bring them home with you.
My job requires me to frequently travel in the northern part of MN, and I end up in Grand Rapids several times per year. I haven't tried all that's out there, and none of what I have tried has been something I'd drive any distance for. However, you may beneft from knowing:
Bixby's Cafe is a chain (I think) but it has decent (not excellent) and quick bagel sandwiches at lunch time. I prefer to go there for breakfast - they have yummy breakfast sandwiches (I'm a total sucker for any sort of egg sandwich), and their coffee is the best I've found outside the twin cities and Duluth areas.
Sammy's Pizza has a lunch-time all-you-can eat pizza buffet. Although I'm generally not a fan of the gloppy flatbread-type pizza, they do it pretty well, and it's a northern MN institution.
Forest Lake Restaurant looked like it could be one of the nicer, better places in town to dine. . . but it wasn't. Not recommended - it was just kinda boring. There must be something better out there.
Please report back - I will definitely have occasion to try out any gems you uncover!
1009 S Pokegama Ave, Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Sammy's Pizza & Restaurant
802 S Pokegama Ave, Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Forest Lake Restaurant & Lounge
1201 NW 4th St, Grand Rapids, MN 55744
OK I keep writing reviews and then they get erased when my laptop flips back to a previous page. Here's a summary, because I don't have the heart to write full reviews another time:
Brewed Awakenings: Wow! Great flavors, good quality ingredients. This is the place to go in GR. PLUS, you can get a Thunder cookie from Positively 3rd St. Bakery (of Duluth) there! Heaven!
Rivers: Compared to other GR experiences, pretty great dinner, but in absolute terms, it was not worth the price - I expected better for $32 (including tax and tip) for a beer, small salad, and pasta dish. Better beer list than any other I've seen in GR - got a Rogue Dead Guy ale there! Never expected that.