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Sep 8, 2008 12:18 PM

Eats in Duluth

I'm doing a two week assignment in Duluth, MN. My home is in Islamorada, the Keys (right, why the hell am I going to Duluth when everyone wants to come here?) and we dine frequently in Miami at China Grill, Micheles, Chef Allens, etc.. I'm struggling to find high end chow on-line in Duluth. I am not eating beer-battered walleye! Any suggestions fellow Chowhounds? We may do the drive on the lake shore on the weekend.

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    1. "Why the hell am I going to Duluth when everyone wants to come here?"

      Just for the record, not everyone wants to go there. When I go on vacation, I go to Duluth. I think Lake Superior is quite grand. My last two trip reports:

      But since you brought up the issue of hell, perhaps you'll feel comfortable at Hell's Kitchen in Duluth for "upscale" breakfasts.


      1. Fitger's for the beer. Probably the best brew pub in the upper midwest, possibly the world (though the food is only good.)

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

        4 Replies
        1. re: churchka

          I really love the wild rice burger at Fitger's. I've been too busy to try to re-create a knock-off in my kitchen, so, until then, I'll have to keep making the drive to Duluth.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Thanks for that tip! I'll have to try one.

            I do like the (unrelated, for once!) Grandma's wild rice soup.

            1. re: tvdxer

              While we're on a wild rice kick, the wild rice porridge at Hell's Kitchen is really wonderful, if you can handle a super rich creamy breakfast... And, Hell's Kitchen uses the hand-harvested, hand-parched wild rice, rather than the cultivated rice, which makes HK's wild rice dishes really special, I think.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I had the Figters wild rice burger today (classic, except held the sprouts). It is very good, tastes almost like a hamburger. Not as chewy as one might expect for a wild rice burger. We also had sweet potato fries - - good, but not the best I have had (Taste of Chicago or Freight House in Stillwater, MN for those - the only good thing the Freight House serves, in my opinion). We also had the Stout Chocolate Cake today. I have had it many times before, but it didn't seem as good today. A little drier (and I thought I remembered 4 layers in the past, and now it is only 3...). So maybe they have changed the recipe. Still a perfectly good chocolate cake, but not quite as to-die-for as in the past.

        2. Two things.

          I'm not sure if it is in any of the threads KT linked, but the newest 'fine dining' in Duluth is Bob Bennett's 301 in the downtown Sheraton.

          Second, if you have any interest in scenery, you'll be happy. The North Shore scenery is GORGEOUS this time of year. I highly recommend going to either Enger Tower or Hawk Ridge. Hawk Ridge is world renowned for, as you might guess, bird watching. In the next two months, tens of thousands of birds will migrate through the area. On top of that, it is one of the best views of the lake you'll see, especially with the changing leaves.

          And don't knock beer battered walleye until you try it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: BigE

            Actually BigE, as delicious as it can be, beer battered walleye isn't something that I particularly associate with I off-base? I guess I've never ordered it in Duluth and can't even really remember a place where it seemed to be a stand-out on the menu. Hmmmm....maybe I'm justing looking in all the wrong places? No, when I think of Duluth I think of the big giant lake and the wonderful lake trout, herring and salmon. Lots of wonderful spots nearish to Duluth including the Boathouse, Kendall's, Northern Waters Smokehaus, New Scenic Cafe, Nokomis, etc. mentioned in the threads KTFoley linked that mention various places to find Lake Superior fish, little of it beer-battered.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I was thinking more of walleye as a MN institution.

              For the Duluth area specifically, I would absolutely agree that Lake Trout is the choice.

              1. re: BigE

                Ah, yes, I completely agree with you. Funnily enough, now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've had beer-battered walleye. What a bad Minnesotan I am! Plenty of beer battered fish in general (Groveland Tap in St. Paul on Fridays), but walleye in particular in MN? I don't think so.


          2. High-end (by Duluth Standards):

            Nokomis On the Lake:
            New Scenic Cafe:
            The Pickwick:

            I haven't yet been to New Scenic Cafe or Nokomis on the Lake, so I can't give you an opinion, but I do know a little about them from their websites and the like. I have the impression that they are about as upscale as you'll get in Duluth, and judging from their menus, seem to be classifiable as "New American". Pickwick I have been to. It's definitely a "traditional American" kind of place, quite formal (by local standards), expensive, again by area standards. It's a very old restaurant, kind of a local tradition, while both New Scenic Cafe and Nokomis seem to be of recent vintage. I ate at Pickwick in 2003 and did not like my meal then, but I am not a "slab of meat" kind of guy. Others have lavished it in praise.

            Bellisio's, on the other hand, I have been to countless times. I was a bit hesitant to put it in a list of "high end" restaurants, hence the caveat in parentheses. But it's definitely not the kind of place you'd want to go to in a sweat pants and a mustard-stained T-Shirt. The cuisine served, as you might guess, is Italian, probably about as close to authentic Italian as you'll get. Of the many times I've eaten there, I've been both very satisfied (the rigatoni balsamico is great; the spinach gnocchi seems to be held in esteem) and quite disappointed (the risotto was way too spicy, though I have little experience with that dish; the puttanesca was very salty). The restaurant has a very large wine selection and seems to make that a big selling point. It's in the Canal Park area along with its lesser sister, Little Angie's, and its older, but quite not as refined sibling, Grandma's.

            (I live here, so if you want recommendations for more low-brow restaurants, which I think Duluth does better, or at least more of, ask me)

            (Also, the links do not seem to be working right


            508 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

            Duluth, MN, Duluth, MN

            North Shore Cafe
            Duluth, MN, Duluth, MN

            Duluth, MN, Duluth, MN

            5 Replies
            1. re: tvdxer

              I always make it a point to have brunch at Pizza Luce when im in Duluth. Those hippies can make some killer biscuits and gravy, and good bloodys!!

              ps - will the MSP hounds ever stop praising Hell's Kitchen??? I mean, it's okay,
              but come on...

              ( e n t e r v i c i o u s r e b u t t a l s h e r e . . . )

              1. re: jsyx

                Nah, no vicious rebuttals. My recommendation for Hell's Kitchen initially in this thread was mostly an opportunity to insert "hell" in direct response to the OP's request...I've posted my fairly thorough impressions of Duluth HK in both the threads I linked above in my initial reply to the OP and it's not all positive if the OP cares to read them now that the links have been provided to him (there are lots of things to love about HK--primarily the from scratchness of it all-- but a number of things I don't love about it, too)... but I suppose that could seem like a lot of work to him.

                But, honestly, aside from HK, I've never seen wild rice porridge on any menu anywhere, I think Minnesota grown wild rice in general, and the hand-harvested variety in particular, is a pretty neat local delicacy (though a cup of HK's wild rice porridge is plenty, in my opinion, because it's so rich). Our state grain, doncha know. While there are many restaurants in Minnesota that serve wild rice, few of them serve the handharvested stuff. I'm pretty sure that the wild rice dishes at Grandma's and even my beloved wild rice burger at Fitgers call for cultivated wild rice, which just isn't the same. I'm guessing Angry Trout and Chez Jude, both in Grand Marais, use the hand-harvested stuff when it appears on their menus, but those establishments may be a bit far out of the OP's way depending on how far he's going on his weekend North Shore jaunt, and Nokomis and New Scenic and even Boathouse on Barkers Island might use it, too, though, again, it's hard to know when/if it's going to appear on their constantly rotating seaonally-focused menus; it's certainly worth asking. The beauty of HK's wild rice porridge dish is that it's always on their menu. Again a cup is plenty.

                When I travel from one end of the country to another, even when forced to do so against my will, I like to indulge in foods that I can't eat back home. In Duluth, I think wild rice and just about anything fished out of Lake Superior would definitely qualify. Get it where you can, I say.

                Oooohh, also pasties from the local grocery store (it's not glamorous, but Super 1 has them) if you're lucky enough to have a hotel room with a little kitchenette with an oven in which to heat them.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  TDQ...Are you talking about the meat filled hot pockets? I wasn't aware Duluth was known for these. I was recently in Madison, WI and went to place called Teddy Wedger's that is famous for there meat pies.

                  1. re: dave43

                    Yeah, it's gotta be pasties.

                    It's miner food so I'd trust a Duluth or Michigan UP version before a college town attempt.

                    Years and years ago, when I lived in Duluth (and Taran's was my local market in Chester Park) the places would sell pasty "with" or "without."

                    And the "with"?

                    1. re: repete

                      repete is spot on. And yes, the Iron Range towns of Minnesota are known for their pasties. I don't see them on menus as often as I'd expect, but they are always in the grocery stores! It's also pretty common to find porketta (I'm not sure about the proper spelling) in the grocery stores on the Iron Range, although, I don't remember seeing it at the Super 1 in Duluth. It may have been there and I just overlooked it.