One Dinner in Duluth (MN)
If you're looking at my posts, none of the places I've been to. The nicest I've been to is The Boathouse on Barker's Island (technically in Superior, I think), which was pretty good, but I suspect you can do better at New Scenic Cafe or Nokomis, neither of which I've been to.
Actually, if I were answering this question 100% honestly for me personally, I'd go to Fitgers specifically for the wild rice burger, but that's not really what I'm recommending to you. It's ultra casual and while the menu is overall pretty good, it's not overall great. But the wild rice burger is crave-worthy and the beer expert in the house says Fitger's is really good beer. I would definitely stop at Russ Kendall's and pick up some smoked fish if you have time, but that's not your one dinner, I don't think.
I hope that helps.
If I'd never been to Duluth before, I think I'd pick a place that highlighted the scenery.
In the daytime, I'd drive up the north shore to the New Scenic Cafe (though I haven't been there for years) or Nokomis (never been) because it's such a lovely trip. But it's not as much fun to drive back in the dark, and would be a no-no if you had wine with dinner - you'd need a designated driver.
My second choice would be something at Canal Park or on the lakefront, for a scenic stroll after dinner. I can't recommend anything, as I haven't been blown away by any of the restaurants in the area (haven't tried them all, but I have tried Pickwick, Fitger's, Lake Avenue Cafe, Bellisio's, and Amazing Grace - which has great tomato soup).
Me, however, if I had one dinner to eat in Duluth (to which I've been many times), I'd go to Chester Street Cafe/Sara's Table - I though I've only had breakfasts and lunches there, not dinner. It's not fancy or mind-blowing, but it's cozy and the food is at least partly organic.
On a nice warm day, I'd get a take-out sandwich from the Northern Woods Smokehaus and eat it on the point, facing Michigan.
i was at duluth recently.
had dinner at chester cafe/sara's table - i thought the food was okay. i like that it's cozy (with lots of books!) but price was a bit higher than expected. we had malts ($4.75 each - just one glass), my husband had the smoked pork chop with red cabbage and mustard sauce (he liked it but it was a bit too vinegary for me) - $15 for 1 chop or $20 for 2. i had the seafood stew (scallops, salmon and mussels) which tasted fine but not the best "soup" i have had. it was $18. i was too full for dessert (not from the meal itself, i just had been snacking all day), but my husband had an apple pie. he liked it fine (but like the pie place in grand marais the best, but he did like the pie here better than betty's pie in two harbor). i'm not a fruit pie person so i didn't try it. it was $57 total with tax (without tips).
we had dinner at hells kitchen the next night. i hadn't bee to the one in the twin cities before. i really like the decoration (all black and red - it may be a bit too themey for some people tho). we ate a lot!! we tried the porridge that i'd heard so much about - it was okay for me but DH loved it - it's like oatmeal + trail mix. we tried the sausage bread (dense, bison sausage, toasted walnut, black currant and black coffee and spice) with peanut butter and some fruit jam (orange and some berry ones...? can't remember right now). i didn't really taste the sausage but overall it's a tasty bread that is kinda unusual. i had the creamy tomato and basil soup and their ham + pear crips sandwich. i don't like the soup much (a bit too chucky for my taste as i like it creamier) but i like the sandwich. as mentioned, i don't usually like cooked fruit (it's poach pear) but i thought the pear bind the ham and bread quite well and give it a little sweetness. my husband had the bbq beef ribs - it's HUGH!! 2 big ribs for $14.75 with fries (or other sides). the sauce was a bit spicy for me but he really liked it (he had to other bbq ribs on our trip elsewhere - at chez jude and bluefin grille and he liked this one the best). he also had their signature bloody mary and their house beer. we had their when hell freeze over ice cream which is very interesting - taste like mango at first and then it turned really hot (habanero). a fun thing to try! i also wanted to try their lemon ricotta hotcake (didn't know it was such a well-liked item here on chowhound until after i came back from the trip) - it's like a thin pancake (but thicker than crepe) and do kinda melt in your mouth. i was too full to finish it though sadly :( (they did let me order 1 piece, instead of the standard 3). with all this food it was $60 (including tax, excluding tips). my husband hardly touch the desserts because he was too full from the rest of the meal.
we had lunch at the new scenic cafe the next day - cute place, but it rained that day :( i agree it's probably a nicer place to go when you can see the view. i had their blackberry lemonade which is quite refreshing, and their special walleye sandwich - it was pitaschio crusted with lemon aioli and cranberry bread, some green and some fruits. i really enjoyed the sandwich! i hadn't had other walleye sandwich before though so can't compare. it was $11. my husband had the pork tenderloin with some squash and corn grits (i had copied the menu somewhere, this is not the actual description) - it was very tasty, but $20 for a very small portion. so definitely quality over quantity. i had their special sweet potato dessert - it was nicely presented - doesn't look like pumpkin pie but taste similar and DH has their greek yohurt and rose pie which is quite tasty too. This meal was $50+.
we enjoyed both hells kitchen and new scenic cafe - i guess it really depends on what you're looking for. something a bit more casual or upscale with a more innovative menu.
I live and dine in the Duluth area, and if you are going to experience just one place it would have to be Le Bistro in Superior. The food is incredible. Classic French cooking. The Creme Brule is out of this world. Prices are very cheap for how good the food and service is. The last time I was there, we had Artichoke Bruschetta, Large Salmon Steak with draw butter, half a roasted duck with cognac cream sauce, creme brule, and a great bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir for around $80. There is no place in the Twin Ports that delivers this kind of value. (I'm in no way associated with the restaurant, just a loyal customer)