Duluth Updates - September 2009
There seems to be a lot of interest in Duluth on these boards, so I'll provide a few updates:
* The Zen House - Duluth's first and only Japanese restaurant - is opening a second location downtown in the busy Holiday Center. They will be on the second floor, convenient to the Skywalk, in the space occupied by Shanghai, a Chinese restaurant. Their first location, in a former burger restaurant inside of a gas station on the western fringe of the Mall Area, will remain, but their new location should open up a whole new captive audience - the downtown lunch crowd.
* Saigon Cafe has moved from a strip mall near the Miller Hill Mall to Thai Krathong's former location on First Street downtown. Looking at their menu on the door, I see no Vietnamese dishes, only "Chinese" food. The "Taste of Saigon" in Canal Park is a similar situation, with even the waiter admitting to me that they're more of a "Pan-Asian" or "general Asian" restaurant than Vietnamese. The Vietnamese Lantern in far-off Gary seems to be more of a Vietnamese restaurant (but still serving Chinese), although at very high prices (like $11 or $13 for a bowl of pho).
* Bangkok Royale, Duluth's third Thai restaurant, is now closed. The restaurant was located in the The Village Square strip mall, in the space previously occupied by Saigon Cafe. The restaurant appeared to open some time around the turn of the year and was rather expensive for a strip mall joint, with some dishes over $20. Sala Thai (in the Kenwood neighborhood) and Thai Krathong (in Canal Park) remain.
* As reported here, Takk for Matten is now open at a site close to their original, which now seems to be blocked from road access by perennial construction. They're in the Tech Village along with Pizza Luce. At night, Takk for Matten becomes Kippis, a - get this - Finnish tapas bar.
* A new upscale lounge, "Blackwater", is open in the Greysolon Center downtown. They feature a decent selection of varied lounge food, including sushi - at $9 a roll!
* On the chain front, Texas Roadhouse is building a spot near Olive Garden on the Home Depot hill. Buffalo Wild Wings also is coming to Duluth, and there seems to be speculation that Five Guys is as well.
I was visiting my brother in WI in July and we went to Duluth a couple of times. He had seen an ad for Saigon Cafe (when it used to be up by the mall) and wanted to go since he missed it from "back home". We were told they had closed and while we were driving downtown, we saw it's new location. I was all ready to get my Pho on (I live in L.A. and it is one of my most favorite things, I eat it at least once a week - last night, in fact) as I had not had it in over 2 weeks. How sad was I when I tasted it (at it's high price point compared to what I am used to) and it was like chicken broth. And here is the kicker - they had FRENCH FRIED ONIONS floating in it to make the broth have a deeper taste. They did not have any bean sprouts, jalapenos, cilantro or lemons/limes. I was depressed and not a little bit irritated. We ordered several apps for my nieces - Spring Rolls, Egg Rolls (they and my brother loved these!)and Cheese Wontons which were okay. My brother got one of the Buns which was, admittedly, really good. It was a pretty pricey meal for what we got but made me realize I need to hone my skills on making my own Pho.
Thanks for the summary! I'm especially pleased to hear about the downtown branch of the Zen House. I wanted to try this place a few weeks ago, but was downtown without a car - hard to get all the way out to Miller Hill Mall. I'll try the downtown branch when I'm up there next.
Have you tried any Finnish tapas yet? I recommend the duck and the catfish pate. I'll bet the ham and the salmon is great, too.
I haven't tried them yet, but want to! Thanks for the recommendation - that sounds good.
You can take the DTA to the Miller Hill Mall quite easily from the transit center (if the shady characters don't bother you), but I think Zen House's new location downtown will be really successful. It's convenient to both tourists (who may not think about leaving the central area) and workers downtown, who tend to be more of the professional, middle-upper middle class type that you'd expect to be interested in sushi. I was in the Holiday Center a few weeks ago during lunchtime and it was very busy with well-dressed people going out for lunch at Z's, Schlottsky's, etc. I'm sure Zen House will be a hit there.