Baxter, the second-largest city in the Brainerd Lakes Region, is just north of the geographic center of Minnesota. Incorporated in 1939, it was named after Luther Baxter, an attorney for the Northern Pacific Railroad, a colonel in the Civil War, and also a member of the Minnesota Legislature.
Tourism is one of the leading businesses in the region, with a heavy emphasis on cycling during the summer and ice fishing and snowmobiling in winter.
Where there is tourism, there is usually good food. Many of the restaurants in Baxter, MN are located on an access road, Edgewood Drive, so call the restaurant and ask for the best street to access them from the highway.
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7 Best Baxter MN Restaurants
14803 Edgewood Dr. // 218-828-0603
It helps to stay on Santa’s nice list, perhaps, to be taken to Christmas Point. Don’t let the store distract you from lunch. Shopping remains available both before and after and is highly recommended. Perhaps it’s like a grown-up holiday Cracker Barrel; the shopping may even help get you in the door.
Enter to the look and feel of Christmas all year long. Smell fresh pine, hear holiday tunes, feel the rough wood on the chair rungs and holiday-colored oars, touch the comfy sweater wools, and see everything you need for Christmas at the cabin. They have two floors packed with beautiful and useful items for both the holiday season and throughout the year.
The one thing that changes with the seasons is the drink options. In the fall, don’t be surprised if the pumpkin spice sells out early. It’s that popular. But the hot cocoa and peppermint can be found deep into the holiday season.
Walk in and see all the candy and fudge they offer. Sweet Shop USA indeed. From chocolate-covered cherries and pretzels to German chocolate cake to the true Minnesota delights like milk cashew grizzly.
For fudge, they carry one of the largest displays I’ve seen outside a free-standing fudge store. Flavors include vanilla, strawberry, rocky road, chocolate, chewy praline, and amaretto chocolate swirl. You may love it so much, you can order it online for your home. Ask if the special is still available – buy four squares and receive two squares free (mention this article, and the manager said they’d honor it).
Next, you’ll see the dessert offerings – two and three-tiered gourmet cakes like their stunning three-tier lemon cake. One slice can easily satisfy four who want a sweet after lunch.
When you’ve reached the beverage counter, you’ll be reminded of your favorite coffee stores. They have flavored offerings and you can watch the staff work their magic if you stand to the right of the cashier’s counter.
It’s at the main counter, though, that you’ll pick up the menu and place your order. You may want to take your time, so take the menu to a table with you and sit and discuss your options.
They have a soup of the day, served in bowl or cup size, and a variety of ways to present their excellent chicken salad – croissant, wrap, or salad.
They also offer a grilled vegetable panini and Mediterranean-grilled wrap as vegetarian options.
Although their chicken salad is the most famous, the locals tell me they also enjoy the Reuben, Smoked Turkey Apple Brie Panini (or any of the other paninis), and Tuscan Turkey Melt. You really can’t go wrong.
The gluten-free options are easy to spot. The five salads can be ordered without croutons.
Choose your meal, pay at the counter, and collect your napkins and silverware from one station and water from another. There is protected seating – glassed-in, but not heated – if you’re there outside of the dead of winter it’s pleasant.
The portions are quite sufficient to fill you properly – which may be a detriment to their dessert and candy counters. Definitely consider at least one dessert per party – it’s worth the extra calories and utterly delicious. The lunches are great, but it is really the desserts that make this the best of Baxter restaurant.
15115 Edgewood Drive // (218)824-6444
If your family can’t decide on what to have for dinner, you need to go to Prairie Bay. This locals’ favorite actually has something for everyone. They have dishes for meat lovers, vegetarians, celiacs, vegans, and even celiac vegans.
In addition, it’s a very “green” restaurant, committed to sustainable living. They source locally and grow produce in their own garden to provide fresh, nutritious options, so the menu will change based on the season.
If your appetite is quite large, check to see if the pretzel is available as an appetizer. It comes with an unusual assortment of cheeses and berries – definitely, enough left over to take home and it tastes great reheated (if you don’t finish it off in the car).
Starters include ahi tuna tostadas, spicy pork satay, or coconut shrimp. Or you can try their lobster salad spring rolls, char su duck breast, or bourbon battered onion rings.
Perhaps the most unusual is the drunken hummus. It’s a Bloody Mary Hummus with an English cucumber, celery, brandy braised tomatoes, crumbled feta, pickled red onion, and toasted Naan.
Continue your build-your-own trend with street tacos. Choose the protein, then three toppings, then your shells. Done.
One of their most popular dishes is the Asian chicken salad. Ask for the dressing on the side if you’re really particular, but I found they blended their dressing in just the right proportion to the salad and chicken.
Try their Reuben or one of their burgers or a very grown-up grilled cheese, a balsamic with chicken. There’s always something elevated about the dish you may have grown up with.
They offer six different salads, to which you could add steak, chicken, shrimp, vegan sausage or chorizo, large scallops, or Unagi marinated tofu. See what I mean? Options.
They offer four bowls and five “homegrown entrees” available after 4 pm.
Feel like Italian? Build your own bruschetta or choose a wood-fired pizza (they offer eleven options) or one of their three pasta dishes. The lobster ravioli is highly recommended.
Their doughnut dessert tray is something to behold. They provide nine doughnuts for you to dip in a cutting board filled with options – from coconut to almond, chocolate or caramel, or raspberry.
If you like to build your own meals, particular to your special tastes, this is a great place to eat in Baxter.
14901 Edgewood Drive // (218)829-3356
If you’re interviewing in the region, your recruiter is likely to take you to 371 Diner for breakfast. It’s that good. There’s a delightful buzz in the air from the old-school diner feel and sounds, with the smell of both fried foods and things you know, will be good for you.
Serving breakfast all day, they have the best breakfast steak and eggs option. Add hash browns and you’ll be well-filled until your lunch meeting.
Beyond breakfast, they have specials like the Country Ranch Texas Melt, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Chicken Bacon Buffalo Sandwich with Batter Bites, with a dill pickle accompanying.
They also serve a burger of the week in addition to their regular options. You can go every day and still have a different and interesting meal.
Have the gourmet grilled chicken sandwich with yummy onion rings. Add mushrooms, sautéed onions, garlic and your choice of cheese (Swiss is recommended) and you’ll be all set.
Room for dessert? Choose from their seasonal options. The fudge cake with raspberry frosting is rich to the point of decadence. The coffee cake is well supported by a cup of coffee or tea and can be a meal in itself. But, if they have the peanut butter fudge chocolate cake, you may even want to have it before you eat your meal.
The staff is quite friendly and knows their regulars. When you’re new, they’ll get to know you quickly if you’re open to it.
It’s clean, cozy, and very friendly. A great place to go and feel at home. And a great place to go and eat in Baxter, MN.
15159 Edgewood Dr N // (218) 822-3877
You’ll notice the warmth the minute you enter Grizzly’s – from the hostess’ greeting to the open wood fire. At Christmas, lights and wreaths are strung throughout the restaurant and bar areas. Booths and tables seating up to ten are scattered throughout for ease of use.
The most popular appetizers are the Grizzly Skins, potato wedges covered with the traditional fixings, and the giant pretzel that looks like a peace sign and is the best one I’ve had in the area. It’s newly changed from several pretzel logs.
Other appetizers include a hot artichoke dip, the ever-present Wisconsin Cheese Curds, Wood-Roasted Quesadillas, Texas Egg Rolls, Bacon & Onion Jam Brussel Sprouts, Firecracker Shrimp, boneless chicken wings. and wood-fired wings with a choice of five sauces.
They have various rotisserie chicken and rib options, all highly recommended, and if you don’t care to pull your chicken off the bone, get the chicken tacos – originally offered with black beans and a roasted corn salsa.
Ready for a great lighter option? They have five salads on the primary menu, and a wild rice soup and a chili option. Choose the Apple Pecan Salad, with fresh romaine, diced apples, toasted pecans, grapes, and bleu cheese crumbles (they can hold them) with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Need more protein? Add Grizzly’s wood-roasted chicken.
Though, if you’re getting the combo sandwich and salad, I found there was plenty of chicken already on the taco to hold me through the salad.
If you happen to go for a weekday lunch, their specials include pairing soup, salad, and sandwich or taco. Choose a soup and salad for one price (add protein or change a side dish for a little extra), soup and sandwich for another price, and salad and sandwich for a third. All their best offerings are represented, even a crispy chicken wrap.
That was my choice for this outing, the chicken tacos with apple pecan salad. Their raspberry vinaigrette is the best I’ve ever had. The combination of the taco, a heavier meal with the smoke from the wood roasting, with the light, super-fresh produce in the salad – the apples were still crisp, the grapes squirting their delightful juices around the romaine – a nice change from the arugula at the taco.
Do yourself a favor and eat European style – the taco first, then the salad. Delicious.
My pescatarian friend ordered the two shrimp tacos with chicken and wild rice soup. The tacos were incredibly tasty, not too heavy, but needed a little rearranging to distribute the onions and pico at the bottom throughout.
The soup was well prepared but so you’re prepared, the soup is incredibly creamy and thick. If that is your taste, then I would highly recommend the two pairings.
In addition to five burger choices, they offer sandwiches and tacos from BBQ beef brisket to pulled pork as well as their best rotisserie chicken.
Their other “favorites” range from pasta to walleye or steaks. Add a house-made mac & cheese and fresh Norwegian salmon and almost everyone should be able to find something.
Ready to wash away the cares of your day? They’ve a nice wine list and beer selection. Check out their signature cocktails: whiskey sour, barrel-aged old fashions, southside (aviation gin, fresh mint, sugar, and soda), Triple Manhattan or a Kentucky Peach Tea (including Jim Beam Peach Bourbon). They also have five different margaritas, gin and rum-based Titanic Teas, Bloody Mary, and three mojito choices.
Not enough yet? Try one of their four mules, Moscow, Irish, Minnesota, and Kentucky. Served in the typical Moscow Mule Copper mug, only you’ll know whether it’s vodka, Jameson whiskey or Jim Beam bourbon in your cup.
Room for dessert? You must be taking home a to-go container.
They do have a homemade cheesecake that is adored by regulars who like cheesecake. If you’re not a cheesecake person, there’s a Cold Stone Creamery directly across the parking lot.
Insiders tell me they’re working on the owner to expand the dessert menu. Seriously, you could put the raspberry vinaigrette on vanilla bean ice cream and call it a day.
No matter your taste in food, this top Baxter, MN restaurant will have something for you. You can’t “bear” to miss Grizzly’s.
7788 Fairview Road // (218) 829-1739
This is your other Baxter restaurant that offers breakfast all day; walk in and it feels like a country kitchen.
It’s the diner your parents used to go to. And maybe even took you to. If so, it will feel quite familiar. It’s a quaint, down-home feeling with the register right in front and the option to pick your table or booth. The staff is all friendly and many wear a lighted tag with a changing message.
With a larger group, you should each pick something different so you get to taste a little of everything.
The Belgian waffle with bacon and eggs makes for a very filling meal. The syrup is sweet and plentiful. The waffle is light and fluffy and quickly consumed. The eggs were made to our specifications and greatly appreciated.
The shrimp basket is breaded and fried, and they’re tiny. The server had estimated 8 or 9 shrimp, but it was many more, smaller, popcorn shrimp-style. The accompanying fries were hot and tasty.
When choosing between the burger and the BLT, the server recommended the BLT, served on white, wheat or sourdough. It could also come in a wrap. The bacon can be made extra crispy if you like, and the strips are more meat than fat. Allowing them to put the mayonnaise on it seemed risky at the time, and it initially looked like they had placed more than I’m accustomed to, but the effect was perfectly proportioned and enjoyable.
If breakfast is any time of day meal for you, this is one of the best restaurants in Baxter.
14819 Edgewood Drive // (218) 828-8400
This homey, folksy restaurant has a grand fireplace and chandeliers with black bearskins and cabin features throughout. Enter and head left into the bar, or go right for the restaurant.
Seating is your choice of tables or booths. If you’re with a large group, call in advance so you can reserve the tables in front of the fireplaces. Two parties were there as we visited, and they really loved it.
They have both a traditional menu and an extra sheet of specials. There’s also a gluten-free menu.
Appetizers include bruschetta, the ever-present cheese curds (I hadn’t realized they’re just like mozzarella sticks, only smaller), and loaded bear chips – instead of potato skins, it’s potato chips smothered with cheese, bacon, tomatoes, and pepperoncini peppers.
Three soups are available, and four salads along with three pasta options.
Burgers and sandwiches, tacos, prime ribs, and steaks round out the menu.
The shrimp tacos were breaded and about what we’ve come to expect in the area. The rice pilaf was as well.
The steak and potatoes were quite good, and the carrots from the vegetable medley were delicious.
With each steak or dinner entrée you’ll receive a garden salad and your choice of side dish from baked potato, loaded baked, au gratin potatoes, mashed potatoes, french fries, or wild rice pilaf.
If you’re looking for a cabin experience with friends, bundle up in the booths or relax in front of the fire for one of their specials or regular dishes. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy this Baxter, MN restaurant.
6967 Lake Forest Road // (218) 822-5634
Not to be confused with the Baxter Grill & Bar, this restaurant is located at the edge of the Arrowwood property which includes a hotel and water park. If you’re at either of those, you’re in luck to have good food nearby.
Their most popular appetizer is the pretzel bites. Served with a hot cheese sauce (it’s advertised as white but looks more like a yellow cheddar to me), there are plenty for a group of three or four. They’re quick, they’re easy, they’re delicious.
It’s bar food, served promptly and cheerfully.
The burger was cooked exactly as requested, and the pickles a sour dill. Bacon is offered on nearly every burger, and they’ll add and subtract toppings as you prefer.
The platter for the shrimp tacos was visually appealing, proportioned, and colorful.
We haven’t found a place in Baxter yet where my pescatarian loves the shrimp taco. They’ve all been battered and fried and low on flavor. I’m not certain yet how, when they’re taken to-go-to be “doctored” at home, they still manage to stink up the car. Someone who knows more about shellfish than I, tells me that means they’re not fresh. Not a surprise during winter in Minnesota. And most people really like the way these are served.
They do have desserts, including a build-your-own sundae and a crème brulee on the day we visited.
If you’re visiting Baxter, you’ll have plenty of options for eating as you attend your recreational pursuits. You can’t go wrong deciding where to eat in Baxter. Eating your way through this town is quite the gastronomic pleasure, with all these top Baxter restaurants.
Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler, she happily goes on new adventures, especially on birthdays. Multi-generational travel remains a treasured pastime. She divides her time between Ireland and the U.S. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.