Crosby, Minnesota, a tiny town of under 2500, now relies heavily on cyclist tourism. The city council made a push for this as part of its long-range planning, and, boy, has it paid off. From a bike park to well-tended trails meant to join the Paul Bunyan trail, with paths all the way north to Bemidji, both the local residents and visitors benefit from the additional focus with better choices and activities, and, of course, many new and exciting Crosby restaurants.
In addition, the stunning Serpent Lake and park with an extensive playground as well as a bandstand plays home to many activities through the summer. It’s even open all winter. One highlight, the “Scorpion Homecoming,” is not a dance, but a reference to the town’s snowmobiling heritage, with a large ice fishing contest every February.
The Cuyuna Range is an iron deposit largely within Crow Wing County and lies along a sixty-eight-mile line between Brainerd and Aitkin.
Come to Crosby. You’ll be surprised at all there is to do and how many things you’ll find.
Especially outdoors. Year-round. And, as you might expect, some great places to eat in Crosby.
Iron Range Eatery – A Crosby restaurant with options to please everyone!
6 West Main Street // (218)545-5444
Nine times out of ten, when you ask for recommendations for the best restaurants to eat in Crosby, the Iron Range Eatery is the first restaurant mentioned.
You’ll recognize it by the large mural of the Halletts and other community members, including Cuyler Adams and his dog Una, that led to the name Cuyuna, on the exterior brick face. It’s bordered by the Main Street Plaza, home to the farmer’s market in summer.
Like most local restaurants, they participate in Happy Hour for a Cause, so go share a pint and support the charities that help community members not only thrive but prevent tragedy.
They have themed nights starting at 5pm.
Monday’s Ranger Family Night offers discounts on burgers, cheeseburger and bacon cheeseburgers. Tuesday is “Street Taco Trio” night with a chef-inspired taco feature that changes each week. Wanderlust Wednesdays offers you a chef’s choice of regional cuisine “that will make your mouth water.” They promise to bring the tastes of the world to you, right here in a Crosby restaurant.
Heading into the weekend, on Thursday, it’s build your own pasta bowl. You choose between linguine, fettuccine or cavatappi. Then pick your sauce from marinara, alfredo, or pesto. Add on peppers, garlic, and onions to your heart’s content. And, if you like, add on chicken, shrimp, or steak for a protein upgrade.
Friday and Saturday, it’s time for the “Iron Range Prime Rib Weekends.” You choose between the 12 oz. or 16 oz. portion, and it’s served with your choice of garlic smashed potatoes or Tillamook white cheddar auggies and the chef’s choice of vegetables.
And the first Tuesday of every month is Sushi Night.
Their regular menu starts with their “sample and share” appetizers, from build your own bruschetta to ranger rings, poutine, walleye cakes, crab spinach and artichoke dip, white chile queso with fresh warm chips or blackened beef bites.
Their salads and soup contain the local favorites, charred romaine Caesar salad with blackened walleye and PBLT salad, artesian romaine, “smokey bacon ranch,” garden tomatoes, and crispy peppered pork belly as well as a simple seasonal salad and an “only the pure of heart can make a good soup” option.
The cyclist’s favorite tends to be the “superfood evolution,” containing spinach, arugula, apples, pomegranate seeds, macha chick pea croutons, avocado, asparagus tips, edamame, toasted almonds, flaxseed, goat cheese, seasonal local products, and honey citrus vinaigrette to which you can add a rare seared ahi tuna or grilled chicken breast
They offer a choice of six pizzas including “the Shanna Banana,” packed with bacon, caramelized onions, red onions, banana peppers, jalapeno, and cream cheese, and the “Kitchen Veggie Sink” with roasted garlic crème sauce, parmesan, and “calling all the roasted veggies.”
From the range top, served with baked potato or aged cheddar auggies and chef’s choice of vegetable, choose the slow-braised beef short ribs, the chef’s featured steak, an asiago encrusted walleye, or apple brie chicken.
For pasta, they have roasted sausage and chicken penne or three cheese tortellini that many make their go-to dish for their night out on the town.
They offer five choices for your 3 tacos but haven’t been able to mix the choices when we asked. And they can make your tacos into a rice bowl at no extra charge. The southwest veggie can even be made vegan for you. The Tequila lime chicken is very popular, but so are the carne asada, crispy fried whitefish, and Brazillian BBQ pork belly.
The Big Cuyuna burger is always a good choice. It’s a half-pound brisket short rib chuck blended with root beer caramelized onions, smoked provolone, applewood bacon, and served on an artisan bun with sweet and spicy pickles. They’re right, it is a tasty burger. You can build your own burger and they do offer a gluten-free bun.
To round out the offerings, they have the local Reuben, and my particular favorite, the smoked beef brisket au jus (though I prefer mine without the provolone), a grilled (beer) cheese “fondue” sandwich, turkey burger flatbread and ahi tuna sandwich.
As if that weren’t enough, from 11 am to 3 pm, they have a chef’s daily special with soup, salad, and sandwiches.
They really know how to serve seasonal flavors in the best possible way and deserve all the recommendations they receive. Iron Range Eatery is definitely one of the places to eat in Crosby, MN.
North Country Café– Best Breakfast in Crosby
12 West Main Street // (218)545-9908
Looking for delicious, non-fussy breakfast or lunch food for a good price? You’ll find it at the North Country Café.
Hidden between the dry cleaner and Crow Wing Antiques on Main Street, the locals know how to find it. The men’s coffee klatch takes residence in the front left corner. Couples and families scatter throughout the tables and booths.
It’s seat yourself, and one of the servers will bring you silverware, a menu, coffee (or decaf) and you’re on your way to peruse a large two-sided menu.
Open at 5 am, they start serving lunch at 10:30.
Try to hold off on the tempting cinnamon rolls in the front bakery case. You’ll fill up easily enough with the extensive menu items.
From pancakes and meats and eggs to specialty waffles, the breakfast choices are traditional yet varied. Narrow it down to your favorite two and the servers will help you. The berry bliss specialty waffle is highly rated.
Today’s choice, the steak and eggs. They even serve hard-boiled eggs as an option. Choices of bread include white, wheat, sourdough, and rye.
As you wait a brief time for your order, check out the historical photos on the wall. From a 1911 promenade along a mostly empty Main Street, to the Cuyuna Region Bike Map, there’s plenty to marvel at.
The food looks and smells scrumptious. The hash browns are tasty, not greasy, with just a little salt and pepper added. The eggs are just right. The rye toast is dark rye, with a smattering of butter and two types of jelly – grape and strawberry – should you think it’s needed.
And the steak? Well, the steak was lean but not tough, cooked to my specifications and just, well, perfect. Not a bite, not a sliver went to waste.
With plenty of options to choose from, North Country Café is there to serve your culinary needs – whether it’s before a bike ride or race or a take-away order if you work locally. With simple yet filling and quality fare, this is one of Crosby’s best restaurants.
Red Raven– Best Café in Crosby
2 3rd Ave SW // (218) 833-2788
It’s a bike place. It’s a café. Whatever you call it, it’s wonderful. So make sure you check out the Crosby restaurant.
Year-round, this establishment, named after its owner’s spirit animal, hosts both cyclists and those looking for a great meal. It’s better than Starbucks you find in a tiny town at the top of Main Street.
Enter to the chalkboard menu, with what’s on tap on the far-left wall, breakfast (served all day), paninis, soup of the day, taco options, specials, cold blended drinks, teas, espresso, and hot drinks, with 28 flavors listed the day I visited.
To the right of the kitchen entrance, check out the Daily Special board which lists the soup of the day, the waffle or waffle sandwich, and maybe even the Elvis waffle (peanut butter and banana). The counter is covered with scones and baked goods to the left and, to the right, local patches and stickers or jewelry for easy purchase.
Place your order at the register and relax at the butcher block table that seats ten, one of the five bar stools at the window, or one of the ten tables (seven square ones you can push together to suit your party’s needs.
They do have a gluten-free waffle, so if you’re celiac, be sure to ask. On their waffle sandwich, they have eggs and cheddar, but you can add sausage or bacon.
Panini options include the Reuben / Rachel, Cuban, Club, Cranberry Turkey melt, Turkey Pesto, Italian Chicken, Spinach Artichoke Cheesy Melt, Tuna Melt, Avocado Veggie, and even grilled cheese or toasted PB & J.
They have three taco options: carnitas, chicken bacon chipotle ranch, and Korean BBQ Chicken.
When you have it narrowed down to two choices, ask one of the owners for recommendations. They’re happy to help newbies navigate the diverse menu. For me, it was the Thai peanut wrap (vegan) or the turkey cranberry sandwich. He recommended the sandwich.
Then, the drinks. Getting to the Mixed Berry or Blueberry Banana smoothie took a little longer. He confirmed that only milk, fruit, and a little squirt of flavor goes in each one. Mixed Berry it is.
The smoothie arrived first as the chef pulled together the sandwich for me. It had whole berries still intact, ready for a spoon at the end. It was very seedy, not very sweet, and really well done. I do prefer a spoon to the paper straw.
The turkey cranberry panini on wild rice bread was wrapped in foil for my run back to the hospital. I couldn’t resist taking a look first. It smelled so good, I had to take a bite. I’m not a fan of cheese, so I was surprised by how well this combination of turkey, exquisite, finger-licking cranberry sauce, spinach, tomato, and Havarti cheese came together on the wild rice bread. The only challenge was keeping it all together. They do a nice job providing sufficient napkins.
It was so good I had a difficult time wrapping it back up. I’d rather have been able to eat it all there – but it was gone shortly after my return to work.
Whether you’re a cyclist or somebody looking for a healthy meal, check out Red Raven. You’ll be glad you did; the locals will all confirm it’s one of the best places to eat in Crosby.
Cuyuna Brewing Company– Best Brewery in Crosby
1 East Main Street // (218) 866-0914
While you may think it’s strange to add this non-food establishment to the list, their BYOF attitude makes it a great place to gather for microbrewery tastings with your own food – either from the local restaurants, catered for events, or even from home.
They focus more on the community and camaraderie then food. “It’s about sipping a beer steeped in Cuyuna’s industrial roots.”
Owners Nick and Laura Huisinga have a simple mission. To inspire conversation, raise spirits (pun intended), and build community around quality craft beer.
Purchase a pint, a refillable growler, mini-growler, or glass jar and check out the eight ales, stouts, or ciders on tap.
Full disclosure: I’m not a drinker. I attended a Christmas party here and loved the vibe.
My colleagues tell me their favorite is Nick’s Uncle Tim’s Apple Blossom Cider. Their fifth-generation family farm, just outside Roseland, MN, supplies the apples pressed into this cider. Definitely farm to table at its finest.
There are seven flagship beers and they remind people to check back if their favorite isn’t available this week. They cycle them through regularly.
They, too, participate in Happy Hour for a Cause. You might have to bring your own food, but if you are in the mood for a quality craft beer, check out this Crosby, MN restaurant.
Croft Pub&Grub – Best Pub Food in Crosby
7 1st Avenue NW // (218)546-6575
One of the few restaurants found off Main Street in Crosby, Croft Pub and Grub was a revelation. People that have worked at my hospital years longer than I had never even heard of it.
Enter either door and you’ll walk into the pub area with a beverage cooler stocked with canned beers and soda.
Pull tabs are available.
The feature of the day is provided on a chalkboard. You’ll be wise to pay attention to it; that’s also where they have the dessert option.
Belly up to one of the thirteen bar stools or head to the left for a game of pool. There’s an angled table on the way with bar top seating for six.
They have pool, darts and “A-Hole.” Just ask the staff for the bags. To the right, two high top tables can each seat four and ten rectangular tables can be reassembled to fit the size of your party..
The music choice monitor displays today’s choice is classic rock and offers additional information about the groups playing – Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty this day.
I found the staff very helpful and accommodating. My server even allowed me to order from the lunch menu when it was still officially breakfast on Sunday.
As you wait for your meal, check out the pieces of mining memorabilia. Tiny axes and lanterns adorn the walls. Historic photos compete for your attention with the list of beers on tap. The tables have a brown paper towel holder at the end. Utensils are in red Solo cups at the end of each table.
The breakfast menu features omelets and skillets as well as a kids’ menu.
The Thai Chicken Tacos are the best-selling appetizer. Five oriental (deep-fried) taco shells with a little chicken piled with Thai peanut coleslaw drizzled with sweet chili sauce. Total yum. I can see why it was the winner of the Taste of the Lakes competition in the Appetizer category.
Their Giant Pretzel is the size of a pizza box. Served with cheese sauce, garlic butter or honey mustard for dipping, it can easily serve six. Maybe eight. It goes well with their Coke products.
Other appetizers include fried homemade pickles, deep-fried cauliflower or mushrooms, chicken wings, cheese curds, nachos, chicken fajita quesadilla, or chips and salsa. They even offer a sampler platter – so you can try any three.
For the main course, they have a choice of five flatbreads, a cup or bowl of soup, and seven salads. All sandwiches are served with chips, or, for an additional charge, batter fries, tater tots, onion rings, waffle fries, sweet potato fries, soup, salad, or cheese curds. Or get a gluten-free bun for an additional $2.
They have walleye and pastrami, prime rib, French dip, BBQ pulled pork, buffalo chicken, a crispy chicken bacon ranch wrap, and even a muffuletta. Featuring nine choices of burger, even a mac ‘n cheeseburger, you can take one of those or build your own.
Baskets are served with batter fries and a breadstick and include choices of butterfly shrimp, chicken strips, bone-in wings, or a quarter rack ribs.
The Kids’ Menu has exactly what’s expected: grilled cheese, mac & cheese, chicken strips, mini corn dogs, hamburger, and a cheeseburger.
Pasta and entrees are available after 4 pm. From a Cajun sausage and shrimp pasta to a half rack of St. Louis Ribs, twelve choices are available to meet your needs.
Again, don’t forget to check out the Feature of the Day board upon arrival. That’s where you’ll find the dessert of the day. Today’s offerings, Maple Bacon Mini Donuts and Strawberry Deep-Fried Cheesecake. Not great for your diet, but really enjoyed by the locals.
Croft Pub & Grub partners with Kinship for their Happy Hours for a Cause. It’s another great reason to visit this great Crosby restaurant, just one block off the beaten track.
Rafferty’s Original and Woodfired Pizza – Best Pizza in Crosby
30 W Main Street // (218) 545-5000
I’d probably be tarred, feathered, and run out of town if I didn’t include Rafferty’s among Crosby’s best restaurants. It’s the most frequented pizza joint in the area. In homage to the cycling community, it’s decorated with bikes throughout.
Start with the appetizers. The pepperoni bread is delicious and the jojos are amazing. It’s hard to get potatoes like that.
The legend on the menus needs a revamp so the leprechauns don’t turn on them (There aren’t “countries” in Ireland, but “counties,” and the city of Galway is in County Galway, not County Cork).
The menu includes a gluten-free crust and a cauliflower crust – the appearance is difficult to distinguish between the two. So is the taste.
The margherita pizza has crisp and salty basil. If you like your basil fresh, be sure you mention it in advance so they can add it last, maybe even after the oven. Or leave it off altogether.
One particularly adventurous regular has a standard family of six order: pepperoni bread, jojos, a large pepperoni pizza with extra sauce, and a small pepperoni, green olives, sausage, red pepper, and onions pizza. There isn’t anything left to take home.
While the pizza is beloved, the broasted chicken is a crowd-pleaser. One man says he “dies for it. I’ll get the chicken every time.” The menu rounds out with salads, wraps, and sandwiches.
I was grateful for the special delivery service to the hospital during a blizzard. Thank goodness it’s only a mile away. The nurses loved loved loved the specialty pizzas. The vegetable supreme, Lucky Chicken, Jimmy’s Jamaican Jerk, Hawaiian Pig Roast, Buffalo Chicken, and Chicken Alfredo made the day go much more pleasantly. It may be the best $100 investment I ever made at work.
When it has to be pizza, check out this Crosby restaurant.
Come to Crosby. Bike or boat in the summer. Ice fish or snowmobile in the winter. Have a lively outdoor experience followed by tasty food in a friendly atmosphere, in some of the best restaurants in Crosby. You’ll be glad you did.
Which one of these Crosby, MN restaurants do you most want to try? Let us know in the comments section below!
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.