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21 Must-Try Duluth Restaurants | Best Restaurants in Duluth MN

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The port city of Duluth, Minnesota remains one of the most scenic places to visit. Located on the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area), it’s no surprise that many of the best things to do involve expending energy outdoors, from walking trails to fishing to watersports. Great restaurants make it a pleasure to renew and refill those energy tanks and Duluth is packed with them. I asked my colleagues for their favorite Duluth restaurants as I found my bearings in this new-to-me city.

Visiting other cities in Minnesota? Check out our foodie guides to the following cities:

The 21 Best Duluth Restaurants

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Café

1902 East 8th Street // (218) 724-6811

Whenever you come to a new town and people learn you eat “healthy” or have a medical restriction, it’s interesting to hear what they have to offer. This restaurant meets both criteria, AND is recommended for everyone else, too.

My first visit, the weather was surprisingly mild for March, and I saw how the gardens are laid out, ready for the herbs that the chefs will use for the meals. It’s located a bit out of the way but is worth the effort to get there. 

Since Covid, they’ve opened a drive-thru. You must order online, or phone in an order, then pull up to the drive-thru speaker, give your name, pull forward, and receive your order.

My colleague, Jeff, loves their breakfast omelets. I’m immediately drawn into the bookshelf-lined room with tables; it’s difficult for me to pay attention to the menu. Yet it suits for vegans, omnivores, gluten-free, and “just plain hungry.”

I didn’t realize home fries could become an interesting dish, but they manage it by adding sweet onions, carrots, and zucchini to delightfully crispy potatoes. If you let them know you’re gluten-free, they’ll keep things separate so even the utensils can’t cross-contaminate.

The Hippie Breakfast is delicious and not just for the hipsters that have grown the local dining scene in the area. The students, who frequently hit their folks for a meal here, love it, too, for the nourishing, filling meal. 

When the weather’s good, I can imagine sitting on the outdoor patio and dog watch while I people-watch. It’s very dog friendly.

Pages could be written about the items that make At Sara’s Table special. My favorites include the gluten-free pancakes, served with rogotzke maple syrup and a maple mascarpone, to which you can add blueberries (or other items) for an additional charge, or the home fries. 

Duluth Restaurants: Pancakes

Additional breakfast items include buttermilk pancakes, vegan okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes with tofu, cabbage, potato, red bell pepper, shiitake mushroom, kimchi, vegan sambal aioli, green onion, and cilantro), cranberry wild rice French toast, house-made granola, biscuits amd chorizo gravy, multiple eggs, and omelets (including the hippie farm breakfast), and a Mickey Cake (mouse shaped), and a variety of a la carte items.

For brunch, you can start with coconut breaded shrimp, a beer cheese bowl, chips ‘n salsa, chips ‘n guacamole, beer cheese and chips, or salsa ‘n guacamole combo, soup du jour, truffle fries, smoked salmon charcuterie, or beer batter onion rings. 

Duluth Restaurants: Truffle Fries

Their take on BLT is a GBLT (g for guacamole), Rueben or Rachel (turkey instead of corned beef), miso mushroom sandwich, duck pastrami sandwich, fried chicken sandwich, grass-fed beef, or impossible burger (seriously, you can’t tell the impossible burger is not beef!), or chum pomegranate BBQ pork. They have five salad options and four kid’s choices.

The dinner menu includes everything on the lunch menu as well as maple poppy quinoa salad and additional entrees including vegan pho, bone-in ribeye, Thai curry, coffee pork chop, duck gumbo, and grilled salmon.

Duluth Restaurants: Grilled Salmon

They have pages of drinks for your pleasure, and a page of baked goods and ice cream to enjoy. Many of their sweets are offered in regular, gluten-free, and vegan options. Many of the items have a cream cheese frosting, but if you like buttercream, like I do, check out the specialty cupcake or layered chocolate cake. 

For a great ol’ time memory, have a rootbeer float or orange dreamsicle. They remind me of my dad, every time.

Whether you’re here working, playing, or visiting your favorite college student, take the time to re-nourish At Sara’s Table.

The King of Creams

502 E. 4th Street // (218) 725-9000

A favorite among hospital staff and visitors, this “burger joint” is where my colleagues take their kids when they come to visit during the day. They make each order individually, so you have time to chat with everyone and catch up between when you place your order and receive it, which is great because once the food arrives, the conversation comes to a sharp halt as everyone digs in.

This family operated business started from an ice cream truck and built from there. The burgers are a wonderful treat, cooked to your specifications, and accompanied, as you like, with fresh cut fries, onion rings, deep fried pickles, or cheese curds.

It’s hard for me to imagine going there and getting anything other than the burger, it really is that good, but others tell me that their Philly Cheesesteak, the Chicken Sandwich, and The Chicken Bacon Ranch Wrap (what favorite daughter may order) are equally good.

Duluth Restaurants: Burger

Finish the meal with a scoop of their lovely, homemade ice cream, whose flavors were different every time we went in. I can see how their ice cream hooked the community into becoming lifelong customers.

Its proximity to the hospital is a true boon to us.

Huie’s Chopsticks Inn

505 East 4th Street // (218) 727-0820

Ask people where the best Chinese in Duluth is, and they’re bound to mention a restaurant across the bridge in Superior, WI (see my article on Superior here*). Imagine my surprise, then, when I was exploring around the hospital and found a great little hole in the wall right across the street. With the pandemic, and subsequent staffing shortages, they haven’t re-opened for indoor dining, but have an extensive menu from which to order. Or, like me, walk in and order and sit inside out of the cold (it was April when I first visited).

The owners are very helpful when it comes to substitutions, always helpful for me and my family, and the proteins are just what we expected: chicken, beef, pork, and shrimp. Better still for me, while they advertise their fried rice, they also had white rice available upon request. 

While I think my family will ultimately work its way through the appetizers, from Choo Chin Chow, chicken wings with oyster sauce, pot stickers, remake, cream cheese wontons, and Chinese Egg rolls, the time constraint made me go right for my sesame chicken with white rice, not served with vegetables here, then review the remaining items afterwards.

Duluth Restaurants: Chinese Egg Rolls

The soups, chow mein, chop suey, egg foo young, and fried rice dishes smell delicious, the steam wafting across as the boxes and containers were closed.

Their Cantonese dishes include lemon or orange chicken, beef, chicken, shrimp, or pork lo mein, boneless chicken (with or without oyster sauce), and a variety of chicken, duck, beef, and pepper steak dishes before their Moo Goo Gai Pan or Poo Poo platter (still reminds me of a comedian in Houston every time I hear about that Poo Poo platter).

Duluth Restaurants: Moo Goo Gai Pan

For favorite daughter, the vegetable tofu or curry shrimp are front of mind. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the Worshue Duck and Almond Ding and am certain I’ll be back soon for the General Tsao’s Chicken.

If you’re there between 11a – 3p Monday through Friday, take advantage of the Combination Plate Specials. But if you’re there, as I was, at a hotel with some kitchen facilities, take the dinner portion so you’ll have seconds. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. The sauce is so good, I save the remainder to put on other things, including rice or potatoes. 

Between the perfect location and the great food, it’s a wonderful place to catch a meal. The people make it a slam dunk.  

Black Woods Grill & Bar

2525 London Road // (218) 724-4880

Famous for their ribs, steaks, fish, and pasta, they’re open for both lunch and dinner along the famous London Road above Lake Superior. Duluth family owned since the early ‘90s, they take great pride in treating everyone like family. A family you’d want to be a part of. 

As I peruse the menu, I know I’m in trouble. They have two of my favorite things, that are not at all gluten free but totally delicious … pub pretzels and onion rings. When I see the housemade “agate” sauce, I have to smile, having learned how to search for agates not far from here.

But I stay “true” to my diet and order the stuffed tots, oversized tater tots stuffed with cheddar, bacon, sour cream and just a hint of chives.

Other options include the Wisconsin Cheese Curds (you’re only a few miles to Superior, WI, it’s only fair), Chicken Wings, Chicken Quesadilla, and the mighty University of Minnesota- Duluth mascot, Bulldog Bites (blackened sirloin), or house-smoked salmon.

Duluth Restaurants: Chicken Quesadilla

They have six salads to choose from, six flatbreads and pizzas, sandwiches from Prime Rib Dip and Grilled Meatloaf to Thai Chicken Tender Melt and Manhattan Reuben Melt. 

Of the six burger offerings, with a patty melt or North Dakota Bison Burger for variety, my favorite is The London Road Burger, a half-pound burger, topped with aged Wisconsin sharp cheddar, gruyere, thick cut applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, housemade agate sauce, and crispy onion straws. 

Their comfort food classics are something to behold. Choose from a “build your own mac ‘n cheese,” chicken pot pie, pot roast (another fave!), original rotisserie chicken, meatloaf, or Swedish meatballs.

Duluth Restaurants: Pot Roast

If you have your mind set on steaks, choose between seven options. My favorite when favorite daughter is in town is the steak combination, which provides my six-ounce filet with three jumbo coconut shrimp ready to share with her. 

If you’re really hungry, you can order a half or full slab of BBQ baby back ribs, or a chicken and rib combination, keeping in mind you can always take some home. 

Depending on the time you arrive, you may be able to order one of the three walleye options. It’s a local favorite, from the cold waters of Canada or from the Boundary Waters, so be sure to order early and order often.

Their five pasta dishes are meant to cover any protein choice to mix, even andouille sausage, but it’s the gluten free menu I really do appreciate. Any of the burgers can be made gluten free with the gluten free bun or as a lettuce wrap (just ask) and most of their pastas are available with gluten free substitutions. It’s that kind of care that makes them feel like family.

For the vegans in your group, check out the vegan toasted BLT, BBQ ribs, pesto pasta, or chipotle steak salad.

Duluth Restaurants: Pesto Pasta

I’m personally safe against their dessert choices, though I doubt that’s true for many. Their wave of passion chocolate cake has a creamy caramel center with Heath bar chunks, the salted caramel cheesecake is baked on a sweet and salty almond crust, and the Italian lemon cream cake contains a creamy lemon filling. 

There is truly “something for everyone to love when they choose to eat like the locals.”

The Boat Club

600 E. Superior Street // (218) 727-4880

If you’re in search of fine dining focusing on local fare, you need look no further then this restaurant, open for all three meals. Seafood and steaks on offer, you can eat here every meal for a week and still find new things to try. Located on Superior Street just above the Lake Walk, you can enter via Superior or walk up a double flight of stairs from the Lake Walk to enter from the back. Those rear windows are the ones lucky people choose for a sunrise view or sunset colors with the edge of the lighthouses and Lift Bridge visible from the outside space.

Technically, it’s part of the Fitger’s complex, so if you’re feeling lost, look for the Fitger’s smokestack and you’re reassured. They continue to offer curbside pickup, so if only one member in your party wants to battle construction, take it to go. Just be sure to eat somewhere along Lake Superior’s shores to make up for the view. 

Their brunch, served from 7am to 3pm, varies seasonally. Fortunately, I was there after they started April 18th. The Pickwick’s parking lot is open despite construction.

They have your typical country breakfast with eggs and pork the way you want them, but it’s the small mixed berry crepes that carry the meal and make it a true stand out.

Duluth Restaurants: Mixed Berry Crepes

It’s fun to hear the “Gitchee Gumee” Breakfast ordered so often, and so appropriate on the banks of Lake Superior. And why not? In addition to any style of eggs and ham, you can choose from hash browns, home fired potatoes, fresh fruit, or breakfast greens, as well as toast or English muffin. The hash browns get my vote every time.

If you’re hungry and looking for more substantially sized crepes, order the Mixed Berry Scandinavian crepes, chock full of house made blueberry and raspberry jam. The fruit still pops in your mouth. If you’re interested in savory, try Minnesota’s take on chicken with waffles with their chicken and crepes. They serve a fried chicken breast (no bones!) on top of two house made crepe they fill with goat cheese and drizzle a maple chipotle gaze whose scent wafts across the table and has your fellow diners looking for more.

Their Benedicts are served with that same choice of side dishes. The Boat Club’s own contains a black forest ham and poached eggs. While the Florentine or Lobster Benedict may float your boat, my favorite sounding one is the “Crabby Benny,” house-made crab cakes topped with poached eggs and Hollandaise. The server says it is a frequently ordered dish. 

They have chowder and salads, a crab cobb that crab lovers will swoon over, classic Caesar, and, my personal favorite, the wedge, though I do request a change from the bleu cheese dressing to the house dressing. They’re very accommodating.

Duluth Restaurants: Classic Caesar

With that, I may have a Maple Bacon Burger. The maple syrup is especially good this year, and I’d never have thought that sriracha maple bacon was a good idea, but it has just enough spice and just enough sweet and just enough smoke to make it just enough delicious. My daughter will love the lobster roll, New England style with its citrus vinaigrette.

Walleye is a local favorite, and their Walleye Sandwich can sell out quickly. They purchase their beer from nearby Two Harbors from the Castle Danger Brewery, and their beer-battered fillet with bibb lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, and house-made tartar sauce on a toasted brioche bun is delicious even without the bun (save it for later with the yummy butter).

If you’re interested in a light and fresh meal, choose the crab cakes (add soup or salad, if desired) or quinoa bowl with protein of choice. The quinoa is spectacular looking on the plate, three colors that blend with the roasted red pepper hummus and the bright cherry tomatoes calling your tasted buds as the sliced cucumber, pickled beets, and avocado crema make the textures delightful. The chimichurri sauce, with fried onions tossed in the mixed greens, adds flavor and aroma that will have you returning for this dish … but don’t forget to try the others.

My favorite dinner is their house cut eight oz. prime filet mignon. The red wine demi-glaze, with salt-crusted baked potato and asparagus (or seasonal vegetable) hits the spot every time.

Duluth Restaurants: Filet Mignon

They’ll also broil that lovely Canadian Walleye fillet for you and place it on a bed of Minnesota wild rice that may have been picked from Lake Itasca. 

The other specialty dinner meals are their New York strip, ribeye steak, roasted chicken breast, salmon, and halibut. They serve sea scallops as long as they last (they go quick), King Crab (one pound!) and a seafood trio of lobster tail, coconut shrimp, and pan seared jumbo sea scallop.

For a pescatarian’s dream meal, I must recommend the seafood linguine. Three jumbo shrimp, three green lip mussels (I didn’t realize mussels had lips!), two pan-seared jumbo scallops, lump lobster meat, cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, fresh herbs, and the white wine butter sauce tossed with linguine was one of those meals flying out of the kitchen to customers throughout the restaurant. 

Their Happy Hour runs from 4pm to 6pm daily and offers walleye fingers, hummus platter, braised beef sliders, crab and artichoke dip, or green lip mussels at about half price.

Canal Park Brewing Company

300 Canal Park Drive // (218) 726-1150

While many of the other entries are more “locals” favorites, this tourist stop is worth the visit. Conveniently located near the three lighthouses of the outer harbor in downtown Duluth, this family operated business has raised the bar for pub fare.

The family’s connection to the brewing industry date back to Great Uncle Maxamillian Herrnberger’s employment at Fitger’s Brewery in the 1940s. He’d take hand-crafted beers and sodas to family gatherings. 

For starters, enjoy wings, nachos, onion rings, Bavarian pretzels, chicken tenders, smoked salmon and spinach artichoke dip, or cheese curds. Their house-made sauces are highly regarded and include cilantro cream, chipotle crème, honey mustard, horseradish sauce, lingonberry mayo, roasted garlic aioli, smoked tomato mayo, or a stoned surf IPA mustard. We like to mix things up by using different sauces on the pretzels rather than the mustard or beer queso. 

Duluth Restaurants: Onion Rings

Their tomato soup, topped with basil, and beer cheese soup, a nut hatchet brown ale and three cheese blend, can be purchased by the cup or bowl. If you add a grilled cheese sandwich to the tomato soup, you may as well be back at my mother’s kitchen table on a wintery afternoon.

Their salads include a brew company cobb, a protein bowl, and smoked salmon. Add additional protein as desired.

If you have a taste for sandwiches, they offer steak, canal park club, 15 Barrel Reuben (or Rachel), a smoked salmon BLT, or chicken griller. If you’d prefer a wrap, go for the sweet and spicy chicken wrap with a honey sriracha sauce and see how much you love the jalapeno bacon cream cheese. 

Duluth Restaurants: Steak Sandwich

The sandwiches and the burgers are served with fries, but you can substitute sweet potato fries (truly delicious), a cup of soup, side salad, cole slaw, or onion rings.

You can build your own burgers or enjoy their classics. The Northcoaster has cheddar cheese, bacon, guacamole, fried egg, and house-smoked tomato mayo. Their Mango Habanero is a favorite among the spice lovers in a group, prepared with pepper jack cheese, capicola ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, and house mango habanero sauce. The Tidehaus is a fresh ground chuck patty with white cheddar cheese, house whiskey sauce, beer glazed onions, and roasted garlic aioli. The BeerBQ Burger includes BBQ pork with the burger. 

My favorite dish is the seasonal fish tacos, whose zesty cilantro-lime rice is a fun addition with a fresh house jicama slaw and cilantro cream sauce. Their tortilla chips and fresh salsa make it a meal.

Duluth Restaurants: Fish Tacos

One of their more unusual dishes, I think, is their mac and cheese with cavatappi noodles instead of elbow macaroni, making it even more lively, or an adult addition of bacon, grilled chicken, or even carnitas. Their other cavatappi noodle meal is the creamy red pepper pasta. I’m looking forward to trying that on a subsequent visit

The street taco platter will be a hit for those of you that like street tacos and the fish and chips are a delicious meal. 

For the dessert fans, you’ll be happy with the selection, I think. They have an old-fashioned ice cream sundae, complete with whipped cream and a cherry on top, a chocolate lava cake, or a Swedish cream topped with lingonberry sauce. My favorite is the “Root Canal,” which is their take on the root beer float, and they give you the option to substitute any Spring Grove soda. I haven’t been there with the group I know will want to add Kahlua to the Root Beer … but I’m looking forward to it. 

Duluth Grill

118 S. 27th Ave. W. // (218) 726-1150

While more difficult to find then the others, this restaurant was recommended as often as Sara’s Table for healthy farm to table meals. It’s also been featured on Food Network’s Guy Fieri’s shows.

For breakfast, order skillets, bowls, omelets, or breakfast plates with your favorite combination of breakfast meats, eggs, potatoes, and a variety of spices. Their Everything Skillet, which I think could be called the everything but the kitchen sink skillet, is a gluten free fiesta in your mouth with hash browns, sausage, bacon, onions, tomatoes, peppers, shredded cheese, eggs, and Hollandaise. If that’s not enough protein for you, get the Meat Lover’s Omelet and add ham to the sausage and bacon. Wow. That’s a lot of food.

Duluth Restaurants: Omelet

The “Chicken and Whaaaat?” makes me laugh the most. Whenever it’s served, you can hear the chorus of it, because it’s not just chicken and pancakes (not waffles), but bacon, corn, maple bacon coffee syrup (their specialty), goat cheese and scallions. You’ll want the “Whaaat?” sometimes without the chicken. 

For a tasty treat, the caramel roll remains a local favorite, but don’t confuse it with the cinnamon roll, topped with a house made cardamom frosting. For best results, order both and do a side-by-side taste test to tell what you like best. 

Lunch is my favorite meal at the Duluth Grill. From their street corn salad to the BLT, the fish tacos (crispy fried lake Superior White Fish – yummy!), BiBimBap (featured on the Food Network), you can visit daily and have plenty of new options to try.

Duluth Restaurants: BLT

For the dessert lovers among you, choose from banana or coconut cream pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, or carrot cake with a cream cheese buttercream frosting topped with powdered sugar. It’s sweet piled upon sweet for your dining pleasure.

The most Instagram-able moment is probably when you have the BiBimBap. But the best everyday meals for me are the fish tacos or the BLT.

Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery & Grille

600 E. Superior St. // (218) 279-2739

Live music four times a week is coming back at Fitger’s, where you can enjoy the bands with beer, sandwiches, salads, and vegetarian meals. Regularly awarded Minnesota’s BEST Brewpub, their high-quality, small batch brewery kicked off a revolution in Duluth.  All natural ingredients and pure Lake Superior water make these brews unique to the region. 

When you’re visiting one of the other restaurants in the complex, located easily on the skyline by following the Fitger’s Smokestack, the joyful noise pulls you back to at least stick your head in and see what’s going on in there. And check the chalkboard for today’s specials. Remember, they usually offer a discount at the Beer Store for customers of the Brewhouse.

My favorite appetizers are the classic beer battered onion rings or warm pretzels. With the proximity to both Wisconsin and Canada, it’s hard to go wrong with the poutine or bacon cheese curds. Here, you can add double cheese curds or pulled pork for an additional charge. 

Duluth Restaurants: Beer Battered Onion Rings

If your diet tends towards a little healthier, never fear, their authentic hummus platter is a winner for my vegan daughter, and the artichoke dip a hit with others.

Elote dip was new to me. It’s a spicy dip made with corn, poblano, sour cream, and brie served with blue corn tortilla chips. We have fun watching facial expressions as people try it, especially for the first time.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Lake Itasca and seeing wild rice along a lake’s shores. It gave me a new appreciation for Minnesota wild rice. Their vegetarian burgers are made with this wild rice, a secret blend of herbs and spices that make people return for more. Know that they are made with egg, dairy, and cracker meal, so they are not vegan, but they are a delicious substitute. My hat’s off to the Gale Force, topped with bleu cheese, jalapenos, red onions, garlic mayonnaise, and field greens. Make sure you tell them how well done you like them. It seems like firmer makes it closer to the “real” thing.

They have five salads and three soups or chilis, including a black bean vegan chili that is a big hit with the crowds. If I ever made a movie here, I’d want a vat of the chili to serve the cast and crew … good, stick to the ribs, keep the cold out kind of food.

Duluth Restaurants: Black Bean Vegan Chili

They offer nine burgers, including an elk burger, served with your choice of French fries, blue corn chips with salsa, small salad, coleslaw or fresh veggies, and they’ll serve pickles upon request. For a small upcharge, you can substitute a cup of soup or that great vegan chili, onion rings, or a gluten-free bun. And any of their burger combinations can be made with a chicken breast or wild rice burger, which just increased your options to twenty-seven!

Skipping over the specialties “just in case” to look at the dessert menu, you’ll find carrot cake, a big boat oatmeal stout cake, and a selection of Betty’s Pies. For those of you not from the area, Betty’s is a restaurant on the way up to Split Rock Lighthouse that is a MUST STOP. The parking lot is nearly always full and the selection legendary. It’s so nice that they have a selection for me, so I don’t have to drive an hour north. They’re so accommodating!

Back to the specialties, you’ll find you can order a garlic herb hummus wrap or a portobello mushroom sandwich, yet most people will spend the bulk of their time with the burgers or specialty sandwiches like The Cuban, the Artichoke Chicken Sandwich, The Classic Corned Beef Reuben, The California Chicken Sandwich, or Brewhouse Smoked Fish Wrap. I know people that love each of these. Their salmon burger has a wasabi mayo that I think you’ll love if you’re a wasabi fan. The one that wins my favorite title is “Three Little Pigs,” pulled pork carnitas, thinly shaved ham and bacon on an egg bun topped with cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce and onion straws.

Duluth Restaurants: The Classic Corned Beef Reuben

My favorite to eat is the Brewhouse fish tacos. Like the cod fish fillets, they’re fried to a golden brown, and then wrapped in warm tortillas with green and red cabbage, black bean corn salsa, and a zesty sauce. I think I like it even better without the additional tortilla; it’s that filling. 

Lindo Mexico

600 E. Superior St. #201 // (218) 727-1978

Within the Fitger’s Plaza, find Lindo Mexico, the lovely Mexican restaurant with a view. Enter from the Superior Street side through a bit of a maze to the second floor and the hostess stand, and have your choice from tables and booths in the main area. Enter from the Lake Walk, up a tall flight of stairs and you’ll find the bar, with additional table seating to the left side.  Don’t be surprised if the bartender asks you to walk through and speak with the hostess.

When I went, I was enticed by the fish tacos and fried ice cream offered online. Sadly, they only serve shrimp tacos now, so I chose the chicken tacos, which are very much street tacos. Served with beans and rice, sour cream, and guacamole, they’re a fine meal for anyone who likes street tacos.

Duluth Restaurants: Chicken Tacos

But my absolute favorite dessert in Duluth thus far is their fried ice cream. Lightly rolled in corn flakes (gluten free!), the ice cream is drizzled with a light caramel sauce and then hot fudge sauce. The tortilla it comes in is not a dessert one, so plan to eat it with the sweet sauces or enjoy it like the chips with their fresh, light tomato salsa that scoops up more like a soup than a salsa and is utterly delightful.

Having chips to begin the meal is too much for me to complete with ice cream and tacos, so be ready to ask for a doggie bag. My server was nice enough to supply me with fresh chips and salsa, perfect for another night at the hotel.

There were many families and groups of friends in the main seating area. Most of the singles and couples made their way to the bar during my time there.

As their dishes wafted by, I’d catch the scent of mole or delicious cheeses, and then the smell of fried dough as someone tried the sopapillas or the churros. The kids were especially pleased with the children’s menu, though I heard a couple people warn their children that cheeseburgers are not a Mexican dish. Not to worry, though, they have them here, too.

Their menu is loaded with all the Mexican fare you’ve come to expect: quesadillas, burritos, fajitas, alambres, enchiladas, and house specialties that include favorites like classic chimichanga, Lindo’s special (steak, chicken, and shrimp cooked with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes over a bed of rice and covered with cheese), Fajita taco salad, Burrito Yucatan, Chimichangas Matzlan, and street tacos. They come with your choice of protein with steak, pork, chicken, shrimp, and vegetarian options heavy on zucchini and mushrooms. 

Duluth Restaurants: Fajitas

Come for lunch, Monday thru Friday, and enjoy their great priced specials. Most come with rice and beans. The Burrito Croqueta has a flour tortilla stuffed with grilled chicken, topped with their special cheese sauce, mole sauce and pico de gallo. The “Speedy Gonzales” gets my vote for best name and includes one beef taco, one beef enchilada and choice of rice or beans. The Fajita Lunch offers either steak of chicken with grilled vegetables and tortillas. 

Just past the Kids’ Menu you’ll find the Dessert selection. Again, I emphasize how much I enjoyed their Fried Ice Cream. Last night, I even considered going out specifically to get another (I didn’t, but only because it was snowing in April!). They also offer a Chimi Cheesecake, a flour tortilla, lightly fried, stuffed with cheesecake filling served with a scoop of ice cream. And the usual Flan, Sopapilla, and Churros. 

Duluth Restaurants: Churros

Their drinks include choice of draft beers (domestic, imported, and local), non-alcoholic beers, various margaritas, daiquiris, wines, and hard lemonade or cranberry.

And one thing I really appreciate about Duluth, the water is drinkable, so having water with your meal is tasty. Much of the surrounding area has heavy iron deposits in the water so this was a very pleasant surprise.

Hanabi Japanese Cuisine

110 North 1st Avenue // (218) 464-4412

For those of you that enjoy Japanese food, this is the favorite of my colleagues in the area. Jeff, who’s been here for a decade or more, says this is where he likes to take his wife for a glass of wine. “It’s light and airy and easy.” I asked which sushi he likes best, and he just stares at me. He looks down, then back up, and admits, “I write it down because I can never remember, then forget where I put the paper. But they tell me what to get next time I’m there.” Not his wife telling him, the staff. It’s a small town feel for a city with a population over 80k.

Jeff likes it because of the fast, friendly service and then the peace to let them enjoy their wine, away from home, work, and any challenges of the day. It’s a good place to reconnect.

While they have dynamite California rolls, he tells me, and expertly prepared nigiri, their specialty rolls are always his preference, and they frequently invent new items, so they never run out of options. 

Duluth Restaurants: California Rolls

The biggest challenge they’ve had with the pandemic, they freely admit, is staffing. So be patient, especially if your server warns you they’re running behind. You may be pleasantly surprised by the speed or take the time to re-engage with whoever is with you.

PhoHolic Taste of Vietnam 

309 E. Central Entrance // (218) 464-0312

As with the Japanese restaurant above, if you’re a fan of Pho, visit this restaurant conveniently located just a couple miles inland from the lighthouses. Recommended by the hotel staff when I first asked for local options, I pass this restaurant on the way back and forth to work.

The parking lot, like most of them on Central Entrance, is very narrow, so if you plan to arrive at peak times, you may want to go to a neighboring business and run in for take away service.

Once there, though, you’ll enjoy the plethora of choices. My daughter will love the curry options, and the portions of pho are enough for multiple meals. The combination meals are particularly popular, they tell me, if you’re really hungry. They come with a side of bean sprouts, sweet basil, and freshness you can use within the meal or to clear your palate later.

The soups smell delicious as they waft past you, whether from nearby diners or near-running waiters. 

For the lower key Pho fans, like me, I enjoyed their chicken banh mi, which reminded me of a meal I had when I traveled to the Arctic Circle, with their delicious spring rolls. It was more than enough for a meal and did well a few hours later as a late-night snack.

Duluth Restaurants: Chicken Banh Mi

Lake Avenue Café

394 S. Lake Ave. // (218) 722-2355

Specialized cuisine with seasonal menus, lunch and dinner are served, as is weekend brunch. Start with beef tartare or daily ceviche, fresh mussels, or wild mushroom steam buns, or charred shishitos or cucumber salad. All will get those gastric juices ready for an ever increasingly enjoyable meal.

Brunch is served until two and has classics like PB&J French Toast and things I’d never considered pairing, like Lamb and Eggs. For more ethnic fare, try the Etouffee or the Pozole (ancho chile consommé, carnitas, sunny side egg, hominy, sweet peppers, cabbage, radish, cilantro, lime, and corn tortilla chips); the flavor combination will delight you. 

Duluth Restaurants: Etouffee

They offer the daily soup in either cup or bowl size and four salads, the most unique for us their melon, which includes smoked watermelon, cantaloupe, pea sprouts, strawberry vinaigrette, toasted almond, fresh cheese, and fine herbs. It’s being gluten-free is a bonus for us.

Their sandwiches, offered with choice of fries, fruit, or coleslaw, include the Lake Avenue Burger, Po Boy, Sausage and Pepper served on a Bolillo roll, a Hominy Egg Salad (maple Dijon), or my favorite, the Birria Yucca Torta which includes fried yucca, bibb lettuce, avocado, pickled chilies, queso Chihuahua, ancho chile consommé and telera bread. Completely unexpected and utterly delicious. 

Duluth Restaurants: Po Boy

If your appetite is big, though, try one of their entrees. The lamb tikka masala, brick quail, market fish tostada, salmon, Bulgogi Wagyu skirt steak (the local favorite), smoked cheddar mac and cheese (blissful comfort food), pad Thai or toasted orzo will hit the spot.

Pizza on your mind? I recommend the Rocket Pesto with roasted tomato, parmesan, mozzarella, and maple balsamic. That sweet with savory hits exactly the right note. If you have a taste for pork, though, you also have your choice of sausage or pork loin, both very popular here. 

OMC Smokehouse

1909 W. Superior St. // (218) 606-1611

If you’re a fan of BBQ and smoked meats, you’re bound to become a fan of OMC Smokehouse. From the minute you walk in the door, your senses are assailed by scent, the clank of dishes, and murmurs of a satisfied crowd. With an oink oink here, and a moo moo there, and a cluck cluck here, if you don’t leave here stuffed, it’s not because they haven’t tried. Their cookbook will also allow you to take home the specialty recipes for their rubs and sides along with some great stories.

Dessert first; you may have the choice between carmel beer sauce, corn bread, whoopie pies, hummingbird cake, and toffee bundt cake. I think the whoopie pies are enough for a meal all by themselves, and I wanted to be sure to leave room. Have them first, mission accomplished.

Duluth Restaurants: Whoopie Pies

With dessert as your starter, you may not have room, so go back a different day and try them. The Beef Fat Fries are your regular fries but fried in the brisket trimmings rendered to fat. Their malt vinegar aioli provides the perfect match. They offer smoked wings, pork belly lettuce wraps, a jalapeno brisket bomb, buttermilk chicken tenders, smoked chicken quesadilla, super nachos, and hush puppies as good as you’ll find in the South. 

They offer seven salads and wraps, twelve sandwiches, including the happily named Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, and my personal favorite, the Henny Penny (smoked pulled chicken with cheddar cheese and bacon). For the vegetarians in the crowd, they offer a vegetarian sloppy joe and the Beyond Burger, so everyone has something to love.

For those salivating for those dishes from the smoker, choose from smoked pulled pork, St. Louis Style Ribs, sliced beef brisket (my other favorite, like my Great Aunt Eileen used to make), smoked chicken, smoked OMC plate, country fried rib dinner, or a smokehouse dish from OMC tacos (my third top choice), pork ‘n grits, loaded mac & cheese, Korean BBQ Pork Belly Noodle Bowl, smoked pork burrito bowl, gumbo, and carne asada street tacos.

Duluth Restaurants: St. Louis Style Ribs

When I start with dessert, especially Whoopie Pies, I don’t have room for the entire meal and the sides. When I skip dessert, I can just about finish the sliced beef brisket and cornbread. 

I didn’t know working in Duluth could present a diet challenge. Good thing there are so many great outdoor activities to work all these calories off!

Pickwick Restaurant & Pub

508 E. Superior Street // (218) 623-7425

This Duluth classic institution opened in 1888 in the Fitger’s Brewery Company, but has been at this location since 1914. I can see it out of several hospital room windows, so it was nice to finally be there on a non-Sunday/Monday (it’s closed) and check out how great their award winning, chargrilled steaks are. Here I am, first in line to tell you, they deserve their reputation.

They serve Happy Hour in the Pub and on the Patio from 3pm – 5pm with $1 off all appetizers, and other discounts on their alcoholic beverages.

I’d love to go at lunch, but they don’t offer their steaks then, so I’ll get the fresh berry salad and the Pickwick steak sandwich, an eight-ounce New York strip grilled and served open faced on an English muffin, or their fresh Atlantic salmon, well done. The lemon dill butter is perfect.

Duluth Restaurants: Atlantic Salmon

They serve Canadian Walleye dishes that seem to fly out of the kitchen, they’re so popular.

But at dinner… oh, the glories of dinner. The charcoal grill emits that classic odor, and all is right with the world. It sears the natural juices and flavors for tender and juicy steaks and pork chops. 

With these meals come a garden salad, vegetable of the day, and then choice of Gouda mashed, Minnesota wild rice, baked potato, French fries, or homemade onion rings. I love the baked potato with asparagus when I’m particularly lucky.

Choices range from ribeye to tenderloin tidbits, barrel cut filet (my filet mignon!), NY strip, ribs, prime rib, vegetable kabobs, or Jack Daniels Glazed Pork Chop. 

In addition you can also choose the soup of the day or clam chowder, or choice of six other salads, appetizers, pasta burger, or seafood. 

Duluth Restaurants: Clam Chowder

For me, being with friends or family, enjoying the atmosphere of Pickwith’s after a busy day at the hospital with the barrel cut filet, baked potato and salad or asparagus, as the light dwindles on Lake Superior remains one of the most relaxing times I’ve experienced in Duluth. 

Va Bene Caffe

734 E. Superior Street // (218) 722-1518

Our favorite Italian restaurant in Duluth, you can catch great views during lunch and dinner from the enclosed solarium or open-air deck. Being able to see the lighthouses and the Lift Bridge makes it uniquely Duluth with the glory of Lake Superior. It faces east, so you’ll be surprised at the infused color at sunset. It’s not direct, of course, but the softening light across the Lake, especially during calm seas, makes the scenery match the glorious food.

They have been challenged by the pandemic and have limited hours, so check online or call before you go. Don’t hesitate to order online, but be sure to add the rosemary focaccia bread, since they don’t automatically add it.

Our favorites are the vegan and gluten free dishes, though the smell of fresh pasta does make one yearn for it. Their salad dressings and pasta sauces are all gluten-free and their pasta noodle from brown rice substitutes nicely into their dishes. To make many of the dishes vegan, they can hold the cheese for you.

For non-dietary restricted diners, one of the most favored meals starts with the Bruschetta, followed by the Signature Italian Sausage Soup (Mary Kay’s creation), hard to choose between the gnocchi and the salmon fresca (Dave Rogotze’s wild-caught Alaskan salmon) and then check with them for your choice of fabulous desserts. The options change daily, so you may want to call and ask about them first, too.

Duluth Restaurants: Gnocchi

If you don’t have a taste for the gnocchi or salmon, they do have pan-seared beef filet, mahi, or seared U10 sea scallops with house made risotto. They also offer a wide selection of seven paninis with a side of their signature Mista salad.

It’s a great place for well-behaved children and adults to kick back and relax on this most beautiful Great Lake. 

Zeitgeist Arts Café

220 E. Superior Street // (218) 722-9100

Contemporary cuisine, local art, and theater (film festival end of April), and the opportunity to test their extensive bar selection to see if they can make your favorite drink… what more could you ask for from the local arts café?

The menu changes seasonally, so it’s like to be different when you arrive.

Their small plates, fries, mussels, carpaccio, pear tart, or pork belly, combined with soup or salad, sandwiches (burger or grilled cheese) make it easy to stay longer and absorb the vibe.

Duluth Restaurants: Carpaccio

For larger appetites, try the yummy squash pasta served with mushrooms and black garlic chili flake, the pan-seared whitefish, Roman-style semolina gnocchi, sausage, and bean hot dish or stuffed and roasted chicken breast. 

 One feature I especially appreciate, since I do enjoy seeing great movies on the big screen, you can rent their space, pre-order snacks, and even, for a small charge, bring desserts in from a commercial kitchen.

They’ve already taken Zinema to the next level…

Black Water Lounge at Greysolon

231 E. Superior Street // (218) 740-0436

If you’re in town and interested in a cocktail lounge, this is the place for you. Opening at 4pm, it’s located in the Greysolon Plaza, f/k/a Hotel Duluth. The architecture is enough reason to go; the cocktail and dining experience is reason to go back.

One of the best things about a place that does fondue? That they do both a dinner and a dessert fondue. Eat “my” style and do the chocolate fondue first. They offer a dark chocolate fondue with pound cake, strawberries, bananas, and pretzels to dunk. It’s enough calories for a full meal, and filling too, but if you’re still hungry, order the smoked Gouda cheese fondue with blackened tenderloin, seasoned grilled chicken, granny smith apples, grapes, petite pitas, and toast crisps. 

Or the chocolate fondue with something a little lighter. They have sushi (crunchy roll, ahi roll, veggie roll, and hidden dragon roll), ahi tuna crisps (really fabulous), edamame (always makes me feel pious after over-indulging, but this one I might recommend before the chocolate fondue), and blue cheese stuffed shrimp.

Duluth Restaurants: Chocolate Fondue

For those of you who aren’t enticed by the chocolate fondue, you may like the spicy cream cheese crab wontons or the French onion sliders, the hand-cut French fries, or the honey truffle pear flatbread. 

The Chef’s Plate is popular among those that go to the Black Water Lounge for cocktails. The Burrata cheese, sopressata Italian salami, peppered salami, grapes, peppadew, blue cheese stuffed olives, cashews, raspberries, toastettes, and Ritz crackers will likely last through several rounds. 

Uncle Louis Café

520 E. 4th Street // (218) 727-4518

Open since 1993, they’ve made an art of all-day breakfast and lunch. The easiest way to view their offerings when you’re considering your order is to go online and choose between the Full menu and the To Go Menu. 

On their extensive breakfast menu, they offer ten styles of omelettes, five combinations of pancakes, four French Toast combos, a variety of fillings and toppings, a house special 2x2x2 that lets you combine your favorite protein, pancakes or French toast, and eggs, eight egg dishes, and eleven “complements” or side dishes.

Duluth Restaurants: French Toast

Flip the page and you’ll find the lunch menu, also served all day, with house specials like the Gyros sandwich or basket (add fries, onion rings, soup, or salad), burgers, grilled cheese, grilled chicken, patty melt, clubs, BLT, Denver, Philly Steak, or Reuben.

Hot sandwiches include mashed potatoes and gravy with roast beef, roast turkey, meat loaf, gyros, hamburger, or ham. Delicious.

Duluth Restaurants: Roast Beef Sandwich

If you have another inch of space in your stomach, take a close look at the bakery items. I’ve found that having both cinnamon rolls and caramel rolls is more typical than other places I’ve lived so choose between those, chocolate chip cookies that smell heavenly, or muffins that come in blueberry, banana nut, and chocolate chocolate chip. 

For (slightly) lighter fare, check out the salads and sides. Choose from chicken salad, Greek style, or Chef Salad, Greek salad, Caesar salad, a side salad, side Greek Salad, onion rings, French fries, or the soup of the day.

Call to order your food to go and you’ll be in time to get back to work. If you order in, you’ll want to stay a while.

New Scenic Café 

5461 North Shore // (218) 525-6274

Another local favorite, it’s about a twenty-minute drive (13 miles) from the center of the city. To be frank, it’s one of the more expensive places to go; one of my colleagues describes it as the “anniversary place to go,” and reservations are recommended.

While some may consider it “California cuisine” here in the Upper Middle West, most of the travelers I’ve met find it just delightful. 

Their Ahi tuna taco appetizers, when available, are awesome. Right now, they’re offering oysters on the half, smoked gold beets, deviled eggs, warm pistachios (yum!), pickled beets, or bread and butter.

Duluth Restaurants: Oysters

They also offer a daily soup, car acara orange, shrimp fried rice, yellowfin tuna, French onion soup, or “smorgasbord,” which includes pickled herring, smoked salmon, deviled eggs, pickled beets, olives, cornichons, dried fruit, cheese, rugbread, and artisan crackers.

Those of you that know me well know that I was looking at the dessert menu first. They offer strawberry mille-feuille (dragonfruit puree), chocolate cremeux, gjetost crème brulee (my daughter likes the lingonberries and says the pepparkakor is especially refreshing), chocolate brownie,or Abe Lincoln cake (French almond cake with boiled icing and buttermilk ice cream).

Turning to the mains, I was immediately drawn to the Norwegian salmon. Paired with rutabaga and Yukon gold potato puree, beet, buttermilk mustard and arugula, the fish was cooked as I requested and made a complete meal. 

Other options include mushroom melt, monsieur brioche, potato sausage, French lamb rack, cassoulet de Toulouse (duck confit and pork belly), venison strip loin (a hunter’s favorite), capellini, and a game platter. 

Duluth Restaurants: French Lamb Rack

They also offer a short menu for well-behaved children that includes noodles and marinara, grilled cheese, meatballs, French fries, peas and carrots, and apple sauce. 

One of the changes, I think with the pandemic, came with the Mise en Place Marketplace. They offer meal kits and fresh bakery items to take home and make on your own. These items are “easier” like Swedish Meatballs, Sashimi Tuna Tacos, Miso Sea Bass, Curried Mussels, smoked salmon appetizer and cardamom French toast that you can feel confident completing at home, no Blue-Ribbon Cooking School required. 

You can order online two days before pickup (Wednesday through Sunday) and pick up at the Café or have shipped to you UPS Next Day Air. Keep in mind that these meal kits are intended to be eaten within two to three days.  www.toasttab.com 

For a local delight combining poetry, stories, and recipes, check out the new scenic café cookbook. The gjetost crème brulee recipe is included.

Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake

805 E. Superior Street // (218) 728-1192

This wonderful tavern’s Old English feel starts before you walk in the door. The light brown brick and red awnings make it feel like a Tudor home, maybe especially during a rainstorm when you’re seeking refuge. 

Known best, perhaps, for their sandwiches, known as “Sandys,” their British Dip is their version of a French Dip, a shaved roast beef sandwich with Swiss served on a toasted white roll. Just what the doctor ordered for a blistery day. Other sandwiches offered include Fontina Flatbread, Portobello Melt, Avocado and Bacon, Sir Melt (veggies and cheese melted up and piled high), Chicken Bacon Art (Artichoke), The Shanwich (mushroom and cheeses and spices), The Pickled Pig (porchetta), Sir Pesto, Cuban Pork, The Reuben, The PPP (pastrami, porchetto, and pepperoni with provolone), The Bruce, Tuna Melt, and The Bahn Belli (candied pork belly).

Duluth Restaurants: The Reuben

Something for everyone.

To make a near infinite selection, you also have the opportunity to build your own sandwich. Images of Dagwood Bumstead float to mind at the possibility. Choose one protein, your choice of bread, cheese, 3 veggies, and spread. Voila. Your own personalized sandwich. After you’ve tried several, you may create your own new regular. I can definitely see the advantage of living locally to go through the menu first, and then create your own.

But wait, there’s more.

Appetizers include garlic cheesy bread, artichoke and spinach, a German pretzel (made by Duluth’s Best Bread), Hummus Platter, Pesto Bruschetta, Hot Chips, and the self-proclaimed Best Nachos Ever. 

Duluth Restaurants: Garlic Cheesy Bread

They also have soup and salads, three3 pizzas to choose from, and a “wee ones” menu.

Drum roll for the dessert tray… their standard offerings are a bread pudding, a (gluten-free) chocolate decadence cake (Yum!), French Silk Pie (My goodness, it is good!), and then Rick’s homemade pies whose flavor varies daily. You may just want to start with dessert first and take your sandwich home to eat later. 

The Portland Malt Shoppe

716 E. Superior Street

From the East Coast, it won’t surprise you that I thought this must be another Maine citizen who’d resettled elsewhere, much as Portland, Oregon received its name, until I noted the spelling on the website. Port Land. Ahh. It’s actually named for being on the western most tip of Lake Superior, on land near the port. Got it.

Having gone to college in Saint Louis and living the Ted Drewes experience, this stone and brick exterior ice cream “shack,” built to withstand the incredible Lake Superior weather, perched on a cliff above the north end of the Lake Walk, feels like the Duluth equivalent.

Walk up to either window; for me it was the coldest, rainiest day I’ve ever experienced in May at 46F, and get help from the young staff to choose your ice cream, malt, sundae, or float. One of their specialties is the Brown Cow, a root beer float with chocolate ice cream, another first for me!

A quick introduction from a very helpful employee helped me understand the difference between flavors for ice cream vs. malt. They have Raspberry Truffle ice cream and Raspberry Malts. No raspberry ice cream without chocolate. It’s a very chocolate friendly area. The toppings for the sundae are as additional layer of fun, with eight more options to consider.

Duluth Restaurants: Sundae

To narrow it down, she asked if I preferred chocolate. Not particularly. So no Raspberry Truffle for me. Cheesecake? Nope. Is the pistachio almond like a gelato? No, ice cream. Of the 14 flavors of ice cream, eight have chocolate. Hard to choose between the peanut butter cup and pistachio almond, I asked her advice. “I like chocolate, so I’d go with the peanut butter cup.” Sold.

What it didn’t occur to me to consider was whether that was a chocolate or a vanilla ice cream base. It’s chocolate ice cream with peanut butter cups. I took my first bite and thought, “That’s heavier than I’m accustomed to,” and a stiff wind came along and took the scoop right off the top of the cone. No joke. It’s like I was being punished. It hadn’t been a complaint, just a comment.

I turned back to the shoppe with my empty sugar cone still in hand and pulled out my credit card for another scoop. They looked at me startled. I pointed to the scoop sitting on the wet pavement and they nodded and laughed. “That happens more often than you’d think.”

I chose the pistachio almond this time. Much lighter than the chocolate ice cream, it felt more like an ice milk with delicious pistachio notes coming through and crunch sliced pistachios that added texture as well as flavor.

When you’re in Duluth, be sure to visit The PortLand Malt Shoppe, and ask them to “tap down” your scoop of ice cream if you choose the cone option.


Which of these Duluth restaurants will you try first? Let us know in the comments section below!

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