Where to Eat & Drink on the North Shore
By Molly Mogren
Perched next to the great Gitche Gumee (that would be Lake Superior), Duluth, Minnesota and the North Shore offer up some of the most beautiful vistas in the northern United States. It’s also home to some pretty amazing food. That combo made this the perfect mini-moon for my husband and me. Here are our favorite picks:
Be warned: One bite of Northern Waters Smokehaus’ sandwiches will probably ruin all future sandwich shop experiences in Minnesota. Eric Goerdt and his team smoke fish, meats and dry-cure sausages into salumi perfection. Their evangelized following lines up daily to get their fix. My guy and I ordered a Silence of the Lambwich, pillowy naan stuffed with smoke-roasted, curry-rubbed leg of lamb, sliced thin and topped with fresh basil, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and yogurt, and their legendary Northern Bagel, haus-smoked Atlantic salmon layered with green onion cream cheese and served on a crisp, toasted, locally-made Red Mug bagel. We took our goodies to go, then ate in a nearby park while staring at the ocean…er, lake.
DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, 394 Lake Avenue South – Suite 106, Duluth, MN; 218.724.7307; northernwaterssmokehaus.com
I love throwback food purveyors, and Russ Kendall’s in Knife River, Minnesota delivers. Their business dates back to the 1920s, when W.T. Kendall started selling his cured fish on the roadside. Since then, the business moved to its iconic red storefront along scenic Highway 61. They suffered a major setback this spring when their generations-old building burst into flames, but the Kendall family is back at it. Smoking their fish off-site for now, their legendary fish is as beautiful as its ever been. The salmon is excellent, but it’s their locally-sourced lake trout that keeps patrons coming back. Try their sugar-cured trout atop a Ritz cracker schmeared with cream cheese. Heaven.
149 Scenic Dr, Knife River, MN; 218.834.5995; facebook.com/RussKendalls
My hubby and I celebrated our second day as a married couple at this gem of a restaurant. The Highway 61 stalwart is a must for any travelers interested in truly good food. In 1999, chef/owner Scott Graden purchased a 1960s drive-in, transforming it into culinary destination. Expect dishes with a global flair, like curried blue mussels, beef tenderloin served with chocolate mole, cashew whip, baby root vegetables sfogliatelle and Medjool dates. Throw in a few glasses of wine and a slice of pie, and you have not only the best meal on the North Shore, but one of the best meals in the state, period. Why this guy hasn’t been nom-nom-nominated for a Beard award is beyond me.
5461 North Shore Drive, Duluth, MN; 218.525.6274; sceniccafe.com
With 20 craft brews on tap, you’re bound to find something you love at Canal Park Brewery. Located in… wait for it… Duluth’s touristy but still awesome Canal Park, you can belly up to the bar or grab a seat on their patio outfitted with a bonfire for chilly northern nights. Hops lovers will fall head over heels for their Stoned Surf IPA and their Resonation No. 1 offers clean and citrusy refreshment. The beers spills into the food menu (no pun intended… okay, pun intended), livening up the 15 Barrel Reuben made with corned beef braised in CPB beer, and making for a killer beer can chicken. If you want to try everything, you can order a sampler of all 20 taps… which will piss off the bartender, but will make you happy. Sorry barkeep, in this case, the customer is right.
300 Canal Park Drive, Duluth, MN; 218.464.4790; canalparkbrewery.com
Duluthians sure love their breweries, and Bent Paddle is another worth a visit. If you’re a beer lover seeking out new and interesting takes on a pint, you’re going to love what these guys are pouring. Their taproom features flagship beers like their smooth and chocolatey Black Ale and Venture Pilsner, as well as specialty options like Cold Press brew, made with beans from Duluth Coffee Company. If you really fall in love with the stuff, you can take growlers to go. You can also find their six packs all over town, perfect for throwing in your backpack for a hiking or camping trip. Gotta stay hydrated. Check their website for hours which vary from day to day.
1912 W. Michigan St, Duluth, MN; 218.279.2722; bentpaddlebrewing.com
About Molly Mogren
The daughter of a flight attendant and a hippy-turned-real estate developer who toured Europe in a Volkswagen bus, Molly Mogren came into this world with an undeniable sense of adventure. From hiking the Antarctic Peninsula, to outrunning a hyena in South Africa and even driving a street-legal monster truck through Des Moines, Iowa—she never turns down an opportunity to do something crazy. She’s worked as Andrew Zimmern’s right-hand lady since 2007; they’ve co-written three books together and co-host a weekly podcast called “Go Fork Yourself.” Her latest project, Hey Eleanor!, chronicles her year-long journey of tackling one thing that scares her every day. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband (Josh), dog (Patsy) and kitty (Bogart). She likes to drink coffee, do crossword puzzles and is very good at parallel parking.