Stuff we like: First Restaurant Week in Duluth a hitThose who’ve taken part in Restaurant Week usually have a strategy: Mine is to hit my most expensive favorites to cash in on the set-price menus.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Those who’ve taken part in Restaurant Week usually have a strategy: Mine is to hit my most expensive favorites to cash in on the set-price menus.
Duluth’s first foray into a much-anticipated event in many bigger cities was dubbed Eat Downtown: Duluth’s Restaurant Week, organized by the Greater Downtown Council. Sixteen restaurants are offering $10 and $20 three-course lunches and dinners. The event runs through Sunday. Three of us at the News Tribune share our meal experiences.
We hit a deal jackpot at Bellisio’s (405 Lake Ave. S.) Monday when we discovered it was also half-price wine night. Considering the restaurant’s massive wine collection and that this applies to every bottle, this is a stellar night for wine lovers. We had to ask for the Restaurant Week menu, but it was the first night it was offered. Some restaurants give you a choice for each course, but here there was a single salad course, three pasta choices and a dessert. We opted for a $39 bottle of Boroli barbera.
The Tuscan salad — with cucumbers, capers, red onion, pine nuts, basil, currants, Roma tomatoes and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano — was a fun little salad — certainly more interesting and entertaining than your average restaurant offering. I chose the pasta alla arrabbiata with Italian sausage as my main course. I’ve had it before: spaghetti with a spicy tomato sauce and some ground fennel sausage. It’s a pasta dish with a nice kick and lots of flavors to roll around in your mouth.
Dessert was tiramisu; Bellisio’s shines. The almost frothy crème anglaise, the lush cake … a beautiful way to end the meal. And the deal factor: the spaghetti alone costs nearly $18 on a normal night.
I also had lunch at Lake Avenue Café, (394 Lake Ave. S.) which isn’t all that expensive. No printed RW menu; it was rattled off by the server and involved no choices. Two chorizo-stuffed dates as a starter, a whitefish sandwich with fries and a lemon-thyme chocolate truffle to end. The sweet dates mingled nicely with the smoky bacon, the spicy sausage and the dab of aioli. The whitefish sandwich was solid and well-fried, topped with what appeared to be homemade tartar sauce.
I opted for lunch at HellBurgers (310 Lake Ave. S.), which included a pick from the specialty burger menu, sweet potato or regular French fries, a drink ranging from beer to malt, and dessert of either a brownie or a cookie.
My picks: The thick Inferno burger with its gloppy, textured, spicy barbecue-like sauce, fresh jalapeno and pepper jack cheese was a fiery affair on a nice chunk of meat — probably more meat than I usually eat in a week. I like the fries at HellBurgers. The fresh-cut lengths of potato are soft, salty and warm. The malt’s consistency was just a bit thicker than soy milk, which I prefer to straw-cloggers. The brownie was moist, dense and cakey, like melted chocolate. It was delicious.
Like anyone who enjoys a sale, I spent a lot of time adding up how much money I would have spent on this meal if not for the set price of $10. (Burger + malt + brownie = $17.85)
Lawler’s story in the News Tribune about Restaurant Week prompted me to try Zeitgeist Arts Cafe (222 E. Superior St.) on Monday night for a family birthday celebration. The loft-like second-story dining area set a tone of urban elegance that carried through to the smooth-as-silk service and the artistic presentation of our food. The prix fixe $20 meal included a bountiful salad, a choice between grilled pork tenderloin and vegetable Napoleon and a dessert of bread pudding with dark and white chocolate with a raspberry sauce.
I chose the vegetable Napoleon and had a taste adventure with the grilled tofu, portabella mushroom, eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper and asparagus in a balsamic reduction. The veggies had just the right amount of cooked crispness, and a sweet tang from the sauce. The dish is only $12 on the regular menu. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at the reasonable prices of other dishes I’ll have to try on future visits.
My husband got more bang for the set-price buck by ordering the pork tenderloin (regularly $18), but I was able to walk out feeling self-righteously healthy.
Tell us about it
Did you check out any of Duluth’s Restaurant Week offerings? Send a photo and short review of the meal you ate to email@example.com.