Taste the Twin PortsDid you know the town you have chosen to call home for a few years has some pretty awesome eateries?
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Hello, students. Welcome back. Or welcome to Duluth, if you’re new here. You may still be getting used to your dorm, apartment or house with four other people. But soon you will find that you need to get out and eat something that doesn’t come from a delivery man, a cafeteria or a restaurant that has 10 million of itself in 15 countries. Did you know the town you have chosen to call home for a few years has some pretty awesome eateries?
Maybe you’ve discovered some. But just in case, here’s a handy list of the News Tribune’s very-hard-to-narrow-down Top 10 Twin Ports restaurants for every college-student craving.
Northern Waters Smokehaus
394 S. Lake Ave., (218) 724-7307, nwsmokehaus.com
Northern Waters smokes and cures its own meat and fish. That makes for some intensely satisfying sandwiches. Sure, the place has gotten a bit famous having appeared on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” but it hasn’t changed its game. The Pastrami Mommy, the Cajun Finn and the Italiensk are great bets. My favorite, the Thursday special of smoked-sage and maple turkey with pancetta, tomato, greens and mayo, is about the best damn thing you can eat for $6.50, anywhere. For real.
805 E. Superior St., (218) 728-1192, sirbens.com
New owners have added an Italian touch to the offerings, but sandwiches still reign at Sir Ben’s. The beer selection is top-notch and the atmosphere is conducive to studying or hanging out for extended periods of time. Outdoor seating, when it’s warm enough for use, gives diners/drinkers lake breezes and good people-watching.
1623 Broadway St., Superior, (715) 394-2500, thirstypaganbrewing.com
The thick, cheesy, topping-heavy slices at Thirsty Pagan are best eaten with the place’s own beer, like the White Cap Wheat for lighter tastes or the Burntwood Black for heartier drinkers. The setting is kitschy and fun and there’s often live music. Superior is home to some really good pizza, but this is among the best in the area.
307 Canal Park Drive, (218) 727-2226, vittapizza.com
This is a new kid on the block, and metro-area students will liken it to Punch Pizza. The pizzas are Neapolitan-style with fresh mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes and flour for dough from Italy. But the restaurant doesn’t have the Vera Pizza Napoletana certification showing it conforms to Naples, Italy, pizza standards, as Punch does. It’s cute and quick, with a pizza finished in less than a minute because of the hot, hot heat of the wood-fired oven. If you choose your own toppings for the single-serving pizzas it can get pricey, so stick to the basic Margherita for $7.50 and you can’t go wrong. Sometimes, simple is best.
11 E. Superior St.,
(218) 727-7400, pizzaluce.com
Pizza Luce is sort of the grand dame of night-time fun in Duluth. It’s the epicenter of the annual Homegrown music festival, and there’s usually music — good music — every week. You can order food late into the night, and it always seems as if people are having a good time. Of course, the pizza is terrific, and so is the breakfast. Good, unconventional pizza bets are the Pizza Athena and the Ruby Rae.
600 E. Superior St. in Fitger’s Brewery Complex, (218) 727-1978,
The food here comes quick and cheap. The giant menu pretty much fills all of your tortilla-meat-seafood-cheese-refried beans desires, and has a decent-ish salsa to boot. Its most obvious appeal in the summer months is its lakeside deck. Margaritas, chips and salsa, some tacos and you’re set.
1332 E. Fourth St., (218)
For those craving something a little Chipotle-esque, try Burrito Union. Better ingredients here than that chain, and another source of good beer and margaritas. Close to the colleges, too.
At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe
1902 E. Eighth St.,
(218) 724-6811, astccc.net
The Twin Ports finally has a strong collection of smart, worth-your-money fine-dining restaurants. Too many to name if you start counting those on the North Shore. And Chester Creek Cafe, close to UMD, is one of the leaders of the pack. An ever-changing dinner menu filled with as much local meats and produce as they can get, and breakfast and lunch menus that rarely miss, make this a place to take your parents. Chester Creek is a good showcase for what Duluth restaurants can do when they work a little harder to use the land despite our short growing season.
110 N. First Ave. W., (218)
The area’s first fine dining Japanese restaurant was a welcome addition for many. Hanabi is beautiful, and so is the food, from the sushi and specialty rolls to the noodle dishes. It can be cheap or expensive, depending on your tastes. The Tuna Tortilla is a good start followed by the No. 9 or Devil rolls. And they have sake. (Zen House and Osaka are other good area Japanese offerings.)
600 E. Superior St., (218)
If you ever traveled to Duluth pre-college, someone probably recommended the Brewhouse to you. One of the best breweries in the region, it also turns out pretty fantastic burgers, sandwiches and salads. Favorites include the Maple Salad, the beer-battered French fries, the Red Angus and Harvest Moon wild rice burgers and the quesadillas. I could go on. You should just go.
413 Tower Ave., Superior, (715) 394-9747, anchorbar.freeservers.com
The cheapest burger in the Twin Ports also has legions of fans who say it’s the best. A cheeseburger is $3, but you can get a cashew or cream cheese and olive burger for a few quarters more. French fries are rock-bottom cheap, too, but certainly do not taste like it. The Anchor, with its dark, comfy ambience and walls laden with crap that will make your eyes wander for hours, is a no-brainer reason to cross over to Superior.
*Another notable burger in Duluth is from Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. You probably already know about it.
27th Avenue West off Interstate 35, (218) 726-1150, duluthgrill.com
Duluth Grill is another restaurant that takes the term “local” to heart. From butter and jam to whitefish, bison and tomatoes, the place carries a long list of what it derives from the area. Maybe you don’t care about that. But you will care about its Scotch eggs, its huevos rancheros skillet and the caramel apple French toast. Another nice thing about the Duluth Grill is its plentiful gluten-free and vegetarian offerings. It also serves great lunches and dinners and is another spot that ended up on the Food Network.