Nokomis Restaurant on the North Shore to closeOwners of a chef-driven, contemporary American restaurant on the North Shore announced Tuesday they are closing at the end of the month.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
Owners of a chef-driven, contemporary American restaurant on the North Shore announced Tuesday they are closing at the end of the month.
Nokomis Restaurant & Bar, which opened seven years ago, will close after lunch on Oct. 28.
Owners Rondi Erickson and her husband, Sandy Lewis, plan to retire, and grandson Sean Lewis, the chef and co-owner, has a new job lined up — but he isn’t saying where yet.
The move is bittersweet, said Erickson, who, with the rest of the owners, is always there when the restaurant is open.
“It’s been a good run,” she said. “My husband is 88 and I’m 65, and we’re going to work on our personal bucket lists. … Lots of travel.”
“It’s hard when it’s your passion and lifestyle,” Sean Lewis said. “If I had another child, this would be it.”
Sean Lewis was the only one with restaurant experience when Nokomis opened in 2005. He studied at the Opryland Culinary Institute in Nashville, Tenn., and then moved to Chicago, where he worked for Jean Joho at the Everest Room and opened the Naperville Grill and the Big Downtown for other owners. Lewis returned to Duluth with his wife to raise their children close to family.
The new owners updated the space that was formerly Shorecrest Supper Club.
Lewis said he considered taking on the restaurant himself.
“I didn’t think about it very long,” he said. “I need full stability. It’s been a pleasure to do the things we’ve done here. It gives me a sense of strong accomplishment that we have a strong following.”
Lewis will stay in the area and plans to announce his new position later this month.
Nokomis has been a destination restaurant for diners from the Twin Cities and Milwaukee, and it developed a loyal base of regulars. Erickson said after announcing the closure in a newsletter today that she received a flood of e-mails. Saturday, during what Erickson refers to as “Peak Leaf,” they served 110 plates at lunch, 120 for dinner.
“Good days are like that,” she said.
Neill Atkins was in the lounge on Tuesday and had just heard the news. He regularly dined at Shorecrest when he was a kid, and has stopped into Nokomis about once a week since it opened.
“It’s the only restaurant on the shore with a view this close to the lake,” he said. “I’m disappointed. It’s a great alternative venue with a great menu.”
The restaurant, located on North Shore Drive, has a sleek modern feel and large windows facing Lake Superior. There is a wine shop off the lounge and they carry wines from winemaker-owned wineries.
Some of Nokomis’ popular menu items have been its fish cakes, the sashimi tuna pizza appetizer and the walleye sandwich.
It was the walleye sandwich that starred when, in 2009, the Wall Street Journal included the restaurant in a piece about dining in “flyover country.”
Food writer Raymond Sokolov said of the sandwich: “The perfectly broiled piece of walleye we ate exemplified what cookbooks call ‘fleshy white fish.’ Moist, sweet-tasting and fleshy, this was supremo fish, in a truly superior setting.”
He described dining on Nokomis’ terrace like “sitting on the First Class sundeck of an ocean liner.”
Nokomis also received two Open Table Diner’s Choice awards.
The owners are selling or leasing the property at 5593 North Shore Drive, which includes 24 acres of wooded area in addition to the restaurant’s nine acres.