Back to college: 8 Twin Ports eateries for whatever you’re craving

So, you want quality vegan fare, global flavors or a solid ’za? We got you.

V.I.P.'s New Orleans Chicken-Jack pizza comes with mushrooms, chicken jalapeño jack and mozzarella cheese, basil, and a layer of barbecue sauce. (Melinda Lavine /

Hungry? The Northland’s got you covered.

Here’s a glimpse of the many, many offerings for different taste buds and budgets.

If you want a high-end sandwich

Corktown Deli & Brews

1906 W. Superior St.



Corktown Deli's Turko Pestey. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

Along with house-smoked pastrami and turkey, Corktown Deli & Brews offers porchetta (pork roast), smoked brisket, chili and bacon blue cheese potato salad. It’s a deli-plus here, with well-done meats, salads, smoothies and beers. Also: some low-carb bowls featuring cauliflower rice.

I recently revisited their turko pestey with smoked turkey, feta, roasted red peppers, greens and a thick layer of pesto.

It was most scrumptious in the middle, where I was able to get the perfect bite of feta, meat, veg and the thick, delicious pesto. This one could go with two layers of the latter, imo.

Prices: $11.99-$13.99 for most sammies


If you’re in for a side of soul (food)

Doc. Witherspoon’s Soul Food Shack

319 W. First St.


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The catfish lunch from Doc. Witherspoon’s Soul Food Shack with a side of dressing and a donut-shaped cornbread with blueberry. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

This downtown Duluth spot offers a mix of history, Southern flavors and family.

Stephan Witherspoon carries the legacy of his father, the late Rev. Sylvester Witherspoon, who ran the original Soul Food Kitchen in West Duluth in the 1970s.


If you're in the market for fried chicken, southern mac and cheese, and fried catfish , hit them up.

During my earliest visit, I opted for the catfish meal over fried chicken or hot links. It came with two good-sized fillets, lightly breaded with a kick and smelling divine.

I’ve since been back many times.

Expect large food portions, cornbread donuts (what?) and savory and sweet dressing that’ll rival your mom’s.

Prices: hover around $12-$15 for most items

See also: Spoon’s Bar and Grill , run by Witherspoon’s brother, Solomon; and Howard’s Q’ue

If you’re craving global flavors

India Palace

319 W. Superior St.


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The Lamb Kashmiri at India Palace in downtown Duluth. The dish comes with a decadent curry sauce, raisins, cashews and cubed lamb over basmati rice. Naan is extra (and worth it). Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

Expect veggie jalfrezi, shrimp biryani, mango ice cream and so much more at this downtown Duluth spot.

My go-to is their lamb kashmiri , which comes with cubes of tender lamb, raisins, cashews and apples in a sea of to-die-for sauce made with onion velouté and tomato pureé. You can order it hot, which I always do, and the added spice only intensifies the flavors.

If you order to-go, expect two containers, one with the meat and sauce, the other with basmati rice. It creates a smooth and creamy flavor, with bursts of sweet from the apples and raisins. There will be enough for leftovers.

See also: When it’s back up and running, check out their lunch buffet for a wider taste of India.

Prices: range from $13-18 for entrees

See also: Nanay’s Filipino Kitchen , Thai by Thai

If you’re into quality vegan fare

Mama Roots

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The Buffalo Chik’n Tacos at Mama Roots Vegan Food Truck come with organic soy curls, "bus-made ranch," buffalo sauce, organic greens, tomato and green onions. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

This plant-based food truck sprouted in Duluth last summer, and they’re all about food that’s good in the tummy and on your conscience. It’s cooking from scratch with seasonal ingredients that aims to “challenge our world’s view on vegan food,” according to their Facebook page.

I was a stranger to plant-based food when I dined at the ladies’ food truck. Eating their Buffalo Chik’n Tacos and Moroccan Carrot Slaw was a game-changer — with juicy and twisty buffalo-flavored soy curls.

It was sweet, fresh and bursting with flavor — my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The slaw was a treat for the eyes and tongue, bright orange, zesty and mixed with grated carrots and golden raisins.

Mama’s apple cider vinegar-maple syrup-lime aioli was kicking.

For around $14, you get your pick of two to three entrees, and more sides with a mix of blueberry basil bowl, vegan queso and a crunch wrap, berry ice box cake, Philly chz, coffee cake pb cups.

Check their Facebook page, , for more info and for upcoming sightings. You’ll likely catch them at Back Alley Duluth, Wild State Cider or other like-minded spots.

Prices: $3-$5 for desserts or mint juice; $13-$14 for entrees + one side

See also: Grumpy Goose

If you want delish + cost-effective

The Rambler


The Rambler's Reuben Fritters are balled-up spheres of corned beef, Swiss and sauerkraut topped off with a creamy Thousand Island that packs an irresistibly savory zing. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

New to Duluth? You’ll see this green food truck roaming around the Northland from Bent Paddle to St. Luke’s, Vista Fleet and the Civic Center.

The food truck’s a staple, with most Duluthians claiming their go-to of bacon wrapped slaw dogs, mahi mahi tacos or teriyaki pulled pork.

Mine has always been the Reuben Fritters , made of balled-up spheres of corned beef, Swiss and sauerkraut. You can see tiny specks of seasoning in the fried and light breading.

Biting into the fritter, you’re greeted by shrouds of kraut and rich corned beef fall.

To dip or not to dip?

I say go for it in the creamy Thousand Island dressing that adds an irresistibly savory zing.

Get four for $6, or a half order for $3. Check their schedule , and ramble on.

Prices: $2-$12

You’re on the hunt something veggie + melty

Sir Benedict s Tavern on the Lake

805 E. Superior St.


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The Portobello Melt comes with marinated portobello mushrooms, Swiss, caramelized onions and Thai pepper mayo at Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake has a slew of vegan and GF offerings along with a variety pack of goods. Think: a pastrami, porchetta and pepperoni sandwich; a Bahn Belli, a German pretzel, salads, bread pudding, a list of nonalcoholic bevs.

Of their two shroom burgers, I opted for the portobello melt, which comes with marinated portobello mushrooms, Swiss, caramelized onions and Thai pepper mayo.

The portobellos are marinated in roasted garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper, thyme and lemon juice. The burger comes out warm with melty Swiss and creamy onions.

Sir Ben’s faces Lake Superior. There’s outdoor seating, wine, rails and beers — and a history of live music and open mics.

Prices: $4 for soup to $13 for the “Best Nachos Ever”

You’re in for something sweet + Twisted

Twisted Pastries

1418 Tower Ave Suite 2, Superior


Twisted Pastries in Superior offers cupcakes in chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, vanilla unicorn and strawberry shortcake. I went with the gluten-free red velvet, squishy with a dollop of not-too-sweet frosting and sprinkles. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

If you’re looking for a chill-yet-lively place to study that doubles as the Willy Wonka’s of baked goods, jet on over to Twisted Pastries in Superior.

The pastry counter is regularly something to behold. You might find red wine dark chocolate, cherry malt, blackberry lavender or unicorn poop.

During my visit, I was equally impressed with their donuts covered in mini marshmallows, dipped Oreos and cinnamon rolls as I was with their large gluten-free options of scones and macarons.

This is a tale of their GF red velvet cupcake , though, which was perfectly squishy with tiny sprinkles atop a mound of not-too-sweet frosting. (I also had a blueberry scone during this visit — shhh — which was equally delicious.)

Along with sweets, it is a full coffee shop with a mixed bag of full meals of oatmeal and acai bowls, panini sandwiches, hot chocolate and nitro cold press on tap.

Prices: $4-$11

See also: Wussow’s Concert Cafe , Dovetail Cafe & Marketplace

If you’re jonesing for ’za

V.I.P. Pizza

1830 E. 8th St.


V.I.P.'s New Orleans Chicken-Jack pizza comes with mushrooms, chicken jalapeño jack and mozzarella cheese, basil, and a layer of barbecue sauce. Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

V.I.P. has spots in East Duluth, West Duluth and Superior. If you’ve scoped the online menu, check that the location you choose carries it before ordering.

The menu runs the gamut of pizza flatbreads, calzones, pasta and pizza; the latter consists of a Polynesian, an Italian Kraut, a Cheesy Mediterranean Artichoke and more.

I’ve had the Chicken Wild Rice and the New Orleans Chicken-Jack, and highly recommend both.

Large dry herbs, mushroom chunks and chicken shards, onion and a fine layer of barbecue sauce rest on creamy pizza sauce with a little spice.

V.I.P.’s menu discloses that the chicken-jack ’za “was stolen from a neat little place in New Orleans."

I can see why.

Prices: $5-$42

See also: Stop and Go Pizza , Lulu’s Pizza

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346,
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