All is well at the Breeze Inn, a bar and grill in Lakewood Township and a trump card in the whole best burger conversation. While you’re debating an olive burger from here, versus the patty with an egg on it from there, this spot on Jean Duluth Road has, potentially, a 45 minute wait crammed into its entryway and spread on its lawn on a Friday night.
There are 10 tables inside in addition to bar seating. When it came time to consider growth, Kate and Shaun Waggoner, in their eighth year of ownership, opted to add wheels. The Breeze Inn Traveler is in its first full summer operating as a food truck.
“We just wanted to make an expansion, but we’re not able to expand the restaurant itself,” Kate Waggoner said. “It seemed like the right way to do it on our own schedule, whenever we want.”
So far, that has meant a pop-up at Bent Paddle Brewery’s Festiversary, which became a weekly Wednesday gig, alongside another stop on Thursdays down the block at Duluth Cider. They also do events, including Castle Danger Brewery’s anniversary party on Aug. 17 in Two Harbors.
The traveling menu, which features 10 items, is a variation on what’s served in the restaurant: There are four burgers, which the Breeze Inn is known for, two sandwiches, four appetizers. A recent no-line wait for a cheddar cheese burger ($8) and white cheddar curds ($10) was speedy.
“It does require a lot of prep work,” Waggoner said. “We had to get creative with the food, but still use the same products (we use in the restaurant).”
For Kate and Shaun Waggoner, The Breeze Inn offered a divergence from their original work paths. Both, she said, had long and successful careers in advertising. They wanted to make a change, be their own boss. Then: “We stumbled on this place,” Waggoner said.
They spent eight months remodeling, which included doubling the size of the kitchen. The Breeze Inn already had a reputation for burgers and the Waggoners planned to stay on-brand. Theme-wise, they decided: “We’re just going to make it a place we wanted to go to,” she said. “Casual, clean, inexpensive.”
It is. The family-friendly bar and grill has signature burgers that incorporate jalapenos or Boursin cream cheese or a special sauce. They also do variation on a Juicy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger believed to have been invented in Minnesota. At The Breeze Inn, they might stuff a patty with Swiss to make something reuben-esque; they might stuff it with blue cheese and name it for a Lynyrd Skynard song (call me 'The Breeze' burger).
These days, Shaun Waggoner is the cook and Kate Waggoner is the sales-minded face of the business and can be found behind the bar chatting, cleaning tables, or, now, in the window of the food truck.
On the road
The Breeze Inn Traveler is among a handful of food trucks that has a weekly curb-side gig at Bent Paddle Brewing Co. — but it’s the only burger-specific operation in a neighborhood that includes Corktown Deli’s sandwiches, OMC Smokehouse’s smoked meats, Love Creamery’s creative craft ice cream, Taco Arcada’s tacos, and Dovetail Cafe’s salad-sandwich-bowls and breakfasts.
And when it sets up in Lincoln Park, it’s in a neighborhood that is about a 20-minute trek from the actual restaurant.
The burger options include a Minnesota hot burger (bacon, jalapeno cream cheese, Breeze sauce, onion, pepperjack), Minnesota nice burger (chive tots, bacon, cheddar, Top the Tater), cheddar cheese burger (they will add bacon), and olive cream cheese and provolone burger. While the in-house white cheddar cheese curds are served with a spicy cheese sauce, the food truck’s version are a meatier, juicier curd — maybe because of the quicker turnaround from vat to window.
They haven't found a way to do a traveling juicy Lucy.
The Waggoners bought the food truck in the middle of last summer, but it really got rolling this year.
“We just did what we did at the Breeze Inn,” Kate Waggoner said and laughed. “We didn’t know what we were doing there, either."
It's seemingly working. Pepin Young, of Bent Paddle Brewing Co., said The Breeze Inn Traveler was a hit at its annual Festiversary.
“They kill it,” Pepin Young, director of taproom operations at Bent Paddle, said of The Breeze Inn Traveler. “To be able to get the Breeze burgers and for that to be done out of a food truck is a big deal.”
If you go
For the Breeze Inn Traveler's whereabouts, follow The Breeze Inn on Facebook.