Regional food specialties
-Cruisin' Country MN (Duluth to Grand Marais)
Welcome back, I hope y'all are enjoying 'Travel Month' @chibbqking. The next adventure was part of my previously seen trips. After riding the WI portion of Great River Road we were headed for Minnesota where where would take in another scenic display. This is the story. We got into Duluth around 9p Friday night and checked into our spot in the downtown area and decided to skip around town and see what was going on. We had a couple stops on the agenda that night including the Fon-Du-Luth Casino in downtown Duluth followed by a night at Fitger's Brewhouse which is Duluth's longest operating brewery.
a view of Duluth from up top
The first night was an interesting one in downtown Duluth. It was filled with some weird people who might of been part of a "house" in the area or something, I'm not sure but the first night gave me a weird impression of the once thriving port city. At the end of the 19th century there were more millionaires in Duluth per capita than anyplace else in the world. I didn't take any tours but many are offered for the Victorian mansions that once could be found all over town. However today it feels like alot of other once thriving Great Lakes Port Cities and that's a place on the decline.
Lots of for lease signs are on the buildings downtown in beautiful old structures that are starting to decay since they arent used. They have however redone the entire Port area near the water and have bunch of shopping, restaurants and museums and hotels and it was packed the nights we were there, all the hotels were booked. Well the casino was average, aside from limited gaming options it wasn't a place with the vibe of a Vegas or Caribbean casino. More like most Midwest casinos in struggling areas. It was in fact depressing and made me leave straight for the brewery which was a short walk away after a bottle of beer.
I would suggest you piss your money away at the brewery...it's worth it
The highlight of the Duluth food/drink stops for me was easily Fitger's Brewhouse which was originally built in 1882 and at the time called Lake Superior Brewery. The company was renamed A. Fitger & Co./ Lake Superior Brewery when the place hired a young brewmaster from Germany named August Fitger, who less than a year into his job purchased half the company. Time has passed but the building has not. The place started selling pop and candy during the roaring 20's prohibition period and then sadly closed its doors during 1972 ending a 115 year tradition. Well that only lasted about 10 years because it was reopened in 1984 but didn't do too well do to the construction of Highway 35. It was then purchased in 1994 by four big time business men/beer fans and has been a thriving company since then. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the place today.
I loved this place as did those with me. We all liked different of beers and were able to find ones that matched our palates perfectly. My easy favorite was the Wildfire Lager brewed with jalapenos, habenero and scotch bonnet, it tasted like I was drinking a beer after eating some super spicy jerked chicken and kept me coming back for gulp after gulp right after I had one. The bartender kept asking me if I have had it before every time I ordered because its not for all but it was for me. After a couple hours at the bar we headed back and were ready to take the scenic Highway 61 drive north to Canada the next morning. Breakfast that morning for me was at the towns two local Coney stops not too far from each other. I spied one called The Original Coney Island walking to the casino and another one a block up not too far from the first one called Deluxe Coney Island.
Now is the only time where I'll jump off track on retracing my foodventure because after the scenic ride up Highway 61 on Saturday (Read on). I had a quick Pre-dinner snack at Northern Waters Smokehouse located in the new Duluth port district which I saw featured on Diners, Drive In's and Dives and had to go. This trip was my chance.
In the The DeWitt Seitz Marketplace in Duluth, MN
I used to watch many of food network shows in High School and my early college days but I rarely watch anything on there anymore. But I do love DDD and the places Guy visits. Northern Waters was always one of the spots I wanted to visit most that I saw featured on his show so I made sure I got there Sat. night about 40 minutes before they closed since we were heading out of town on Sunday. They smoke and cure everything in house and everything is alot of different menu items for both lunch/dinner and your fridge. This place is located in the newly developed tourist district near the water and around the museums and in a old renovated building turned into a mall called The DeWitt Seitz Marketplace.
house cured bacon, salami and fish are a few things they got
The brown sugar cured Superior trout was bomb
It all looked great
I saw two things on the show that really stood out to me. I knew those were what I was going to get along with some smoked fish. Unfortunately they were out of the cured in the basement special to the store salamini which looked heavenly on DDD. The guy said they wouldn't have any for a while because its a long process and the temp in the basement hasn't cooperated this summer.
I wanted some so bad...
I did however get to try the other item that caught my attention which was the pastrami mommy sandwich made with bison. It came served on pumpernickel along with pepperoncinis, lettuce, made in house mustard and mayo and some provolone cheese. I enjoyed my sandwich but next time will ask if the bison pastrami is sold by the pound and it eat straight up.
(bison) pastrami mommy sandwich from Northern Waters Smokehaus
Saturday morning we were on the road at about 10:30a and on our way headed north from Duluth up Scenic Highway 61 along Lake Superior towards Grand Marais and maybe Canada if we felt like it. After conquering the and getting a sneak peak of Lake Superior while doing so, I have always wanted to do the Lake Superior Circle Tour. However that wasn't going to happen on this trip. But the parts of it we got to do from Duluth to Grand Marais and back was a seller for me to eventually circling around the entire lake.
The closer you get to Canada the more "wild" it feels
It was raining the morning we took the trip but by the time we were in the car and rolling the sun was coming out from the clouds and the day turned into a beauty. The smell of the air from the rain, the lake and all the trees and grass was something we just don't get in the city so I took it all in and was happy to be cruising. We passed on some spots that we would eventually stop at on the way back as well as some spots we never made it too so I'm looking forward to my next visit in the area. Just like on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour and in any great lakes town, smoked fish is abundant and readily available.
All the smoked fish spots also do homemade jerky and Lou's was wonderful
After our binge of roadfood on previous days we weren't all that hungry at the start of this journey but when we saw the sign for Betty's World Famous Pie's and a whole lot of cars coming in and out of the lot we then had what would be our first food stop. Betty's is located in Two Harbors, MN and has been in the town since 1956 when Betty's dad built a fish shack near the Stewart river along Highway 61. Betty thought it would be a good idea to have snacks for the fisherman to enjoy and they started selling donuts and drink and eventually homemade pie's. As time went on they switched the fish shack into a cafeteria and added the pies to the menu with other breakfast goodies. Its now a regular stop for people traveling to and from the North Shore.
Two Harbors, MN
The place was packed with people dining in when we visited but we really just wanted some of that famous pie and were able to get some at the pie to go counter located in the waiting area. I asked the pretty girl working the pie counter what she would recommend I go for and she told me they sell more slices and whole pies of the 'Great Lakes Crunch' than any other and she really loves it too. Sold. I can see why. It had a little of everything popular in the pies they make including apple, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, rhubarb and some other things I'm sure I've forgotten. Now I'm not a pie guy but I always eat it when I'm at a place famous for it or known for having fantastic versions of it and this seemed like one. "I should of gotten a whole one" was what I was thinking as we ate it in the lot and hopped in the car to roll along.
Slice of Great Lakes Crunch from Betty's
So on we rode ready to cross off some of the 110 miles between Duluth and Grand Marais. We drove on and took in the scenes and fresh air. We saw some signs along the road for the 100th anniversary of the Split Rock Lighthouse which was built near Silver Bay, MN along the North Shore after a wild storm took 29 ships in 1905. The cost to get in and see the lighthouse up and along the beach was $10 and tours were available on most hours. We paid but didn't take the tour but did get to check out what was a beauty of a lighthouse built on a cliff that was in operation until it was shut down in 1969 and became part of the state park and Minnesota Historical Society. You get to see alot of lighthouses on any circle tour and this one is a worthy stop.
Built 100 years ago
"The site includes the original tower and lens, the fog signal building, the oil house...
...and the three keepers' houses. It is restored to appear as it did in the late 1920s."
View when headed down the trail to the water where shipping goods and packages arrived
After the history lesson at the lighthouse we were back in the vehicle with our next stop being Grand Marais. When we made it into town I was very impressed and taken in by the pure comfort and relaxation of it. It's without a doubt a vacation resort type town but its not quite as developed and populated as Harbor Country in Michigan is or any of the resort towns out east. After all your really close to Canada and you can feel and see that. Its a nice little town with the usual stores and restaurants and is located right on Lake Superior giving it a spectacular view when overlooking the lake. Something I saw that I've never seen on Lake Michigan was rides on hydroplanes available, and plenty of tourists doing so.
Grand Marais, MN
Our first order of business was to check out a spot with a nice view and get a cold one or two and just max relax in the bright shining sun. So we found a bar named Gun Flint Tavern with a patio on top overlooking the lake that was bragging about the best Bloody Mary's around. The bloody was really damn good and one of the better ones I've had while on vacation. The view from the deck, with the wind blowing and the fresh smell in the air on a perfect sunshiny day might of had something to do with it being so good. If there's one thing that the food stops in Grand Marais arent lacking, its views from their outdoor seating.
Good Bloody Mary's to be had here
View from the patio on the bars rooftop
So after some drinks it was time to get something to chow down. I wanted to try a place I read about called Hughie's that is the home to the puffed taco where they make the tortillas by hand in house. I thought that maybe this place had a connection to a Native American background but I don't think that was the case. But I will say that the ground beef puffed taco was very good and something I've been looking for here in Chicago for a while. I've never been to a place that uses a quality ground beef filling as most times they either have something with horrible texture or no seasoning at all in the meat mix and in most cases its both of those. Not here at Hughie's where the taco was fried perfectly and the shell and ground beef were the best parts to it. I would of had another if we weren't going elsewhere and one in itself was pretty filling.
Much better than our stop along the river...great fried tacos
Upon our entry into town one of the first spots to be seen was a fish house right on the lake which advertises fresh and smoked fish as well as fish and chips fried fresh for lunch. Well since we hadn't had any fried fish yet this trip here was the chance so we shot back over to the Dockside Fish Market for our next stop.
Grand Marais, MN
Everything good from Lake Superior is available fresh and or smoked
The Dockside is a nice little shop with a fish monger and country store feel. A few people came in and made orders for their homes and grabbed spices and sauces for their own bbq's while others were choosing between the kitchen menu items. Options in the fish and chips dept. were walleye, whitefish, herring and cod and also featured was a fish burger. I went with the walleye and took a seat out back on the deck, took in the view and waited for my order.
View from the outdoor seating deck and where all the fresh fish comes in
I'm usually a perch eater when I want some fresh fried fish while in Chicagoland and near Lake Michigan but walleye seems to run abundant and be available everywhere in the Superior region and I didn't make a mistake in choosing that. I haven't had walleye as much as perch and other choices of fried fish but the Docksides rendition of it was really damn good. Perfectly fried with a light dust and it just ripped apart into flakes the way I like it. The chips were eh but the fish was fantastic.
Dockside's fish (walleye) & chips
So then we fooled around and walked the lakefront for a few minutes before we would make our last stop in town which would be a place called simply put, World's Best Donuts. How could we not stop in and see if the claim is a real one or another bogus one like so many others? It had a constant flow of people coming in and out and that's never a bad sign.
World's Best Donuts (Grand Marais, MN)
I love the spots that do one thing and do that one thing really well. These donuts started getting made by hand in 1969 and then moved into their present location in 1979 and took the name 'World's Best Donuts' and its been all in the family since. The fourth generation donut family is many peoples must stop spot and favorite place to go in Grand Marais and its all about those donuts. I had one of almost every one they had in the case and they were so warm and mouth watering I went back in and got one more of each for the next day.
Not all places or people live up to their names...these did
Well I wish I could of stayed in Grand Marais a little longer but after a few hours it was time to roll out and head back towards Duluth and get to our next order of business. The fact that Thunder Bay, Ontario was a short ride away and me wanting to do the Lake Superior Circle Tour will get me back to Grand Marais one day. On the rebound back we stopped at a state park that's name escapes me but they had some cool waterfalls and it was free and a nice place to stretch the legs and grab some waters etc...
Waterfalls are always fun for the kids
We had one last stop to make on our return back down the lake which was going to be at a famous smokehouse in Knife River, MN which isn't too far from Duluth. Its an old school longtime locals and visitor favorite specializing in...you guessed it, fresh fish, smoked fish and beef jerky. Its a small shop with a tavern located next door that's connected to it so you can take your smoked fish and jerky and eat it while having a beer. We had a small piece of the sugar cured trout and got some jerky for the rest of the trip to go with it. We went thru the door attached to the shop into the tavern and had a beer and some smoked fish before heading back to the hotel.
Russ Kendall knows smoked fish and beef jerky
Back in Duluth but didn't have much time to rest,we were headed across the bridge to Superior, WI for dinner...
600 East Superior Street
Duluth, MN 55802
Northern Waters Smokehaus
394 South Lake Avenue
Duluth, MN 55802-2336
Lou's Fish House
1319 Old Highway 61
Two Harbors, MN 55616-1492
1633 Main St
Two Harbors, Minnesota 55616
Split Rock Lighthouse
3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd
Two Harbors MN, 55616
Gun Flint Tavern
111 Wisconsin Street
Grand Marais, MN 55604
Hughie's Taco House
15 W Highway 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604
Dockside Fish Market
418 W Highway 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604-2334
World's Best Donuts (seasonal)
10 Wisconsin Street
Grand Marais, MN 55604
Russ Kendall's Smoke House
149 Scenic Drive
Knife River, MN 55609