Back to College Guide: Food — New and exciting, tried and true
Good news, everyone. There's a new go-to neighborhood in town, and it's about as far off campus as you can get without falling into Wisconsin. You've likely heard of OMC Smokehouse, the meaty sibling restaurant to the Duluth Grill, but what about the new sandwich-y sibling, Corktown Deli? While you were busy boosting your work resume with a choice internship, your wordly resume with some epic travel or your fun resume by getting very serious about the song of the summer, this deli popped up in Lincoln Park. You're going to love it. It's super casual, super cool. The MN Midnight and Turko Pestey have been tested and approved. Plus, they card literally everyone at the bar, so your 50-something parents will freak with glee. Here are more tips on the local dining scene.
- Corktown Deli & Brews, 1906 W. Superior St., Duluth
- OMC Smokehouse, 1909 W. Superior St., Duluth
- Duluth Grill, 118 S. 27th Ave., Duluth
AND SINCE YOU'RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
While you're licking aioli off your fingers, you're going to notice ice cream mound after ice cream mound being paraded past the window. Love Creamery, yo. This homemade ice cream and sorbet shop is a neighbor. Forget everything you know about flavor combos and leave all your life choices up to this team, known for mixes like honey lavender, white chocolate raspberry, and strawberry basil. They can also accommodate your veganiest friend. Spring for the waffle cone. It's worth it.
- Love Creamery, 1908 W. Superior St., Duluth
PAK IS BACK
You probably don't know Pak, yet, but she's back — in Superior. The restaurateur behind a Guy Fieri-approved Pad Thai Burrito has set up a new location years after closing her West Duluth fusion cafe. Order at the counter and stick around if there is room in the super-small shop. (At last count, she can seat 18 inside.) Favorites include curry puffs and spicy basil. And, of course, that signature burrito. This place feels like something you would just stumble on and it would forever become your secret spot.
- Pak's Green Corner, 1901 Tower Ave., Superior
WHERE TO BEGIN
There is a lot to love about Martha's Daughter, the most exciting food-related thing to happen in downtown Duluth since, well, owner Nyanyika Banda first began her pop-up restaurant here-there-everywhere. First of all, it's cool. From the light fixtures to the counter stools to the limited seating to the late-night dining options that have otherwise been spare. The menu is everything to everyone: The Ma Po Tofu is a flavor bomb and has Yker Acres pork shoulder, the the beurre blanc is what you didn't know you needed with your rainbow trout. For old-schooler's looking for a touch of history — this place was a long, long, long time hot dog shop — she'll serve you a coney dog. Also: I loathe mushrooms, but would eat three loads of mushroom-walnut dumplings. Wait. Did I mention the chicken and waffles. Oh. And the ramen. THE RAMEN. Also, Banda has recently started offering cooking classes.
- Martha's Daughter Culinary Arts Space and Restaurant, 107 E. Superior St., Duluth
GET THE BURGER
One of the biggest secrets about one of the most niche restaurants in town is that though it has made a name for itself in the grilled cheese biz, it also has the best burger ever. Reader(s), get thee to Toasty's downtown location, walk up to the counter, and ask Rachel for the classic American. Enjoy. They'll give you ketchup, but to use it would be tragic. Also: the grilled cheese options are great, and they have a good bread option for the gluten free-bies. The tomato basil soup is perf, but don't ignore the onion soup just because it's not tomato soup. Buck tradition.
- Toasty's, 220 W. Superior St., Duluth
- Toasty's 1032 E. Ninth St., Duluth (No burgers here, though)
(THERE IS NO BURGER)
Speaking of burgers: Don't expect to get one at Duluth's only 100 percent vegan restaurant. This super-sunny small and creatively chaired restaurant will, however, make you tacos — with walnuts instead of meat. The crew got its start as a place for juices — take one to go or do a 3-day cleanse of six juices per day. Personal favorites: pharm salad, gold tonic, acai bowl — there is one with PB&J. They've recently opened downtown, though there it is more about the juices, bowls and grab-and-gos here, but that's cool.
- Juice Pharm, 12 S. Fifteenth Ave. E., Duluth
- Juice Pharm, 31 W. Superior St., Duluth (in the Skywalk)
THE GREAT DEBATE
We can kick around who has the best pizza, blah-blah-blah, all night. But the truth is, there is a clear winner, and it's worth crossing the bridge. Thirsty Pagan has one-crust-fits-all, and it's on the thick side. They've mastered all the different dough-sauce-cheese-toppings ratios like a buncha freaking math whizzes. Plus, if you're lucky, Dance Attic will be playing while you eat and if you don't fall in love with this charming duo, you're clearly broken. Meanwhile, for the cash strapped, here's another secret: Domino's has really upped its game.
- Thirsty Pagan Brewing, 1623 Broadway St., Superior
REQUISITE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF GREAT RESTAURANT
New Scenic, of course. It's the best. Most innovative, cutest space, best vibe, a delicious way to spend $150. Truth: It's hard to do on the cheap. There's the fondue or the charcuterie, right. And the sea scallops. The goat cheesecake. The wine. But it can be done. Even the egg and asparagus sandwich is a big yes. Or go for lunch.
- New Scenic Cafe, 5461 North Shore Dr., Duluth
BUT YOU'RE WEARING A SWIMSUIT
So you say you love Lake Avenue Restaurant and Bar (who doesn't) but you don't think it's appropriate to wear your swimsuit inside the restaurant. Good news. The upscale Canal Park restaurant has taken over the beached boat previously occupied by Crabby Ol' Bill's. Expect them to elevate concession stand food: You can get a Yker Acres brat or a potato chip crusted chicken strips or breaded cheese curds. The mini donuts are homemade brioche donuts with powdered sugar. Or you can go home, wash the sand out of your armpits, slip into real clothes, and go to the restaurant.
- Lakewalk Galley, 510 Canal Park Dr., Duluth
- Lake Avenue Restaurant and Bar, 394 S. Lake Ave., Duluth
Let's stop ignoring the elephant in the room. It gets cold here and stays cold here. But when it isn't, it's crucial to spend all of your waking moments on a patio. Try Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake. While it's not immediately on Lake Superior, it's close enough to enjoy the way the world looks here. Plus, the sandwiches are good. So is the chorizo cheese dip. And the nachos. And the beer (if you're old enough).
- Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake, 805 E. Superior St.
FULL CIRCLE, SANDWICHES
Truth is, there was already a great sandwich shop before Corktown came along. Luckily there is room for zillions. Northern Waters is the OG, and lo has that rumor spread far and wide. (I mean, they sell mailable boxes of Cajun Finn ingredients for all the tourists and transplants who have a fever for the flavor). Navigating the line can require more than a lunch-break. Life hack: Go at 11 a.m., and it's zippy skippy. The most popular sandwich is the Cajun Finn, but you can't go wrong. (Try the Sitka Sushi and you'll wake up in the middle of the night craving it.) Also, for bread-loathers, get the NWS salad. It has everything you like about the sandwiches — including a generous portion of the the house-tended salmon.
- Northern Waters Smokehaus, 394 S. Lake Ave., Duluth