Weekdays, nothing beats the plate-size, nutty-brown buttermilk pancakes and the rib-sticking egg dishes from At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe. Weekends, the eclectic brunch selections (and creative brunch cocktails) at Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar are tops in their field.
Zeitgeist Arts Cafe covers all kinds of bases — broiled Lake Superior whitefish sandwiches, rice bowls with shrimp and Thai chilies in a fragrant mushroom broth, lavishly topped half-pound burgers — in a loft-like environment.
The time slot is owned by Pizza Lucé, which keeps the ovens fired up until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights, and 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
Patios of distinction
Look no farther than the people-watching perch at Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake. The rooftop tables at Grandma’s Saloon & Grill feel so close to the Aerial Lift Bridge that they invoke reach-out-and-touch compulsions.
The solarium at Va Bene Caffe offers shelter from Lake Superior winds without blocking Lake Superior views. For sheer size, nothing beats the sprawling indoor/outdoor setup at the slick, bustling Tavern on the Hill. And two comfy Canal Park patios manage to get relatively close to the water: Endion Station and Canal Park Brewing Co., which combines house-brewed beers, crowd-pleasing fare and an animated lakeside setting.
Experience the “summer” and “drive-in” alchemy that is A & Dubs, which covers all the drive-in bases (burgers, crinkle fries, root beer floats) and then some, all within walking distance of Wade Municipal Stadium, home of the Duluth Huskies baseball team.
Toasty’s skillfully whips up grilled cheese sandwiches to suit every whim, at budget-friendly prices.
Oh, and kids of all ages will appreciate the PortLand Malt Shoppe. Sure, the lakeside location — housed in an adorable 1921 filling station straight off a movie studio back lot — is a major draw. The reasonably priced cones, sundaes, malts and floats are another.
Stock the basket in the impressive deli counters (boosted by a quick breeze through the Minnesota- and Wisconsin-heavy selections in the cheese case) at the two Whole Foods Co-op outlets. Dessert? The sublime whole pies — with their impossibly flaky, lard-fueled crusts — imported from the Rustic Inn Cafe in Two Harbors.
Browse through the Blue Heron Trading Co. for a one-stop selection of Duluth’s artisanal side, everything from Epicurean’s Lake Superior-shaped wood-fiber cutting boards to gooseberry-allspice-clove jam from the Duluth Preserving Co. Stock up on long-forgotten soda pops at Fizzy Waters, and if the city is suffering under a rare heat wave, cool down with one of the root beers or seasonal sodas on tap at the counter.