Add a meal or two to a fall-colors weekender in Duluth.
Yes, it's possible to find a non-chain kitchen in Canal Park. (Another worthy contender is a branch of Minneapolis-based Hell's Kitchen at 310 Lake Av. S.) Ignore the room's need for a makeover and concentrate on the appealing food, including abundantly topped free-form pizzas, creative salads, mile-high sandwiches and a few hearty entrees.
394 Lake Av. S., 1-218-722-2355, www.lakeavenuecafe.com
The James Beard Foundation didn't fork over that "America's Classic" award for nothing. Fourth-generation family ownership watches over this Duluth tradition, famous for its old-world charm, enormous supper club-style menu (don't miss smoked Lake Superior whitefish or the iconic pepper cheese burger) and welcoming bar.
508 E. Superior St., 1-218-727-8901, www.pickwickrestaurant.com
Love this place, for chef/owner Scott Graden's lively, seasonally focused cooking, for the colorfully funky surroundings, for the Minnesota Nice service and for the pretty lakeside location, about 8 miles north (well, more northeast) of town but a world away from the city.
5461 North Shore Dr., 1-218-525-6274, www.newsceniccafe.com
Just up the shore from the New Scenic, Nokomis chef/owner Sean Lewis satisfies a wide range of appetites with his smart, sophisticated cooking: a Lake Superior herring cake sandwich, slow-braised short ribs with a cucumber slaw, a shrimp-corn chowder, a big burger topped with herb-flecked goat cheese, strawberry-rhubarb shortcake.
5593 North Shore Dr., 1-218-525-2286, www.nokomisonthelake.com
A bright, cheery spot for pastas and paninis or dessert and coffee. Take a seat in the covered porch, which sports fantastic lake views. Be sure to check out Coppola Art Imports, the cafe's next-door neighbor, which is packed, floor to ceiling, with gorgeous hand-painted Italian pottery.
734 E. Superior St., 1-218-722-1518, www.vabenecaffe.com