In March, as Duluth's New Scenic Cafe (5461 North Shore Drive, newsceniccafe.com) was nearing its 21st anniversary, chef/owner Scott Graden was entering uncharted territory. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz closed the state's restaurant dining rooms. Graden has kept the New Scenic shuttered all summer, his peak season.
To keep the kitchen active, Graden has been turning out a meal kits program. His next step is launching a mobile kitchen. Last year, Graden purchased a 1969 Airstream trailer, and he and a few friends have refurbished it.
The original plan was to haul the 26-foot trailer to the Twin Cities later this month, for its debut at the Minnesota State Fair, selling the New Scenic's signature sashimi tuna tacos. Instead, Graden will invoke the restaurant industry's word of the year — pivot — and use the trailer, which he's christened Scenic 61, to serve lunch on the attractive grounds of his slumbering restaurant.
There's more. In the evenings, Graden has plans for Scenic 61 to make appearances at area breweries. He's also using the New Scenic's underused kitchen capacity to kick-start a bakery on wheels.
"We're looking at taking the Airstream down to Canal Park in the mornings and doing the bakery/breakfast thing," said Graden. "We haven't committed to anything yet, but we want to do what we can do."
In this time of uncertainty, Graden said he is convinced about one outcome.
"I'm interested in buying more Airstreams," he said. "If anybody out there has one, call me up."