Best of Food & Drink
Best American Restaurant
The Duluth Grill takes yet another landslide win for “best American restaurant.” The Duluth Grill hits all the important notes: exciting menu items you’d probably never make yourself (like the bison french dip sandwich), comfort food that isn’t just phoned in, a friendly staff, and a large variety of side options, desserts, and beverages (the chocolate malt is to die for). Add to that a focus on sustainability and plenty of items to fit special diets (particularly gluten-free and vegetarian), and you have yourself a truly high-quality restaurant. Grandma’s takes second place.
Best Asian Restaurant
Many in Duluth agree that Thai Krathong’s food is awesome, the staff is friendly and there’s even a bar! Your votes were counted and Thai Krathong took a strong win for “best asian restaurant.” Although Krathong come out on top, this wasn’t to say that there wasn’t some healthy competition. Golden Inn in Superior led this showdown for quite awhile in our counting process, then Hanabi started to look like a strong competitor. Hanabi took the runner up spot and Golden Inn came in as a very close third.
Positively 3rd Street Bakery
The bakery located at 1202 E. 3rd St. in Duluth offers up a delicious assortment of breads and sweets. Worker owned since 1983, follows a unique business model that supports “economic and environmental sustainability, customer service and having fun.” This year they took in a very impressive amount of votes. Again Johnson’s Bakery was right behind 3rd St. the whole time. The two actually dominated in the votes. What was missing was the usual presence that Twig and Amazing Grace have had in the past in our survey.
Best Bar & Grill
Grandma kicked some butt on the topic of “bar & grill.” She showed she’s not messing around when it comes to cooking up some tasty fare that’s served up in a unique and comfortable environment by a nice and attentive staff. You showed that you are keen to all of this and showed it by putting Grandma’s decently above many establishments. Interestingly, Gronks, a nice burger joint/bar, in eastern edge of Superior got a respectable number of votes for second place. The Anchor trailing just slightly behind in third.
Once again Forrest at the Dugout Lounge in Superior has won best bartender of the Twin Ports. The Dugout is perhaps the most laid back sports bar in the Twin Ports. A wide demographic of folks come through the place. Although there are enjoyable things such as a free old school jukebox with a nice assortment of songs you wouldn’t normally find on a touch screen, or the fact that at regular prices the Dugout beats a lot of bars specials over in Duluth, many go there just to say “hi” to Forrest. If you’ve never been there be sure to ask when “Monty” will be showing up. The runner up is Eric Nelson from Grandma’s with a good number of votes.
Best Locally Brewed Beer
Once again Fitger’s grabs the win for “best beer” over Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior. This year the two went back and forth pretty competitively, certainly a lot more than in previous years. All in all, it’s really hard to say which is “better” or “best,” both have staples and then explore around with different special and seasonal styles. Fitger’s is known for it’s “Starfire” Pale Ale and “Apricot Wheat” and TPB is known for it’s “Derailed” Pale Ale and robust “Burntwood Black.” Let’s say that there’s bound to be a flavor most beer drinkers will be happy with.
Best Beer Selection
Unless they for some reason don’t think that having this much of a selection is profitable, tOld Chicago is likely to just keep winning this. Let’s put it this way, there’s more than a hundred beers to choose from beside Bud or Miller. They don’t call it “Around the World” for nothing. A sports bar feel with great pizza and pastas make Old Chicago a winner. Fitger’s Brewhouse was a very close runner up once again.
Best Mexican Restaurant
Last year it was a fearsome battle between Lindo and Hacienda. The votes swung around back and forth like a couple of luchadores on a wrestling mat. Lindo came out on top, but just barely. This year with Hacienda out of the picture, Lindo came in and stomped the competition. It was only Guadalajara’s in Superior that might have stood a chance. In the end Guadalajara’s laid defeated while Lindo laughed and laughed.
The Hacienda closed after a kitchen fire early in 2011 and they decided to not reopen the establishment. Their yummy food will be missed.
Best Burger Joint
What are we even going to say on this. Young adults going to college were knee-high to a grasshopper back when the Anchor in Superior was winning this one. Featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it even captured the eye of Guy Fieri, the charismatic host of the show. One can become lost in just looking at the unusual maritime objects that adorn most every inch of the Anchor. That is except for the grill. While Five Guys has way more than five guys working in a kitchen. Often one hard working soul is flipping up some juicy deliciousness at the Anchor. With unique kinds of burgers such as the cashew burger and Hawian and the ever tasty fresh potato fries, it’s no real wonder that the Anchor just keeps winning this area. Gronks came in behind Anchor, but still had a good # of votes.
Best Coffee House
It seems this is the first time Red Mug has won “best coffee house.” Of course Beaner’s (last year’s winner) and Amazing Grace (always a strong contender) had plenty of votes, but Red Mug came out clearly on top. Suzie Johnson, the new owner, has clearly hit the ground running; also adding a new Red Mug Bakery upstairs. This independent coffee house serves locally roasted coffee and an assortment of food and treats. They have an active involvement in local arts and music as well.
Super One (Locations Combined)
Co-op Whole Foods takes second...Mount Royal comes in with a respectable third place. With six Duluth locations, Super One may have beat the competition on account of convenience, although overall its prices are lower than the runners-up. Also, its natural and organic food sections see fairly regular enhancement.
Best Gourmet Dinner
A dinner at the New Scenic café is virtually guaranteed to impress, both in taste and presentation. With an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, New Scenic features masterful entrees such as duck with root vegetables and fried sage, and starters like curried blue mussels. Enhancing the dining space are Lou Pignolet’s hand-crafted wooden bowls and the artwork of other locals. Runnerup Bellisio’s offers upscale Italian fare with an award-winning wine selection.
Best Place for Happy Hour
Grandma’s wins best happy hour, most likely a reflection of the “Cheers” like atmosphere; whereby half the residents of Duluth know the “regulars” who have been working at Grandmas with grace and efficiency for 10, 20 or even 30 years. OK, some of them since 1976. It is hard to beat that comfort zone. Sleek and stylish Blackwater Lounge is the runneru.
The Anchor Bar takes this one as well. And we’re not talking about spelunking. We’re talking about $2.50 for a pitcher of Grain Belt. And $7 for a pitcher of Summit. And then $4 for a huge burger with fresh cut fries. You can get wasted and stupidly full for less than ten bucks. This is completely impossible to do anywhere else on the planet. Can I get a hell yeah?
Best Liquor Store
With prices as low as the Keyport’s, it is always wise to make the trip across the bridge on a Sunday. Their selection of wines and microbrews is unmatched. The folks at Keyport take the cake this year with unbeatable value and great selection. 14 years and counting. Cashwise follows distantly as the runner up.
Best Outdoor Dining
It’s hard to imagine even wanting to eat outside, but summer will come eventually, we hope, and when that happens, there’s nothing like taking in some of that nice weather. This year Sir Ben’s gets the win. due to their great beer selection, great sandwichs and the coziest deck with a view to be found. They were the runners up last year, (and have won many times before) so it’s no big secret that they have great outdoor dining that overlooks the lake. Mexico Lindo took second place.
Best Place for a Business Lunch
Since their recent renovation, the Radisson rooftop restaurant has been earning kudos for their dramatic improvement. The Anchor has yet to win this category,we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Best Place for a Romantic Dinner
There’s something about Italian food that’s romantic. Enjoy some great pasta and top notch wine and see where the night goes. New Scenic took second this year and JJ Astor took third. The other nominees (even the Anchor) didn’t come close to these three.
Best Really Cheap Food
How cheap is the Anchor? Cheap...real cheap. You can have a full belly and a buzz going for $10 at the Anchor. You can get a shot with bacon in it and guess what? It’s cheap. You can buy a pitcher and if you’ve never been to the Anchor before, if you’re an honest person and they never told you how much it was, you’d ask if they made a mistake it’s that cheap. And it’ll keep being cheap as long as this kind of American life style can sustain itself and they’ll keep winning and winning.
Best Place to Eat at 2 a.m. When You’re Wasted
I can only imagine the hell their servers go through on a Friday night. When you’re drunk on the east side and McD’s just won’t cut it, Perkins satisfies that hankering. The price or quality isn’t exactly of relevance but neither is anything else at that point. Good portions, easy going night staff and probably some other drunken antics make Perkins a great place to get your munchies on.
Sammy’s is a Duluth landmark and has been since the 50’s. There pizza’s are to die for, and depending on the location, they have a pretty colorful staff. When people move away they always say, “The first thing I do when I get back into town is get a Sammy’s.” I’ve heard 100s of people say this. There’s something in that sauce that forces you to come back time after time. Let’s give them another 50 years making great pies. Vintage Italian Pizza won second place.
MMMmmm...Riibbbzz...so yummy, so shamelessly messy. The people that go to Eddies feel no shame when chowing down on some of these ribs. Eddies has a great collections of automotive collectibles and decor which makes the experience even more cool and enjoyable. Normally Famous Dave’s is right on Eddies but they slipped a bit and settled for second for two years in a row.
Amazing Grace’s create-your-own sandwiches are a hefty handful, and what could be better when that handful consists of fresh artisan bread and ingredients like roasted red peppers, homemade hummus, and pastrami. This iconic eatery tucked into the basement of the DeWitt Seitz building will live long and prosper with the sustainable, healthy approach that they’ve employed for years. Northern Waters, meanwhile, has a wide variety of inspired sandwich creations with delicious touches like craisin walnut mayo and pickled ginger.
Though we live on the largest lake in the world, our city’s seafood selection could be considered sub-par. Thank goodness we always have Red Lobster to sate our fishy cravings. A lobster is a lobster and is going to be expensive and delicious wherever you are. With a substantial monopoly on reasonably priced seafood, Red Lobster takes it again this year. Hanabi gained a distant second place.
I have a love unlike any other for the Hammond. Sunday and Monday nights they have a steak and shrimp special for $10.99 which includes: dinner rolls, salad, a nice sized quality steak cooked to your liking, broiled shrimp on a bed of wild rice or fried with cocktail sauce, and a choice of potato. Can’t beat it. Afterwards, head downstairs to the bar and sip on a $2.50 Jack Daniels Single Barrel or a $2.50 Summit or Newcastle. Timberlodge ran a strong second.
Best Serving Staff
You’ll be hard up to find anyone saying that Grandma’s has poor service. It might be possible that a server anywhere might just be having a bad day, but that’s definitely the exception at Grandma’s. The same goes with Duluth Grill who took second place. Expect friendly and prompt service any given day out of the year.
Best Kept Secret
Eddies & The Kitchen (Tie)
It’s perhaps the out of the way locations of these places that people thought that these were the best kept secrets of “food & drink.” The Kitchen is basically in the middle of a residential area in North Superior. Eddies is tucked away in deep in East Superior. Although these little gems are hidden, they’re worth finding.