The Wolf's Nose: Duluth, Grand Marais, and assorted small towns of Minnesota
For our August trip this year, we decided to do an even split among visiting my in-laws, visiting Grand Marais, a town we dearly love, and someplace new--we settled on Duluth. Now you may ask 'why Duluth?' and I think a lot of people would agree with you. You have to drive through Duluth to get to Grand Marais so we've done it many times before and have been very taken with how pretty it is. It's not a great big town by any stretch but it's not tiny either. They call the stretch alongside the North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth well into Canada the Wolf's Nose, or at least according to some pamphlet I found they do. So come with me now . . (/makes creepy waving gesture)
We made it to town without clear plans of where to eat, just a list from the forums here and (whispering) Yelp on the iPhone, so we settled on a place downtown for lunch called Amazing Grace. It had been mentioned here and was described as a sort of hippie breakfast/lunch joint. Our ballpark for sure. It's in the basement of a lovely old office type building that's been converted into a sort of mall. The sign in the garden dining area:
We made our way through the line and stared at the board in front of us, and couldn't help but see the wire shelves with insanely good looking breads off to the right. There were a few entrees and the usual selections of soup salad and sandwich, so we both settled on a half sandwich and a bowl of soup.
This is a first-rate chicken salad sandwich, no fillers you don't really want--I think with the sandwiches they gave you a choice of four vegetable toppers and mine are lettuce, tomato, onion and cucumber, but they also had sprouts and the like. Alongside is a bowl of equally delicious creamy chicken and wild rice soup. Dale will be gratified at our efforts to stay regionally proper on this trip, but even if I didn't give a crap about that, I love me some wild rice soup and it's just not something that's easy to find here. I had a very fine lunch indeed. We were very tempted by the ample offerings in the bake case--I particularly remember some fine looking seven layer bars, another Midwest specialty I can't get enough of, but we needed to walk lunch off first.
The garden dining area at Amazing Grace looks out on a pedestrian-friendly shopping and dining area right at the shore of Lake Superior. The famous elevating drawbridge is on the same road as Amazing Grace, and there's a miles-long boardwalk and concrete trail alongside the lake. One interesting feature we stopped to admire was this thing:
One of the signs nearby explained that it at one time was a sand and gravel drop that was intended to keep ships bringing sand and gravel from coming into wherever they would normally bring such, but proved to be too unstable for the task. Now it just looks like a small concrete building somebody dropped into the lake. I have no idea if the kids and their dogs congregating on top of it is a normal summer thing or that there are few days you can really do this or not. (Lake Superior is friggin' cold.)
We got the general lay of the land and ended up at what used to be the Duluth location of Hell's Kitchen, now just called Hell Burger, for dinner. Now, I do not know what has cursed us about Hell's Kitchen, but on this venture and our previous venture to the original location in Minneapolis, we have had the bad fortune to be dining during a fight. You know what that's like. Crabbing at each other over the appetizer choices. Sulky silences over the entrees. If you're lucky, a rapprochement over dessert. I told Julie I think it's the name. I'm going back when they change it to Puppies and Kittens, or No Child Left Behind, or something like that. What we ended up with:
This is the small size of the walleye finger appetizer, alongside a jalapeno tartar sauce. These are really really good--so good we had to come down from our relative anger perches to agree on how good. In fact this dish ended up setting the walleye pace for the rest of the week. My entree was the French Dip:
And this is not a great picture but that was a really good sandwich. It's on ciabatta so it fights back a little more than the usual soft roll you get with a French dip, and the meat is very good quality. Super tasty. Julie got a tossed salad that's topped with the poached pears from one of their well known sandwiches:
And there's my only quibble. She was eating it glumly and I was eating my sandwich when I reached over and got a forkful of salad, only to find that it was absolutely coated with black pepper. I'm a pepper fiend and this was too much black pepper for me. I was like, what the . . . you, Hell Burger. Don't be that hipster joint that punishes people for not getting your signature dish. But that could have been the annoyance speaking.
Davydd talked about this outpost of Hell Burger in the definitive North Shore trip report, so I won't repeat much. They took about a third of the Hell's Kitchen menu--and maybe not the best third--added a lot of burgers and shakes and spiked ice cream drinks and there you go. It probably fits the touristy clientele there better.
Yeah, no dessert. Hope tomorrow goes better.