Ramen noodle bowl at Lake Avenue Café. Photo by Joy Summers.
Even though I’ve somehow never been in possession of a Duluth address, I hold the hilly city by the Great Lake in my heart as a hometown. In high school I’d hightail it up here to hang out with my ever-cooler-than-me friends who would pump new music months before it would have reached my poor, deprived county mouse ears. I’ll never forget being crammed in the back of my girl Em’s car bumping the Beasties on our way to a night swim in Betsy’s Hole or a bonfire on Park Pointe. We’d pick up incense and CDs at the Electric Fetus and jangling jewelry at Global Village before hitting the rocks by the scrap yards of Canal Park for climbing and illicit cigarette smoking. Then my family moved here after our Grand Rapids house burned down and I graduated and launched myself into the world with reckless writerly abandon and somehow along the way, Duluth became synonymous with home. From Lakeside to Gary New Duluth, I have memories hiding in every corner of the city. This month in the magazine, Jason and I give our picks for Duluth restaurants, but I have a few more spots you simply must visit right now.
Coffee at Perk Place
There were dark days when the coffee selections were dim, but ever since Duluth Coffee Company began roasting their beans, the caffeine game has gotten a whole lot better. The charming café Perk is in the Kenwood strip mall and they serve coffee drinks made from these freshly ground beans. Grab a sandwich or berry-studded scone or just sit back and sip that rich, dark good stuff lacing a perfect latte. (Bonus points for offering almond milk!) perkplaceduluth.com
Breakfast at Uncle Loui’s
As incredible as the diner dishes are at the Duluth Grill, there are other places to catch an early meal around town. The locals head to the vintage comfort of Uncle Loui’s on Fourth Street. My go-to is an eggs Benedict Florentine with the hash browns extra crispy and a platter sized pancake for dessert. Hearty breakfasts are always in season up here because we’re usually five minutes from frosty temperatures. unclelouiscafe.com
Ramen at Lake Avenue Café
Now that the scrap is gone and Canal Park is a tourist destination, I don’t always make it down to this part of town, but when I want something good and local and served with an incredible cocktail, I’ve got to go to Lake Avenue Café. Right now the seasonal menu features an incredible ramen noodle bowl. The perfectly done squiggly noodles are dressed in chili oil and topped with snappy radish, little pickled mushrooms, sunflower seeds, a poached egg, and if you so choose, tender pork belly or duck confit. As my friendly server promised, it was the best ramen noodles I’d had in a long time. lakeavenuerestaurantandbar.com