The approach to Duluth, Minnesota allows a clear view onto Lake Superior. We curved along a downhill ramp toward a thin strip of land which juts out into the great lake that meets only the horizon. The city sits, for the most part, on a steep hill. We’d be staying at its sea-level heart. A long, thin road into Canal Park was dotted with old factories now transformed into inviting boutiques, breweries, and restaurants.
At the Park Point Marina Inn historical maps and photographs of ships sailing into the great Midwest’s seaport covered the walls. Our hotel bedroom window looked out onto a marina. Far from the ocean, and yet I felt at home.
We grabbed a bite at Grandma’s Saloon & Grill. The walls are covered in vintage adverts alongside the heads of some large animals. Then, we joined locals and tourists alike on Canal Park to watch Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge open for outgoing vessels. A massive cargo ship was heading across Lake Superior to Erie Canal, down the Hudson River to New York.
The edge of Canal Park is s sandy smooth beach with fresh water waves lapping small and quick on the shore.
Duluth’s Fine Exports, Fine Dining and the tunes of Bob Dylan
The Duluth Pack was born as a portage pack for canoes, a key mode of transport and modern-day state hobby in the Boundary Waters. These are beautifully crafted satchels that would make any hipster drool.
Duluth Trading Company deserves an ode to their “adventure pants” as Andrew and I call them. Such sturdy, flexible well-crafted denim was perfect for the continued journey northward. Notably, the shop on Superior Street has a fantastic cabin-building book selection.
Superior Street in Duluth runs along Lake Superior and leads right into Bob Dylan Way, a.k.a. Highway 61. Growing up I loved old albums and had a framed copy of Highway 61 prominently displayed in my bedroom.
You can’t go very far in Minnesota without being reminded of its strong Nordic and Scandinavian heritage.
Pictured here: a statue of Lief Ericson, an Icelandic explorer, known as the first Norse explorer to reach America. The only other place I have seen a tall statue of Lief is in Reykjavík.
Behind him is a vibrant and fragrant rose garden.0
We took the County State Aid Hwy 61, a route along the water so scenic, it seemed like a Robert Moses-inspired Pacific Coast Highway right here in northern Minnesota.
it seemed like a Robert Moses-inspired Pacific Coast Highway right here in northern Minnesota.We passed a one level building with large windows, wild gardens, and several Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake and were compelled to stop. We had arrived at the New Scenic Café. Before leaving town for the next leg of our journey, we stumbled onto the café’s beautiful cookbook and declared it our lunch spot.
Jazz that I like to call Woody Allen jazz – the kind of sound played at a fabulous cocktail party in some sophisticated city in his films – gently played through the restaurant. I sat next to a window overlooking a succulent garden and Lake Superior. The walls were of pine wainscoting and decorated with a local artist’s depictions of horses. I sipped veltliner grüner and the meal that proceeded was one of the most splendid I can recall. Pistachio crusted goat cheese salad; a grilled walleye sandwich on crisp slices of homemade cranberry walnut bread; tuna and avocado wantons with freshly made wasabi… a marzipan tart with chunks of rhubarb sided with a local coffee brew.
Every course was delicately prepared yet welcoming and unpretentious. Each flavor was simple and fresh. It was so good that we ultimately bought the cookbook, right there. Plus, it has a forward written by none other than Garrison Keillor.
And off we went from the cool seaport city and into the Boundary Waters.