I’ll be honest, one of the things I miss most about pre-pandemic was our weekly date nights (thanks to my mom!) There is something so special about sitting down to enjoy a mean, phones left behind, and all the time in the world to enjoy the company and every bite. I often get asked for my favorite Duluth, Minnesota spots and wanted to do a roundup of our go-tos.
While most of the dining options have shifted due to the times we are in, many of these restaurants offer amazing take out and some can even be delivered! It’s such a critical time for our favorite small businesses and if you are able to do your part and support, call in an order and pick up one of my faves! That way they will be around when things open back up again! Proud of our local entrepreneurs and the many pivots they’ve made in order to stay open for business.
1.) Va Bene:
This had to sit atop my list, probably because it’s the #1 place I beg to go when we get a date night and I know our exact order my heart. This cute and quaint little Italian bistro will transport you to Tuscany and the views of the bridge and Canal Park are the best. We’ve celebrated so many milestones over their pasta and I personally love that they have a great gluten-free pasta. Kick off your dining experience with a little bellini and thank me later. Recommendations: The arugula é pecorino salad, the beet salad, salsicia e panna, the beet gnocchi, pasta alla zucca violina, and of course you’ve got to end the evening with gelato or tiramisu!
2.) Lake Ave. Cafe:
We love their ever-changing menu that shifts with the seasons and always leaves us full and happy. We love splitting a few of the starters and challenging ourselves to try something we wouldn’t make at home. Their vegetables are always super inventive and we never leave regretting a single bite! Their drink menu also is super fun and unique, I always go for something smoky and fun, like a little mezcal specialty. To top it off, get the icecream sundae. This was the last meal I ate before I had Coco and I was so thankful it was a good one.
3.) Pizza Lucé:
This was the place that catered our wedding, true story, and we get it at least once a month (and every time, without fail, we attempt to tell Coco that this was what we ate at our wedding!) They have amazing gluten-free and vegan options and while we always opt for our fave pizzas, the rest of their menu is amazing as well! You must get the spinach and artichoke dip and if you’re curious, my favorite pizza is the garlic mashed potato pizza with sausage added to it! This will forever be a favorite for us, not only because we’re nostalgic saps but because it’s so good every dang time.
4.) Duluth Grill:
This famous little diner has THE best food, no matter what time of day you go! From their breakfast benedicts to their bibimbap, everything on their menu is fresh and delicious…. like I don’t know a single person who has ever not liked their order. At the Duluth Grill they focus on comfort food with contemporary takes and focus on the best ingredients. This is a must-visit if you’re coming into town!
5.) OMC Smokehouse:
This is a family favorite of ours and something that everyone loves. I mean, the name stands for Oink Moo Cluck and the founders are the same humans behind Duluth Grill, so you know it’s going to be good! I personally love the fun side orders like the cheesy and jalapeno grits, the peas and pancetta, elotes (Mexican Street Corn) and Drew loves all the different BBQ sauce options. It’s a super fun meal and makes for excellent leftovers (if you don’t eat it all in one sitting!)
6.) Love Creamery:
Can I just say that writing this post is making me mighty hungry? This is always a pitstop so we can stock our freezers up. At any given time we have at least 3 little pints beckoning to us. With inventive flavors, quality ingredients, and an ever-changing menu thanks to their small batch production, Love Creamery is a gift to our city. They always have a bunch of gluten-free options and their waffle cones are even GF, praise the maker. Recommendation: If they have any goat cheese flavors on the menu, trust me, get it. They taste like cheesecake and are SO good.
7.) DoveTail Cafe:
Ohhhh before quarantine, I spent many full days here eating multiple meals and getting more coffee refills than I’d care to admit. At one point the baristas just knew when it was time for my dirty chai. This space is eclectic and vast, giving you ample spots to stretch out or converse. They have a great food and beverage selection (ahem, you can start with coffee and end with wine) and I love their locally made products available for purchase. I miss my long days of camping out at this coffee shop.
8.) New Scenic Cafe:
This is our extra special date night spot. When we get a little extra time to make the drive up the shore without feeling like we have to rush home, this is our spot. We’ve never had a bad meal here and we’ve always been obsessed with everything we’ve tried. Nestled on Lake Superior with a menu that changes often, this spot is sure to please your palate and will introduce you to new foods you’ve never tried. We’ve had many memorable dates here and it’ll always be a “worth the drive” spot to visit if you’re in town.
9.) Vikre Distillery:
If you’re wanting to try a fun new spot in town and support some incredible local entrepreneurs, this is your spot. Not only is the atmosphere so fun and unique, the drinks will blow you away. With a super fun and fresh drink menu that blends traditional drinks with innovation, Virke features drinks with their own gin, vodka, aquavit and whisky. You’ll be sure to find something you love. The best part? You can bring a bottle home after your visit and test your own mixology skills while supporting an awesome local biz.
10.) Wild State Cider:
One of our favorite date night spots (pre-Covid) we love, love, love this cider. As a gluten-free gal, nothing beats finding some great cider and when you can sample a flight with all different flavors, it’s a win! The best part? They have a fun little kiddo area so we could enjoy a little date night as a family while sampling (and Coco could enjoy some apple juice!) Pair the cider with a charcuterie board and you’re in for a real treat. On your way out grab a growler (or three) so that you can take the fun and flavor with you as you go.
Do you live in Duluth? Have you visited before? Tell me your must-visit spots in the comments! I want to make sure I didn’t miss any of the faves!
Looking for guidance on taking trips with little ones?
Check out my complete guide to traveling with a baby here!