This list is the product of Emily, Glensheen’s Head Gardener asking for a list of places to eat and things to do in Duluth. Emily has been asking for this for way too long. Since she is the staff member who is consistently out on the grounds, there is usually a good chance a guest will run into her while exploring the estate after their tour. While Emily has a list of places to hit of her own, these are Jane’s personal favorites and go-to recommendations for visitors.
Places to go for lunch
Northern Waters Smokehaus
If you want to guarantee eating lunch here, order online, and order early. We’re talking about placing your order when you’re eating breakfast. That’s how great their sandwiches are. The caveat here, if you’re not into smoked fish and smoked meat, this probably will not be your jam. But we have yet to meet someone who does not like Northern Waters. It’s a tiny little sandwich shop located in the DeWit Seitz Building in Canal park
It’s a soft spot of Jane’s and an all-time favorite of many Duluthians. Known for their great sandwiches, nachos, and butternut squash soup. The comfortable, casual atmosphere makes you feel right at home. Even though it’s a pub, the food is great and not the super deep-fried American bar food that you’d expect. Plus, they have outdoor seating right on Superior Street with views of Lake Superior.
Glensheen’s Shark on the Lake
This is a biased addition but it’s honestly pretty hard to beat. If you’ll be finishing up your tour around lunch hour, we recommend just having your lunch delivered to you and plop down at a serene picnic table near the lake. That’s right, have your food delivered directly to your picnic table on the shore of Lake Superior. Plus, in the summer there is an afternoon bar service… and Love Creamery ice cream available for purchase.
Places to go for dinner
Lake Ave Cafe
A classic date night location. Their food is on the fancier side, so be ready to order something other than your typical burger and fires. But if you have someone in your life that isn’t a fan of the fancy food, some argue passionately that they honestly have the best burger in Duluth. With the fancy FANTASTIC food aside, don’t worry about dressing up, it’s Duluth — we’re pretty casual around here. They’re known for having a great wine selection, so be sure to ask about a pairing.
Quite possibly the most popular date night location in Duluth. And it’s easy to see why. With Lake Superior views, a quaint Italian feel, and the best pasta, it will quickly become your favorite too. Be sure to make reservations well in advance since their dinner hour fills quickly. If you don’t have luck snagging a spot for dinner, try them for lunch. Also, don’t leave without trying a cup of their gelato. Even if you’re already too full from the pasta, it’s worth it.
Chester Creek Cafe at Sara’s Table
Ah yes, the farm-to-table restaurant with two names that locals will interchangeably only use one of the names. Fantastic food is the theme for this category of dinner spots. Sara’s Table is located off the beaten path of tourists, closer to the UMD campus. They are a popular brunch spot but an underrated dinner location. Most people will enter and head through the right door of the restaurant but a little-known secret is that if you enter the left door, you’ll find a more intimate experience with a small bar where you can also order off the menu!
Places to go for happy hour
Grandma’s Restaurant — Up Bar
While many already know and probably love the nostalgic Grandma’s Restaurant… what a lot of people don’t know is that they have the best rooftop bar in Duluth. When you walk into the restaurant, just say you’re going to Up Bar and they’ll point you to the stairs. The food menu is limited up on the rooftop, but the view more than makes up for it. It feels like you can almost touch the ships as you watch them come and go from the harbor. This means you are pretty much right on top of the Aerial Lift Bridge.
Another Canal Park stop, literally right across the street from Grandma’s Restaurant. It’s the local distillery, Vikre! Pronounced Vee-krah. Not Vee-kray. They have fancy cocktails that will make you feel so much more sophisticated and a small menu of sharable plates. Plus, a limited amount of outdoor seating, right on S Lake Ave.
It’s hard to beat the cool atmosphere of their new taproom in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. They have oodles of beers on tap with seasonal rotations, along with kombucha and rootbeer for non-alcoholic options. Dogs are welcome on their patio so feel free to bring Fido! Plus, you can have food delivered here from any of the Lincoln Park favorites.
Quickly becoming a Duluth mainstay and must-stop. Ursa Minor’s beers are fantastic and their wood-fired pizza is just as great. They have ample outdoor seating with fire pits and a cool vibe.
Belgium-style beer, so if you’re looking for beers that are a little different from the usual craft beer experience, Blacklist is your place. And get this… they have AXE THROWING in their taproom. Yep, so if you want to drink some beer and do things a little different, you now know where to go.
Hoops is located in The Suites Hotel building and can be accessed from the main drag of Canal Park or through the parking lot behind the building. It’s a pretty big space with big long tables to fit your whole crew at. You can get food delivered here plus, they will have the occasional pop-up caterer. Hoops Brewing was started by the Father of modern-day Duluth Beer, Dave Hoops so you know that every single beer of, what seems like hundreds of beers, is going to be good. Ripple Bar, which is a little cocktail bar is located within the Hoops space so adventure on over there too but they operate under different licenses so you can’t bring your drinks back and forth from both.
This is the best ice cream within 150 miles in any direction. All of their ice creams are made from REAL ingredients from local farmers and distributors so it. is. fresh. They have unique flavors like Mascarpone Apricot but with all of the staples like Mint Chip and Salted Caramel. Plus, for the lactose folks in your group, they do have vegan ice cream so they can join in the fun too!
Portland Malt Shop
At a different end of the ice cream spectrum, is Portland Malt Shop. A more classic, malt shop experience. But the building is so tiny that it is walk-up window service only. Their location is right at the top of a set of stairs that leads down to the Lake Walk so you can grab a malt and stroll down the Lake Walk while you blissfully fill your body with far too much sugar. On that note, the malts are big enough to share but believe us when we say you won’t want to. It’s fun the way you can pick your malt, you get to choose your malt flavor and the kind of ice cream you want in it. Jane’s go-to is a coffee malt with Moose Tracks ice cream.
Wild State Cider
Maybe not your typical thought for dessert but just wait. They ALSO have ice cream, creemee, which is a Vermont-style soft serve ice cream. If you’re more into dessert drinks, cider is of course a sweet treat. They too have outdoor seating and the occasional food truck.
Best Lincoln Park stops
Who would have thought that Duluth Minnesota could have good BBQ? The folks at OMC are the same ones that brought you, Duluth Grill. They toured the south learning from the best how to really nail barbeque. Well, let us tell you that they sure did. Plus, their clever name stands for oink, moo, cluck.
Again, the same folks from OMC and Duluth Grill also brought you Corktown. Corktown is a deli sandwiches spot with either a to-go option or seating. This is definitely more of a lunch spot. Their Butcher on the Rye sandwich is a go-to. Think housemade pastrami, swiss, house mustard, and toasted rye
Yes, Duluth has two cideries. Duluth Cider was the first to break onto the scene in Duluth. Pretty cool that they use local apples and ingredients whenever they can. Their building used to be the building where the Post Office’s horses were stabled. Neato.
Best Duluth Park
Super close to Glensheen for a quick hike! Congdon park dips down into a beautiful ravine that follows Congdon Creek/Tischer Creek. It truly feels like you’ve teleported somewhere else and are not in the middle of the city.
About a 5 minute drive away from Glensheen. Lester Park is much larger than Congdon Park and has plenty of trails for you to get lost in the woods. There are two bodies of water that run through Lester Park, Amity Creek, and Lester River. Lester Park is a favorite for locals. The towering pines and tranquil sounds that the creeks bring make it easy to see why. There is a pavilion with charcoal grills and a playground at the entrance of the park.
If you want to get down to the Lake and just hang for a bit by the massive, ocean-like Lake Superior, this is a perfect place to do just that. Brighton beach is a long and skinny park that follows the northeasternmost part of Duluth’s Lake Superior shoreline. There is a small Pavillion and a handful of charcoal grills.