Lake Ave. Cafe (Duluth, MN)

Here is my last meal report from our trip up to the North Shore in early July. As my trip reports go, I’ve managed to get these done pretty quickly. We timed our departure from our cabin near Lutsen so that we’d be in Duluth at lunch time. I think everyone in the van would have been very happy to go back to OMC Smokehouse but I wanted to try a new place. My first choice was the New Scenic Cafe, a little north of Duluth, which had been recommended on Twitter. But the evening before we left friends who go up to the North Shore every year said New Scenic was inconsistent and recommended that we get sandwiches instead at Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth. We went with that suggestion. Things went wrong very quickly. First, there was a huge traffic jam heading to Northern Waters Smokehaus. Then when we did get there we discovered that it is not a sit-down restaurant but a counter. And there was a long line. This was not going to be feasible with my parents in tow—one of whom has mobility issues—and so we had to switch the call at the line. We went with the sit-down restaurant right opposite: Lake Ave. Cafe. Here is what we found.

Both Northern Waters Smokehouse and Lake Ave Cafe (plus a number of other restaurants and businesses) are located in a converted warehouse/factory named DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace. This is in the Canal Park neighbourhood which is now apparently a tourist destination. And indeed the parking lot was full and the building and the streets around it were buzzing. There was a line outside Lake Ave. Cafe too but thankfully it was not because there weren’t any tables available; it was because they seemed to be a little short-staffed and as a result took a while to seat people. There’s a large indoor dining room and there’s also attractive patio seating. We chose to sit outside.

The menu is sort of contemporary American. At lunch there are a number of soups and salads and pizzas and sandwiches available. There are a number of global touches on the menu (elote, chicken soup with Thai flavours, pork belly ssam, kimchi fried rice) and in general this is not the cookie cutter restaurant I feared it would be before we sat down. What did we order? From their kids menu one brat got the cheese pizza with sausage added on and one got the chicken tenders with fries. Both liked their food a lot. My parents shared the aforementioned soup with Thai flavours and a sausage pizza. They liked both their dishes. The missus and I elected to get dishes from their breakfast menu. She got their mushroom benedict, which she was not crazy about. I got an omelet that was a special, filled with arugula, heirloom tomatoes etc. I liked it fine but I liked even more the house-made peanut butter and jam. What we both liked best was a side of their fried potatoes with their hot sauces, which were both actually hot and quite good.

For a look at the space and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service, value etc. and to see what’s coming next.

As I said, they seemed to be short-staffed on the day but once we sat down service was efficient enough; and it was friendly. The price we thought was a a little high for what we ate but not unconscionably so. For all of the above plus two glasses of juice the bill with tax and tip came to just above $90. I wouldn’t object to eating here again if looking for lunch in Duluth but I’d probably want to try other alternatives first. And on our next trip I certainly want to try New Scenic.

Alright, with the North Shore done, the food emphasis for the next several weeks will be on meals from our DC/NYC trip. That trip ends tomorrow—we will be back in Minnesota by the end of the day. I think we are going to resist eating out for at least a couple of weeks, as every meal but breakfast for the last two weeks has been eaten out. Oh, and I still have to write up my dinner at Joe Beef in June and finally write that review of Indian-ish.

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