Duluth Grill in Duluth, MN

Exterior of the Duluth Grill
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Established as an Embers in 1991, the Duluth Grill evolved five years ago when Tom Hanson and his family purchased it and started changing the menu.”People used to come in, look at our menu, and then go to another Embers,” recalls Hanson.

Gardens now line the side of the building and only cage-free organic eggs are used. There are no big signs marketing local or organic, but the restaurant competes with Chester Creek Cafe for the Duluth restaurant using the most local and organic ingredients. It has been a slow and steady progression for the Duluth Grill; the restaurant’s ability to source local and organic food has grown with its popularity and reputation. Both increased dramatically after being featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives — host Guy Fieri tried the Wild Rice Melt ($9), Homemade Pasty ($8.79), and Dakota Pot Roast Dinner ($10.49).

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

The breakfast menu is an array of omelets, pancakes, and egg dishes, while lunch and dinner feature burgers, sandwiches, and classic dinner plates such as meat loaf and pot roast. It’s humble food, made with good ingredients. All of the beef is grass fed from Mark and Terry Thell at 4 Quarters Holdings and all of the chickens are from Gerber’s Poultry.

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe in Duluth, MN

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

The sign on the building says “Taran’s Market Place,” the menus say “At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe,” but to the regulars it is known as the most locally sourced meal you can get in town. General Manager Andrew Mattila says: “When people ask ‘What does your restaurant stand for?’ we say we stand for sustainability.”

Seven years ago, Carla Blumberg and Barb Neubert reopened Taran’s Market Place with the new names “At Sara’s Table” and “Chester Creek Cafe” with the goal of creating a farm-to-table restaurant that was sustainable. “Carla has always been interested in the farmer aspect and the sustainable aspect, getting the good food to the people,” says Mattila. Sourcing 80 percent of food locally in the summer and 45 percent in the winter, a percentage based on the amount of product used in the kitchen, their focus on local foods and sustainability has made Chester Creek Cafe become for Duluth what Common Roots Cafe is for Minneapolis.

Bay Produce, Larry Schultz, Thousand Hills Cattle Company, Kadejan, Flying Snakes, and Stickney Hill Dairy Farms are among the farms that the restaurant uses. “It grows over time,” says Mattila. “After you’ve met one farmer, they introduce you to someone else.” Mattila has seen the restaurant add more farmers to their menu each year, and this year, “the Duluth Community Garden Club is going to start selling us green onions.” The restaurant’s staff has also started growing their own herbs, sprouts, Swiss chard, and other vegetables on site.

The duck ($17), a recent menu item, is Mallard sourced from Wild Acres in Pequot Lakes. Whole ducks are purchased; the breasts are used for the dinner entree and the carcass for making duck stock. Beet marmalade accompanies the duck with beets, from Flying Snakes Farm at Chantrelle Woods Preserve in Bayfield, WI, alongside a mint panzanella salad made with ciabatta from Franklin Street Bakery in Minneapolis.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

Every six to eight weeks the menu changes. AM Chef Peter Ravinski, PM Chef Bruce Wallis, owners, and managers sit down for a brainstorming session to create new menus. A theme is selected and the menu is based on flavors and dishes that reflect the theme and what is available locally. “Sometimes you have to go with a flavor profile and see what you can find here. We don’t want to import Asian food here; we would rather pick their flavor and try to find something to match it locally,” says Mattila.

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe has led the community not only in using local foods but also in composting; they are a drop off center for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Anyone in the community can pick up biodegradable plastic bags for compost and drop them off at the restaurant. “Very little garbage leaves the restaurant,” says Mattila. Along with recycling and composting food waste, “we don’t use a lot of oil, but our used peanut oil for frying goes to a guy locally who uses it to make bio-diesel.”

The only meat that is not sourced locally is the Alaskan salmon from Simple Gifts Syrup and Salmon. The salmon is line-caught by Duluth local Dave Rogotzke. “The salmon is flash frozen and stored in a warehouse in Washington,” explains Mattila. “Sure, we feel bad about shipping it half way across the country, but we are also trying to support this local business.” The salmon ($20) is served with a miso glaze, black barley pilaf, and house-grown sprouts. The salmon is moist with a light crust from the miso glaze that is both sweet and savory.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

“Other places in town are trying the best they can [to purchase local and organic], but we feel we are a bit ahead, we are trying to make it our one thing,” says Mattila. As the restaurant continues to work with farms and build community support, their goal of being 100 percent local and organic is within sight. Using more local cheese, finding quality local wines, and using organic butter are part of the vision for the future. Mattila says, “[Local] is like a buzz word now; everybody is saying local is the new thing for this year. And we look at it and say, ‘This year?'”

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe
Locally sourced food restaurant in Duluth

1902 E 8th St
Duluth, MN 55812
Carla Blumberg and Barb Neubert

Mon-Sat 7am-9pm
Sun 7:30am-4pm
Beer + Wine

January 26 Morning Roundup

Dara reports on exciting happenings at Victory 44 (new chefs! house-made tofu! chefs as servers!), deep thoughts on jams and a recipe for cocojam ‘skivers, Duluth’s Chester Creek Cafe is offering a new “Jewish Diaspora” menu starting Feb. 1, Madison’s Underground Food Collective is opening a restaurant, a look at Twin Cities Originals restaurant league, and a dynamite local cakewreck.

Uncle Louis Cafe in Duluth, MN

Eric Faust / Heavy Table
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

The coffee is black, the omelets are thick, and the hash browns are plentiful. When Uncle Louis opened on November 2, 1993, they had one goal: “making the best breakfast in town.” Pizza Luce, the Amazing Grace, and Chester Creek Cafe all offer breakfasts that can rival and sometimes surpass Uncle Louis Cafe, but if you are looking for an omelet, a bottomless cup of coffee, and a hearty tablespoon of whipped butter on your French toast, Uncle Louis is the place.

Eric Faust / Heavy Table
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Uncle Louis Cafe is the Duluth version of Al’s in Dinkytown. The L-shaped bar is lined with emerald green stools that give customers on the end a full view of the cooks flipping hash browns and cracking eggs. Three eggs with black olives, tomatoes, onions, and green pepper, cheddar cheese, and taco meat make up the Taco Omelet ($6.59), one of the best sellers on the menu. Served with a side of American fries or hash browns and toast, pancakes, or French toast, it is hard to believe that you can get it all for less than $7.

Other popular entrees include the eggs benedict (ham), florentine (spinach), or theodora (gyros meat). Each comes with sides. The French toast or pancakes are popular sides because of the homemade apple cinnamon syrup that are available alongside blueberry and regular syrup.

On April 19, 2007, Uncle Louis Cafe shut down after a serious fire caused by an electrical short. Customers demanded that the cafe reopen, and owner Penny Briddell worked hard to reopen as soon as possible. Half a year later — on November 2, 14 years after the original opening — Uncle Louis Cafe reopened serving up the same menu that they always have.

They have no plans to change, and people would be upset if they did. Uncle Louis Cafe is a black coffee, eggs, and hash browns kind of place that is doing everything they can to meet their goal of  “serving the best breakfast in town.”

Uncle Louis Cafe
520 E 4th St
Duluth, MN 55805
Mon-Fri 6am-2:45pm
Sat-Sun 7am-2:45pm
OWNER: Penny Briddell