Apostle Supper Club in Duluth

In the mid-00s, I dined at the restaurant on the 16th floor of Duluth’s Radisson Hotel with my boyfriend at the time.  Back then the restaurant was called the Top of the Harbor, and I don’t remember what we ordered, because the food wasn’t the point.  We went there for the novelty of slowly revolving as we ate, 360 degrees over the course of 72 minutes. 

A decade-plus and a couple of rebrands later, the Radisson’s rotating restaurant is now the Apostle Supper Club, with retro Palm Springs-inspired decor (lots of plants, vaguely vintage chairs, paintings of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe) and a menu that nods to Wisconsin supper club cuisine (relish tray, boozy ice cream drinks, fish fry).  It’s owned and operated by Purpose Restaurants, whose other ventures include Hope Breakfast Bar and The Gnome Craft Pub.

Reservations are recommended, but aren’t available for parties of one, so I hoped for the best on a Wednesday night. [1]  Unfortunately, they weren’t accepting walk-ins, so my seating options were the bar, which doesn’t revolve but does serve the dinner menu, or the lounge, which revolves but only serves drinks and snacks.  I settled into a seat at the bar for dinner and planned to get a post-dinner beverage to enjoy the view.

In PR lingo, the menu is characterized as “classic dishes [that] are deconstructed and reimagined with a sense of comfort and adventure.”  Translation: classic American steaks, fish, and pasta with a few flourishes, such as the chicken fried lobster with popcorn shrimp ($28).  The cocktail menu leans on the classics—a brandy old fashioned, Tom Collins, grasshopper—plus some creative takes, like a dill pickle martini ($13) that sounded promising.

It’s unclear to me why it was labeled a “dill pickle martini” since the blend of Tito’s vodka, jalapeno simple syrup, and pickle juice tasted like the liquid from a jar of bread and butter pickles. I couldn’t detect any dill or any heat from the jalapeno; what I did get was an unpleasant sugar overload, and I could only handle a few sips. 

My chicken fried lobster, like all entrees, came with bread, a house salad, and choice of side (I opted for brussels sprouts).  When my bread and salad arrived, my initial thought was “Is this supposed to be ironic?” 

The rolls were the cottony, nondescript variety that’s a staple on cafeteria salad bars—there’s plenty of quality bread in Duluth, so the decision to serve lackluster carbohydrates is mystifying.  As far as the salad goes, if you’ve ever been to a conference with a keynote lunch, you’ve had this salad: mixed greens, three cherry tomatoes, three cucumber slices, a sprinkling of bland croutons, and Italian dressing that does a disservice to the culture it supposedly hails from.

After that warm up I should have been skeptical about what was coming next, but I was still looking forward to my entree thanks to a photo from an influencer re-posted to the Apostle Supper Club account: over a dozen breaded popcorn shrimp, a gravy boat brimming with warm hollandaise, and a hefty breaded lobster tail.

In reality, I was presented with a ramekin of four popcorn shrimp, a diminutive lobster tail approximately one-third the size of the lobster tail in the promotional photo, and two small bowls of hollandaise, one served at room temperature and one that had clearly just been removed from the refrigerator—it was cold and had the unappealing consistency of Miracle Whip.

My impression of my meal didn’t improve once I dug in.  The popcorn shrimp were rubbery.  The breading on the chicken fried lobster was nicely seasoned and had an appealing craggy texture, but the lobster within was chewy and flavorless.  There’s a reason chicken fried lobster isn’t a thing: the concept doesn’t work in practice.  

The hollandaise did have a bright, lemony flavor, but congealed sauce with overcooked seafood is a depressing situation.  The one win on my plate was the generous side of Brussels sprouts, which were well-salted and tender with delicate, crisp exteriors.

If I had been visiting the Apostle Supper Club on my own time instead of on assignment, at this point I would’ve paid my check and consoled myself with an ice cream sundae somewhere else.  But I was on the clock, so I ordered the banana wafer pudding ($10).  

Allegedly, this is butterscotch pudding.  It’s actually a dead ringer for Dream Whip Whipped Topping Mix, with an unsatisfying texture that falls between the richness of a pudding and the lightness of a mousse, and it was utterly lacking in the signature caramelized notes of butterscotch.  The caramelized banana did at least taste good, although I could’ve done without the banana string [2] that was dangling off of it like a garnish.  The actual garnishes came in the form of eight Nilla wafers standing upright around the edge of the dish, adding nothing whatsoever from a flavor or texture standpoint—why not integrate them into the dessert in the form of a crumble topping?

After my dismal meal, I needed a stiff drink, but since I was driving I opted for a non-alcoholic Hope-ade ($5, top image at right) and settled into a window seat in the lounge so I could at least appreciate the view.  The combination of sparkling water, cardamom syrup, and lemonade was actually well-balanced and refreshing, and there will always be something magical about slowly gliding by the Aerial Lift Bridge as dusk settles.  

What frustrated me the most about my meal wasn’t the bland pudding or the cold hollandaise.  The annoying part was being told (via the restaurant website, social media, and general media hype) that the Apostle Supper Club is some sort of elevated culinary experience, and then being served a parade of ill-conceived, indifferently prepared dishes.

If you want to serve me mediocre food because the point of the meal is revolving around and looking at the harbor, fine.  But do me the dignity of owning up to the fact that the only thing that will be elevated about my evening is the view.

Apostle Supper Club, 505 W Superior Street, Duluth, Minn., 218.722.8439, WED-THURS 5pm-11pm, FRI -SAT 5pm-12am, SUN 5pm-11pm, MON-TUES closed


[1] WRITER’S NOTE:  I understand and sympathize with the business need to maximize the bottom line, but solo diners deserve nice things, too.

[2] WRITER’S NOTE: The technical term for the stringy parts of bananas is “phloem bundles” but that sounded too offputting to include in the text of a food review.