Lake Avenue Cafe Remake in Duluth, MN

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

“For 20 years this place has been the cool place to get food in town,” says Mark Swenson. Swenson recently purchased the Lake Avenue Cafe in Canal Park with partners Derek Snyder and Michael Schraepfer. Last Thursday the cafe reopened after being closed for four days so the new owners could do dramatic renovations to the decor and set the stage for a revamped menu.

Swenson, a 25-year veteran restaurateur in Duluth, has worked for the Ground Round, Grandma’s, the Brewhouse, Burrito Union, and more. His team includes Schraepfer, a local contractor, and Snyder, the lead bartender at the Red Star.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

The colors have changed, music is playing, and come this winter there’ll be a new bar, and this spring a new deck. “It will be the only deck in Canal Park to catch the afternoon sun. I can’t wait for the sunsets,” says Swenson. New tables that Snyder made from reclaimed wood are now staggered throughout the restaurant, and custom-built booths by local company Lozano Rodriques Custom Woodwork will soon be added. The bar currently runs three taps, but this winter they hope to add five more. It will also feature a drink menu based on Snyder’s experience at the Red Star. “Liquor will be on the high end, because Derek and I are both snobs,” says Swenson. “I don’t want to use White Eagle vodka to save a buck; Stoli will be the rail.”

Along with the new look has come a new chef. Lane Prekker, a local musician who most notably plays washboard for Charlie Parr, will be the executive chef. Working under Bob Bennett, Prekker worked as the sous chef at Bennett’s on the Lake and at Restaurant 301. Currently Prekker is offering features with the hope of incorporating them into the menu in a few weeks. The current features are spaghetti and meatballs and a bbq skirt steak sandwich with bleu cheese, which includes a sweet bbq sauce that is balanced by a pungent bleu cheese; the steak is tender and flavorful. Prekker is not currently making his own pasta for the spaghetti feature, but has made gnocchi as a feature and plans to make pasta for the restaurant in the future. Swenson says, “When we flip the menu, we want to do 25 percent of it to start and still feature some of the old features so that people can get what they used to get for years.” The award-winning Thai chili will remain on the menu.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

With the addition of new tables, tiles, and lights, Swenson and his partners plan to improve an already popular cafe. “We don’t want it to lose its comfort; we want regulars to feel like they can come in and kick back and relax,” says Swenson. “We want to keep it fresh and we want to keep it new, I think it will be fun for people to get something new every time.” With a new bar and deck on the way, the Lake Avenue Cafe will either draw more regulars or become a place that the long standing regulars no longer recognize. For Swenson and his partners it is their chance to take what they have learned in other successful establishments in Duluth and bring it together in the remaking of the Lake Avenue Cafe.

Lake Avenue Cafe

Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace
394 Lake Ave S
Duluth, MN 55802
Derek Snyder, Mark Swenson, Michael Schraepfer

Mon-Fri 11am to 9pm
Sat-Sun 11am to 10pm
Options available
Beer and wine


  1. rouleau's

    we are so excited for all these great new changes. the few new meals we have had have been spectacular, and very happy with veg. options. we wish u all the best of luck, u know u have longtime customers with us! thanks 4 old memories and new ones too!

  2. Julian

    I’ll have to check out the new style. I’d been waiting for the previous chef/owners to add some new stuff to the menu for years, it seemed like. Sounds great!

  3. Steve Cushing

    My wife and I just returned from lunch at the Lake Avenue Cafe. We had been long time patrons. This is the 2nd time we have been there since the new ownership and I have to say it was a major disappointment. Some parts of the dishes were overcooked and others undercooked and virtually all lacked much in the way of flavor. Probably won’t return.


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