“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.
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.
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.
394 Lake Ave S
Duluth, MN 55802
OWNERS: Derek Snyder, Mark Swenson, Michael Schraepfer
Mon-Fri 11am to 9pm
Sat-Sun 11am to 10pm
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Options available
BAR: Beer and wine
ENTREE RANGE: $4.50-14