Leaves are beginning to turn and Highway 61 is reminding us that it’s one of the most beautiful drives in the state. Vistas of the lake combined with the yellows and reds of the Superior National Forest can only be enhanced with a home-cooked meal from a northern Minnesota roadside stop like the Rustic Inn Cafe in Castle Danger.
The gravel parking lot is packed this time of year with tourists and locals eager for a hearty meal on the edge of the North Shore. The cuisine is northern Minnesota favorites like walleye cakes, walleye sandwiches, shepherd’s pie, open-faced sandwiches, and meatloaf. It is comfort food with a side of something deep-fried.
The hot beef ($9) is a house and customer favorite. Warm shredded roast beef is served over a thick slice of bread with a side of mashed potatoes. A blanket of brown gravy covers everything leaving the diner with a blind starting point. The meal is warm and salty, the perfect complement to an ice cold beer.
The onion rings ($7) come stacked high and served with a knife because they are so large. Thick and crunchy, some even have multiple rings of onion in the center, making them a hearty appetizer or a light lunch.
The consensus at the bar is that the Rustic Inn Cafe has better pie than the famous Betty’s Pies. With over twenty choices that include fruit pies, cream pies, and custard pies, there is little that can go wrong. Warm and falling apart, the North Shore berry ($4.29) is a harmony of apple, strawberry, rhubarb, and blueberry. If you are too full for pie after a meal like the hot beef, you can always find the Rustic Inn Pies at the Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth.
North of Two Harbors there is not much to choose from, but between Betty’s Pies and the Loon Cafe in Beaver Bay, the Rustic Inn Cafe in Castle Danger is a stop worth making.
BEST BET: The ooey-gooey apple caramel pecan pie is a dessert explosion that must be seen and tasted to be fully believed.
Rustic Inn Cafe
2773 Minnesota 61
Castle Danger, MN 55616
HOURS: Daily 8am-8pm
OWNER: Sullivan Family