This story is sponsored by Boelter Landmark Restaurant Equipment and Design in Minneapolis.
It takes only a moment to realize that Duluth’s Pier B Resort is unlike any other destination in the region. The first thing you notice as you approach is the water: The resort is situated on a 7.4-acre pier with 2,100 feet of shoreline, and is defined by the mighty lake that surrounds it.
The site is adjacent to the city’s Bayfront Festival Park (home to numerous events including July’s All Pints North craft beer festival) and the popular Canal Park Hospitality District, which is studded with restaurants, galleries, shops, and its own resident brewery.
Pier B’s convenience to most of Duluth’s attractions is one thing, but the resort is also designed to be a destination all to itself. Part of that story begins right at the water’s edge.
“No one else in Duluth has a transient marina,” says Pier B co-developer Sandy Hoff. “That is where both local citizens and people boating from other parts of the Great Lakes can have a dock available … sort of like Lord Fletcher’s on Lake Minnetonka. We intentionally didn’t rent permanent slips.” He gestures toward the slips on the canal that flanks the northeastern face of the building. “By 6:00 this will be full of boaters at our outdoor restaurant.”
Walking through Pier B with Hoff, we’re given insight into the resort’s creation and design — everything from an outdoor jacuzzi and indoor pool, a collection of three artistically styled fire fountains that sit perched near the water’s edge, and a view of Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge that dominates the walk from the lobby to the elevators. But in many ways it’s the resort’s restaurant, Silos, that is the heart of this community on the harbor.
A DIFFERENT WAY TO DINE
The physical space in Silos is defined by balance and materials with a sense of place. There are hightops, bar seating, and plush, 270-degree booths that recall the best seat in the house in any given 1920s gangster movie. A rock wall filled with taconite pays tribute to Duluth’s role as the gateway to the Iron Range. And while the kitchen is semi-visible to the diners, it’s more of a preview than a full-on show.
“Here, we didn’t want the kitchen to be the total focal point but to share some of that with the views of the waterfront,” says Hoff. “The sneak peek is enough so that people can see these experts working, but not so much that it steals the show.”
The dining room is designed to complement the food served at Silos. “What’s the tagline? High-quality fine dining,” says Hoff. “It’s a whole new experience for the market.”
Key to creating that whole experience was food service planning and construction work executed by a team lead by John Wilson at Boelter Landmark.
“When [developer] Alex Giuliani and I progressed with the architects and came to the point where we needed the kitchen contractor on board, we asked the industry experts who’s the best firm to help us provide all of this,” says Hoff. “When five out five people said we needed to call John Wilson at Boelter Landmark, we gave these guys a call. It was a pretty simple decision.”
The fruits of the project team’s labor are on display throughout the restaurant, from the dramatic lighting that frames the kitchen to the rugged but approachable bar that pays tribute to the pier’s origin as a cement receiving area to the Pilot House private dining room with water views, which can accommodate 20-30 diners in a unique space that embraces both the luxury of the resort and the industrial history of the area.
Everywhere you look in Silos, the water of Lake Superior — and the industry supported by that water — is evident.
“We wanted to make sure everybody got a view of the water. It’s layered to some extent so everybody in the whole house can see the view,” says Silos’ executive chef Patrick Scot Moore.
The restaurant is just one aspect of Pier B’s complex and interwoven hospitality environment. A banquet space with a 300-person capacity, an adjacent 9,500-square-foot tent area, an outdoor dining patio, and the Pilot House give Silos and the entire resort a remarkable flexibility. “The catering opportunities up here are just unbelievable,” says Paul Kozlak of Boelter Landmark. “Can you imagine being up here for a conference? The different areas where you could have a cocktail party, or a breakfast, or a break?”
A BOLD APPROACH TO WATERFRONT FOOD
Many restaurants in the Upper Midwest (if not in America as a whole) offer some sort of slider on their menus. The sliders at Silos are a little different, though – one is an elk-bison blend with smoked gouda and poblano pear chutney, one is a lamb and mint burger with feta and cucumber, and one is wagyu beef with aged cheddar and caramelized onions. Any of these burgers alone would be an interesting trip; together, they’re a journey.
“The menu is completely different from everything in Duluth,” says Chef Moore. “I wouldn’t say there’s one thing on the menu close to anything else other people are doing.”
It’s a bold claim, but the menu backs him up. It covers a tremendous amount of ground: everything from 18-hour smoked brisket to duck poppers served with a huckleberry balsamic reduction to a swordfish ceviche with coconut milk and avocado.
For developer Sandy Hoff, that diversity — and a focus on quality seafood — is the key to making Silos stand out. “[Before building Silos], we went out and surveyed the community, and there used to be a restaurant here called The Jolly Fisher – it was seafood, high end, good quality. So we knew we wanted to have a seafood focus that nobody else did. And we heard ‘we don’t have a real steakhouse here.’ The trick was finding a chef who could implement that quality and who had the skill to consistently do it.”
Moore’s background — which includes time spent as a private chef on yachts, and cooking for notables including Nicolas Cage, Tommy Hilfiger, and the king and queen of Sweden — informs the menu at Silo and brings it a considerable depth and sophistication. Practices such as sourcing bison harvested by American Indians in South Dakota, and fish killed with the Ikejime method (which helps to maintain the quality of the meat) undergird the menu and set it apart from its competitors.
His skill is perhaps most evident in the restaurant’s flash-fried calamari appetizer that dresses tender, lightly fried pieces of squid with orange blossom honey, pickled ginger, and chipotle to make a dish that is subtle and delicious. “The fish guys love me, because I buy 50 pounds of sashimi quality squid at a time,” says Chef Moore. “We clean it, we cut it right here, and we flash fry it. We’re probably the only people in Midwest buying fresh calamari like this.”
Silos also serves up one of the most serious lobster rolls that diners are likely to encounter in the Upper Midwest. It’s a deft balance of citrus, herbs, and clean, sweet lobster meat, with the flavors of the toppings accentuating rather than swamped that of the crustacean. “[The Maine lobster roll] was my biggest selling thing in Nantucket,” says Chef Moore, recalling the time he spent at his Massachusetts restaurant, Oran Mor.
WINTER IS COMING
While Pier B and Silos are well-oriented to harness Duluth’s summer tourism traffic, the resort and restaurant are also positioning themselves to capture winter visitors. Ambitious plans for outdoor ice bars, ice skating (in a canal specially filled in so it will freeze more quickly and evenly), and stick-to-your-ribs, fire-cooked food will put Pier B in the mix as a Duluth destination during the snowblown months of the year.
Silos at the Pier B Resort, 800 W Railroad St, Duluth; 218.481.8888