Minnesota may be known for its snow, ice, and general freezing temperatures, but of course, there is plenty more fun to go with that. After all, if you plan a day of fun activities, whether there is snow or not, you need good food too!
On that note, we want to tally up some of our favorite places for North Shore Minnesota dining.
The Historic Rock Tavern
While this place may be on the fancier side, it is still cozy enough to ward off any lingering cold from the day.
The upper-level dining room is the best dining spot, mainly because of the view of Big Birth Lake right outside. The beer, cocktail, and wine selection is pretty good, though the view takes the cake.
Downstairs, it is a whole other story, with pizza, barbecue, ribs basket, burgers, and an overall sports bar feel. There is even an outdoor deck for warmer weather enjoyment, but this being Minnesota, the ambiance takes off when the weather is colder.
Shady’s Golden Eagle
Shady’s Golden Eagle is more of a warmer weather joint. It is the kind of place you go to get yummy, greasy food while listening to live music and enjoying the sunshine. There is an open garage on one side of the restaurant where live bands play music in warmer weather and picnic benches and chairs for diners.
The fun part is just how much food there is. There is a whole salad buffet, plus a pizza buffet, stocked with pasta and wings. You can imagine what kinds of appetizers and drinks go along with all that.
Luckily, even when the weather turns cold, the atmosphere indoors is just as fun and warm. Though it might be more rousing in the summertime with live music, that does not make skimping on the yummy burgers and delicious cocktails worth it.
Angry Trout Cafe
Heading a bit further north, the Angry Trout Cafe brings the bounty of Lake Superior right to your table. The location right on Grand Marais Harbor is lovely, and the restaurant itself comes from an old commercial fishing shanty, making you feel more immersed in the lake’s history and culture.
The cafe has a warm, inviting atmosphere, whether it is summer or winter. The restaurant was only open from May to October in previous years but now runs all year round. No need to make reservations anymore; just swim in anytime!
Keep in mind that every meal comes with a 20% gratuity to help out the serving staff, so be prepared to be extra generous.
New Scenic Cafe
Like any restaurant on Lake Superior, the New Scenic Cafe sports a delicious menu with a great water view. If you are in the mood for dinner with a sunset, this view is charming, especially combined with the wood-cabin feel of the restaurant.
We were particularly impressed with the presentation of the food, almost to the point of not wanting to cut into it. The fish served on the menu is all freshly caught, so you can bet it looks and tastes fantastic.
Like other cafes on this list, you can expect a gratuity charge to help out the staff.
Vanilla Bean Restaurant
Any restaurant that has an all-day brunch has our immediate attention. This restaurant has two locations: one in Two Harbors and one in Duluth, though they stay open until different hours (Two Harbors closes at 3 p.m. and Duluth closes at 4 p.m.).
The charming thing about the Vanilla Bean is the Scandinavian flavor. With menu items like Grandma Bergman’s Swedish Pancakes with lingonberries, Norwegian Crepes, and of course the Scandinavian breakfast, you may become reminded of your own Scandinavian roots or the beauty of those mighty people.
Plus, you can add authentic Minnesota maple syrup to your breakfast to pack in the pure North Shore flavor. Their wild rice porridge is also worth a try.
Great Lakes Candy Kitchen
If you happen to be in the North Shore from April to December, you can find some old-fashioned, hand-made candies at the Great Lakes Candy Kitchen. By old-fashioned, we mean the candies come from 3rd and 4th generation Canelake candy makers that use traditional candy-making techniques. After all, anyone whose last name is Canelake is bound to be a candymaker.
Sadly, the kitchen is only open seasonally, and they do not take online orders outside of that season. Still, it is worth the wait for candies made in old-fashioned copper kettles by people who have been making candy for over 100 years.
World’s Best Donuts
That may sound like a presumptuous title for a treat with thousands of variations across the world. However, the name is not too far off the mark for what the shop offers and has some serious small-town charm to it.
Family-run and owned since 1969, the World’s Best Donuts shop is known for its cake donuts, one of 30 donut variations offered. Other staples include their Skizzles and Donut Kabobs. It seems like they have almost every flavor donut you can name, along with some lovely frosting and sprinkle decorations.
If you don’t have time to come into the shop, they do deliver online orders. However, keep in mind that they do not ship orders or offer same-day pickup.
Bellisio’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar
You can never go wrong with some excellent Italian food paired with a glass of great wine, especially in a casual dining atmosphere.
At Bellisio’s, you can do a wine flight, where you taste four related wines at a time, or you can do a regular meal. This being a Minnesotan Italian restaurant, you can expect all fish dishes to use a fresh catch as an ingredient.
Remember that the restaurant includes a 5% kitchen service charge with every bill.
There are dozens of excellent restaurants and eateries around the North Shore, but we can only talk about so many here. Hopefully, this list gives you an idea of what surprises and treats you may find on your next trip around the North Shore.