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Where is the best place to eat smelt?

The spring smelt run should be not too far off.  I was wondering where people thought the best place to get the golden fish fries were in the area?  I have heard that most places that serve them don’t get them from local sources.  Any smelt aficionados out there?

26 Comment(s)

  1. We might as well start by quoting B-man from the “Remember the glory days of smelting?” thread: “The drunker you get the better they taste.”

    I’m not saying it’s the best place for smelt, but I’ll throw out there that I know the Tappa Keg usually has smelt when it is in season.

    Paul Lundgren | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  2. My husband and I found them up at the Dockside Fish Market in Grand Marais last spring, fried up whole and served with french fries. Also, he caught gallons of smelt one night down on Park Point.

    meb | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  3. There used to be a little smelt cart that was down in the Bayfront area… Delicious.

    Anyone remember that cart? It was more of a camper with a fryer in it.

    Other than that, it is hard to screw up smelt. So any place that serves it is probably good enough. If they serve it with beer, it is that much better.

    Dorkus | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  4. All bar fried smelt is pretty much the same to me. On a related note, is there a restaurant or bar that sells smelt that isn’t fried? Anyone had some not fried? I haven’t, but I’m curious.

    Sam | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  5. This thread taps into one of my biggest fears about this area. If you’ve ever been to the coast of southern Spain and had cuttlefish and sardines roasted in the hull of a boat, you’d realize it’s weird how little seafood commerce occurs around here, especially considering the aun slaus that is Canal and the imported variety of you know who.

    So what’s the deal with not having a great, year round, local, fish and chips place in town? It’s messed up. I love the Dockside too, but how come there isn’t even that? A place where you could warm your cockles by the hearth with some fresh fried eelpout, burbot, Mariah, Lota Lota, Poor Man’s Lobster, and throw back a few pints of Boddington, or Murphy’s when you’re feeling ill? In other words, why haven’t the Tappet Bros., fitness gurus as they are, put any of their lard sandwich shekels into the seafood basket here? You’ve proven you can make good beer and okay burritos. How about hooking up the fisherman? There’s big money in it boys!
    Realize, burbot has three to four times the Vitamin D of Cod. It’s like god damned sunshine swimming around our lakes. And I don’t know one Scandinavian who sure couldn’t use a little more of that. Also, as a tenacious predator, Lota Lota deserves to be served in the finest restaurants of the Twin Ports. Somebody, for the love of Christ, right this terrible wrong.

    Herzog | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  6. Herzog reminds me of another question: is there a fishmonger in town that regularly sells Lake Superior fresh non-smoked fish? We live next to the largest fresh water lake in the world, but we have no fresh fish market! Is smelt and smoked fish all we got?

    Sam | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  7. Howard’s Fish House in the friendly West End.

    Paul Lundgren | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  8. Herzog’s right, and I’ve wondered the same thing for years now.

    emmadogs | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  9. Wasn’t there a place on Barker’s Island in Superior that had fresh Lake Superior fish as a staple on their menu?

    YouKnowMe | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  10. Commercial fishing is severely limited on Lake Superior since the early 1980s due in part to the overfishing that went on for years.

    Once the sea lamprey was introduced to the big lake, the combination of the two factors caused a huge drop in fish populations to the point where we had to essentially stop all commercial fishing for anything other than herring.

    There are a small amount of commercial fishermen who can take trout from the lake, but they are limited to around 2,000 fish per year.

    Populations are increasing slowly, but not to the point where we can have a vibrant fishing community.

    Dorkus | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  11. Does anyone know if any of the smelt served in the area are actually from Lake Superior?

    pbrstreetgang | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  12. Damn lamprey, those are probably good eating too. But you know what? I recently read that smart people were trying to lobby congress to prevent infestation of Asian carp, and all they were asking for was something paltry like ten million for equipment to keep them from getting north, and congress couldn’t even do that, last I heard. It’s sad. Bunch of wind-up monkeys in a box.

    Still, I think betwixt all the local lakes plus imported varieties, a local fish restaurant could make a fine go of it. PBS just aired a show on native walleye fisherman, and how many of these lake populations have become sustained and healthy through management.

    To me it hearkens more to themes like for instance, in Europe, it’s okay to bring your dog into an eatery, whereas in the U.S., we freak, pull out attorneys and our sanitizing spray bottles. Our zoning, and tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot using our attorneys, often prevents us from good living as it were. Yet also, just plain ignorance, like introducing invasive species, or creating new ones in a lab utilizing the brains of barely evolved primates.

    Herzog | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  13. You would probably not want to make Great Lakes fish a part of your regular diet.

    Mercury in Newborns in the Lake Superior Basin

    pinkos | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  14. There are several local restaurants (including Chester Creek Cafe) that sell fish caught by Lake Superior Fish Co.

    Carla | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  15. PS: We also have Red Lake Walleye at Chester Creek Cafe.

    MPR: On Red Lake, walleye netting makes a comeback

    Carla | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  16. For excellent non-fried (or at least non-battered?) smelt, check out the menu at Nokomis. The menu is seasonal and I haven’t seen the smelt currently, but they had them spring, summer and into the fall last year.

    Also, for fresh Lake Superior fish, try Russ Kendall’s in Knife River, MN or Halverson’s in Cornucopia, WI.

    Bret | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  17. Interestingly enough it is the introduction of rainbow smelt, along with overfishing, that led to a decline in the Lake Herring (Cisco) fishery on Lake Superior.

    Lake Herring are delicious,high in omega-3 fatty acids, and are low in mercury and PCBs (according to a study by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission).

    Disclaimer: I am related to one of the few commercial fisherman in the area. Therefore I have taken a special interest in learning about this particular fishery.

    wildknits | Mar 30, 2012 | New Comment
  18. The United Northern Sportsmen are the ones who used to set up a trailer, that you could eat in, down next to the DECC (where the aquarium is now hehehe) in years past. Not seeing anything on their site about the smelt fry trailer .. but they’re the ones who used to do it.

    baci | Mar 31, 2012 | New Comment
  19. In regards to Pinko’s comment… The result of that study states:

    “Most infants were found to have low or undetected total mercury levels. However, 8% of tested newborns had mercury levels above the safe dose limit for methylmercury (the form of mercury found in fish) set by U.S. EPA. This means that some pregnant women in the Lake Superior region have mercury exposures that need to be reduced.”

    So less than 1 in 10 babies have the issue, and these are probably the ones whose parents don’t know what they should and shouldn’t eat when pregnant.

    I would be willing to bet that if you took the same group of people and tested for tobacco, alcohol and other toxins; the ones who tested to have too high of a mercury concentration would also show signs of alcohol and tobacco use.

    Dorkus | Apr 2, 2012 | New Comment
  20. Each year there are approximately 4 million births in the U.S. 8% of those infants basically are born with mercury poisoning. That is about 320,000 babies a year with mercury poisoning due to pollution. It’s 3.2 million babies each decade. That isn’t good.

    Sam | Apr 2, 2012 | New Comment
  21. If you are looking for sit down, prepared smelt and a slice of Americana, the VFW in the Town of Barnes (Bayfield County) has had an annual smelt fry fundraiser ever since I was a kid. Haven’t been to it in years, but looks like it is still going strong!

    bfinstad | Apr 2, 2012 | New Comment
  22. Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe is organizing a smelt parade and smelt-fry party on Sunday, April 22, titled “Run, Smelt, Run!”

    The event (location, time TBD) include a non-motorized puppet parade featuring the Smelt Queen and her underwater court, performances by Minneapolis’ Brass Messengers, workshops and smelt. The public is invited to participate in the parade.

    adam | Apr 3, 2012 | New Comment
  23. Tappa Keg by the zoo. We go there every spring and they serve fresh smelt. Be wary of the frozen types some restaurants serve around this time. Miss the United Northern Sportsmen tent on Park Point and the smelt stands dotting the roadside around Lester. But… that was in the days when smelt season in Duluth was a party phenomenon and you just dipped your net in and had dinner. It was a crazy time… but fun.

    vheffernan | Apr 7, 2012 | New Comment
  24. Are there any fresh smelt fries locally as of April 22? Any this upcoming week? I haven’t seen one yet, but I did hear of one at the Vineyard recently.

    Sam | Apr 22, 2012 | New Comment
  25. Smelt fry & party at Zeitgeist tonight (Sunday) at 5:30PM.

    adam | Apr 22, 2012 | New Comment
  26. It was amazing. Mardi Gras Duluth-style.

    Claire | Apr 22, 2012 | New Comment

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