When it comes to lunch in Duluth, the sandwich is king. Not one pizza place, burger joint or Asian restaurant managed to crack the top four in Perfect Duluth Day’s poll to determine the best lunch restaurants. Furthermore, the place with the best sandwiches in town, Northern Waters Smokehaus, smoked the competition. A solid majority of 55.4 percent of voters agreed Northern Waters is the best mid-day meal around.
Clearly the deliciousness is no secret — there’s almost always a noon-hour line at Northern Waters.
It turns out, Duluth’s best lunch restaurant isn’t really a restaurant per se, but rather a specialty fish-and-meat market with a couple of stools and a counter that accommodates about a half-dozen people. Outside there’s a deck with a few tables; everyone else either heads for the beach or a park bench, or devours the goods at their office or right in their cars without complaint.
The variety of sandwich options available, from Cajun Fish to Sitka Sushi to the “Silence of the Lambwich” make it easy to go back again and again to try out the latest concoction.
Eric and Lynn Goerdt started Northern Waters in 1998, supplying smoked fish to restaurants and caterers from a commercial kitchen in the Superior Business Center. They opened their retail location in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace in 2001 and won a Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award a year later. In 2004 the production end of the business moved to DeWitt-Seitz and the eat-in counter was added.
(Northern Waters was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2010, but that clip sadly does not seem to exist on the Internet.)
Honorable mention goes to another popular sandwich spot, the deli at How Sweet it is Cakes, which came in second place with 21.5 percent of the vote.