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Perfect New Restaurant: The Spirit Room

PDD-New-Restaurant-Award-Logo-2014Sometimes less is more.

The Spirit Room, a 1,000-square-foot drinking establishment with a tapas menu featuring just a dozen items, came out on top in Perfect Duluth Day’s poll to name the area’s best new restaurant. Tavern on the Hill, a full-menu eatery with literally 10 times the square footage of the Spirit Room, placed a distant second.

whitefish-cake Spirit Room - Moscow Mule Spirit-Room-Wine

The Spirit Room opened in June on the first floor of the Trade and Commerce Marketplace in Superior’s North End. The small, savory dishes on the menu — such as spicy beef skewers, seared scallops and a simple cheese-and-olive plate — have garnered raves, though the focus of owner Jeff Heller and manager Lindsey Graskey was chiefly to create an elegant place for to people to gather after work and sip on fine spirits.

Poll: Best New Restaurant (Final Round)

Best New Restaurants 2014

Sixteen eateries went up against each other in the elimination round of Perfect Duluth Day’s poll to name the area’s best new restaurant. The top three have made it to the final round: Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat, Spirit Room Tapas Bar & Restaurant and Tavern on the Hill. So once again we ask …

What is the best new restaurant in the Duluth area?

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This poll is closed. The results were:

The Spirit Room – 52.6 percent
Tavern on the Hill – 26.9 percent
Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat – 20.5 percent

Poll: Best New Restaurant (Elimination Round)

The vital task of naming the best new restaurant in the Duluth area begins with this elimination round of voting. Choose your favorite among the 16 options below; the top vote getters will move on to the final round.

What is the best new restaurant in the Duluth area?

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This poll is now closed. Three restaurants will advance to the final ballot:

Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat
Spirit Room Tapas Bar & Restaurant
Tavern on the Hill

Perfect Brewery: Bent Paddle Brewing

PDDPerfectBreweryAwardLogoSince launching in May 2013, Bent Paddle Brewing has quickly become a dominant force in the region. The company seems to have everything right, from perfect beer to perfect packaging to perfect branding and distribution. From a 10,600-square-foot warehouse in Duluth’s Friendly West End, Bent Paddle already produces twice as many barrels of beer as any other local company — making it the most macro of the area’s microbreweries and brewpubs.

Bent Paddle Brewing - Perfect Brewery

In the final round of Perfect Duluth Day’s poll, Bent Paddle went head-to-head with Fitger’s Brewhouse, a 19-year-old jauggernaut brewpub that supplies beer to five restaurants and a beer store owned by parent company Just Take Action. While the two companies have quite different operations and histories, both are well-known beyond Duluth for producing an array of outstanding craft brews. The nod to Bent Paddle, which amassed 60 percent of the vote, is perhaps due to its reach. Though the company is still fairly new, it’s beer is available in a majority of bar, restaurant and liquor stores in the Duluth market — and the territory has already begun to expand into the Twin Cities metro area.

Final Ballot for Best Brewery in Duluth

Bent Paddle Brewing PDDPerfectBreweryAwardLogo Fitger's Brewhouse
Our previous poll pitted eleven breweries from the Arrowhead region against each other for the opportunity to advance to the final ballot. Now, the top two go head to head for the chance to be branded as the best.

What is the best brewery in the Duluth area?

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This poll is now closed. The results were:

Bent Paddle Brewing – 60 percent
Fitger’s Brewhouse – 40 percent

Poll: What is the best brewery in the Duluth area?

Duluth is the Beer Capital of Minnesota, at least according to the unofficial claiming of the title by Mayor Don Ness in The Growler magazine in 2013. So, which local brewery has the best blends of barley, hops and yeast? Well, it’s time to decide with a fancy PDD poll.

We often have a nomination process for polls, but in this case it seems appropriate to just throw all the breweries into the running for our first round. We also typically rule out areas farther than 10 miles from Duluth city limits, but since the beer from more outlying areas makes it’s way to taps in Duluth, we broadened the range to include the north and south shores.

So now, without further ado, we ask …

What is the best brewery in the Duluth area?

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This poll is now closed. Bent Paddle Brewing and Fitger’s Brewhouse were the top finishers and will advance to the final ballot.

Perfect Coffee Shop: Beaner’s Central

PDDPerfectCoffeeShopAwardLogoA rash of new coffee joints have opened up in Duluth in recent years, but an old favorite was the clear winner in Perfect Duluth Day’s poll to name the best coffee shop. Beaner’s Central Concert Coffeehouse has been as much known for its live music and friendly vibe over the past 15 years as it has for the Alakef-roasted java blends served there daily. Not to mention the baked goods, soups, sandwiches, pizzas, random experimental breakfasts, beers, wines, art exhibitions, basement recording studio and whatever else the affable and eccentric owner and founder Jason Wussow decides to offer next. It’s no wonder Beaner’s dominated with 50 percent of the vote in the three-way race for Duluth’s coffee-shop crown.

Beaner's Central Concert Coffeehouse Jason Wussow - Beaner's Central Concert Coffeehouse Beaners Exterior 2013

Jefferson People’s House, which opened just three months before our poll, gave a strong second place performance with 28 percent of the vote. The not-quite-two-year-old Duluth Coffee Co. cafe and roasterie also performed well, pulling in 22 percent of the vote.

PDD Awards Index

Best Coffee Shop in the Duluth Area Poll (Final Ballot)

In our elimination round poll we pitted 11 coffee shops against each other. The top three now do battle in this contest to answer the question …

What is the best coffee shop in the Duluth area?

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This poll is now closed. There results were:

Beaner’s Central Concert Coffeehouse – 50.4 percent
Jefferson People’s House – 27.8 percent
Duluth Coffee Co. – 21.8

Best Coffee Shop in the Duluth Area Poll (Elimination Round)

Through our usual highly scientific means, a list of nominees for best Duluth-area coffee shop has been developed. Now it’s time to narrow down the choices with a round of voting.

What is the best coffee shop in the Duluth area?

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This poll is now closed. The top three, advancing to the final ballot are:

Beaner’s Central Concert Coffeehouse
Duluth Coffee Co.
Jefferson People’s House

Nominees for Best Coffee Shop in the Duluth area

It’s been a few months since we’ve done a poll on PDD, but we trust that with all the “Vote Duluth the best outdoor city in the galaxy or whatever” hype that most of you thought a break was for the better. Now it’s time to return to our quest to decide what the best city’s best things are.

Before we launch our poll to name the best coffee shop, we have to establish a list of nominees by asking you to rant in the comments. The ground rules are fairly simple:

  • As usual, the territory we are covering encompasses Duluth and anywhere within 10 miles of Duluth’s border — so coffee shops in Superior, Hermantown, Proctor and the various bordering townships all qualify; Two Harbors and Cloquet are out of bounds.
  • The criteria for what defines a coffee shop or what makes one “the best” is pretty open. Certain bakeries and restaurants kind of double as coffee shops, and that’s fine. Some places have a focus on live music or a kick-ass record collection, others sink a fortune into furniture or double as a place of worship. Feel free to consider those things along with the coffee itself, or don’t. In the end, voters will decide what’s important to the masses.
  • It’s fine to nominate a corporate giant like Starbucks, Caribou or Dunn Bros., but be specific if you do. Pick a particular location; don’t nominate the franchise as a whole.
  • Keep in mind that we are not issuing a challenge here to name every coffee shop that exists in the area. We’re just asking you to tell us which ones you think have a reasonable chance of winning a poll.

That’s about it. Make your thoughts known and we’ll launch the poll on Friday.

Duluth vs. Minneapolis

Vote Duluth

Duluth is nearing the finals, and as of right now (9:25 a.m.), we’re leading against Minneapolis! Vote for us at VoteDuluth.com.

Who won Homegrown 2014?

This poll is now closed. The results were:

Who won Homegrown 2014?

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Bratwurst — 9 percent
The Blasphemists — 7.5 percent
Red Mountain — 6 percent
The Black-eyed Snakes with Charlie Parr — 4.5 percent
Wino, WI — 4.5 percent
Various other bands — 68.5 percent

Bratwurst wins Homegrown for the second time in three years! (Photo by Derek Montgomery for MPR)

Survey: Bike Parking in Duluth’s Multimodal Transit Center

Building on the popularity of its on-bus bike carriers, the DTA wants to gauge local demand for both secure (key fob-access) bike-parking areas and regular bike racks as part of its design for the new multi-modal transit center in downtown Duluth.
Please take a moment to fill out this short survey if you would be interested in using this type of bike storage.

Northern Lights Express Survey

There is a survey listed on the Minnesota Department of Transportation page for the Northern Lights Express(NLX). The Northern Lights Express is a proposed high-speed passenger rail project that would provide rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth. If constructed, NLX will operate on approximately 155 miles of existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail corridor.

The survey closes on March 15. It doesn’t take long to fill out.

Perfect Play or Musical of 2013: Duluth Playhouse Children’s Theatre’s Cats

It was a big year for Duluth theater in 2013, with eight productions receiving a significant number of votes for the honor of best play or musical. In the end, the Duluth Playhouse Children’s Theatre production of Cats emerged as the favorite.