The Swamp Sisters of Saginaw

About a half-hour drive northwest of Duluth, in the unincorporated community of Saginaw, Swamp Sisters summer restaurant kicks out breakfast and lunch grub to fleets of mostly white-haired patrons who fill the gravel driveway with their cars and assisted-living-community shuttle vans. It’s open for about two months each year, on Fridays and Saturdays only, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the swampy old Armstrong farmstead. And all of that, of course, makes this place awesome.

The point was made abundantly clear on this website years ago that the elderly dominate breakfast restaurants, as they should. Why would anyone want to deal with a young person until after the first meal of the day has settled, right?

The featured Swamp Sisters menu item is Bonny’s Swamp Skillet with buffalo sausage raised by sister Suzi and her husband on their farm two miles away. It’s good eatin’, but the food is a bit secondary to the experience of it all. An old codger might fumble up to your table spilling cups of water while trying to serve them, and the thought that maybe he was just thrown into duty without warning because the place is swamped is confirmed when he tells you, “I’m trying not to do a good job so they won’t ask me to this again. I’m supposed to be fishing right now.”

It’s that kind of relaxed chaos that turns breakfast at the Swamp Sisters into an event. You can’t swing by the place on your way to work and grab a short order. You have to take the morning off and go on a trip to the country, then roam the grounds and wait for a table to open up. It’s the kind of thing that has too much personality to ever be franchised.

Closing weekend is already upon us: Saturday, July 26, is the last day to visit the sisters in 2014. Call ahead to get dibs on a caramel roll with pecans harvested by sister Jean in Alabama. They sell out pretty much every day.

Here’s the menu:



about 3 years ago

There was a place near Ely called the Chainsaw Sisters saloon.  You could hike, boat, or drive there for a meal and a cold beer.  I *think* it was off the Echo Trail, but I'm not sure about that.  Does anyone know whether the place is still open?  We haven't been there in years, but it was great.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

Chainsaw Sisters Saloon was sold to the Trust for Public Land in 2006 and torn down. The land was then transferred to the U.S. Forest Service. Sisters Michele Richards and Marlene Zorman built it in 1988.

There is an R.I.P. on the landnotes.org website.


about 3 years ago

Oh, too bad.  That's a shame.  I hope my nephew knows his circa-early-2000s "Chainsaw Sisters" T-shirt is now a collector's item.  And it better not show up on Ebay now, to fund his teenage shenanigans.

Dawn Marie

about 3 years ago

Bummer I wish I had heard about this place at the beginning of their season!

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