A charming little diner in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood is serving up homestyle food on colorful, classic Formica tables. But what truly makes the Vintage Kitchen distinctive is that antique furnishings and décor are also on the menu.
Owners Wally Berg and Ron Garatz run an estate sale business and More than Memories Antique Emporium in West Duluth. They opened the Vintage Kitchen last fall in the former Jefferson People’s House space beneath Anytime Fitness at 12 S. 15th Ave. E.
Before moving to Duluth, Berg owned a restaurant for 10 years in his hometown of Blair, 50 miles south of Eau Claire. He’s been working in antiques with Garatz, who’s a Duluth native, for 17 years but says the restaurant business is where his true passion lies. Since the antique business has been on the decline in recent years, he convinced Garatz to try a new angle. “I said ‘Let’s incorporate the two things and see what happens,’” says Berg. “So far it’s been good — we’ve found a unique little niche.”
The Vintage Kitchen serves breakfast items — from Belgian waffles to biscuits and gravy — all day. Lunch items include sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups. Berg says they like to offer choices and variety. They have daily specials, gluten-free options, and rotate between seven varieties of bread and nine types of soup. Seasonal offerings are also available. During Lent, they’ll have specials every Wednesday and Friday. For those interested in health and fitness, they also feature smoothies and shakes, with the option to add Thrive protein and vitamin supplements.
Prices are reasonable. A bottomless cup of Arco coffee is available for $1.50 and several breakfast options cost less than $5. Everything on the menu is priced under $10.
The restaurant is open seven days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Business has been swift. With a small kitchen and only 24 seats, at times they’ve had trouble keeping up with customer demand. The antiques, mainly food and kitchen-related items, have been popular too. Berg says pictures have sold off the walls faster than they can find time to replace them.
Cultivating a unique space with a family-friendly atmosphere is part of the plan. “We didn’t want to be like a Perkins, we wanted to be more like a mom-and-pop restaurant where regulars return and we know their names,” Berg says.
When the restaurant first opened, the couple worked for more than 60 days in a row. But they seem to be taking the busyness in stride. And their positive attitudes may be part of what keeps customers coming back.
“A lot of people say we should have our own reality show — because we’re so entertaining,” quips Garatz.
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