Lark o’ the Lake Café is an eatery with an unusual secondary purpose: to promote aviation education. “The Lark,” as it’s more commonly known, celebrated a year in business last month.
Sandra Ettestad, Mark Marino and Don Monaco own the restaurant at 231 E. Superior St. in the Greysolon Plaza. All three are trustees of the Duluth Aviation Institute and founders of its Gilruth Continuum Path to Aviation program.
Path to Aviation brings science, technology, engineering and math education to 900 6th grade kids each year in the Duluth, Hermantown, Proctor and Fond du Lac public school districts. The 8-week curriculum is a way for students to learn STEM subjects through the lens of real-world aviation issues.
The café itself is a nod to Duluth’s aviation history. Its namesake, the Lark of Duluth, was a biplane flying boat built for Julius Barnes, entrepreneur and president of the Duluth Boat Club. Barnes can be credited with introducing area residents to the wonder of flight.
During a six-week “Lark o’ the Lake” summer festival in the summer of 1913, the seaplane made numerous flights from Minnesota Point to Spirit Lake, even passing under the Aerial Lift Bridge. The Lark was then transported to Florida, where it became the world’s first commercial passenger airplane.
Lark o’ the Lake Café seats about 50 people. It features aviation-themed decor, including a long mural depicting the original Lark of Duluth as well as a local replica completed in 2013, thanks to Ettestad, Marino and a team of volunteers.
The café recently updated its menu. It serves breakfast items, gourmet sandwiches and naan pizzas. Sandwiches range from $5-12.
Manager Michael Kraklio says the intention is to offer items not available at other area eateries. Chutney is served with the sandwiches, for example. Espresso drinks are crafted with LavAzza Italian coffee. Chai tea and smoothies are available.
Thanks to the café, ice cream aficionados can now indulge in Portland Malt Shoppe malts and ice cream all year round. Ettestad and Marino own the popular seasonal malt shop.
The café also serves beer and wine. In non-winter months, it features live music on weekends. Winter hours are shortened from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kraklio says there’s a plan to host an open mic night in the future.
“We’re continuing to grow and continuing to evolve — to cater to our customers,” Kraklio says.
Online ordering is part of this evolution. Customers can order and pay for food at larkduluthcafe.com and have it ready for pick up when they arrive. Catering and private party space is also available.
A year is a “drop in the bucket” for a restaurant, according to Kraklio. He expects additional changes and improvements in the future.
“The owners are creative and emotionally invested,” he says. “They have a passion for pushing the place forward and making sure customers have a great experience.”
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