Martha’s Daughter, the Duluth restaurant replacing the Original Coney Island could open as early as next week. The eagerly anticipated chef-owned eatery has one final health inspection to pass on Friday. If all goes smoothly, the restaurant will open on one of the busiest dining nights of the year, Valentine’s Day.
Chef Nyanyika Banda previously worked at acclaimed restaurants in New York City and San Francisco. She’s well known around the Twin Ports for her culinary skills, having run a successful catering company and pop-up restaurant in the area for several years. This is her first foray into operating a brick-and-mortar eatery.
The space at 107 E. Superior St. barely resembles its predecessor. Banda says she stripped the former Coney Island restaurant down and restored it to its natural state. The diner booths are long gone and the new décor gives it a brighter, more modern feel.
Diners can expect an experience that is “attentive but casual.” Banda has assembled what she calls a “dream team” of 14 skilled staff members. “Everyone is really passionate about food, service and drinks,” she says.
The menu will include some of the tasty specialties Banda has become known for, such as tacos, ramen and dumplings. To honor the history of the space, hot dogs will have a place on the lunch and late-night menu.
Customers can anticipate a unique selection of dishes that change seasonally or as fresh ingredients are available. Winter menu dinner entrees range from Duck à l’Orange to Rabbit Cassoulet and Roasted Squash Papperdelle.
Flexibility is one aspect that distinguishes the restaurant from most others. “A lot of restaurants end up being a slave to their menu,” she explains. “We’ll have some standard dishes on the menu but we’ll also have really great specials all the time.”
The chef promises vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options as well as reasonable pricing. Small plates will range from $4-7 while large plates will run $12-16.
Martha’s Daughter has a full liquor license and will feature selective bar offerings. It will be the only place in town to get premium saké. Sodas, tonics and syrups for cocktails will be house made.
Staff members are carefully cultivating a wine, cider and beer list. There aren’t taps but beer fans can expect cans and bottles from local breweries like Castle Danger and Blacklist as well as obscure Belgian and Japanese brews. One of the featured ciders is made with Minnesota-grown crabapples.
Martha’s Daughter is sourcing as much as possible from local vendors. Banda plans to make a point of using women-owned businesses for everything from ingredients to design and marketing. “The empowerment of women has become more important to me in the past year,” she says. “I’m making a conscious effort to encourage women.”
Banda is eager to get back to what she does best after months of hands-on projects like deep cleaning and renovating. “I’ve been a project manager for the last six months. It’s been a learning experience but I’m excited to cook food again,” she says.
The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. It will be closed on Wednesdays, but Valentine’s Day is expected to be an exception.
A special late-night menu will be served until 1 a.m. Seating is available for 36 people. The restaurant will take reservations but will also have walk-in availability. See the restaurant’s Facebook page for updates.
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