Restaurants Posts

Matchbooks from Superior-area Restaurants and Bars

One year ago Perfect Duluth Day published a collection of “Matchbooks from Duluth Restaurants and Bars.” Now we honor the neighboring city of Superior, and the rest of northwestern Wisconsin, with a collection of matchbooks from Superior-area restaurants and bars.

New restaurants abound in Duluth/Superior; trend is tacos

Aaron Maloney and Alex Giuliani prepare tacos in July during a popup preview of their future Canal Park restaurant, Chachos Taqueria. Image via Facebook

Though 2021 was another year punctuated by pandemic problems, new Duluth-area restaurants proliferated. The Twin Ports gained more than a dozen restaurants, as seasoned and fresh-faced entrepreneurs alike took the leap to open eateries.

Among 2021 restaurant closures were two of Guy Fieri’s favorites

Television personality Guy Fieri poses outside Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meats with members of the restaurant’s staff. Fieri visited four restaurants in the Twin Ports area in 2014 — Shorty’s, Gannucci’s Italian Market, Pak’s Green Corner and the Kounty Quarthouse. All four have since closed.

The effect of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry is tricky to quantify, but in the Duluth area there is one noticeably positive trend. More new eateries are opening than existing ones are closing.

While the ongoing pandemic played a role in pushing some eateries that were in trouble over the edge, in most cases other factors were at play. At the top of the list of closings in 2021 were three family-owned ethnic restaurants.

Postcard from the Wilbert in Cotton, 1961

The Wilbert Café was founded in 1922. This postcard bears the year 1961. The modern day version of the Wilbert is located at 9105 Highway 53 in Cotton — about 30 miles northwest of Duluth.

The Duluth News Tribune profiled the Wilbert in 2018, noting it “gets its name from its original owners, combining the first names of William Lyman and Bert Robinson. In 1941, John (Tobie) Lackner took over management after William Lyman’s death, and Tobie and his wife, Ann, went on to establish the famed Tobies Restaurant and Bakery in Hinckley, Minn. … The current Wilbert was rebuilt in 1991, and it was purchased in 2004 by longtime employee Sandy Simek and her husband, Steve.”

Postcard from the Lakeview Castle

Lakeview Castle, 5135 North Shore Drive in Duluth Township, got its start circa 1914 as a fish stand and coffee shop, eventually growing into a restaurant, lounge and motel. It ceased operation at the end of 2009 and the Clearwater Grille opened there in the fall of 2010.

German restaurant in Miller Hill area circa the 1960s

What was the name of the German restaurant located on Miller Trunk Highway in the 1960s?

R.I.P. Gannucci’s Italian Market

The Duluth News Tribune reports Gannucci’s Italian Market in West Duluth is closed and a liquidation auction will be held Aug. 25.

Duluth-area food truck scene expands

The U.S. food truck industry is now a $1.2 billion market. Duluth-area food truck options have grown steadily since the city’s first mobile restaurants hit the streets in 2012. That summer there were four mobile eateries. Now there are at least 15.

Superior Waffles opens July 27 on Tower Avenue

A sweet and savory waffle bar opens in Superior next week. Superior Waffles, located in the New York Building at 1412 Tower Ave., is holding a soft opening on Sunday and a grand opening on Tuesday.

Ride or Die Pizzeria open in Superior

The Superior Telegram reports a new pizzeria has opened in Superior. Terry and Dawn Johnson are the proprietors of Ride or Die Pizzeria at 1623 Broadway St., the former home of Thirsty Pagan Brewing, which moved to new location a block away in 2019.

The Johnsons also own Lee’s Pizza in Duluth’s Lincoln Park Craft District.

R.I.P. Shorty’s Pizza & Smoked Meats

Shorty’s Pizza shortly after it opened in 2013. (Photo by Cindy Vu)

Shorty’s Pizza & Smoked Meats in Superior announced today via Facebook it has ceased operations due to a labor shortage in the hospitality industry.

Amazing Grace grocery transition complete; sit-down cafe service and music will return after pandemic

Connor Riley - Amazing Grace Cafe + Grocery

Connor Riley – Photo by Lissa Maki

Amazing Grace Bakery and Cafe, a Canal Park mainstay over the past 25 years, is branching out into the grocery business in 2021. Owner Connor Riley said sit-down dining and music will eventually return to Amazing Grace, but for now he’s focused on the new boutique grocery store aspect of the business, which opened in January.

Matchbooks from Duluth Restaurants and Bars

It’s been five years since Perfect Duluth Day published its first gallery of Duluth-area matchbooks. Since then, the collection has grown significantly. This new post features only matchbooks from bars and restaurants in Duluth. Some of them have been pulled out of the original post and placed in this new post; others are appearing for the first time.

Enjoy the nostalgia and, whatever you do, for the love of humanity, please close cover before striking.

Despite pandemic challenges, Duluth area sees new crop of restaurants and bars in 2020

Kai Soderberg stands outside the Jade Fountain in March, prior to remodeling the former Chinese restaurant and opening it as a tiki bar in August. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

A surprising number of intrepid entrepreneurs opened new restaurants and bars in the Duluth area in 2020, despite the global pandemic. One notable trend is the number of new Black-owned businesses.

A look at Duluth-area food and drink spots we lost in 2020

Left: Maggie’s restaurant in Bayfield marked 40 years in business in August and announced its closure in October. Right: The Crooked Spoon Cafe in Grand Marais was destroyed by fire in April. (Photos via Facebook)

The scourge of COVID-19 has challenged restaurant and bar owners at every level. The temporary closures during the pandemic are too long to list, and the industry outlook for 2021 is filled with uncertainty, but surprisingly few businesses announced they were calling it quits in 2020.

Two of the region’s most notable restaurant losses occurred in small towns away from Duluth, and COVID-19 was perhaps only loosely to blame.

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