You have to leave Duluth to get to its best restaurant. The New Scenic Café is located about three miles beyond the city’s northeastern border, in Duluth Township — roughly a 20-minute drive from the center of the Zenith City. It’s a drive Duluthians and tourists alike have been happy to take repeatedly during the 14 years since chef Scott Graden and his aunt Rita Bergstedt opened their contemporary American restaurant.
The location on the scenic North Shore Drive is a big part of the allure, but what’s so new about this 14-year-old café? The menu, that’s what. It’s always new, changing with the seasons. Today one might try the seared duck breast or ratatouille lasagna, while six months ago the lamb meatloaf was the temptation of the moment.
Sure, it’s the kind of place ham-and-eggers will make fun of, scoffing at the prices and snickering at the notion of an “heirloom” tomato, but it’s hard to be the best restaurant in the area without a hint of snootiness. At least it’s a North Shore brand of foodie snootiness, where your flannel shirt and/or socks with sandals will fit in just fine.
Props must go out to the runners up in this poll, because the voting was close. New Scenic edged out Zeitgeist Arts Café by two percentage points, and Zeitgeist edged out Duluth Grill by three percentage points. A bit behind the top three, but still pulling nearly 15 percent of the vote, was Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar.