Heading to Duluth? Here are seven new restaurants you’ll want to try

At the top of the hill just before descending into Duluth, the sky opens up to a blue-gray expanse revealing Lake Superior below. The air temperature drops even on the hottest summer days and brings a touch of freshness to the air.

With an explosion of new restaurant openings since the pandemic, there’s never been a better time to visit, especially the city’s Lincoln Park Craft District, which is bubbling with life and creativity. Whether you’re heading for Grandma’s marathon or just looking for some respite closer to home, here are some exciting new places to visit in Duluth right now.

New must-visit restaurants

Phoholic taste of Vietnam: Owner Ann Nguyen’s restaurant is a family affair: her husband’s family’s pho recipe was brought back from Vietnam and her sons work alongside her in the restaurant. Upon entering, a wave of pho scent fills the room – it’s hard to imagine anyone dining here without ordering a rich bowl of this aromatic broth ($12.50). Long-simmered beef bones lend incredible depth, and the warm spice blend sits at the center of every spoonful. It is an extraordinary clear broth with a light and succulent viscosity floating along the surface. Each serving is served in a giant metal bowl with a plate full of mixes (don’t miss the crispy chili on the table). Be sure to try the finger-sized fried spring rolls filled with pork sausage and seasoned with galangal and fish sauce ($5.50). And a selection of bubble tea and an iced Vietnamese coffee is the perfect precursor to an afternoon of hiking in Hawk Ridge. 309 E. Central Entrance, Duluth, 218-464-0312, facebook.com/phoholicduluth/

Coffee and tea at 190°: Corey Roysdown, originally from San Diego, is the origin of this lively cafe, located inside the magnificent Enger Lofts building. Obsessed with coffee, he built the shop at the back of the building, but also just opposite the Bent Paddle bar with the aim of bringing together the best talent in town. Inside, you’ll find pastries from Duluth’s Best Bread as well as tea and hot chocolate from local makers Zenith Tea Works and Mike & Jen. Coffee selections are plain lattes and pours, but one special included a golden, shiny turmeric latte ($5.50) that’s blended with hints of warm spice and black pepper. It’s a perfect antidote for those gray lake mornings. Grab a coffee and wander around this stunning new building, which also houses shop windows and a boutique hotel. Stores include Goat Hill Marketplace, stocked with kitchen equipment and new pantry basics, and Little Neetchers, which has a Play Cafe that can help wipe out small children’s scribbles. 1832 Superior Street West, Duluth, 218-288-4190, 190coffeeandtea.com

Northern Oasis: Despite the short outdoor season, Duluth still has a solid collection of inventive food trucks prowling the streets, and this one has been out for at least five years. Serving street and walk Mexican tacos, as well as burritos and quesadillas, the truck will soon enter its first brick-and-mortar restaurant inside the former Big Bottle Shop on Superior Street. It is on track to open in early fall. Until then, we have plenty of time to hit the truck and its succulent meats and nopales. Tacos start at just $4.25. The truck and restaurant are the work of Eduardo Sandoval Luna, who took the name from his mother’s restaurant El Oasis in Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico. 2401 Superior Street West, 218-464-6636, oasisdelnorte.com

Jamrock Cultural Restaurant: This Jamaican restaurant was born out of the pandemic, when chef/owner Tony O’Neil started selling jerk food from his home. He grew up in Jamaica, where his grandparents owned a restaurant, and draws much of his culinary inspiration there. Demand quickly increased and the operation moved to a commercial kitchen. Jamrock is located across the bridge in Superior, Wisconsin, but it’s easy to order at one of Lincoln Park’s many bars that allow third-party delivery services like Food Dudes to drop off snacks. An order of chicken wings comes with freshly made fries dusted with a tangy marinade that’s decidedly not “Minnesota spicy.” 1901 Tower Ave., Superior, Wisconsin, 715-718-0720, jamrockculturalrestaurant.com

Jade Fountain Cocktail Lounge: The Jade Fountain was once the best place in town for orange chicken; now this is the best place for a balanced negroni. Duluth native Kai Soderberg cultivated a passion for craft cocktails while living in Portland. Back in his hometown, he opened a bar inside this iconic building, which had been empty since the original owner sold it in 2015, and opened a cocktail bar in 2020 at the height of of the pandemic. It’s weathered the storm and now this deeply cool bar is a perfect place to sneak away for a stiff drink. The decor of the Chinese restaurant remains largely intact, except for a few dark personal touches that reinforce the gothic/vintage vibe: a framed painting of an unwittingly menacing clown hangs on the wall and a black horse’s head haunts the bar. The cocktail list is edgy and filled with twists on the classics, like a smoky Oaxacan Negroni. For non-drinkers, a Strawberry Balsamic Soda is fizzy and tart with a savory edge. 305 N. Central Ave., Duluth, bit.ly/3mvPEZl

Chachos Taqueria: A trip to Duluth isn’t complete without a visit to Canal Park, throwing rocks from the shore or marveling at the giant ships passing under the overhead lift. Before heading to the water, grab a street taco at this newly opened taqueria. The small, treehouse-style walk-up is the work of Aaron Maloney and Alex Giuliani, who met while working in the hospitality industry. (Giuliani also worked with his father and uncle at Clyde Iron Works.) Tamales — chewy, soft masa wrapped in a corn husk — are a recipe from Giuliani’s grandmother. Selections of meats and vegetables are added atop the tamale ($6), along with a choice of salsa. Spice lovers will delight in the habañero, as lively and fruity as it is fiery. It has an almost juicy sweetness of golden raisins. 329 Canal Park Drive, Duluth, 218-451-3089, chachostaqueria.com

Camp Creemee: Inside the bright, open dining room of the Wild State Cider is Camp Creame, the perfect place for Vermont-style soft serve ice cream. Towers of scrumptious ice cream, sweetened with maple syrup or infused with fresh summer strawberries, are poured inside freshly made waffle cones. The treat goes wonderfully with raspberry-hibiscus cider. Ice cream is perfect for one last bite on Superior Street before hitting I-35 and heading home. 2515 Superior Street West, Duluth, campcreemee.com

Duluth go

Bring on some flavor – or fragrance – from the Zenith City house.

Lift Bridge Bagels: The new bagel maker, part of On 93rd and Grace, started spinning the dough during the pandemic. Buy a package at Whole Foods Co-Op in West Duluth or order online and pick it up at Superior before you leave town. $5.99; on 93rdandgrace.com

Naturallight candles: Choose one of these hand-poured candles scented with saffron and red ginger for a fresh, tangy scent at home. $5 to $16, 517 Central Ave. N., Duluth, naturalightmn.com

Coffee in the woods: A small-batch roast that focuses on sustainable practices and retro photos. Guatemala’s Pablo Bamaca brews an incredibly smooth cup with hints of strawberry jam, Nilla wafers and a little lemon zest. From $16, underwoodcoffee.com

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Sandy A. Greer