A & Dubs
An honest-to-goodness drive-in (a former A & W, which explains the name), carhops and all. Burgers, hot dogs, deep-fried delights, soft-serve ice cream and fabulous, vanilla-laced housemade root beer, all at family-friendly prices.
3131 W. 3rd St., Duluth, 1-218-624-0198
At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe
Home of Duluth’s most irresistible pancakes. At lunch and dinner, chef Jillian Forte takes a global approach (paella, bibimbap, Thai-style tofu curry), and baker Diane Bailey fills her counter with memorable pies and other temptations.
1902 E. 8th St., Duluth, 1-218-724-6811, astccc.net
The house specialty is served in two sizes (both enormous) and prices (both affordable). The menu also features other traditional Tex-Mex fare, great beer (from Fitger’s) and an inexpensive weekend brunch.
1332 E. 4th St., Duluth, 1-218-728-4414, burritounion.com
Canal Park Brewing Co.
This contemporary brewpub has a great-looking setting — including what is arguably the city’s most pleasant patio — a long list of house-brewed ales, chipper service and an even longer roster of crowd-pleasing, beer-friendly fare.
300 Canal Park Dr., Duluth, 1-218-464-4790, canalparkbrewery.com
Duluth’s Best Bread
Co-owner Michael Lillegard is a superb baker, turning out admirable croissants and pain au chocolat and cinnamon rolls and an impressive twist on the Pop-Tart. The utilitarian shop keeps limited hours (6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday through Saturday). Starting July 7, Lillegard and brother/business partner Robert Lillegard will launch a Friday-through-Sunday breakfast pop-up (7:30 to 11 a.m.) at Canal Park’s historic Endion Station (200 Lake Place Dr., Duluth), serving baked goods, coffee drinks and savory items, including a ham-bacon quiche.
2632 W. 3rd St., Duluth, duluthsbestbread.com.
The 23-year-old brewpub that arguably launched the city’s craft beer obsession continues to focus on the small-batch ales and lagers that forged its reputation. The beer-battered onion rings and wild rice veggie burgers are as tasty as ever.
600 E. Superior St., Duluth, 1-218-279-2739, fitgersbrewhouse.com
Great Lakes Candy Kitchen
Hit the shoreline-hugging highway out of Duluth for the scenery, and this sweet-tooth gem. The caramel apples — and the chocolate-dipped Nutty Ice Cream Bars, finished with roasted peanuts and toasted coconut — are worth the trip.
223 Scenic Dr., Knife River, Minn., 1-218-834-2121, greatlakescandy.com
Hoops Brewing Co.
Longtime Fitger’s Brewhouse brewer Dave Hoops has become his own boss, building a beauty of a brewery in a historic, timber-lined industrial warehouse (an infinitely better use than the previous tenant, a chain steakhouse). The taproom’s copper-topped bar is an ideal showcase for Hoops’ meticulously brewed ales, creamy porters and refreshing pilsners.
325 S. Lake Av., Duluth, 1-218-606-1666, hoopsbrewing.com
Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar
A reason to dine in Canal Park, this charmer emphasizes creative, vibrant cooking at lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. The bar showcases Midwestern spirits. Happy hour (3 to 6 p.m. weekdays) is full of delicious $13-and-under options.
394 S. Lake Av., Duluth, 1-218-722-2355, lakeaveduluth.com
The pizza — and weekend brunch — is the same as the Twin Cities Lucé locations. Ditto the (rare, for Duluth) late-night hours, which run to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
11 E. Superior St., Duluth, 1-218-727-7400, pizzaluce.com
PortLand Malt Shoppe
Housed in a 1921 gas station, this may be the most adorable walk-up scoop shop in the land, serving cones, sundaes, malts, shakes and floats. Conveniently located next to a Lakewalk staircase.
716 E. Superior St., portlandmaltshoppe.com
Positively 3rd Street Bakery
This funky Hillside landmark has been making people happy for 35 years (including those following vegan and gluten-free diets), with a tempting selection of breads, granola, cookies, bars and muffins. Ice cream sandwiches are a must.
1202 E. 3rd St., Duluth, 1-218-724-8619, 3rdstbakery.com
Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse
A 110-year-old North Shore tradition, and the place to pack the cooler with pickled herring, sugar-cured smoked lake trout and smoked whitefish.
149 Scenic Dr., Knife River, Minn., 1-218-834-5995
Va Bene Berarducci’s Caffe
Yes, the screen porch is a terrific gaze-at-the-lake perch. But owners Mary Kay and Jim Berarducci run a pleasing, pasta- and panini-focused kitchen and stock their gelato case with a dozen housemade flavors.
734 E. Superior St., Duluth, 1-218-722-1518, vabenecaffe.com
Whole Foods Co-op
Anyone looking to picnic in the Zenith City would do well to consider the stores’ well-stocked delis and cheese cases as one-stop picnic-basket destinations. Dessert is a no-brainer: output from that classic North Shore pie maker, the Rustic Inn Cafe in Castle Danger, Minn.
610 E. 4th St. and 4426 Grand Av., Duluth, 1-218-728-0884, wholefoods.coop. Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Downtown’s continuing renaissance owes a debt to this arts complex, which includes this stylish and lively restaurant and bar, serving lunch, dinner and a terrific weekend brunch.
222 E. Superior St., Duluth, 1-218-722-9100, zeitgeistarts.com