Left at the Fork

the road | the food | a new direction

Northern Waters Smokehaus, Duluth MN

REVIEW

Walk along the Lake Superior waterfront in Duluth and you’ll inevitably find yourself glancing up at the hills to the north. You can’t help but notice, at the very top of one of the hills, silhouetted against the bright sky, what looks to be some sort of stone tower. What is that? What’s the story behind it? And therein lies half the makings of a perfect Duluth afternoon. Continue reading

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe, Duluth MN

REVIEW

Farm-to-table has been the key restaurant buzzword for the last decade or two, and it’s a development we heartily applaud. Still, we can’t help but have nagging suspicions in the backs of our minds: just how local, from what kind of farm, and how long was the interval between farm and table. We have no such concerns about At Sara’s Table…: the gorgeous, ripe tomatoes (and fresh basil) from our Caprese salad one summer evening were picked that morning by our waitress in the garden across the street. Continue reading

Checking in at: Fitger’s Brewhouse, Duluth, MN

Fitger’s is a modern microbrewery but its spiritual and physical roots go back as far as 1857. That’s when the Duluth brewery that would eventually become Fitger’s Brewing Company was opened. It moved to the current site of Fitger’s Brewhouse in 1881. Like most regional brewers of the mid-to-late 20th century, Fitger’s couldn’t compete with the brewing giants. It folded in 1972. Continue reading

Johnson’s Bakery, Duluth MN

REVIEW

Swedish limpa rye; Finnish pulla; Finnish rye; cardamom coffee cake, kringle: we don’t see Scandinavian baked goods like these back home in New Jersey. Here in Minnesota, it’s de rigueur, especially if the bakery is run by descendants of Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian immigrants, as is Johnson’s Bakery of Duluth. Continue reading

Anchor Bar and Grill, Superior WI

REVIEW

You can have drippy, juicy one-third, two-thirds, or full-pound burgers, dressed plain or fancy (or just plain weird); a mountain of French fries that were recently whole potatoes; and beer. That’s it. The entire menu. Oh, they’ll also make you a sandwich with the available burger toppings if you’d like, so there’s a grilled cheese, a ham sandwich, a BLT… but you want a burger, preferably in the double (2/3-pound) configuration or larger. Continue reading

Checking in at: Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Superior WI

Duluth, Minnesota is one half of what is known as the Twin Ports, the largest freshwater port in the world. The “other” port, across St. Louis Bay, where the St. Louis River meets Lake Superior, is Superior, Wisconsin, a more blue-collar city with a decidedly lower tourist profile. If you like brewpubs, stopping in to Thirsty Pagan Brewing is a great way to see, closeup, the difference between the two cities. Continue reading

Betty’s Pies, Two Harbors MN

REVIEW

Betty Lessard was a North Shore legend. It was a legend built upon a pallet of flour and lard. Yes, her dexterity with the rolling pin knew no equal. It was in 1956 that Ms. Lessard took control of the family smoked fish shack, over time turning the small business into a cafe, and then a cafe whose raison d’être was pie. She’d bake up to a hundred pies each morning for her loyal customers. Continue reading

Grizzly’s, Duluth MN

REVIEW

Grizzly’s is a twelve-location Minnesota restaurant chain – a few of them can be found in the neighboring states of Wisconsin and North Dakota. Even with its small size, they have the soul of a national chain, which is to say no soul at all. This location in Duluth’s Canal Park would seem to be ideal for them – Canal Park is well-dotted with restaurant chains as well as hotels filled with travelers who love to eat and drink at them. The evening we were there, however, did not bode well for them. Having walked over from packed and bustling Canal Park Brewing, we found Grizzly’s to be subdued and mostly empty.  Continue reading

Checking in at: Canal Park Brewing Company, Duluth MN

Canal Park, the entertainment district of the city of Duluth, is a little peninsula that juts out into the bay, where old waterside warehouses have been converted to restaurants, brewpubs, bars, and hotels. Canal Park Brewing is one of the most popular spots in the area, especially with those staying at the nearby, walkable hotels. Continue reading

The Little Mermaid Cafe, Askov MN

REVIEW

The Pine County Historical Society is a local museum in the Danish-American town of Askov, MN. A small piece of that museum is devoted to The Little Mermaid Cafe, which serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week. We were lucky to be there during the Askov Rutabaga Festival, when they featured a special Danish Dinner from 11A until 2P. Continue reading

Askov Rutabaga Festival & Fair, Askov MN, August 25th through 27th 2017

REVIEW

What’s America’s least-favorite vegetable? It’s hard to pick just one but certainly in the running are turnips, okra, Brussels sprouts, and rutabaga. We’d have included beets on that list until the last few years, which have seen an explosion of interest in the vegetable – beet salads with chevre and walnuts are on every other upscale menu today. Continue reading

Pizza Biga, Minneapolis MN

REVIEW

You’d figure that a place that operates as a bakery by day and a pizzeria by night would probably feature pizza with a superior crust. And you’d be right. Turtle Bread Company has three locations in Minneapolis, where, as well as turning out rosemary olive levain and sticky buns, the bakery serves as a grocery, coffee house, and breakfast and lunch spot. The Chicago Avenue location becomes Pizza Biga in the evening, where rounds of handmade pizza dough are topped and quickly baked in a wood-fired oven. Continue reading

Checking in at: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub, Minneapolis MN

Northbound Smokehouse is not a barbecue restaurant. The idea here is that almost everything on the menu includes some element that’s been smoked in-house. There’s a dip made with smoked artichokes, poutine built on smoked cheese curds, a salad that incorporates smoked beets… as well as more traditional items like smoked fish, beef, and even some pulled pork. Continue reading

Ernie’s Tavern, Robbinsville NJ

REVIEW

Most residents of current-day, rapidly growing Robbinsville have barely an inkling of what their town was like pre-1980. For one thing, it was called Washington until voters decided in 2007 that it is better to be unique Robbinsville than one of six Washingtons in New Jersey. But more significantly, this was a low-key little farming town of a couple of thousand residents with a handful of businesses to serve them. One of those businesses (since 1859!) is Ernie’s Tavern. Continue reading

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Fairfield CT

REVIEW

We love Pepe’s. We really, really love Pepe’s. Bruce’s single favorite food on earth is a Pepe’s white clam pizza. Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s see if we can begin to explain why. Continue reading

Sift Bake Shop, Mystic CT

REVIEW

We had no idea that the owner of Sift, a bakery smack in the center of all the action in Mystic, had a well-publicized appearance on the Food Network earlier this year (we abandoned the channel many, many years ago). Not that it would have made any difference to us either way – we found ourselves in the area at breakfast time and Sift just looked promising. Continue reading

Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, Norwich CT

REVIEW

Last time we visited, the home team was the Norwich Navigators, the AA club for the San Francisco Giants, and attendance was dismal. Today, the team is the Connecticut Tigers, a short-season single-A farm team for the Detroit Tigers. That’s very low in the baseball pecking order – for many of these kids this is their first professional baseball experience. It’s pretty amazing to watch: feels like the game consists mostly of walks, strikeouts, and misplays. We say misplays rather than errors because the scorers rarely call anything an error. It’s kind of surprising to see guys play the field much like they do in your pickup softball game. Honestly, though, there were a couple of guys on each team that could clearly field their positions well. Continue reading

Checking in at: These Guys Brewing Company, Norwich CT

These Guys Brewing opened in Norwich in late 2015 and have since earned a reputation for their dining, an unusual accomplishment for a brewpub. We weren’t there to eat, however. We enjoyed a Gen Pop (“hazy, cloudy New England style IPA all Mosaic, easy drinking w/ delightful bitterness”) and a Queen B’s Pale Ale (” deep golden American Pale Ale brewed w/ honey malt & 3 hop varietals”), both well-made, amber-to-orange colored brews. Continue reading

Twisters Ice Cream, Mystic CT

REVIEW

Let us tell you a little story: There is a restaurant in Mystic named Kitchen Little. It was a tiny restaurant with a loyal following, located for decades at 135 Greenmanville Avenue. The land on which Kitchen Little sat was owned by the Mystic Seaport. A few years ago, the Seaport decided to sell off some of its real estate holdings, particularly those that had little relation to its core mission. One of those properties was 135 Greenmanville. Kitchen Little had a next door neighbor, also a restaurant, by the name of Sea View Snack Bar. The owners of Sea View purchased 135 Greenmanville from the Seaport and proceeded, according to Kitchen Little’s owner, to triple the rent, forcing Kitchen Little to move. Continue reading

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank CT

REVIEW

Before we’d ever been to Maine, lobster, to us, was rich man’s food found in white tablecloth restaurants. The first few times we went to a Maine lobster pound we laughed at the incongruity of the single-serving bag of potato chips that always accompanies the cooked critter. After dozens of lobster-in-the-rough meals (lobster-in-the-rough being the Maine term for ultra-casual lobster restaurants served out-of-doors, usually at picnic tables near the shore) we now find it impossible to enjoy Homaris americanus anywhere south of the New England-New York border, and certainly not anywhere we wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing shorts and sandals. Continue reading

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