Every September the days shorten, the weather cools, the kids go back to school, and I find myself refusing to believe that the warm days of summer are over. Knowing that fall means winter is just around the corner, I resist embracing the cooler days as long as I can, and by the time I’m ready to admit that fall is really here, the trees are bare, the snow starts flying, and I’ve missed its beauty altogether.
I have vowed in recent years, to not only embrace the seasons, but find unique ways to appreciate them. Fall on the North Shore is a wonder, and people drive from all around to experience the cold breeze off the lake and find a picturesque view of the forest as the trees change their colors.
This time of year is beautiful, but brief. So, leave your bug spray at home—the mosquitoes are probably gone, pack your sweatshirt—the temperatures can be unpredictable, and travel with me as we chase the fall colors and eat our way up the North Shore.
Breakfast at New London Café, Duluth
When new owners took over New London Café in October 2021, they wasted no time in giving the New London Café a new look, inside and out. New logos grace the front windows, and rustic tables await you inside. Branding themselves as the “Gateway to the North,” this café is a local breakfast favorite.
New London Café offers a breakfast and lunch menu, with coffee roasted locally right next door. They have a full espresso bar, an assortment of teas grown along the nearby Amity Creek, and also offer Mike and Jen’s cocoa, and Northern Soda Company flavored sodas.
Breakfast choices include French toast, omelets, breakfast sandwiches, egg and sausage combos, and more. One of my favorites is the New London Scramble, which features their delicious New London potatoes scrambled with eggs, ham and green peppers. The lunch menu has burgers, sandwiches, salads and more. Both menus include choices for kids, and New London Café also serves homemade pastries. Even if you don’t make it in for breakfast, you’re sure to find something you like!
Lunch at Vanilla Bean Restaurant, Two Harbors
The Vanilla Bean Restaurant greets you unassumingly as you enter Two Harbors. You’ll find a large wooden moose at the door and delicious eats inside, and if you missed breakfast, don’t worry because the Vanilla Bean serves brunch all day. It’s not too late to grab some pancakes, eggs, crepes or walleye cake benedict.
Of course, cinnamon sugar mini donuts are a valid option any time of day, but if you’re ready for lunch, one of their salads, burgers or sandwiches is sure to tickle your fancy. Vanilla Bean Restaurant offers gluten free options for all burgers and sandwiches, as well as a variety of choices for sides, including one of my favorites: sweet potato fries. Pair it with their signature bacon wrapped mini donut bloody mary, and you’ve got lunch, a drink and dessert.
If you don’t want to dine in you can order your Vanilla Bean Restaurant fare online for pickup, or they deliver to a surprising range of addresses. They also cater, offering box lunches or buffet services in and around the Duluth and Two Harbors area. The Vanilla Bean Restaurant boasts they serve “food prepared for the heart, with the soul in mind,” and is a great addition to any foodie’s road trip adventure.
Dinner at Insula Restaurant, Ely
It’s important to give your palate a variety of experiences, and Insula Restaurant is just the ticket for something comfortable and just a little different. Insula strives to bring familiar menu items that are locally sourced, but with a twist. Truffle mac and cheese, wild rice chicken pot pie, and chicken and waffles featuring Minnesota maple syrup are just a few examples.
Insula heavily favors Minnesota-made, and strives to be “locally sourced” and “responsibly consumed.” They do this by serving Minnesota brewed beer and hard cider, as well as regionally harvested wild rice and maple syrup. Insula Restaurant has a kids’ menu curated for adventurous and cautious eaters alike, and an inviting atmosphere located in the heart of Ely.
Dessert at Superior Creamery, Grand Marais
Superior Creamery is a small creamery in Grand Marais serving small batch ice cream and sorbet, along with a light food menu. Ice cream and sorbet are made on site daily in small batches. Superior Creamery has perfected staple flavors like salted honey bee, superior vanilla, and lemon sorbet, as well as featured flavors like snickerdoodle and passionfruit sorbet, which change daily. Check their website or Facebook page for today’s current flavors.
You can get your ice cream in a cup or a cone, or a float with 1919 Root Beer or Uffda Kombucha. Superior Creamery also offers pints to go. The ice cream makers “by the saltless sea” are always innovating.
Since this has been a long road trip, you may have a hankering for some food with your ice cream, and Superior Creamery offers a small, but flavorful menu: sandwiches, salads, and fries. I, for one, can’t wait to try their parmesan pepper French fries with roasted garlic aioli.
What a lovely trip! The North Shore has much to offer, both in scenery and in food. As September comes and the days get cooler while the night gets longer, I hope you’ll join me in embracing the seasons of life and of nature as they come. One of the best ways I have found to do this is to anticipate and embrace them: to find their beauty, learn their lessons…and to quickly seek shelter when necessary. And here in the northland, we have the privilege of experiencing those seasons with the most beautiful scenery and the most delicious food. Where should our adventures take us next?