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Searching for moose, and dinner, in northern Minnesota

Kerri Westenberg, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Travel News

At Gunflint Lodge, the owner regaled us with the tale of her teenage son's first behind-the-wheel encounter with wildlife. "I was just happy it was a moose and not deer. Moose are so plodding and predictable. Deer are erratic and they always have a friend in the ditch who could jump any minute."

It seems everyone on the Gunflint Trail has seen moose this winter -- except my sister and me. For us, the animals proved elusive. Fortunately, unlike a sighting of those secretive creatures, good food in generous portions is a lock.

A handful of restaurants stay open through winter -- and many of them display stuffed moose heads, so you can have a sighting one way or another.

Bearskin Lodge

On Saturday nights from late December until early March, the small dining room at this classic resort gets turned over to Derek Hofeldt. The chef cooks during the summer at his nearby Loon Lake Lodge. At Bearskin, he keeps turning out his most popular dishes in wintertime, including wild-caught salmon in a puff pastry and dry-aged steak served with locally harvested wild rice. Dinner is otherwise not an option, though soup, chili, cookies and pie are on offer during the day. A recent Saturday was the last dinner service this winter (1-800-338-4170;

Bonus: A 1.5-kilometer lighted cross-country ski trail.

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Hungry Jack Lodge

Wonderfully flaky fried cod was the centerpiece of the three fish tacos that filled my plate at this resort's downstairs bar and restaurant. But the house-made fresh pico de gallo commanded its own attention. The shaved red cabbage and perfectly ripe avocado only added to the effect. This delicious dish was well worth the winding 2-mile drive down a well-maintained gravel road. The pizza at this snowmobilers' hub is reportedly excellent, too, but I know what I'm getting when I return (1-218-388-2265;

Bonus: A TV tuned to sports.

Trail Center Lodge


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