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Searching for moose, and dinner, in northern Minnesota

Kerri Westenberg, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Travel News

The kitchen at this long-standing favorite turns out 13 kinds of burgers (such as the Bull Moose, with BBQ sauce, bacon and Swiss cheese). But the robust menu also offers a taco salad, shrimp plate, Canadian walleye and other foods to please a crowd -- or a family of picky eaters. The wood-filled room itself is a delight, dotted with antique beer cans, lanterns, snowshoes and license plates. There is also a full bar, where the old-fashioned malt machine stirs up all kinds of flavors, including pineapple and peanut butter (1-218-388-2214;

Bonus: A general store that sells house-made jellies, wild rice and other goods.


Quinoa has arrived on the Gunflint Trail (in a cranberry and raisin salad) along with the first new restaurant in ages. Poplar Haus, which opened two weeks ago, is owned by four defectors from the Twin Cities restaurant scene who had done stints at Smack Shack and the Lexington, to name a couple. In the old Windigo Lodge, Poplar Haus radiates a Nordic vibe. Antlers adorn the sleek, black fireplace; floor-to-ceiling vaulted windows overlook Poplar Lake. The place fits the Gunflint, even as it strays from the log-and-stuffed- animal aesthetic of the old standbys. As for the food? I'd heard only raves from locals who happened into a soft opening. Owner Bryan Jerrard called the food "casual but adventurous." The sample menu I picked up included kielbasa mac and cheese and Haus-style turkey poutine (1-218- 388-2222;

Bonus: The only liquor store on the Gunflint Trail.

Gunflint Lodge

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At this resort's restaurant, Justine's, I ate what could be the best walleye sandwich on the Gunflint. The generous piece of breaded fish was topped by crisp bacon and lettuce and served on a buttered bun long enough to hold the entire filet. Before the sandwich arrived, I started with an appetizer I could not ignore: potato skins heaped with wild rice, jalapenos, bacon, scallions and cheese, called Wooden Canoes. Tucked into a cozy both, I ate under the watchful eye of a stuffed moosehead. The restaurant offers frequent specials; I happened upon a Fat Tuesday menu that included excellent jambalaya (1-218-388-2294;

Bonus: Fat tire and electric fat tire bikes (boosted with batteries and an electric motor).

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