Ice Breaker Visitors Guide: Where To Eat, Drink And Kill Time In Duluth And Beyond

Minnesota Duluth is set to host Minnesota, Michigan Tech and Union this week in the 21st annual Ice Breaker Tournament at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

If you’ve chosen to make the trip to see the Bulldogs, Gophers, Huskies and Dutchmen, there are two very important things you need to know.

1) There is a lot more to Duluth than the Duluth city limits

2) If you eat at a national chain or drink a macro brew this weekend, you’re doing Duluth oh-so-wrong

Here’s my guide for the hockey fan visiting the Twin Ports on what will hopefully be a nice fall weekend along the shores of Lake Superior.


Northern Waters Smokehaus

Located in Canal Park within walking distance of the rink, you won’t find a better sandwich anywhere. Seriously, this is a must-stop in Duluth for lunch. My favorite is the pastrami mommy, which features a quarter pound of bison pastrami that is heaven in your mouth. They deliver around town, like to nearby Hoops Brewing (see DRINKS).

OMC Smokehouse

Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and not too far from Bent Paddle Brewing, OMC (stands for oink, moo, cluck) is new on the Duluth restaurant scene and gives the city a much-needed BBQ joint (not named Famous Dave’s). The sliced beef brisket is excellent, as is the Nashville hot chicken sandwich (if you love scorching your mouth, which I do).

Duluth Grill

This is my go-to breakfast spot, located in Lincoln Park. It has the same owners as OMC. It’s as hearty as a breakfast as you can get and will have you set for a day of drinking watching hockey. Get there early because you’re probably going to have to wait. You also don’t want them to run out of pecan caramel rolls.

7 West Taphouse

Most locals will tell you to head across the bridge to Anchor Bar in Superior for a burger (not a bad idea), but I’m a bigger fan of 7 West Taphouse for its more unique burgers. The fries and cheese curds are also solid. Oh, and they have one of the best tap beer selections in the area. Hit up the location on Superior Street (walking distance from Amsoil) either before or after a game.

Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meat

Diverse menu of hearty, greasy reasonably priced food across the bridge in Superior. Lots of good beer on tap here as well (like Spotted Cow). The poutine “appetizer” is meant to be shared and not just with two people. Try 4-6 … or like 10. It’s a meal on its own, but delicious.

Thirsty Pagan Brewing

No, you have not crossed over into the DRINK portion just yet, through Thirsty Pagan is a great place to get a good local brew (try the Velo Saison). You’ll be missing out, however, if you pass on the pizza, which is the best in the area.

Amsoil Arena

There is no shame in getting some eats at the rink this weekend. Amsoil Arena has some of the best food you’ll find in college hockey and the prices aren’t awful. There is some new stuff on the menu this year worth trying (GET THE POT ROAST SUNDAE). I recently helped our features department sample the new fare. I highly recommend the carved New York strip sirloin sandwich and the pot roast sundae.

I repeat: Try. The. Pot. Roast. Sundae.


Hoops Brewing

It’s a new brewery in Duluth from a familiar face in Dave Hoops, the creator of some of your favorite all-time brews down the road at Fitger’s. Dave went off to start his own brewery down in Canal Park and it’s perfect. It’s everything you’d ask for in a great beer hall, and that’s what Hoops is, a massive beer hall where everyone can gather before and/or after a UMD hockey game. In addition to a pretty long list of beer that satisfy’s all tastes, you can order in food from a wide variety of area restaurants (like Northern Waters) and the food will be brought right to your table. This would be my pregame gathering spot with friends, and probably my postgame haunt as well.

Bent Paddle Brewing

Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, the tap room at Bent Paddle is a popular community gathering spot. You’ll find all your favorite Bent Paddle Brews here (Bent Hop, Cold Press Black) plus the occasional twists on those favorites. If there is a long wait at OMC, go have a few brews at Bent Paddle until a table opens up (OMC will text you).

Blacklist Artisan Ales

I love Belgian brews, which is why I love Blacklist, located on Superior Street downtown. The Classic Wit is a regular in my fridge, and as the temperatures drop, I’ll turn to their Dark Belgian-Style Imperial Stout as well. Hefe Royal is still listed on tap right now. That’s a must try too if you’re into Belgians.

Castle Danger Brewery

Located a half hour up Minnesota Highway 61 in Two Harbors on the North Shore of Lake Superior, a trip to Castle Danger Brewery will check off all three categories of EAT, DRINK and KILL TIME. With the colors starting to peak in Northern Minnesota, this really could make for a great Saturday during the Ice Breaker weekend.

Castle Danger, specifically the Castle Cream Ale, has become my go-to brew since moving to Minnesota. The brewery was my Duluth pick for my All-College Hockey Beer Team a year ago (sorry a second hasn’t been released, wedding got in the way this summer).

Right now the brewery is pouring an awesome lager brewed with maple syrup called Maple Marzen. Go try it. While you’re there be sure to also try the IPL and Grapefruit Ode IPA before both run out, and order a pie from Do North Pizza (one of a few establishments in Two Harbors that delivers to the brewery). Or drive a little further up the shore and get an actual pie from Betty’s Pies to go with your beer.


Take a hike

Another thing about Duluth, if you spend your entire weekend indoors, you’re doing it wrong.

There are a number of great parks right here in the city limits. I recommend Hawk Ridge on the east side of town for some great views of Lake Superior’s north shore. Lester Park and Chester Park, also on the east side, offer some nice trails as well along the Lester River and Chester Creek.

Hartley Nature Center is also a hidden gem in Duluth, so much so that you forget you’re in the middle of a city of 80,000 plus.

Closer to downtown on the west side is Enger Park and Tower. Here you’ll get great views not just of Lake Superior, but downtown Duluth and the St. Louis River.

Jay Cooke State Park south of Duluth is also a great place to enjoy Minnesota’s great outdoors.

Hit the beach

Any time of year can be beach time of year in Duluth, just not the kind of beach experience most think of. Here, we more of less just relax on the shore and admire the view rather than swim in the frigid (and sometimes dangerous) waters of Lake Superior.

The two best places to relax along Lake Superior’s shores would Brighton Beach on the east side. For a sandy beach, cross the Aerial Lift Bridge and check out Park Point (just check weather reports and warning flags if you do decide to take a dip).

The Duluth Experience

Love beer and the outdoors? Then check out what the Duluth Experience has to offer. They do guided kayak, mountain biking, city and brewery tours. Visit their website to see what they have going on this week.

3 Responses

  1. Scott

    Well Written Matt!!! As an Alum, you hit the best spots in town. Cant wait to get back for a game or two this year

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