Tobies Restaurant & Bakery

Welcome to Tobies. Open 24 hours and hailing as Minnesota’s famous halfway stop (between the Twin Cities and Duluth), they include an ice cream parlor, banquet hall, lounge, tavern, diner, boutique and gift shop, convenience store, gas station and, last but not least, a bakery. One with a national reputation, and a line out to door to match.

Colossal, gargantuan, massive, mammoth… These are just a few words that describe the infamous Tobies cinnamon roll. Whether you like it generously iced, caramel covered, or, the pièce de résistance, piled high with caramel pecans. World. Famous. Coming in at a whopping 30 to a pan, my sucre-loving heart skipped a beat. People often compare it to their grandmas recipe. Let me tell you, I don’t know any grandma that makes them this good. They go through so many cinnamon rolls that they have to make their homemade icing by the bucket full. It took every ounce of willpower I could muster to not nab one, find a spoon and pretend it was ice cream. I wish I were joking. Ahem, as I write this, I am halfway through a cinnamon roll, with icing as warpaint across my face. And no you can’t just get all the rolls from the middle of the pan – what sort of monster would make it so that everybody else has to have the outside pieces?!

If rolls aren’t your thing, don’t fret! Homemade cookies, cake donuts, crispies, pies, loaves of bread, muffins, bismarks, fritters, candies, jellies, jams,… I could go on and on! You can even get a cupcake bouquet! There is one thing I would highly suggest though; Andrej’s European Pastry. Potica (pronounced Po-tee-sa), a Slovak thinly rolled gourmet sweet bread dough that you can get with either walnut or poppy seed filling. I suggest this because it has an insane shelf life and is a favorite among hikers and backpackers (it’s small and calorie dense). Also, for those gluten-free folks who feel betrayed by the bakery-scene – Tobies has you covered. They have a whole section of gluten-free goodness! The restaurants’ are amazing, too. A welcome break from the fast-food ridden highways.

The green oval glowing the distance, beckoning the weary traveler from the highway. My love for Tobies runs deep because like most Minnesotans growing up vacationing on Lake Superior, it has become a staple and a tradition. In my lifetime of travels to Duluth, I don’t think there’s been a single time that I have not stopped at Tobies. Just the thought of a trip to the northcoast has visions of cinnamon rolls dancing in my head. I have been coming here for so long that I promise, if I call my mom right now, she has Tobies bread in her freezer. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who’s childhood involved the North Shore that hadn’t been here. I hereby proclaim that Tobies deserves it’s own zipcode because growing up, honest-to-goodness, I thought Tobies was the town name. P.S. It’s not, it’s located in Hinkley, for those who shared my confusion.

Hinkley has a rich history, with the Great Hinkley Fire of 1894, but I myself am partial to Tobies tale. Opened in 1920 by the Wendt family, the cafe and bus stop served donuts and coffee on the old Highway 61, Bob Dylan’s crown muse. It operated successfully for 27 years, until 1947 when Tobie Lackner bought the shop and gifted its current monikers most iconic element, his name. Tobies Eat Shop and Bus Stop was born and reigned on 61 for 19 years until the new freeway planned to come through. Prior to building I-35, this was the heart of Hinkley.  The Lackners chose to retire and sold to the Schrade’s (the prevailing family). In 1966, they moved, now simply called

“Tobies,” to its current location off Exit 183 and have become the one-stop-shop and widespread rite of passage for passersby. Currently on its second and third generation of ownership and fourth generation of employees.

They keep up with the times, too! My Paul Bunyan loving heart almost leapt from my chest when I saw all of the Minnesota-branded apparel and accessories they carry – and I’m not just talking food! I picked up a Sota Clothing sweatshirt, a few Minnesota Children’s books and even a buffalo plaid bottle koosie. Sure there is kitsch, but that’s exactly what you want from a place like Tobies.

What’s next on the horizon, you ask? Well, their gas station / car wash is about to get better. Soon, they will be opening a Caribou (keeping it local!) kiosk right inside! No more long distance trips without your ’Bou!

Hoovie’s Popcorn Wagon

When you think about Canal Park and what you love about it, you may reminisce about the Ariel Lift Bridge glowing in the sunlight, meandering through Bayfront Park, the busy lake walk and masses of seagulls, grabbing donuts at Crabby Ol’ Bills, watching the ships come in, visiting the Maritime Museum or having dinner at Grandma’s. For me? Apple cider and hot buttered popcorn. Hoovie’s Popcorn Wagon often sits between the Lighthouse parking lot and the Lakewalk, providing passersby with nutriment like caramel corn, hot coffee, and shaved ice. I myself prefer my walks to include food, so it’s perfect – especially those that include the Northshore and Duluth harbors panoramic skyline.

Va Bene Caffe

Va Bene Caffe, Berarducci’s Italian Restaurant is a quaint restaurant with warm, yellow walls off East Superior Street in Duluth. They have an open kitchen giving the place a welcoming but balanced ambiance. Think romantic date night meets sidewalk café. Intimate but airy, the classic Italian eatery has become the sweetheart of the Northshore crowds.

It’s not a surprise with house-made, hearty pastas, well selected wines and rave-worthy gelato. And the complimentary focaccia bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar certainly doesn’t hurt.

My personal recommendations? Try the ripallo pesto. It is made with basil pesto and is served with roasted potatoes, asparagus and penne pasta. Something lighter? The caprese with fresh basil, savory mozzarella, and ripe tomatoes is my summer go-to. It’s worth a stop any, or every, time you are in Duluth. Make sure to make a reservation so you get a seat on the patio as it sits above the lakewalk, giving a spectacular view of Lake Superior.

Blacklist Artisan Ales

Originally funded as a kickstarter campaign in 2012, Blacklist Artisan Ales was founded by childhood friends Brian Schanzenbach and Jon Loss, and later TJ Estabrock. Starting out contract brewing with Dubrue Brewing Company, a space it couldn’t use for a taproom because it was 4 feet too close to a church. A fire next door to the brewery in February of 2014 resulted in serious smoke damage. Fortunately, Blacklist was able to rebuild and take over the entire space.

You can find them in Downtown Duluth off Second Street in a historic, now infamous location. Originally built as the Delray Hotel in 1908, the three-story was more recently home of the notorious Last Place on Earth head shop whose owner, Jim Carlson is serving a 17½-year prison sentence for 51 convictions related to the sales of synthetic drugs at the store. Blacklist has carved a space in Duluth’s Historic Arts and Theater District, opening their doors on Black Friday of this past year.

The small artesian brewery serves up favorites like Or De Belgique, Classic Wit, Spruce, Verte, Wit Noir, Makrut, Imperial Hefe With Grapefruit, Rhubarb, Tripel, Cocoa Hefe and Cran.