Up next on the #mnbucketlist is Sammy Perrella’s Pizza and Restaurant, a decades-old regional pizza chain. Sammy’s is one of my favorite places for pizza, specifically the one in Brooklyn Park. Say what you will about chain restaurants – Sammy’s is the place for authentic Italian cooking. Started 61 years ago as a small café in Keewatin, on Minnesota’s Iron Range, Sammy’s moved to Hibbing in 1954 and has since grown significantly, with locations all over; Cloquet, Coon Rapids, Downtown Duluth, Eau Claire, Grand Rapids, Hermantown, Hibbing, Lakeside (Duluth), Minot, Superior, Waite Park / St. Cloud, West Duluth, Winona, Woodland (Duluth). As for the pizza, I suggest trying the house special thin crust, it does not disappoint – and with four generations of pizza making, it comes as no surprise. You can stop in for lunch for their pizza buffet or grab a frozen pizza to go. Some say they have the best pizza in the Twin Cities metro area and northern Minnesota, in 2015 PMQ Pizza Magazine, the pizza industry’s No. 1 publication, inducted Sammy’s into its Pizza Hall of Fame — which pays tribute to popular pizzerias in business for 50 years or longer. Also, Sammy’s takes part in local charity events, from delivering Random Acts of Pizza to giving back to local Disabled American Veterans chapters and they even have something called Pizza with Purpose fundraising program. How great is that?!
Sometimes, I think if I could just find a diner like Mickey’s that has the same atmosphere but more space, out of the Twin Cities, oh! and that has mismatch salt shakers, I would be in heaven. Well ladies and gentlemen, I found that place. Since it just celebrated its anniversary, it seemed fitting to cross it off the #mnbucketlist. The Bent Spoon Bistro right off of Cloquet Avenue is the epitome of diner paradise meets mom-and-pop, cheap, family-style. The staff, you ask? Throw in a little bit of sarcastic humor and you’re there. I’m a huge fan of this place. If you’re in Duluth and want to take a side trip, I highly recommend hanging out there.
This is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed service station (also known as R W Lindholm Service Station) in Cloquet. The station (built in 1958 and is still in use) is the only filling station designed by Wright. It was originally part of Wright’s utopian Broad acre City plan and is one of the few designs from that plan which was actually implemented. It doesn’t even really look like a gas station – it has an observation deck. It reminds me of a car dealership from the 1970’s. Are you a fan of buildings (mostly homes) by Wright?
Next up on the #mnbucketlist is the Avenue Coffee House on Avenue C in Cloquet, Minnesota. It’s one of my favorite little stops up north. It’s located in the #old Chief movie theater. The Ave has a little bistro that serves up soup, panini’s and salad along with more indulgent options like ice cream and cookies. They are loaded with earth friendly options and regularly have musicians playing there. It is the archetypal coffee shop – cozy, friendly and inviting. Fun fact: they partnered with Little Jacks place, an #indoor play village for kids that’s open all year round, giving kids and adults a place to get together.
Driving to Cloquet along Highway 33, you’ll find Fauley Park, tucked away near the old Main Street. Fauley Park features a Duluth and a Northeastern Railroad Steam Locomotive No 16 and a railway car. Of all the surviving D&NE engines, No 16 remains closest to its old stomping grounds. The furthest away from her home is its identical twin No. 14 who rests at the Fillmore & Western Railroad in Fillmore, CA. The 2-8-0 engine serves as a memorial to the 8,000 people ferried to safety during a fire on October 12, 1918 that largely destroyed Cloquet. The fire is still considered one of the state’s greatest natural disasters. You can see these kinds of artifacts all over northern Minnesota as its history is so rich in the railroad. Although the cars remain unroofed and unfenced, the engine is well cared for. They looked brand new when I stopped by.