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Off Shore Fish & Chips (Calumet, MI)

After a nice day of hiking in Eagle and Copper Harbors, and taking a dip in Eagle Harbor (which, while substantially warmer than the dip I took off Isle Royale, was still a bit nippish), we decided to stop by Calumet for dinner. Calumet, being one of the bigger towns this side of Houghton, actually has a few restaurant options, including Carmelita’s (Mexican, famous for their thimbleberry margarita), Michigan House (brewpub), and two pizza places (Jim’s and Calumet Pizza Work). But we wanted to try a place recommended by more than a few people: Off Shore Fish & Chips.

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Miners Cafe (Laurium, MI)

During our stay on the Keweenah Peninsula, we stayed in the historic Victorian Hall bed and breakfast. Laurium is an interesting little town, it’s a small village next to the larger town of Calumet, and back during the copper mining hey days Laurium held a lot of the Victorian homes of the various owners, professionals, and other well-to-do folks associated with industry in the area. It’s also the home of George Gipp (as in “win one for the Gipper”). While the town definitely isn’t as affluent as it used to be, it’s still a pleasant, quiet town to stay in while in the area. Laurium doesn’t have a lot of restaurants (most of those are over in Calumet), but it does have a Mexican place (the Matador), a pasty shop (Toni’s), and a diner (Miner’s). For breakfast before our day hiking in the Keweenah, we decided to drop in and check out Miner’s Cafe.

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Harbor Haus (Copper Harbor, MI)

It’s been more than 20 years since our last visit to Copper Harbor. On that visit, we had a very pleasant dinner at the Harbor Haus. It was memorable for a few reasons: the view was very nice (on that visit, the September sunsets happen right around dinner time), having some very pleasant German food, and, somewhat comically, an annoyed couple at the next table who were upset that their table didn’t actually face the sunset (the restaurant faces the harbor to the east). I’m not sure what the couple really wanted, it’s not like they are going to jack up and turn the restaurant around…. But in any case, on this trip, we thought it would be nice to revisit the Harbor Haus, have some nice German food, and chuckle about our previous visit.

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Randall Bakery (Wakefield, MI)

Way back in the early days of Offbeat Eats, I discussed the issue of “Pasties” at length. While originating in Cornwall (which still has an extremely active Pasty culinary scene), during the late 19th century, the rapid decline in the Cornish mining industry resulted in Cornwall’s major historical export over much of the last century was… Cornish people, who settled in all sorts of pockets of around the world, with major settlement waves primarily in those regions with mining interests: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Minnesota’s Iron Range, Pennsylvania and West Virginia coal mining, and even notable pockets in Mexico, Australia, and Spain. And they brought their culinary traditions with them, adapting them to local ingredients, traditions, and conditions. In the case of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the pasty was particularly embraced by the locals, especially with the mining crowds, and got quickly adapted. In particular, the other major expatriate group in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula mining community, the Finnish, adapted it to their own tastes based upon the Karelian Pasty. Tthis is where much of the substitution of carrot for the more Cornish-traditional turnip or rutabaga (a.k.a. ‘swede’) came from, along with some different preferences for crusts. The result is still quite popular; indeed, I remember driving US-2 between The Bridge and Wisconsin, and encountering over 4 dozen places selling pasties along the shore. And there are almost as many varieties: I’ve had flaky crust and firm crust pasties; pasties ranging from ‘moist’ to ‘dry’, spicing between mild and “black pepper bomb”, and everything ranging from traditional Cornish ingredients (hanger steak, rutabaga, potato, onion), to Finnish (either substituting carrot for rutabaga, or omitting it), or even “new” pasties with interesting ing . And the crimp? It ranges from the Cornish side crimp, to a Finnish- or Devon-like top crimp, to even the baseball like “tuck-under”, resulting in a more spherical-like pasty. With that in mind, it was important during our crossing of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to make sure we stopped at least a few times, and try out a local pasty. In this case, our first stop was in the Western UP, in the quiet town of Wakefield, for pasties from Randall Bakery.

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Fitger’s Brewhouse (Duluth, MN)

As we spent a few extra days around Duluth, one of my goals was revisiting an old favorite: Fitger’s Brewhouse. In this era of “craft beer” and seemingly even small towns sprouting microbreweries, Fitger’s is getting to be one of the venerable Old School places. Originally a 100,000 barrel a beer major regional brewery that opened in 1857, the original Fitger’s Brewing closed in 1972. In 1984, the old brewery complex get reopened as a combined hotel (where we stayed this visit) and shopping center crafted from the old building. In 1995, new owners of the complex, inspired by new craft breweries opening out West, decided to add the Fitger’s Brewhouse and Grille. At the time, the microbrewery thing was still in its infancy, and on various trips to Duluth I’d often enjoying stopping by Fitger’s for a pint of their Big Boat Oatmeal Stout (back in those days, the only other oatmeal stouts I regularly encountered were Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, and Oil Change Stout from Flat Branch in Columbia, MO.

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OMC Smokehouse (Duluth, MN)

After we returned from Isle Royale, our group picked up our vehicles and luggage and returned to Duluth, MN to shower up and head out for a celebratory dinner. While one of the features of our backpacking trip had actually been good food (especially by backpacking standards), most of us were ready for a proper celebratory dinner at a restaurant: good food, proper table service, and, almost as importantly, some good beer, wine, and cocktails. With that in mind, we headed to downtown Duluth (which, mid-2021, is a mess of construction detours) to west Superior Ave, to OMC Smokehouse.

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Windigo Store (Isle Royal National Park, MI)

Often, a dining experience is contextual. If I think over some of my most enjoyable meals, while the food items themselves were the vast majority of the experience, the other factors of location, history, or shared experience contribute substantially to the experience. That’s what makes comfort food work. It’s what makes historical dining trips to places like Louis Lunch work. And it’s what makes quirky places like Kex (inside a converted biscuit factory), Gite de la Caverne Dufour (dining at 8000′ on the side of the highest mountain in the Indian Ocean), Quinta do Bomfim (picnicking among the port wine grapes) truly enjoyable. And occasionally, it elevates what otherwise would be unremarkable fare to the next level. In this case, I’m talking about the Windigo Store.

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Angry Trout Cafe (Grand Marais, MN)

After leaving Minnesota, we headed up to Duluth to meet up with fellow hikers from Fitpacking, the guides for our trip to Isle Royale. After meeting our fellow hikers and doing a gear shakedown, we packed up and drove up to Grand Marais, MN to spend a night at the Outpost Motel before heading out early in the morning to catch the boat to Isle Royale. It was a nice drive; it’s been 20 years since I’ve been further up Minnesota’s North Shore than Duluth, so it was nice to see a lot of the parks I used to explore when hiking and scuba diving. To get to know everyone in our hiking group, we headed into nearby downtown Grand Marais for dinner. Summertime Grand Marais is quire the tourist town, and actually has a pretty good selection of restaurants, but several of us all had one place in mind, the Angry Trout Cafe.

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Health Check: Longfellow Grill (Minneapolis, MN)

Here at Offbeat Eats, we occasionally like to do a “Health Check” review on favorite restaurants, to make sure everything is still going well. In this case, our visit to Minneapolis en route to Duluth gave me an opportunity to revisit an old favorite: the Longfellow Grill. I’ve had several visits to the Twin Cities since my 2009 Review, and while I’ve visited a few of the sister restaurants (particularly Groveland Tap), I’d not made it to Longfellow Grill. So we gathered up some local friends and my old bosses the University of Minneapolis (my PhD adviser, and my sysadmin boss during those same years) for a breakfast as we headed out of town.

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Ru Yi Hand Pulled Noodle (Madison, WI)

Our next stop was a night in Minneapolis visiting with friends. Normally, if I was doing that driving route I’d usually try to stop at New Glarus Brewing, but when we passed through in June, they were still closed to the public due to the pandemic. To give ourselves a nice break from the drive, we decided to stop for lunch in Madison, Wisconsin, which has quite the selection of potential dining options. After looking at a few potential spots, we settled on Chinese, getting noodles from Ru Yi Hand Pulled Noodle on State Street.

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