At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe
1902 East 8th Street
Duluth, MN 55812
Yes, it’s in that building, and it opens – alas, this is earlybird qb’s only criticism – at 7am on weekdays. But it does eventually open, and that’s the main thing. Take the 21st Ave. exit – the last, northernmost exit from Interstate 35 in the United States – and head uphill. Bear right onto Woodlands, then turn left on 8th for a few blocks. The place is on the SE corner of the intersection of 8th St. and 19th Ave. The front door faces 8th St.
When it comes to atmosphere, we’ve got to give the leftists their due. This little place has an understated, funky charm: CSN playing softly enough for quiet conversation, a few sofas, a corner fireplace, a few bookshelves, and if you sit in the right place, a nice (if partially occluded) view of Lake Superior. Fir booths and window frames give the interior a rustic feel, very northern. And there’s the obligatory anti-Iraq-war sign in front.
The dark roast coffee – you can get decaf, but apparently it’s not high on the staff’s opening priority list – is splendid. qb ordered the Greek omelet, with sauteed red onions, fresh spinach, feta cheese, Roma tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. I don’t like runny eggs, so I ordered it well done, just to be safe. Aha! The cook somehow knows to split the difference; it could have been overdone, but it wasn’t. It was perfect, tender, and piping hot. I wolfed it down in 5 minutes flat with a slice of unbuttered wheat toast.
All that was left on the plate after that were the “home fries.” You’re yawning, right? Not this time. I think the cook roasts the small potatoes whole before pan-frying them because the skin was thin and delightfully crunchy, just enough to offset the tenderness of the 1-cm thick slices of spud. Add a few zucchini rounds, red onions, and red bell peppers, and you have a brilliant take on an old comfort-food standby, one that usually gets taken for granted. Emphatically: not here.
Already on the table as you sit are (genuine) Tabasco, ketchup, and two kinds of mustard (Grey Poupon coarse-grind country style Dijon, and regular yellow) in a miniature shopping basket. Equal, Splenda, Sweet ‘n’ Low, turbinado, and regular sugar are in a little dish below. They’ve thought of just about everything and everyone.
(If the unsecured wireless network is intended for customers, it doesn’t work; or at least it didn’t this morning.)
Service is kind, if a bit indifferent. But that’s generally true of great eat-spots, at least in my experience. So all in all, this is a don’t-miss breakfast joint in Duluth, MN. If you’re traveling through, give it a try, and report back!
P. S. For a couple of fabulous interpretations of local brew, try Fitger’s Brewhouse at 600 E. Superior Ave., just east of downtown. The hummus-and-veggie plate is good, and the fries are beautiful, but the highlight is the hand-crafted pint of IPA, fruity up front, potent throughout, and floral on the finish. The Pale Ale is a bit less aggressive, but equally true to style. Other selections are on chalkboards strewn throughout a fabulous, old-timey hotel’s pub & grill. This is the real deal, reminiscent of Coopersmith’s in Ft. Collins, but here, you can’t ignore this Rust Belt city’s union past.