The 25th Anniversary Reader Weekly Best of the Northland Awards has arrived! The Best of the Northland poll shines a light on the people doing great things in our area in a wide range of areas.
Often emulated, never duplicated, we bring you the 2022 Reader Weekly Best of the Northland!

Best of Health & Fitness

Best Health Club
Strength Factory
In 2010, to be the best role model for her daughters, Keely Kellnar decided to focus on her health and join a gym with a specific weight loss program. Soon after, she began teaching kickboxing and Kettlebell classes and became the area’s only Amazing 12 certified coach. She founded her own gym in Superior in 2016. The Strength Factory provides a range of services from single and small group personal training, large group fitness and specialized wellness programs. The facility offers kickboxing, kettlebells, spin, bodyweight, mystery and suspension training fitness classes.
Runner-up: Anytime Fitness

 Best Bike Shop
Twin Ports Cyclery
Since 1975, the experts at Twin-Ports Cyclery have worked to make a better cycling experience for residenwts of the Twin Ports with a personalized approach to getting you on the right bike in addition to a full-service repair shop and accessories for every biking need. It helps that we all have a genuine love for biking.
Runner-up: Stewarts

Best Ski Shop
Ski Hut East 
The Ski Hut’s more than 65-year history in Duluth is a big part of why they are an area favorite.
The time staff have devoted to the sport of skiing while inside the store or outside on the snow makes for good customer service. “Our staff is very experienced and we love to ski,” said owner Scott Neustel “When people come in we teach them to love the sport and get them into the right gear.”
Runner-up: Continental Ski & Bike

Best Skateboarding Spot
Chester Rink
The East Hillside neighborhood, Lower Chester Park Playground sits just east of Chester Park along Fifth Street and is technically part of Chester Park. It is primarily a hockey facility featuring two rinks, but its warming house doubles as a community center and one of the rinks converts to a skateboard facility in the summer.

Best Bike Trail
Munger Trail
 Named after renowned state legislator Willard Munger, 1911-1999, this is 160 miles of multiple-use trails for hiking, bicycling, inline skating, snowmobiling and horseback riding. The paved Duluth-to-Hinckley section offers a spectacular 70-mile journey, following the historic 19th-century route of the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad. Along the way are the St. Louis River, Jay Cooke State Park, Thomson Dam, Andrew State Forest and the picturesque towns of Barnum, Finlayson, Willow River and Moose Lake.

Runner-up: Hartley
Best Public Park
Leif Erickson
Those of us who grew up near this park miss Leif Erickson’s Viking ship, which was a favorite place for neighborhood boys to climb into in the middle of the night and imagine what it must have been to be a Viking aboard such a ship. Leif Erickson Park remains a magical place with the bowl-shaped slope and Renaissance stone stage built in 1928, perfect for summer concerts and evening movies with the moon rising and ships sailing past.

Runner-up: Brighton Beach
Best Playground
It’s the No. 1 choice of kids in Duluth, with a rubber floor, space-age arcs and bouncy platforms. Now in its second decade after the “new” construction, parts of it still defy explanation. There are structures you can’t do anything with, like the overriding tall blue metal arcs and the stubby curved posts. Did someone grab the set design for a sci-fi Broadway play that never got produced and send it to us? We ate it up without question, of course, just like those ghastly structures in the immediate vicinity, the dayglo-warehouse aquarium and the lakeview-blocking concert stage. But we got ‘em now, so we love ‘em to death.
Runner-up: Billings Park

Best Place to Walk
Lake Walk 
Yes, the 7.25 mile Lake Walk stretches from Bayfront Park to Brighton Beach offers a great walking, jogging or biking experience for residents and visitors alike. But pople must remember where they are and pay attention to the sharing nature of this trail that runs from Canal Park to Brighton Beach.
Runner-up: Superior Hiking Trail

Best Golf Course
Nemadji became a year-round gold course this year with the addition of the TrackMan golf simulator, which allows players to practice with a purpose. The views throughout Nemadji, a public golf course, offer panoramas not found anywhere else near Superior. Nemadji Golf Course is a 4-star Golf Digest-rated championship golf facility featuring 36-holes with five sets of tees catering to all skill levels. Designed by world-renowned course architects Stanley Pelcher, Don Herfort and Roger Packard, you will be sure to test your skills.
Runner-up: Enger

Best Ski Hill
Spirit Mountain
Approaching its 50th year in operation, Spirit Mountain was proposed and designed by former Olympic skier George Hovland, with the assistance of late Mayor Ben Boo. Today it’s considered one of Minnesota’s must-see locations, with beautiful views of the lake from the 22 Alpine runs, 175 acres of skiable terrain, 700’ vertical drop, 5 chair lifts, 3 surface lifts. Ski and snowboard lessons, family rates, fat-tire biking, largest terrain park and half-pipe in the Midwest. There’s also winter day tubing and glow tubing at night under the lights. The two Nordic centers feature 2.5 km of Nordic specific trail and 22km of groomed cross-country ski trails (classic tracks and skating) through dense hardwood forest.
Runner-up: Mont du Lac

Best Sporting Goods Store
Northwest Outlet
Northwest Outlet manager Chris Terwey believes the reason the store was voted Best Sporting Goods Store has something to do with their large selection of items they keep in stock year-round and their expertise and customer service. Among other things, he says they carry a good selection of Columbia, Northface and hiking boots. He also thinks the store is a great place for someone to stop by on their way to the Boundary Waters.”We have a lot of Boundary Water-specific backpacks,” said Chris “I don’t think a lot of people find things like that at a lot of other stores.”
Runner up: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Best Yoga Studio
Align Yoga
A few blocks from the Blatnik Bridge is a brownstone building which once housed Superior’s City Hall and police department. Sadly, Red Mug Coffee is no longer in the basement, but happily other great businesses are in the building. One great one is the Spirit Room, and another is Align Yoga.
Align Yoga has now won our Best Yoga Studio award for its 5th year in a row! Unfortunately, I just read on their website that they are planning on closing at the end of October. Maybe if a bunch of people read this and sign up something might change or at least they can be one of the final students. Anyway, there is still a lot of time to learn some yoga with Align.
Runner-up: Inner Bliss

Best of Services

Best  Attorney
Chris Dahlberg
Guy with an impressive resume (Duluth city councilor 1992-1994, Iraq War veteran 2004-2005, St. Louis County board member 2009-2016, and he’s into jazz and blue) continues to run a small but high-quality law firm downtown focusing on business law, family law, estate planning and probate.

Best Auto Repair
Kolar Toyota
Kolar Toyota is committed to providing the care and expert service that our guests come to trust. Our Toyota-trained technicians have spent thousands of hours understanding each and every Toyota vehicle and use only genuine Toyota parts to service and repair your Toyota. Kolar Toyota is conveniently located in Hermantown, with expert technicians on staff to handle your repair needs or oil changes, tire rotations, battery replacement, brake repairs and all other Toyota Factory Scheduled Maintenance.
Runner-up: 4th Street Auto

Best Local Credit Union
Northshore Federal Credit Union
As with any financial services cooperative, we put people before profits. But we’re more than a beacon in a sea of banks. And while our origins remain firmly anchored in Silver Bay, Minnesota, our values can be seen and felt in communities as far up as Grand Portage down to Duluth. Our resources are deeper, smarter and more readily accessible than ever. And when you explore our 12,000-plus membership (and growing) you’ll discover people from all walks of life. Which is exactly the way we like it. Because as a credit union cut from a different rock, we have our own ideas of where all this is going. And we couldn’t be more excited about what we see.
Runner-up: Members Co-op Credit Union

Best Local Bank
North Shore Bank of Commerce
Locally-owned and managed, independent community bank founded in Duluth in 1915. It offers a full array of personal and business banking products, mortgage services, insurance services, and a full selection of trust and investment services. It’s also a patron of the local arts, with works exhibited at its four locations and an independent curator, Annie Dugan. (The same Annie Dugan who hosts the Free Range Film Festival in her Wrenshall barn.)
Runner-up: National Bank of Commerce

Best All Ages Hangout
Wisconsin Point
At the extreme west end of Lake Superior, one of the largest freshwater sandbars (3.5 miles, along with Minnesota Point) in the world. Wisconsin Point protects the city of Superior’s harbor, forming sheltered Allouez Bay and the St. Louis River Estuary. Recreational opportunities include: 229 acres, with 2 3/4 miles of beach; bird watching, hiking, beach use and duck hunting; Watchable Wildlife area; a Historical marker for a sacred Chippewa burial ground; and the Superior entry lighthouse. The Point contains stands of old growth pine, beach dune communities and marsh open water habitats creating one of the best migratory bird areas in May and Sept at this intersection of marsh, lake and woodland.

Best Chiropractor
Aspenridge Chiropractic Center, Cloquet
We aim to educate our patients about chiropractic and other natural solutions to common health problems in order to motivate you to take a more active and responsible role in restoring and maintaining your own health as well as the people around you. As a chiropractor, we understand that although our patients may be diagnosed with the same condition, they respond very differently to treatments. For this reason, we tailor a specific plan of action to meet your needs, goals & unique medical and physical condition. Finding a chiropractor who understands changing health care needs and the most current techniques and approaches to addressing health problems can be a daunting task. We hope that you will find this site helpful in learning more about our gentle chiropractic care as well as the ways that it can improve the quality of your life.
Runner-up: Kenwood Chiropractic

Best Dentist
Hill Avenue Dental, Superior
Dr. H. Douglas Clark III was born and raised in Superior, where he also attended high school! He majored in biology and chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He excelled in his studies, and went on to earn a DDS from Marquette University School of Dentistry. Dr. Clark has been practicing at Hill Avenue Dental ever since graduating in 2004. Dr. Clark’s continuing education has helped him stay up-to-date on dental techniques as they develop. He’s received training from Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies and Spear Education from the Scottsdale Center for Dentistry. He is also a member of several dental organizations. Dr. Clark loves working with the great team members at Hill Avenue Dental. He insists that everyone in the office is very experienced in the profession, and he believes that this experience allows the staff to deliver the very best service to the practice. He loves working in the community in which he was raised, and enjoys being able to help dental patients in their time of need.

Best Optical
Vision Pro 
Here is your history and science lesson for the day. Lenses are important devices that evidence suggests were known to some ancient Greeks and Romans. Because glass has a higher index of refraction than air, light entering glass from the air slows down. If the glass is curved then the light entering is bent. By carefully putting the correct curves into glass, the lens maker is able to have the light bend in just the right way before it enters our eyes.
The trusted professionals at Vision Pro Optical have been using these laws of physics to help people see better for many years, which is probably why they keep winning this category. They currently have nine locations to serve the public better.
Runner-up: Blink Optometry

Best Optometrist
Dr. Beth Fischer, Vision Pro
Dr. Fischer is a graduate of the Pacific University of Optometry, 2001. In her spare time she enjoys scuba diving, traveling and spending time with her dogs.
Runner-up: Relf Eye Clinic

Best Florist
Ulysses S. Grant was president when Engwall began providing flowers and floral arrangements for Duluthians way back in 1876. In addition to a large inventory of fresh flowers, you can also get tropicals, plants, high-style arrangements, silk or dried arrangements, wedding consults, funeral designs, as well as carrying an extensive gift line, gourmet and fruit baskets and candles.
Runner-up: Bella Flora

Best Green Business
At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe
From the start in 2002, this restaurant made a point about sustainability by using locally and seasonally produced products to hand-make healthy and delicious food from scratch. But the reason for this award is probably attributed to the 10 composting dumpsters they provide for the neighborhood.
Runner-up: Hartley Nature Center

Best Catering
Mid Coast Catering
Mid Coast Catering specializes in creative menu options for any occasion or event. Our name is inspired by our location here in Duluth, Minnesota. We combine the refined food culture of the East Coast with the experimental spirit of the West Coast to create something totally unique here on the coast of Lake Superior. Couple that with our desire to serve and our spirited service and you’ll be amazed by your overall experience.
Runner-up: OMC Smokehouse

Best Hair Salon
Great Clips
With three locations – Mounty Royal Shopping Center, West Duluth and Superior, Great Clips is a convenient way to get a great haircut at an affordable price. Whether you’re looking for a great haircut near you, an expert in men’s haircuts or a hair stylist who’s skilled at the latest women’s haircut trends, Great Clips has you covered. Our team of hair stylists receive ongoing training on advanced technical skills, new hairstyle trends, and customer care so they can bring your dream haircut to life.
Runner-up: Adeline Inc.

Best Veterinarian Clinic
Superior Animal Hospital
Fully equipped small-animal medical and surgical practice committed to staying at the forefront of modern veterinary medicine. Their mission is to provide clients and their pets with the opportunity to receive high quality, progressive and compassionate services.
 Runner-up: Duluth Veterinary Hospital

Best Local Artist
Sam Zimmerman
Zimmerman’s Ojibwe art in the Woodlands style, noted for bold colors and mythic themes, can be viewed as a mural at Voyageurs National Park, decorating trash cans in Grand Marais, in galleries such as AICHO and Lizzard’s, in his recent book “Following My Spirit Home” and in a forthcoming children’s book to be released in April.
The former director of special education in New York City, and later the state of New York, settled in Duluth only three years ago, but he has roots in the region. His grandfather and other relatives are from Grand Portage, which Zimmerman began visiting as a child. He earned a fine arts degree but set art aside for 20 years while he entered the world of school administration, which, though rewarding, is “where all my gray hairs come from,” he said.
He took on a less stressful job with the state of Minnesota as indigenous education specialist and picked up painting again on weekends, initially for his own amusement. The art was no more ambitious than his other weekend goals to drink a lot of coffee and mow the lawn. But it was also for soul-searching and to preserve his grandfather’s stories.
Demand for his paintings quickly grew. “It was uncomfortable at first,” he said. “People really seemed to enjoy it and I was like, really? I’m just a guy trying to find my way back home … It’s so touching that people are excited by my work. I’m so thankful for that support.”
Runner-up: Sue Rauchenfels

Best Photographer
Joe Polechek
As the Superior-based photographer says on his website, every photo has a story behind it. Just ask. Check out his work at
Runner-up: Christian Dalbec Photography

Best Realtor
Deanna Bennett
Denna Bennett has been helping clients, family and friends moving to and around Duluth for 23 years. From Carlton, Esko, Proctor, Hermantown and into Duluth proper and up the North Shore and inland, she knows how to help you find the right place For you.
Runner-up: Alicia Lokke

Best Retirement/Assisted Living Facility
Diamond Willow Assisted Living
It all started in 2004 when senior living needed a change. Diamond Willow was created as a bridge between traditional assisted living and a traditional nursing home. Since that time we have modified our model to allow our elderly clients to live somewhere that can be considered home through the end of life. We offer small intimate community settings of 8-16 residents per home and site-based RNs who work with the onsite leadership team and the direct care staff to assure that your loved one’s needs are being met.

Best Small Employer (25 or Less)
Zeitgeist is a nonprofit arts and community development organization committed to growing and sustaining a community that is inclusive, diverse and equitable; artistic and vibrant; environmentally conscious; and a place where every individual can thrive.
Runner-up: Lake Superior Art Glass

Best Large Employer
Cirrus Aircraft
Planes are great and Cirrus makes great planes. They make small private planes including the single-engine jet SF50. This plane is currently only the civilian single-engine jet in existence. Their headquarters is in Duluth, and they have facilities across the country. Runner-up: Kwik Trip

Best Service (Non-Restaurant)
Vision Pro Optical
With locations throughout the Twin Ports and beyond, the folks at Vision Pro Optical have worked very hard to be a very convenient business, which probably explains why the business tops the list again this year. “Customer service is huge here,” said VP of Operations Gwyn Bell.
Runner-up: Tie between Kwik Trip and Tortoise and Hare Footwear
Best New Business
Empower Ortho and Pelvic Health
Dr. Kirsten DeMaris has a passion for health and wellness in every season of life, with a special focus on the perinatal season, blending her Birth Doula Training through DONA International into Perinatal Wellness Sessions.She has had specialized training in orthopedics, pelvic floor and manual therapy. She enjoys blending hands-on care with movement and exercise to tailor a unique approach to each patient where they can be seen, valued, and experience the best care possible. Board Certified in Orthopedics, she specializes in the treatment of pregnant and postpartum athletes; core and pelvic floor dysfunction; spine, hip, low back, pelvis pain management. Skilled in a wide variety of manual therapy treatments, including trigger point dry needling, myofascial release, and spinal manipulation.
Runner-up: Diva Dog Grooming

Best Use of Taxpayer Dollars
Arrowhead Regional Arts Board grants
The Arrowhead Regional Arts Council’s mission is to facilitate and encourage local arts development. This mission statement grows from a conviction that the arts improve the quality of life in the region. It does so by providing a wide variety of grants, from annual awards to individual artists to monthly small grants for educational opportunities and professional development.

Best of the Material World

Best Architectural Treasure
Old Central High School
One of Minnesota’s leading examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in Lake Superior brownstone, the old school occupies an entire city block and features a 210-foot clock tower. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 (the year it was replaced by the now-demolished new Central) for its state-level significance in the theme of architecture.
The interior originally contained 11 classrooms on the ground floor and 10 on the second floor, a library with a large fireplace, offices and a two-story auditorium. Large double staircases of slate and iron led to the upper floors. The third floor contained laboratories, shop classrooms, a gymnasium, a music room and a teaching museum.
The school is currently undergoing renovation to turn it into a 122-unit apartment complex.
Runner Up: Congdon Mansion

Best Antique Store
Duluth Antique Marketplace
Two floors of antiques, open daily from 11 am to 5 pm at 57th and Grand in West Duluth. As the website states: “There is a great mix of items for the whole family. It’s bright, cheerful and clean. It’s not your grandma’s Antique store, but make sure to bring her with. There are 2 floors of some one-of-a-kind items and plan to spend some time here looking for furniture or whatever you have been hunting for.”
Runner-up: Chester Creek Books & Antique

Best Art Gallery
Lake Superior Art Glass
Lake Superior has many classes to help you learn the art of glass making. They also feature tons a items made by them and area artists. Owner Dan Neff recently celebrated his store’s 10th anniversary. This is a fun store to go down and check out glass blowing demonstrations, the art inside and walking around canal park.
Runner-up: Tweed Museum

Best Bookstore
Zenith Bookstore
Both new and “gently used” books can be found at this West End gem, which has declared throughout the pandemic that books are essential. It’s no surprise that Zenith also won the Best Used category below. “I would like to say how grateful we are,” said owner Bob Dobrow. “We have a tremendously supportive community and great customers. We and our customers love reading and books and we try to foster a very inviting space community-based space.”
Runner-up: Barnes & Noble

Best Used Bookstore
Zenith Bookstore
Where else are you going to find a beautiful paperback on the troubled life of Expressionist Norwegian artist Edvard Munch? I found my copy at Zenith. “We have high quality books that are affordable, interesting and we have many hidden gems,” said owner Bob Dobrow.
Runner-up: Amazing Alonzo Paper back Exchange
Best Car Dealer
Kari Toyota
When Edwin Kari and his sons started a bicycle repair shop from their home in the 1920s, they probably did not have the slightest notion that it would transform into one of the leading businesses in the Twin Ports a century later. The Kari family has transformed much over the years and have used the wealth of experience to bring the Northland a great car dealership that is truly appreciated by their many loyal customers.
Runner-up: Kolar Toyota
Best Fashion (Men)
Duluth Trading Co.
Specializing in workwear and accessories, this fan-favorite store offers a wide selection of innovative apparel, specialty gear, ingenious tools, and more! Stop by Duluth today to find all the resources you need to help you get the job done.
Runner-up: Ed Barbo’s

Best Fashion (Women)
At maurices, we strive to inspire the women in Duluth to look and feel your best. That’s why we offer a wide selection of women’s jeans, tops, dresses, and shoes in sizes 2-24. Come find your community and new favorite outfit at 1600 Miller Trunk Highway in Miller Hill Mall.
Runner up: Danni’s

Best Shoe Store
Tortoise and Hare
The shoe-buying experience is not what it used to be. At Tortoise and Hare, you get a computer gait and arch analysis to help put you in the best pair of shoes for your particular needs. “We focus on a lot of attention to detail,” said owner Jim Stukel. “We aren’t very particular about what your pace is. We are going to take care of your footwear needs wherever you are whether you have sore feet, are a fast runner, or a slow walker.”

Best Barber
Lakeside Barber
Lakeside Barber, 4513 East Superior Street, Duluth, is considered one of the best and most popular barber shops in Duluth. As one customer since the 1990s noted in a review “I’ve been getting my hair cut here since the 90s when Fred was the barber. And I’ve continued going here for good reason....The atmosphere is unlike anywhere else in Duluth, and for the price, the service can’t be beat. Highly recommended!

Best Tattoo Parlor
Anchor’s End
The staff at Anchors End Duluth not only have artistic chops to knock your socks off but have also been vigorously trained to maintain the highest standard of customer care. Owner/founder Joseph John came to Duluth in 2003 to start a tattoo shop supported by fellow tattooers while maintaining his vision of technically sound, artistic and clean tattoos. He also has opened shops in Hudson and River Falls, Wis., as well as Stillwater, Minn.
Runner-up: Duluth Tattoo Company
Best Fine Jewelry
Security Jewelers
Security. Just hearing this word conjures up feelings of sureness, seriousness, carefulness and dependability. It makes you picture the type of person you want to help you pick out these little items that are sometimes several thousands of dollars. You picture this friendly but serious person who won’t make any costly mistakes or give you bad advice.
When the original Seiler founded the company almost a hundred years ago, he did more than choose a great name for the store that would be in his family until it was sold in 2018. He started a diamond dynasty in Duluth that would be loved by generations of customers for their quality products and reliable and friendly service. They have also won in this category for many years.
Runner-up: Nummi Jewelers 

Best Record Store, New
Globe News, Superior
Vinyl record collectors of the TwinPorts know tis is the place to find new releases from area artists as well as national and international releases.
Runner-up: Round Here Records, Duluth

Best Record Store, Used
Globe News
Collector’s Connection sells sports cards, comics, graphic novels, card supplies, role-playing games, Magic: The Gathering products, Pokémon cards, Beckett price guides, CDs, vinyl records and more. Bring in your collectables for cash or store credit!
Runner-up: Round Here Records Pop-up

Best Music Instrument Store
It’s the world’s largest musical instrument resale franchise in the world, so that it wins in this category again is no surprise. A lot of their instruments and equipment are used and in excellent condition. The store is filled with great-playing instruments and gear that can be “taken for a test drive,” making it a better bet than picking up something on Craigslist or from a catalog.

Best Movie Theater
The West Theatre
The West Theatre first opened on Christmas Day in 1937 as a streamlined modern variation of Art Deco, with seating for 595 people. The building closed as a theater in the mid-1950s. It housed several other businesses as well as spending some time vacant, until Bob Boone, owner of The Reader, purchased the building in late 2016 with the dream of restoring it to its Art Deco glory as a theater. The grand opening was held June 21, 2019, and since it has gained a reputation as an excellent concert and convention venue, as well as movie theater.
Runner-up: Zinema 2

Best Second Hand Store
Very close to the mall stores and other outlets offering new and expensive items is a store dedicated to sales of things other people don’t want anymore. To you, one of these items may be your treasure, at a reduced price. You never know your luck when playing the thrift store lottery.
To increase your odds, Savers has a clean organized store that makes looking for your treasure easy. They have a large area with racks of clothes and a big shelf with pairs of shoes. They have a long shelf, with assorted glass items like a choice of coffee pots to replace the one you just dropped.
One good thing about Savers location is its proximity to expensive backup stores. Let’s just say you need a particular type of pants and need them in the next hour and a half. You can look for them at Saver and if you are lucky save a lot on them. If you are unlucky, you can do the fashion equivalent of breaking the glass and go to one of the nearby new clothing stores. It was only a little more effort to stop by Savers before going to one of the nearby first-hand stores.
Runner-up: Great Lakes Gear Exchange

Best Hotel 
Pier B Resort Hotel
Know of any other classy hotels that can claim a Harbor Cam? Pier B can ( It has become one of the most impressive hotels in town with its unique location overlooking Bayfront and Canal Park. Although the hotel is new, the silos built on the property by Huron Portland Cement Company are more than 100 years old. This is the kind of high-end modern hotel that even the locals want to stay at next time they attend a Bayfront Park event.
Runner-up: Fitger’s

Best Lodging - Romantic Getaway 
Superior Shores
From snowmobiling, fly fishing, hiking, and kayaking to poolside lounging and chophouse dinners, Superior Shores Resort is the ultimate escape for those looking to get in touch with nature. Experience a one-of-a-kind standout among North Shore resorts.
 Runner-up: Pier B Resort Hotel

Best of People & Media

Best Actor
Daniel Durant
Deaf actor nationally known for his role in the Oscar-winning film CODA, which was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture. Daniel was born in Detroit to addicted parents who left him on a stoop and he was raised in Duluth by his aunt. He attended mainstream schools in Duluth, where a grade school teacher, Raysa Carlson, cast him in the lead in a play. He moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to join Deaf West Theatre and played the co-lead role in the critically acclaimed 2014 production of Spring Awakening, which opened on Broadway in 2016, leading him to receive numerous recognitions and awards. In 2019 he became involved in movies and television, filming CODA, Silent Notes and You (Netflix).’s review of CODA refers to Durant as “a total hottie.”
Runner-up: Jace Legarde
Best Actress
Kaylee Matuszak
Kaylee Matuszak is mostly known for her music recording and performing around the area. I did a story on her a few years ago where her Dad Brian told me about how Kaylee started playing and performing quickly after learning guitar on her own. She grew up around her father’s Rubber Chicken Theater and is carrying on the family performance tradition. I don’t know if the Matusaks are like the Carter Family of the north, but it is nice when families have something they can enjoy doing together. It is also nice when a father can pass on the joys or doing some activity and give encouragement and advice to his kid.
Runner-up: Christina Stroup

Best Community Activist
Brian Finstad
Superior resident Finstad calls his activism “a second job” to his first, as real estate appraiser But his second job is actually many, and most have something to do with history: City of Superior Planning Commission, Heritage Preservation Commission, Mayor’s Housing Task Force, president of the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary, project director for the Northwest Sands Auto Trail Project, volunteer for the Douglas County Historical Society … the list goes on but we have limited space.
A native of Gordon, Wis., he lived for a while in Superior, then moved to Minneapolis, where he helped start a city program to sell abandoned properties to remodelers for cheap, thus saving the city demolition costs, adding to tax rolls and bringing new life to neighborhoods. He moved back to Superior in 2016 and initiated the similar “Vacant to Value: Renovation” program here, with bids on houses starting as low as $1. In Gordon, where he leads historic walking tours, he was key to saving the fire tower (now a camping rental), the post office, a historic log cabin and a wooden bridge.
“I think I’ve been successful at making many things work that others had written off as not possible because I’m an eternal optimist and start out with the belief that it is going to work, and don’t even consider it not working as being an alternative,” he said. “My mantra is that I’ve always got more solutions than problems.”
Runner-up: Tie between Deb Holman and Ivy Vainio

Best Local Elected Official
Tylor Elm
Councilor Elm has served the citizens of Superior for more than four years, and is currently the council president. Born and raised in the area, Tylor has always been heavily involved in the community by helping others all while growing his computer business, discoverpc.NET. He serves in a variety of organizations such as the Superior Rotary Club, the Development Association and the Superior Spooktacular. He currently co-chairs the city’s Finance Committee, and helped originate – and currently chair – the city’s Communication and Information Technology Committee. He believes in responsive government and that we should always be looking for ways to improve.
Runner-up: Jen McEwen

Best Band/Musician
Charlie Parr
Duluth-based Parr is a talented musician who has earned a wide fan base mostly through touring. Especially when it comes to playing the country blues style ala Charlie Patton or Bukka White. But rather than sounding like a preserver of a style, Parr makes it all his own.
Runner-up: Bellerpuss

Best Band Name
Trampled By Turtles
As Trampled banjoist Dave Carrol once told American Songwriter: “We were trying to avoid at all costs, a name that sounded like a bluegrass band. Trampled By Turtles sounds like an unlikely and slow accident.”
Runner-up:Big Wave Dave & The Ripples

Best Album
Rich Mattson and the Northstars, "Out There"
This sixth recording from Mattson and the Northstars is, he says, the true pandemic record. The title Out There refers to being holed up in the Sparta Studio near Gilbert, Minn., during the pandemic. Released on Nov. 4, 2022, the band now includes Dan Anderson on keyboards. The distinctive album artwork was done by Duluth artist Jay Whitcomb. It’s available on vinyl and CD.

Best Concert
Water Is Life Festival
A creation of Winona LaDuke’s Honor the Earth organization, the daylong Water Is Life Festival at Bayfront Festival Park on Sept. 4 brought together Indigenous activists, speakers, poets, climate and social justice activists, actors Gary Farmer and D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Taifrom from Reservation Dogs, and a host of local regional, national and international artists, including the Indigo Girls and Ani Difranco. The only uncool thing about the day was the cold wind blowing off Gichi-Gami.

Best Commmunity Festival
Superior Porchfest
Superior Porchfest is a grassroots, family-friendly and free community music event held in Superior neighborhoods on six Thursday evenings throughout the summer. There are 12 acts playing at 12 venues for two hours. Grab a blanket or lawn chair, pack a picnic and join your neighbors for a night of music. Because this is a grassroots effort, there is a way to get involved. Learn more at
Runner-up: Bentleyville

Best Open Mic
Wussow’s Concert Café 
If you’ve ever seen one of those old Showtime at the Apollo episodes where someone who can’t sing gets booed and the man with the cane comes along, that is NOT what will happen during Open Mic sessions at Wussow’s Concert Café. In fact, Brunch Cook Jake Kennedy says they do their best to “provide a really welcoming, accepting, open environment for amateur and professionals alike.” Jake mentions how they get many people on the more amateur side and many professionals who play around Duluth all the time and like to stop in and play a little.
Runner-up: Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe

Best Live Music Club
Sacred Heart Music Center
Home to musical performances, weddings and receptions, meetings and arts education events, Sacred Heart is a landmark in Duluth’s Central Hillside neighborhood, and is the essence of music and community in Northern Minnesota.
Runner-up:  Tie between Wussow’s and Sir Benedict’s

Best Local Play
Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol
Minnesotans may not like to hug but they sure like to laugh at themselves. This musical spoof of the Scrooge tale, was first performed in Los Angeles in 2006 and has been a popular community theater choice nationwide since, last seen locally at The Shack in Superior in 2007. This revival at Fitger’s Spirit of the North Theater starred Duluth treasure Jody Kujawa as Gunnar Johnson, a bar owner in Bunyan Bay, Minn., who gets visited by three spirits and gets to yell lines like, “Oh fer spittin’ in the laundry!” Song titles: “I’m So Hosed,” “I Love You More Than Football” and “Grandma Cut the Christmas Cheese.”
Runner-up: Little Women

Best Book (Published in the last year)
"Last of the Better Days Ahead" by Charlie Parr
Last of the Better Days Ahead is a companion novel to Parrr’s 2021 album of the same name, written during the pandemic when Parr wasn’t doing his typical 270-plus shows a year. In an interview he said the book was a way to complete the fictions he creates with song. “I always wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t carve away all the non-song bits,” he said.

Best Dance Club
The Flame, Duluth
A multi-level nightclub with party and event space. “Our goal is to create a dance club where everyone feels welcome. While we take pride in being the first LGBTQbar in Duluth, we encourage people from all walks of life to join s for a night of partying.”

Best Local Artist
Sam Zimmerman
Zimmerman’s Ojibwe art in the Woodlands style, noted for bold colors and mythic themes, can be viewed as a mural at Voyageurs National Park, decorating trash cans in Grand Marais, in galleries such as AICHO and Lizzard’s, in his recent book “Following My Spirit Home” and in a forthcoming children’s book to be released in April.
The former director of special education in New York City, and later the state of New York, settled in Duluth only three years ago, but he has roots in the region. His grandfather and other relatives are from Grand Portage, which Zimmerman began visiting as a child. He earned a fine arts degree but set art aside for 20 years while he entered the world of school administration, which, though rewarding, is “where all my gray hairs come from,” he said.
He took on a less stressful job with the state of Minnesota as indigenous education specialist and picked up painting again on weekends, initially for his own amusement. The art was no more ambitious than his other weekend goals to drink a lot of coffee and mow the lawn. But it was also for soul-searching and to preserve his grandfather’s stories.
Demand for his paintings quickly grew. “It was uncomfortable at first,” he said. “People really seemed to enjoy it and I was like, really? I’m just a guy trying to find my way back home … It’s so touching that people are excited by my work. I’m so thankful for that support.”
Runner-up: Sue Rauschenfels

Best Radio Station
Kool 101.7
What do they play? “We Will Rock You”, “Listen to Your Heart”, “When Doves Cry,” “The Boys of Summer”, “Karma Chameleon”, “Mony Mony”, “My Prerogative,” “She Works Hard for the Money”, “Hey Ya” … that’s great if you want to listen to songs you’ve heard only A BILLION TIMES OVER THE LAST 50 YEARS … Oh, you do? Well, then, rock on.
Runner-up: Minnesota Public Radio

Best Radio Personality
Kim Leon
Not a musician herself but musically knowledgeable (yes, some of us just like to listen), Kim did her first show on KTWH Community Radio in Two Harbors a week after Valentine’s Day, 2017. She went on to launch the “CoverAlls” show in which she picks a theme and plays cover versions of songs that relate, resulting in a lot of weird remakes being aired, as long as they’re within FCC guidelines.
What likely won her this award is the show she does with husband, producer Jose Leon, the Featured Focus Artist Sessions. Launched during the pandemic that emptied the music venues, this was a method of showcasing local musicians and it continues today. The Leons also record shows at Sacred Heart, which netted her an unexpected interview with Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers, Sea Level, Rolling Stones).
Runner-up: Jill Mikkelson

Best Reporter
Darren Danielson
Darren began his journalism career in 1981 as a general assignment reporter in Minot, North Dakota, so brought decades of experience when he joined WDIO, replacing longtime anchor Denny Anderson. Some may recall Darren’s earlier gig as 14-year co-anchor of the weekly public affairs program Almanac North on WDSE-TV.
Runner-up: Dan Hanger

Best TV Commercial
There Is No Poop Fairy
The Twin Ports Regional Stormwater Protection Team produced this ad to remind folks to do their duty with dog waste.

Best TV News Station
The ABC affiliate owned by Hubbard Broadcasting has been a Twin Ports presence since it first went on the air on Jan. 24, 1966.
Runner-up: KBJR

Best TV Program
KTWH Featured Focus Artist Sessions
A production of the Two Harbors Community Radio station.
Runner-up: Making It Up North WDSE

Best TV Personality
Hunter McCullough
A weatherman people like? What’s next?
Runner-up: Justin Liles, WDIO

Best Newspaper Columnist
John Ramos
It is easy to understand how Ramos has made such an outsized impression with our voters. Ramos has written in three different eras for The Reader, and has worked on several of our most important stories.
Ramos wrote extensively on Minnesota Power’s undue influence on the Great Lakes Aquarium upon the aquariums opening.
He examined Mayor Ness’s secret plan to close the Zoo. Ness went so far as to return Zoo grant checks uncashed, hoping to further the narrative that the Zoo’s future was beyond recovery. Ness hired consultants to confirm his assumptions, and then fired them when they actually dared come up with a plan that might lead to Zoo success. Ramos investigative journalism and thorough documentation of the issue helped save the Lake Superior Zoo.
Ramos explored the City’s efforts to replace the downtown Duluth Public Library in 2015. The City claimed that they could build a new main library for only a few million dollars more than the reported 32 million dollars renovation of the current library would cost. Ramos’ research proved that the cost differential was actually closer to $30 million, and that the City had buried a then recent library analysis, which showed that the library could be renovated for $12 million.
More recently Ramos has launched; a website to which he sporadically posts stores about the DECC, Spirit Mountain and whatever else catches his attention. Duluth Monitor took the lead on investigating Chris Swanson, then Two Harbors Mayor, for his various conflict of interest issues. Two Harbors overwhelmingly recalled Swanson shortly thereafter.

Runner-up: Jim Heffernan
Best Local Website
Perfect Duluth Day
This is a great website to find out keep up on Duluth happenings and entertainment daily. They always feature great photos and videos to inspire you to go out and check out more of our city. Perfect Day features posts for hundreds of users who help to provide information to enjoy Duluth to the fullest. The website is organized and easy to search categories to find out what is going on that will make your Duluth day perfect.

Best Athlete (high school)
Zam Plante

Good Cop
Bradley Jago
Runner-up: Mike Tusken

Best of Food & Drink

Best American Restaurant
Duluth Grill
The Duluth Grill Has become sort-of the unofficial welcome center when entering the heart of Duluth. It is right off the highway and near the major fuel stop locations for people coming into town and/or heading up the North shore. A hotel is also right there. It is also a favorite Duluth hang out for locals.

Besides the convenient location, years of great food and service have made the Duluth Grill into the icon of the Northland that it is. As the category indicates, they have great American food. It is the kind of place tourists come to early in the morning and get some Northland tips from the local regulars.
Runner-up: Lake Avenue Cafe

Best Outdoor Dining
Sir Ben’s
You don’t likely think much about outdoor dining during the winter, but Sir Ben’s is a great place to eat on a summer afternoon. The front features a look over the lake and is wide-open to the noon-day sun. If the sun is too strong, the umbrellas have you covered. You can look over Superior Street and see the lake, between the trees. These trees are the beginning of Leif Erickson Park, which tourists enter holding cones from the nearby ice cream stand.
The side and back of Sir Ben’s are quieter and shielded from the busy-but-not-too-busy Superior Street. The back is great for summer nighttime sitting. This is a nice place to hang back a little from the street crowd in the dim-lighting. But, you aren’t that far back. You and your friends can still pick out faces from either Superior or the side street and say “isn’t that so and so”. The low-walled partially enclosed back patio partially traps the sound of local music from inside, while still allowing easy conversation.
Runner-up: Silos

Best Asian Restaurant
Taste of Saigon
Really the heart of Canal Park, located on the first floor of the DeWitt Seitz Building for 36 years. Notable for the Pho, curry fried rice, eggrolls, curry mock duck with coconut milk, garlic wings, shrimp with cauliflower & black mushrooms, Beef Cashew Ding, Chow Har Kew, generous portions and friendly staff.
Runner-up: Golden Inn Restaurant

Best Local Brewery
Castle Danger
From the website: "Our beers are clean, balanced and approachable. They are brewed with Lake Superior water by hearty souls who embody the North Shore. Wherever or whenever you enjoy a Castle Danger beer, you can taste a little bit of the North Shore in every sip."
Runner-up: Ursa Minor

Best Bakery
Positively 3rd Street Bakery
Normally Johnson’s Bakery, the 75-year old mainstay in Lincoln Park, nabs this award year after year, but this 40-year establishment in a tiny East Hillside storefront finally takes it. You can tell right away where they’re coming from by their colorful storefront, tie-dye t-shirt merchandise, Bob Dylan-referencing name and self-description: “We own the means of production, make consensus-based decisions and practice grassroots socialism.” Say what you will about them hippies, they whip up a mean batch of cookies, which you can find at coffee shops and co-ops throughout the region.
Runner-up: Tie between Duluth’s Best Bread and Johnson’s Bakery

Best Bar & Grill
The Anchor 
So what’s the deal with this place? The first time I walked into the Anchor, I was transported immediately to coastal Maine. I was half expecting a longshoreman from a previous century to sidle-up next to me saying “Move over, Barnacle Butt, I need me brew and bacon burger, Arrrrr!”
But seriously folks, the Anchor’s burgers and fries are as authentic as they get. If you look around the bar, you can see a whole potato practically being drawn and quartered (mild exaggeration) before your very eyes and turned into the freshest French fries you’ll ever eat (no exaggeration). No frills, but delish! Adam Anderson credits his late father with the Anchor’s success. “My dad started the establishment in 1977,” he said, “and we’re just trying to keep it going. It’s been successful, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! We put out a fresh product at a reasonable price.” The Anchor keeps winning this category because they aren’t just any old bar and grill. They’re special in the hearts of Northlanders.

Runner-up: Pizza Luce
Best Bartender
Lindsey Graskey, the Spirit Room
Graskey is not just a bartender, she’s the co-owner, with Jeff Heller, of this classy, historically renovated joint in the Trade & Commerce Building at Hammond & Broadway, the Old Superior City Hall. To bring it full circle, she’s on the Superior City Council, representing the 10th District.

Best Beer Selection On Tap
Sir Benedict’s
Sir Benedicts is a great business with a great history in Duluth. It has long been known as a place for local music and community. It also has a good location with nice sitting inside and outside and with some busy spaces and quieter corners for friends to better hear one another. There large beer selection adds to the enjoyment of these meetings.
I would consider it to be slightly out of downtown. It is usually easy to park for free in their parking lot or on the avenue. In the evening I would probably park on the street because my power steering doesn’t work that great.

Best Bloody Mary
Spirit Room
This Superior cocktail bar is known for having some of the best bloodies in the area.
Runner-up: Trapper Pete’s Steakroom

Best Burger Joint
Anchor Bar and Grill
The long time champion of the Northland’s best burgers reigns supreme for another year. Yes, the Anchor has once again been awarded by readers as the best burger joint. It is also worth noting that the Anchor won more votes in this category than any other business in any other category.  They must be doing something right.
Runner-up: Breeze Inn

Best Grocery Store
Mt. Royal Fine Foods
The customers at Mt. Royal mostly come from two different “worlds” as General Manager Steve Schadewald puts it. Since the store is right by UMD, students form part of that world. The other “world” consists of long-term customers living near the store. Mt. Royal gets a lot of support from both groups of people.
“It is a mixture of customers that have helped us maintain what we have been doing for many years, “ said Steve. “I think the reason is we try to take care of them with service and we try to offer a wide-range of quality products.”

Runner up: Whole Foods Co-op
Best Happy Hour
Sir Benedict’s
For Sir Benedict’s music, environment, and beer selection (for which they also won our award) we dub Sir Ben’s this years knight of the happy hour. While we are on this medieval English theme I am recalling the song “Pastime With Good Company” in my head. If you haven’t heard this addictively catchy song by King Henry VIII look it up on Youtube. This King with kind of a tyrannical reputation did like to have fun with friend and would have enjoyed visiting Sir Ben’s. 

Runner up: The Pickwick
Best Liquor Store
Keyport really is a great liquor store for a couple of reasons. One is the very wide variety of wine. Two is the excellent craft beer selection. Third is the very friendly employees, and fourth, the thing that really sets them apart from everyone else is their location at the end of the Bong Bridge. We talked to Nick Casper at Keyport about their win 22 years in a row and how they keep staying on top. “Prices and selection,” said Casper. In the two years they have renovated and expanded their selection of whiskey and beer making them an even more formidable competitor.
Runner-up: Super One Liquor

Best Business Lunch
When you sit at Pickwick for your business lunch you are surrounded by rich wood carvings, trophy horns, and old paintings showing the European countryside from a couple hundred years ago. Sitting there as a modern businessperson, you might imagine yourself as some medieval merchant trying to secure a trade pact with a powerful noble. This oldest restaurant in Duluth, stands like a castle above the lake, with the bright outside contrasting with all the darkly stained wood inside.
After you eat, you can leave the castle with your business partners and see a lot of what makes Duluth great at one compact location. You can walk down to the Lakewalk or look out at it from above. You can then go into the Fitgers complex and check out the many unique shops that demonstrate why Duluth is a great place.
Runner-up: Boat Club Restaurant

Best Place for a Romantic Dinner
New Scenic Cafe
A dinner at the New Scenic café is virtually guaranteed to impress, both in taste and presentation. With an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, New Scenic features masterful entrees such as duck with root vegetables and fried sage, and starters like curried blue mussels. Enhancing the dining space are Lou Pignolet’s hand-crafted wooden bowls and the artwork of other locals.
Runner-up: Bellisio’s Italian Food and Wine Bar
Best Breakfast
Duluth Grill
Whether you are a local getting some food before work or a traveler taking a quick stop on your way to the Boundary Waters, the Duluth Grill is a great place to eat breakfast. They have a large selection of items from the more simple to the more exotic. Being proud of supporting local food, their menu mentions where key ingredients (such as “Bay Produce tomatoes”) come from. The Duluth Grill has perfected their breakfast menu over many years. “We’ve been around doing this for almost 20 years now,” said manager Dan Lefavare. “We’ve really put an emphasis on providing the best ingredients for our guests. We love breakfast and we try to showcase that the best that we can.”
Runner-up: The Social House

Best Coffee Shop
Dovetail Cafe & Marketplace
The main reason for going to coffee shops is to have a way to get out of the house and hang out for endless hours working and/or surfing the web. Basically, it is a better home for the afternoon, where there is also a moderate level of incoming human stimuli, which you can fine-tune by choosing your seat.
There are lots of nooks and crannies in this large space where you can set up your little camp and territory for the afternoon. On the premises is Duluth Folk School which provides awesome decorations and some things to buy to add enjoyment to this space. The coffee and food is also great too.
Runner-up: Wussow’s

Best Martini
The winner is Spirit Room (in Superior)  with an enticing, if occasionally baffling, variety of martinis including Cherry Cheesecake, Horseradish Black Pepper Gibson, Rosemary’s Salts, Banana Chocolatini and Christopher Walken-tini.
Runner-up: Spirit Room

Best Mexican Restaurant
Pedro’s Grill & Cantina,
For the first time, Pedro’s Grill and Cantina has won our award for Best Mexican Restaurant in the area. Those in Duluth will find it is worth the drive to Cloquet to enjoy authentic Mexican food at this family-run restaurant. Pedro’s is located in downtown Cloquet which is a thriving old style American downtown. After eating you can even walk from Pedro’s free parking lot to surrounding shops or Veterans’ Park across the street. You can enjoy walking around downtown Cloquet which has a little different feel than Duluth and Superior. Back at the restaurant you can enjoy the food, free WIFI, patio, and fireplace. Runner-up: Guadalara, Superior

Best Pizza Place
Originating in Hibbing In October 1954, today there are 14 Sammy’s locations and more than 20 million pizzas later, Sammy’s is now in it’s fourth generation of pizza makers, who all use Sam Perella’s original recipes. 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. In 2018, Sammy’s was also voted ‘Best Pizza in Minnesota’ in Minnesota Monthly Magazine’s Pizza Bracket Challenge.
Runner-up: Vintage Italian Pizza

Best Place for Gourmet Dinner
New Scenic Cafe
See Best Place for a Romantic Dinner entry
Runner-up: The Boat Club

Best Really, Really Cheap Food
Anchor Bar
 The Anchor Bar in Superior wins this category every year because most of the burgers are in the $4 to $5 range. Plus they’re really, really, delicious. With unique offerings such as the cashew burger, the Hawaiian and the fresh (slaughtered before your eyes) potato fries, it’s no real wonder that the Anchor just keeps winning.
Can you believe it? The same place whose burgers have been voted Best in the Northland (Read “Best Burger”) also has the best prices.

Best Ribs
Eddie’s World Famous Ribs
It is in the name folks and our readership has agreed that the best place to go for ribs is Eddie’s, a 50’s style restaurant in Superior’s east-end. “We have tried hard to stay consistent over the 23 years we have been here to keep the fall off the bone texture everyone loves,” said Dina Connor. Eddie’s was originally founded in the 60’s and has maintained the theme from the era since and this has prevailed through their ribs. Their award-winning ribs and excellent customer service are what have created loyal customers. Conner is proud to have won this award for 8 years in a row. Eddie’s can accommodate parties up-to-twenty and cater events for two hundred! On Thursdays and Fridays you can enjoy an All You Can Eat Fish Fries for under $10. Seriously.
Runner-up:OMC Smokehouse

Best Sandwiches
Northern Waters Smokehouse
For a city on a lake there isn’t a huge variety of seafood choices around, but one place that does excel at fish is Northern Waters Smokehaus. Located in Canal Park, locals and tourists alike have a place to get a solid sandwich for lunch while watching people trying desperately to find parking, seagulls, and ships going under the bridge.
Runner-up: Tie between Sir Ben’s and Corktown Deli and Brews
Best Serving Staff
Duluth Grill
Along with a unique menu that always ensures full seats, the Duluth Grill staff always seem happy to serve you and introduce you to the menu items. 
Runner-up: Boat Club

Best Steak
Hammond Steak House
Hammond Steak House has won this year’s category for “Best Steak.” They have been serving steak and liquor in their bar section for a long time. Bartender Nick Strand mentions how this is an old-style establishment similar to the old supper clubs in the area.
“Probably like there is nothing left like it since the supper clubs have gone away,” said Nick “Not too many of them are left in the area. It is a good establishment that has been here a long time and has good quality items.”
From Duluth, drive over the Blatnick Bridge and as soon as you are driving on Wisconsin land look to the right for the big blue building with a big blue smoke stack. Just looking at the style of the signs on the building, you can tell this place is from an earlier time.
Runner-up: Trapper Pete’s Steakhouse

Best Vegetarian Friendly
Duluth Grill
Duluth Grill is a gluten-free grill that offers homemade comfort food, including a vegan menu, that includes a vegan omelette made from a garbanzo bean mix. Other options include the Vegan Bowl made with cashew sour cream and walnut mea’, and the vegan burger, made with Beyond Meat patties. They also offer sides such as organic salads, grilled kale and hash browns. Just ask if these are vegan.
Runner-up: At Sara’s Table 

Best Desserts
Rustic Inn
The dessert part of its menu has a lot to do with how the Rustic Inn kept going strong during the last couple of years, and why voters find their desserts so irresistible.
Runner-up: Love Creamery

Best Fish Fry
Eddie’s World Famous Ribs
 A place with “ribs” in the title seems an odd winner in the Fish Fry category. But the fish fry at Eddie’s is so good that it’s included in Jeff Hagen’s book, “Fry Me To The Moon,” a guide to Friday night fish fries across Wisconsin. Eddie’s fish fries are actually available on Thursday and Friday.
Runner-up: The Manitou Inn

Best Late-Night Grub
Pizza Luce
Pizza Luce is a great restaurant to go to at night and enjoy pizza, pasta, or a wide variety of vegan, vegetarian and glutten-free food. They have so much good for and the beer is good too. You can have your food late at night in the dining room and the bar. It is nice that you can park there for free in the evening and easily stop by Canal Park before or after your late-night meal. The bathroom setup is also interesting. 

Runner-up: Jamrock Cultural Restaurant

Best Dining Worth the Drive
(20-plus miles from Duluth)
Rustic Inn
Runner-up: Trapper Pete’s Steakhouse

Best CSA
Northern Harvest Farm
Congratulations Rick and Karola Dalen for being the best CSA for the 5th year in a row! I’ve talked to Rick a few times on the phone and he is very enthusiastic about his farm and can explains it well. It adds an extra amount of satisfaction to know you are eating produce from someone who enjoys what he does and wants to bring you the best vegetables at the best price. The CSA structure helps ensure he can stay in business by the community accepting some of the risk that always comes from some farming seasons being better than others.
In other good news, Rick reports that they have purchased Spirit Creek Farm, makers of delicious fermented products such as sauerkraut, kim chi and beets.

Worst of the Northland
 OK, we have decided to scale back our notoriously obnoxious category “Worst of the Northland”  Many readers have long memories, and have on occasion dragged up old issues news for years after the incident. Superior, Wisconsin readers delight in trying to smear their local politicians. Politicians smear other politicians. All great fun, but from now on we are going to arbitrarily, unilaterally include these issues only when we damn well feel like it. 

Thanks to John Shirley and Richard Thomas for their contributions to the Best of the Northland Edition. Thanks also to photographer Roger LePage.

This year’s cover was created by Lydia “Nibs” Noble, a Twin Ports-based comic artist & illustrator. Lydia is currently working on a graphic novel-style memoir that she hopes to release in 2023. To see more of her work head to or @lydianibsnoble.