Doughnuts, maple cream sodas, and whitefish fresh from the lake
Grand Marais, one of the furthest-flung towns on Lake Superior’s glittering North Shore, is also one of its best places to eat and drink. This harbor town is at its most vibrant in the summer, when purple flox blooms all along Highway 61, seasonal shops and restaurants reopen, and the sun warms the lake to (barely) swimmable temperatures. Grand Marais is a popular weekend destination, yes, at a manageable four-hour drive from the Twin Cities, but it never loses its small-town feel, which is rooted in its past as a fur trading station, logging town, and neighbor to a thriving Ojibwe village, and its present as a tight-knit community and art hub. There’s a bounty of great places to eat in Grand Marais, but here’s a guide to cramming five can’t-miss spots into one day.
The maple-glazed Long Johns, cinnamon rolls, and raspberry jelly Bismarcks at World’s Best Donuts, a Grand Marais staple since 1969, are tempting. But the real gems are the simple cake doughnuts, which balance a reliably moist, not-too-sweet inside with coatings of cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, or thick chocolate glaze. The best move is to buy a dozen to share — made fresh every morning, they’re served hot in brown paper bags. Be prepared to wait on weekend mornings, but the line moves fairly fast. 10 Wisconsin St, Grand Marais, MN, 55604
Blue Water is a classic small-town diner near the water’s edge. Favorites here include the hefty Wild Country omelet, stuffed with turkey, bacon, and vegetables and drizzled with hollandaise; the near-perfect hash browns; and the homemade pies, which range from tart rhubarb to cinnamon peach. These breakfasts will fuel a day out kayaking or hiking up the nearby Kadunce River. 20 West Wisconsin St, Grand Marais, MN, 55604
The Fisherman’s Daughter, the sunny cafe tucked inside Dockside Fish Market on the south end of Grand Marais, taps into Lake Superior’s freshwater bounty, serving wild-caught fish by the pound — not to mention piping hot fish and chips. The cafe also serves light cafe fare, from lobster salad and deli sandwiches to rhubarb cheesecake. Don’t miss the maple bacon cheese curds. 418 MN-61, Grand Marais, MN, 55604
Voyageur Brewing Company is one of the newer breweries on the North Shore — it opened in 2015 on the heels of Castle Danger Brewing, Bent Paddle, and Canal Park Brewing during the craft beer boom. The big, sunny taproom and rooftop deck have lovely views of the harbor. The beer list breaks down each brew by hops and flavor components, ranging from an herbal Northern Drift pale ale to a silky Palisade porter. From the food menu, go for the cheese curds and wings, both served with a smoky raspberry chipotle sauce. 233 W Hwy 61, Grand Marais, MN, 55604
Angry Trout Cafe leans into classic Northwoods flavors — think salads topped with blueberries; tart cranberry horseradish compote spread on smoked whitefish; hand-harvested wild rice; and maple cream sodas made with pure syrup and soda water. The fish here, of course, is fresh-caught from Superior, and the patio is a lovely place to watch the moon rise over the harbor. Pack a sweater for the chilly evening breeze off the lake. 408 W Hwy 61, Grand Marais, MN, 55604