Carrying the praises of OpenTable diners as the winner of Best Overall restaurant, Best Ambiance, and Best Food, Park Café's executive chef Michael Ganley is no stranger to success. He has honed his skills in the kitchen for more than 17 years, most recently as Executive Chef of The Ritz Carlton in Dearborn, Michigan. Arriving in Duluth in 2004, Ganley brought with him his years of experience perfecting European culinary techniques, crafting a menu of elegant twists on Southern favorites such as fried green tomatoes layered with slabs of warm, creamy brie.
Nestled inside the Knox House—originally erected in 1899 for the first Mayor of Duluth, John Knox—Park Café's refurbished interior remains true to the home's 19th-century character. Largely original hardwood floors and paneled walls lend a quaint charm to the romantic simplicity of the dining rooms, where tables draped in crisp linen glow beneath flickering candles and diners’ recently whitened teeth.
Cheeky rouses a sizzling flavor fiesta with its fresh menu of made-daily Mexican favorites, signature salsas, and vast drink directory. Diners can sink tortilla chips into one of Cheeky's five vibrant salsas or wield crispy plantain wedges when chomping through an authentic shrimp-and-calamari ceviche ($9) to the rhythm of the Mexican national anthem. Paw-ready sandwiches include a crispy torta asada ($9), and custom-built tacos can be crafted from signature crab-cake fritters, steak, shrimp, and fish ($3). Grumbling bellies are hushed by piping entree plates, such as a shrimp-and-spinach quesadilla ($10) or a poblano pepper stuffed with melted mixed cheese and topped with a cherry tomato sauce ($8+).
After nearly 20 years in the restaurant business, Oswald Morgan gambled his career, finances, and reputation on Kozmo Gastro Pub. After years developing and working in swanky restaurants such as The Globe, Oswald had the notion that a restaurant with the right combination of creative cuisine and vivacious atmosphere could lure adventurous diners through its doors—even if it resided in the suburbs. The hopeful restaurateur worked to make Kozmo in the image of metropolitan eateries, outfitting the dining room with a slick and airy wall of windows and bar-height tables coupled with brushed-aluminum chairs. Perched at their seats, diners can sip from the extensive list of beer and cocktails or share small plates of immaculately presented duck confit or risotto balls as they people-watch and toast their reflections for their impeccable style.
By day, Liquid Ultra Lounge is a cheery venue replete with hardwood floors, high-backed booths, and an artfully wood-paneled bar space. At night, however, the overhead lights dim and colorful neon panels behind the bar turn on, transforming the bartender into an ethereal silhouette as matching bursts of neon accent the entire club. For privacy, guests can stare into each other's eyes inside VIP sections and private rooms.
Barnacles serves up a lunch and dinner menu of all-American soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees at both locations. Try a patty melt smothered in grilled onions and american cheese ($7.99) inside the family-friendly Norcross location, which boasts pool tables, arcade games, and an outdoor patio. The nosherie's new HD projector and flat-screen TVs help sports fans stay up-to-date on scores and new commercials while sharing an appetizer sampler of wings, potato skins, chicken tenders, and fried mozzarella ($11.49).
A perimeter of brick walls and flat-screen TVs envelops AC Tavern, where seasonal craft beers wash down a menu of Southern-inspired pub fare and events busy guests with poker, karaoke, and football. In the kitchen, chefs lightly fry catfish morsels and layer them onto plates alone or stuff them into po boys flanked by Cajun tartar dipping sauce. The texas brisket pizza joins two hearty staples as jalapeños and onions top texas brisket, coated in the same root-beer barbecue sauce that also drenches a half or full rack of slow-smoked but fast-talking St. Louis–style ribs. Every day of the week, diners can pair their feasts with diversions, including live music on Fridays and college football on Sundays.