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.
Pie slingers at Romeo’s New York Pizza twirl their ‘za from scratch, piling dough made in-house with red sauce and toppings such as garlic, ground beef, meatballs, and sundried tomatoes. The cozy neighborhood joint has purveyed New York–style pizza since 1945, when delivery boys first started using hovercrafts. Its unfussy menu includes hearty appetizers such as cheese bread or fried ravioli, alongside healthy salads in vegetarian or meaty iterations. Those who opt not to build their own pies can go in for one of three chef-crafted incarnations—margherita, spinach and mushroom, or vegetarian, sold by the slice or in 12-inch or 16-inch rounds.
Fashioned after Jaipur, a gem of Rajasthan, Jaipur Royal Indian Cuisine excites the senses with aromatic spice mixes prepared separately each day for each dish. Among an interior of authentic figurines in elaborate dress and strung beads baring images of vibrantly colored birds, they serve a menu of traditional dishes rooted in North Indian cuisines. That includes rich grilled lamb, chicken, and seafood, as well as complex curries and plenty of fresh vegetarian dishes. They welcome guests to pair such variety of tastes with flavorful beverages such as aam ki lassi, a whipped mango and yogurt drink.
Amidst Bella’s 15,000 square feet of dance floors and VIP booths, a triad of marble, granite, and hardwood accents fills out the lounge’s two-story facility. Throughout the night, a sound system blasts house beats as lights dance to the rhythms of The Nutcracker Suite stuck in patrons’ heads. At the elevated VIP area, a private bar and bottle service keep drinks within reach at all times, and a rooftop patio offers an oasis from the party below with a separate sound system, LCD TVs, and fireplaces.
The snap of cracking shells echoes through the numerous dining rooms of Fisherman’s Bucket. Servers weave through cobblestone archways, bearing fried, steamed, or seasoned shellfish by the platter and bucket, along with po’ boys spilling forth oysters, gator, and catfish. Soft lights illuminate a faux shark head above the booths, tables, and barstools inside, and an outdoor patio stretches out beneath the sun, stars, and skywriters passive-aggressively correcting each others’ work.
Chefs at Raku concoct authentic Asian dishes in traditional Korean and Japanese style, served on rough-hewn wooden tables lit by elegantly patterned paper lanterns. House specialty tonkatsu, pan-fried crispy pork loin, graces the menu with its unrepentant tanning habits ($8.95). Traditional Japanese-style ramen comes in a variety of soothing favorites, with combinations such as soy-based broth, peas, ramen, and tender pork ($7.95). Asian favorites such as steamed pork-belly buns draped with hoisin sauce ($3.95) or hearty donburi dishes mingling meat, vegetables, and rice ($6.95+) sate the secret desires of shy palates, and imported Asahi beer cascades from its cold draft. Raku is open until midnight on Sunday–Thursday and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights for extended gatherings of friends, family, and lukewarm coworkers.