Finding Favorite Places to ‘Sup’ and ‘Superior’
On a warm spring afternoon in Duluth, all 17 tables on Mexico Lindo’s outside deck overlooking Lake Superior were occupied. A gentle breeze carried bits of conversation and laughter as servers balanced trays of burritos, enchiladas, tortilla chips and beverages.
The deck at this Fitger’s complex restaurant is so popular that people are willing to wait an hour or two for a table to free up, says George Kramer, Mexico Lindo’s service manager. “It stays busy until midnight.” Often, folks will sit in the bar to wait. There’s even an auxiliary hostess to manage traffic through the door to the deck.
With the Big Lake as a backdrop, it’s no wonder that from Duluth to Bayfield, Wisconsin, from Copper Harbor, Michigan, to Rossport, Ontario, the lakeside cafés and restaurants – and even a few fast food joints – can offer platefuls of stunning views from their tables.
Places with the fanciest foods don’t necessarily serve up the greatest views, but combined with the spectacular scenery even a modest meal becomes memorable. Join us on a tour of a few favorite viewing spots, based on reader recommendations and our own experiences.
Outside Is In
“The people in the Upper Midwest I don’t think fully understand the views that we have, until you see them,” Bob Shykes says while dining with his wife, Judy, on Mexico Lindo’s deck.
The Shykes of rural Duluth like Mexico Lindo for its food and its view. “It’s a great place to eat. The view is wonderful,” Bob says.
“One of the most beautiful views, I think, in the country,” Judy adds.
With its clear view of Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge, the deck lets guests watch maritime traffic, be it a 1,000-foot freighter or a magnificent tall masted ship. “It’s spectacular any time of day,” Service Manager George Kramer says. The deck also overlooks the popular Lakewalk, making for great people watching, too.
Some places let you feel the vast expanse of the Lake – inside or outside.
In downtown Bayfield, Wisconsin, sitting outside at Pier Plaza Restaurant & Bay Front Inn gives you views of the Lake and of the busy maritime traffic that is so much a part of life in this charming lakeside village.
There are cruise boats from Apostle Islands Cruises, private sailboats and Madeline Island Ferry Line boats making their runs between the island and the mainland.
The restaurant has outside seating for 40 at its corner location directly across from the Bayfield Pavilion and the city dock.
“It’s a gorgeous view,” agrees owner John Johnson. “It’s just fun to watch our Lake.”
From Pier Plaza, you can see the city’s gazebo and the transient docking spots where boaters will pull in and tie up.
Families stop by for ice cream cones or box lunches and head off walking along the waterfront.
Pier Plaza is the third restaurant that John’s family has owned at this location, starting with an A&W that John’s parents opened in the early 1950s. Earlier, his grandparents had other businesses, including a grocery.
To see some of that family history, and how things have changed, visitors can take a peek at a small room just off the dining room that’s filled with old pictures.
Those who prefer enjoying the Lake view from indoors can do that, too, because of the huge windows.
Those who book lodging in Bay Front Inn can appreciate the great view, too. In fact, John recommends that guests rise at 5 a.m. to catch a view of the sunrise over Madeline and Bass islands “that will knock your socks off. … The reds and pinks are awesome.” After that, of course, you can go back to bed.
“We like to say, ‘Come and stay with us. The only thing we overlook is the Lake,’” John says.
Farther east in Eagle River, Michigan, Fitzgerald’s Restaurant & Lounge has indoor and outdoor options that literally put you at the water’s edge.
“We’ve heard from many people that we have the best view of Lake Superior,” says Marc Rea, co-owner with Mike LaMotte of Fitzgerald’s and Eagle River Inn.
“We have one of the only unobstructed views of the Lake. We’re in the middle of a bay that faces open water.”
Fitzgerald’s has a small deck with 10 tables outside with seating for 30 people. Inside, the capacity is 40, and “it feels like the tables are right along the Lake,” Marc adds. “We’re actually only 60 feet from the shore of Lake Superior.”
Do people come for the view? “Definitely,” he says. Fitzgerald’s deck is seen as a great place to hang out, have a drink and enjoy the scenery. “My partner, Mike, and I are happy to have the view and be able to share it with everybody.”
The view is one of their website selling points: “The cornerstone of Fitzgerald’s is our intimate dining room with a stunning view of Lake Superior. Whether it’s calm and sunny or windy and raining, the lake takes a different shape each day, and the various personalities in the restaurant change along with it.”
The restaurant’s menu is casual American, featuring brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and fish and seafood dishes, including pecan walleye and shrimp and scallop alfredo.
Along Ontario’s shore in the former fishing village of Rossport, the outdoor patio and inside tables at the Serendipity Gardens Cafe & Guest House offers a panoramic view of Rossport Harbour.