I don’t know who talked to whom first, the couple at the table to my left or me, but here are the facts: we were at Duluth’s At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe; we’d just finished breakfast; his plate was spotless, but for a slice of orange peel; she had just picked the last crumb of a muffin off her plate and eaten it; and moments ago, my waitress had taken two entree plates and one appetizer plate from my table. I had eaten alone.
At Sara’s Table is one of their favorite spots, she tells me. She lives two blocks away, comes here all the time, has a great location for Grandma’s Marathon runners, and is thinking of renting her place out during race week. I share my story, admit that I’m from Duluth but somehow hadn’t eaten here until now, and estimate she could pull in $1,000 per night renting out her place during race week. It’s probably a crazy number, but I believe it until I’m told otherwise. Her companion doesn’t say much, just nods and chuckles a bit.
We exchange those exquisitely Minnesotan goodbyes at the end. She tells me to drive safely and I wish her good luck with her marathon rental. I sip coffee and think, “Nice folks.”
This restaurant seems to have been laid out with neighborly warmth in mind, and I’m not just talking about the self-service coffee station you see right when you step inside the front door (though it helps in a huge way). Signs on the front window say everyone’s welcome; and if you look beyond the bakery counter, you’ll see what appears to be a bumper sticker on a steel freezer door: LOVE PEOPLE. COOK THEM TASTY FOOD.
My table was near that steel freezer door. It was also near the bakery display and that is Temptation Central. I narrowly fought through the enticement of a French silk pie slice wearing a mountain of chocolate shavings and robust-looking whipped cream. It was almost close enough to whisper in my right ear. Not far from that, the crust of a blueberry pie struggled in vain to contain a Tonka truckload of humongous blueberries. There was a glass holder of “Dirty Chai Cupcakes” on top of the display, and a sign that read EAT MORE PIE.
But I was there to brunch, and you remember how many empty plates I had at the end, right?
Can you believe I ordered something called “vegan okonomiyaki”? Their okonomiyaki is made with a lot of good stuff, but can I keep it simple and just say a salmon omelette and three slices of bacon came out with it and they had to wait? I had a moment with this okonomiyaki. I didn’t even refill my coffee during this thing. It came with a house-made sambal sauce, and I used that generously on everything. I even spooned some onto my plate and ran bacon through it. Ask for it by name.
The salmon pesto omelet is a little more earthquake than tornado, if you get my drift. It tastes exactly like it should, and then you put sambal spread on it and BOOM. I’m not wild about paying $16 for an omelette, especially when you get this one for $12 at RJ Riches, but I’ll say this: you won’t wonder if you got enough salmon, and you’ll probably skip lunch if you have this late enough in the morning.
At Sara’s Table has lunch, dinner, happy hour, libations, and a nice looking deck with wicker seats. When I told John Leingang (of Dangerous Man brewing fame) about my visit, he said something about a “favorite burrito ever.” Another friend keeps it simple, he says, just gets granola and tea. He’s not even one of my weird friends. You can see the entire At Sara’s Table menu here.
If the brain trust behind At Sara’s Table was going for home, they hit. If they were going for a calm gathering space, they hit. Past that self-serve coffee station is a very nice-looking but unlit fireplace and a little divider with board games and books. You’ll hear guitar strums over the radio, but you’ll mostly hear human noise and dishes clattering together. There’s kind of a lake view, but that view isn’t worth lowering your shoulder past an old lady for.
I liked the view from my seat better anyway: pie to my right, the legendary Vintage Italian Pizza out the window to my left, coffee at my 12, everything else at my 6 – except those new friends I made. I really hope she made bank on that marathon rental.
ELSEWHERE IN THE TWIN PORTS AREA
- Coming Around: My Gordy’s Hi-Hat Story
- Long Live the Anchor Bar
- Pitchers, Pool, and the World’s Greatest Cheeseburgers: Gronk’s Grill and Bar
- This Ain’t No Fancy-Pants Bistro, This is Motherf*cking Hugo’s Pizza Number Two!