Grand Marais Travel Guide…

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Last night I only dreamt of sausage making for approximately half the night. The night before it was a solid eight hours of dreams where I was busily putting any number of items into sausage casings (books, cellphones, clothing) and mucking through rooms filled with ground meat. This is what two full workdays of sausage making will do to your subconscious. (Full guide and more pics after the jump!)

Andy and I just returned from a three night trip up the shore to Grand Marais for a class at the North House Folk School on sausage making!

If you’ve never been to Grand Marais, may I suggest you get going? It’s small and lovely and you can walk to enough great restaurants and shops to keep you busy for a few days if you schedule in some vacation naps and lake staring.

Staying!

East Bay Suites– We stayed here the first night, but were foiled by their super pet-friendly policies (I’m stupidly allergic to all adorable animals). The rooms are really great: heated floors, fireplaces, flatscreen tvs, tiny Aveda products and linens that don’t have that burnt dryer scent. You can hear the lake and the views are so very pretty. Unfortunately, nearly every room is lovingly dusted with a fine coating of invisible dog dander.

Harbor Inn– We stayed here for the remainder of our trip. It was budget friendly and comfortable, a older hotel that had been nicely fixed up and has views of the harbor. They have cute 1950’s keychains and giant king beds. The Pie Place restaurant is on the main floor and guests get 1/2 price breakfast! I chose a platter of baked goods with clotted cream because my body is a temple. Lastly, the customer service here was OUTSTANDING. I don’t know if the guy at the front desk was the owner, but if he wasn’t he was WAY too good at his job.

Elsies (summer only)– We stayed here over my birthday weekend last August and I was thoroughly charmed. Our cabin had a whole wall of windows looking out over the lake, a tiny kitchen with a giant retro fridge and two simple bedrooms, one of which I used to hide some ugly decor in (giant decorative wall broom? Useless rug that refuses to grip the floor? Banished to the second bedroom!) A good place to drink wine and grill steaks and turn 30.

Eating and Drinking!

Crooked Spoon– We had such a good meal here! And I’m, um…choosy. And now I will recount to you the meal in it’s entirety. Settle in!

We ordered a bottle of Gruner Veltliner and soon thereafter came some bread with a spiced honey butter that I shared with Andy even though I sort of wanted to just tip it into my mouth. I think it was garam masala and honey but who can say for sure.

We started with Potato and Goat Cheese Pancakes with cucumber sour cream and salmon roe and then moved onward towards a salad that had some port wine poached pears, dried bing cherries, roasted walnuts and goat cheese (are appreciating the shining vein of cheese that is threading it’s way though this meal?) Next, a beef tenderloin with blue cheese mashed potatoes and some sort of demi glace. And tiny perfect carrots!

And finally friends, we had coffee creme brule.

(Standing Slow Clap. Meal Accomplished.)

Lockport– All you can eat sourdough pancakes! On speckly blue tin plates! The waitress told us we could just go get coffee refills from the pot in the next room and my heart swelled to ten times its original size. I love relaxed service like that, and everyone who worked there was really engaged but casual. There are, like, 5 tables or so and everything is wood paneled and soothing. The best.

Gunflint Tavern– A fine place to get some drinking done, it’s always been bustling. They have live music, a good wine list and a lot of fun taps. There is a tiny side bar called The Raven that is dark and pleasantly cluttery and a rooftop bar. I love rooftop bars! Healthy Band played there a couple summers ago and though I was foolishly underdressed for lakefront singing and precariously boozy by the time we finally went on, it was definitely a good time.

Angry Trout (summer only)– Fresh fish. Great view. I haven’t been here for a while but have fond memories and for some reason I still remember the side salad that came with my meal. I sort of like it when your salad is on the same plate as your dinner, as it feels like you’re over at a friends house for a potluck.

My Sister’s Place- Really great burgers. I had The Granny which showcased bacon, granny smith apples, cheddar and barbeque sauce. I expertly paired it with a mason jar of cheap chardonnay.

World Best Doughnuts (summer only)– Me and doughnuts, we go way back. These are not the worlds best (as those are in South Carolina at Glazed) but they are much closer and I’m not going to argue with anyone that puts fried, sugared dough within the vicinity of my mouth.

The Legion– Take your hat off and have a seat at the bar. Cheap Fulton beer on tap. Old Scandinavians playing dice. Dwight Yokum on the Jukebox. Lovely.

Shopping!

Cook County Coop– They’re in the process of building a new fancy coop and I’m really excited to see how much better this place can get. I don’t know if it’s vacation mind getting the better of me but the snack options here are stellar (most recently, horseradish hummus and Lola’s carrot cake) and they always have those Preserve toothbrushes that they stopped carrying at Target so I buy a handful to ensure that my toothcare regime remains aesthetically pleasing.

Drury Lane Books– I love this bookstore. It’s very well curated and though it’s small I always find a ton of books I forgot I wanted to read. I like to buy a cookbook when I go on vacation and when we visited last August I found this one…very appropriate for a north shore vacation, don’t you think?

Northhouse Folk School Store– Hey, did you mention you needed a backpack woven out of cattails? Wonders of the craft world and a number of great books can be found here.

Garage Antiques– This place is constantly in flux but one can usually find something to buy IF one applies themselves. It can’t seem to decide what it is exactly, there used to be a lot of antiquey junky treasures, now there is a yarn store gaining some ground and a coffee shop, floating island like, in the middle.

Joynes Ben Franklin– Long racks of Pendelton shirts, aisle upon aisle of useful miscellany, I have bought popsicle molds, rabbits feet and God knows what else here.

So that’s what I’ve been up to! Regular postings will commence shortly, just as soon as I shake off my vacation haze and do some damn laundry. C

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