Earlier this spring I mentioned to my wife that this could be a good year to hike the entirety of the Superior Hiking Trail. A crazy suggestion, yet just a handful of months later we were pulling into Grand Marais with one sleep left between us and the trail. In the morning my parents were going to drop us off on the Canadian border and to temper our nerves we had planned our last meal at the aptly named Gun Flint Tavern.
We’d been to Grand Marais several times prior to this visit. Each time we’d imbibed at the lovely Voyageur Brewing Company yet we never ventured across the street to the Gun Flint Tavern. Knowing this would be our last non-dehydrated meal for awhile we figured a brewpub would be perfect. After putting our names in downstairs we climbed to their rooftop bar. I’d seen it from afar but I didn’t realize how large of a space they had until I got to the top of the stairs. It’s got an almost identical foot print to the brewpub below with some additional seating one level down in the rear of the building. Our first stop was the center of their long bar where we craned our necks to view their tap list. In addition to their own drafts they have a selection of beers from other establishments as well.
With four beers in hand we took a seat at a rail facing a wide open window. Views of the street, the harbor, and Lake Superior stretched before us and provided a perfect venue to wait for our name to be called. There is no food available upstairs which was surprising yet understandable. In a town like Grand Marais I’m sure you want a higher turnover for drinks and it gives guests a good option without having to compete for space below. I expected it to be cold but the wind cooperated and we were able to enjoy a cool yet comfortable evening. As we sipped the last drops of our pints my phone vibrated, informing us that our table was ready.
It was a different story downstairs. While upstairs was quiet and calm, the brewpub was loud and lively. One thing I had heard about Gun Flint Tavern was that there known for their food. Since I’m a sucker for pasta and I needed the carbs I ordered their Mushroom Ravioli. It might have been the fact that I was facing three weeks of trail mix and dehydrated dinners, but I thought the ravioli was great. Each of us enjoyed our meals so I think we can reach the conclusion that the food is, in fact, excellent.
But how about the beers? There were five beers on their tap list. I think we’d hit some bad timing after a late summer weekend since only three were available. I had each of them: Cascade River Cream Ale, Sawtooth Mountain Pale Ale, and Northern Exposure IPA. Out of the three I enjoyed the first and last the most. The Northern Exposure in particular had a nice malty backbone a great notes of berry and pine. One thing to note is the thematic naming of their beers. In the days ahead we’d find ourselves backpacking across the Cascade River and skirting the backs of the ancient Sawtooth Mountain range. While hiking we would take turns choosing a river, peak, or creek and try to match it to a fictional beer. It was a good way to waste the time but it made us pretty thirsty.
I went in with mixed expectations of the Gun Flint Tavern. I expected some decent food and some average beer and instead we got some excellent food and some decent beer. Their rooftop bar is a great place to take in the sights and the restaurant is a great option even if it is a little busy in peak season. They’ve also got a small little bar on the main floor that is really more of an English style pub. For the next week my wife and I would pass our time planning our pit stop in Grand Marais. It goes without saying that six days later we found ourselves at the same table, this time with about 80 miles under our belt! The food and beer was just as I remembered.