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Visiting Duluth, Minnesota – 44

Downtown Duluth, Minnesota

Podcast Transcript

Good morning from Grand Marais, Minnesota!

It’s time to be vegan, everybody! Welcome to episode 44 of the Two Vegans on a Mission Podcast. Thanks for joining us today. We’re going to tell you all about our week in Duluth, Minnesota. Where we camped, where we found vegan eats, and how we navigate a vegan lifestyle where we are virtually invisible. So, grab your vegan snacks and enjoy this episode!

Podcast Intro

Welcome to the Two Vegans on a Mission podcast. I’m Louisa, and together with my husband, Michael, and our dog, Sugar, we’re traveling and living full-time in a Winnebago Class C Motor Home visiting animal sanctuaries and animal rescues all across the country. Each week we’ll share what new camping spots we found, what great vegan meals we’ve eaten, and our latest vegan outreach activities. So, please join us as we strive to inspire, educate, and support you in your efforts to be vegan!

Welcome back, everybody, and thank you for joining us. Today we’re going to tell you about how we got up here to Grand Marais, which is in the northeastern part of Minnesota, right on Lake Superior. We’ve never been in this part of the country, so this was really a treat. But first we’re going to tell you how we spent some time in Duluth, Minnesota.

Black Bear Casino Camping Review

Our first spot was a casino called Black Bear Casino. So, Michael’s going to tell you what that was about.

Michael: This was a very large and modern casino, and very pretty inside, although we couldn’t stay inside very long because, even though they claim they had a smoke-free section, it really was just a little section that was very overwhelming. But we did try to utilize the casino, because we stay free there, and we really love that. And we usually will go in, either play a couple of dollars or have a drink, but it was just overwhelming inside. Parking lot’s long, flat, and level. We didn’t have any problem with that. It was a little bit noisy outside. We could hear the trains, and it was right by the number 35 highway into town. Other than that, we will go back again because it was free, and we love the free parking that the casinos offer us.

Louisa: And we only tell you about the free casino parking because often times people who are traveling from one place to another think they have to stay at RV parks, and they have to make reservations ahead of time. But if you decide that you don’t want to go that far to your next reserved spot, or maybe you want to go further, you can then stay at free places like the casinos. Cabella’s is another place that offers free RV parking overnight, as well as other places along the way like the golf courses with our Harvest Hosts membership.

You don’t have to have a membership for the casino. Sometimes they ask you to get a player’s card, and then you play a slot machine or something, but we really enjoy staying at the casinos; however, most of the time, they are right next to the highway, and they are very busy at night because the truckers will pull in. And they don’t turn off their motors or their diesel engines, so it’s very noisy in the evening. And sometimes it might be smelly from those diesel engines. So try to park away from the road, as best you can. Kind of sneak around to the quiet side of the building, if possible.

We always check in with security and make sure we didn’t have to sign in with them. Often times, they just want to jot down our license plate so that they’ll know who’s in their parking lot. This last one, at the Black Bear place, they didn’t even care that we were out there. They said,

“Nah, just go park.” So we did, and we enjoyed it. And we were on our way the next day.

Lakehead Boat Basin RV Park

So, our destination actually was called the Lakehead Boat Basin RV park, and that was right on Lake Superior. And so we had to get there a day early because of our travels, and that’s why we stayed at the casino, but the next day we drove into the Lakehead Boat Basin. And it was a very nice place. A lot like Fiddler’s Cove in San Diego, over on Coronado Island. About the same price too. Not as pretty, I think, as it is in Coronado, because, of course, there we had nice, beautiful marina in front of us. This one, there was a parking lot, of course. And then there were parked cars in front of that, and then we could see the boats that were moored there. But it was a beautiful area. You get to walk around. So, Michael, what’s your take?

Michael: It was a beautiful area, and I love all the naval ships. These were coal ships, ships that bring in all of the materials into the Duluth area, and they have to go underneath a lift bridge. This lift bridge starts lifting, and it takes about 15 minutes before the boats get there. So, if you’re on either side of the bridge, you’re going to wait, but the beauty of all that is you get to be right there, and you see these magnificent ships go by. They acknowledge the people on the shoreline by blowing their whistles and horns, and waving to the folks along the beautiful boardwalk. It was very magnificent.

Now, this is Lake Superior, and the weather up here in Minnesota is starting to change. It’s definitely fall, and it gets cool very rapidly. What we didn’t expect was the tremendous amount of winds where we were parked. There was nothing to break the wind, so that was a real challenge for us. We were getting at times up to 24 mile-an-hour gusts. You could feel the RV rock back and forth. And, as you all know, the wind brings down the temperature. So, even though it might have been 70, it felt more like 63 degrees, and right through the bone, and it also rained.

But having said all that, we had a great time being at the marina. It was supported by the Marriott, which had beautiful showers, beautiful laundry room, and it was open 24 hours a day. So that added to the experience there. So, definitely would recommend this RV stopping place if you are ever in the area.

Louisa: Yes, and just a couple more details about the RV park itself. It has … We had electric and water. There’s a dump on site. It was $41 a night, and the people who ran the office were just wonderful! They were so friendly and so kind. They were even able to collect some packages that we had Amazon send us, so we really appreciate having our mail forwarded, and some packages sent. They were very accommodating and very nice, never complaining about the fact that we had a package almost every day while we were there. So, $41 a night. Beautiful scenery. Right by the lift bridge, which at night is very well-lit, and it’s so pretty to watch as the ships go back and forth.

Then we also stayed across the bay there and had some wine at a nice Grandma’s Restaurant, it was called. We could sit out on the patio and watch the ships go by. So that was really fun, and our good friends Judd and Denise from last week’s podcast were there with us. So we spent quite a lot of time with them, and we had a ball. So, thanks for the tip on going to Lakehead Boat Basin’s RV Park in Duluth, Minnesota.

Grand Marais Municipal RV Park

After about five days at the Lakehead Boat Basin RV Park, we decided to travel up to Grand Marais, Minnesota, which is also during Labor Day weekend. So this was about the only place that we could find to get a reservation, and we were so lucky. So, we drove all the way up here, and we are now sitting in a campground. A municipal campground, and Michael’s going to tell you what the difference is between this one and the place we just came from.

Michael: We are now up north in Minnesota, along the shoreline of Grand Marais harbor and Lake Superior. It continues to be magnificent. Now, this municipal area … I guess it’s called a municipal RV park. It has almost 215 RV spots, some tenting spots here, and here’s one of the big differences that we are learning, and we keep learning. We’ll have to figure out as we go how to handle these. When you go to these giant RV municipal parks, you are with campers. Now, what that means to us is that we RV, and we do this full-time. We travel full-time, and so this is our life, daily life. When you’re around campers, they do it just for the weekends, and generally speaking what that means is there are a lot more tenters. They bring out … everyone has a fire pit, which is beautiful. I understand that, but it just means that the whole area’s filled with tons of smoke, which quite frankly I’m sensitive to. You can’t breathe. You have to get out of the park to really feel comfortable. And the smoke hangs around until two or three o’clock in the morning.

So, we haven’t figured out how to avoid those. I guess maybe after September, and school … all the kids are back in school. It’ll be much more enjoyable. But having said that, this is a really beautiful area. I was just looking at some of the pictures that I took of the harbor and Lake Superior. Because the water is so cold here, it is crystal clear. I mean, it almost felt like we were back in Hawaii, except for the temperature’s around 60 degrees, and getting colder.

They have a small tourist town, and it was fun walking around, being a tourist, going in and out of the shops. Everybody looks like they’re having a great time this Labor Day weekend, and we have looked at a couple of restaurants that we may try out in the future. They also have some small shopping centers. We bought some items to stock up our refrigerator.

Now, in the park itself, there’s some nature trails, and they have done an excellent … by landscaping, keeping all of the pine trees around. So, even though you’re really closely packed in, you still feel like you’re out in the middle of the woods. Literally, we are feet … within 100 yards of Lake Superior. Although you can see some waves, you can’t really hear them, but it really is beautiful out here.

Louisa: It really does feel like a tourist-y area up here with all of the campers, and not only is there a lot of smoke when you have campers, you have a lot of noise. There are people who are outside of their tents. Obviously they’re not going to hang out in their tents all day. But they are sitting at picnic tables. They are drinking. They’re partying, and it’s only noon. So, that’s a little bit different for us. We don’t usually hang out with a lot of people who aren’t doing much except for enjoying the day, because we like to go see things. And we went into the town. We wandered all over. We got to go out to the lighthouse area. It’s very pretty, and very tourist-y feeling, like I said probably three times already. If you want to see pictures, go to our Instagram at Heaven in a Class C. As always, you can go to our website. When we get those all caught up, we’ll have the latest pictures of the areas we’ve been in. That website is www.vegansonamission.com.

So, we’re really enjoying it up here in Grand Marais, but we want to go back to Duluth and tell you about some great vegan finds we found there. We’re going to tell you all about them right after this break.

Vegan Eats – Duluth Grill

We spent several days at the Lakehead Boat Basin RV Park, and this was right next to the marina obviously. And then you could walk across the lift bridge into the little town that was very tourist-y and very fun to hang out in.

Believe it or not, we found some vegan places there. Not all vegan. They didn’t advertise that they were vegan, but of course we use our HappyCow app, and Michael found one called Duluth Grill. Now, who would think that a grill would have vegan options? Usually when we go into a place that’s called a grill or a meat-house, or a steakhouse of some kind, you have to have things like the baked potato with the veggies on the side, and ask for no butter and all of that. But this one actually had a vegan section on their menu! It only had maybe six or eight things to try, but Michael, tell us what you found.

Michael: One of the cool things about this restaurant was the staff was actually pretty excited to introduce us to their vegan options on their menu. There were about seven or eight items that were 100% vegan, and I ended up having a vegan bowl. It had wild rice, which was different. Normally I get brown rice, but this was the Minnesota wild rice, black beans, pico de gallo, onions, peppers, walnuts, cashew. And it had a little vegan sour cream on it also, and they called it a “mojo sauce,” which was actually very spicy. I really enjoyed it, and I didn’t have to worry about it having meat because the waitress was really aware what vegans eat and excited for us to be there and try their vegan eats. So, we actually had a great, great, wonderful time in the Duluth Grill. I would definitely go back again.

Louisa: And the portion sizes were huge! I had what was called the Besan Chilla omelet. Now, I’m not sure how to pronounce that exactly. If it was Spanish or part French, because we are up here in northern Minnesota, but what mine consisted of …

It says here on the menu: seasoned garbanzo bean mix substitute for eggs, folded with pico de gallo, onions, bell peppers, roasted red peppers, scallions, spicy beans, corn, and an accent of nutritional yeast. Was served with my choice of kale. I put a picture of this on Instagram. It was such a vibrant green that it was so yummy. I could’ve just eaten the kale, but the rest of the meal was delicious as well.

I highly recommend, yes. Go to Duluth Grill, ask for their vegan menu options, and yeah. $13.50 was a lot for each portion, but I brought half of mine home and had it for lunch the next day because there was so much food. But so fun to not have to worry about what we’re eating in a place that probably catered to meat-eaters, but they’re trying to reach out to us. So we thank you again, Duluth Grill!

Pizza Luce – Vegan Eats Review

The next night, we decided to go for pizza. You know, we like a good pizza. We like a good pizza that has vegan options. We found a place called Pizza Luce, which is Pizza, and then the second word is L-U-C with an accented E. Again, because we are here in the north of Minnesota, we think it’s Luce, but it could be Luce.

But it’s called Pizza Luce, and on their website it says it’s a pizzeria restaurant company in Minnesota with locations in Minneapolis, St. Paul area, and Duluth. It was founded in 1993. Now, it also has great vegan options. Not just,

“Oh, we can throw some vegan cheese on it and leave everything else off except for vegetables.” No, this one had four different kinds that were just for vegans.

Michael: The waiter put emphasis on that they can make any of their pizzas vegan because they use a variety of mock meats, if you wanted those, such as duck, chicken, sausages, the Beyond Burger, sausages also. And then they combine them with their regular pizzas that they have. So, for instance, we had the Wrangler, which had barbecue mock chicken on it, banana peppers, red onions, mushrooms, and vegan cheese. We also had a couple slices of a wild mushroom that had olive oil in it, little bit, fresh basil, oregano, onions, garlic, wild mushrooms of all over the place. They were exploding with mushrooms, which I really loved. And then topped with vegan cheese. So, we really discovered a really neat pizza restaurant. We don’t do this very often, but it sure was a fun evening out with friends to continue to have good, vegan treats and eats. Reminded us that anything can be veganized if you have an imagination.

Louisa: So, I really liked the pizza that we had. The couple we were with, they ordered half and half. Both different kinds of vegan pizzas. So we ordered the other two half and half, so that we could all try four pieces of four different kinds of pizzas. I really enjoyed, quite surprisingly, the one that had the Beyond Meat meatballs. I think it had more of a spice to it, and more flavor than the other ones, even though the other ones were very yummy as well. So, we’re going to go back to Pizza Luce again before the week is over, but first we have to tell you about the Mexican restaurant we found!

Angie’s Mexican Restaurant – Vegan Eats Review

So, this place was what our friend calls “oh, the Vegan paradise.” Bean burritos and vegetables. That’s what vegans eat, right? That’s all they get to eat. Well, when you go in there, you do get to be a little more creative, but you also have to be more attentive. So, we came up with five things to do when you go into a restaurant that you think you’re going to be able to find vegan options, but what you need to ask, and what you need to make sure the waitress or waiter knows before your food arrives. So, here we go.

So, we’ve learned over the couple of years that we’ve been eating in restaurants that aren’t always vegan, even if they don’t even know what the word vegan means. Sometimes you walk in and you can know that, yes, this is a Mexican restaurant. We can eat beans and rice, and probably the chips, but we need to make sure that everybody’s clear. So, the first thing you need to do is let the waiter or waitress know you’re vegan. So, we did that, and then Michael, she looked at us like we were from another world. So, what did you order?

Michael: I tried to educate also, and not make them feel like they don’t know what their foods that they’re serving, and a little education goes a long way in every aspect of life. When I’m in a Mexican restaurant, particularly, I keep it really, really simple. I always have some type of beans, whether it’s pinto beans, black beans, red beans, and I prefer the whole bean and not the refried, smashed beans, because those tend to have lard in them. Occasionally, they’ll tell you that none of our beans have lard, and that’s fine, but they really need to mention that to you, that the beans don’t have any kind of lard base to them.

So, the whole beans, generally speaking, are the safest bet. I always have lots of peppers. Green, red, yellow peppers. I will omit a lot of times the sauces. Sometimes the sauces are just tomato paste. If they can reassure me that there’s a spicy tomato paste, or pico de gallo, which would be a better option than just the sauce. That way, again, you’re getting fresh vegetables that are spicy and delicious. The rices tend to be Spanish rice, which usually has a type of tomato paste to them. I keep it really, really simple. Once again, make sure that those people back in the kitchen preparing our meals don’t add sour cream or cheeses, which are in abundance in most restaurants, but especially in Mexican-themed restaurants.

Louisa: So, Michael, you just went through all three of my first five different things you should do when you get to a restaurant that doesn’t understand all the needs of vegans.

  1. The first one was let them know you’re vegan, politely of course.
  2. Ask them if there’s anything on the menu that’s vegan, because often times they’ll give you a clue by putting the letter V next to things, and the waiter or waitress would know what that means. At this particular restaurant, there were no letters like that, so we asked if there’s anything that’s specifically vegan. She looked at us, again, like I said, we were from another planet, and said no. She didn’t know. But we know that you can ask questions. And that’s what Michael did just now by telling you all about how he asked questions and made sure that we know what we’re eating.

Now, this waitress in particular, didn’t know what we were eating, and so she said,

“Why? You want me to go ask the cook what they put in the beans?” And we said, politely,

“Yes. Could you do that?” So she did, came back and said, no, there was no lard in the beans. So, that was good. So, then, once we ordered all of the items, we needed to do this and we did not. We should’ve clarified with her once more that there’s to be absolutely no animal products on the beans or anything, because she didn’t know that that would be a problem.

And lo and behold, they brought the plates back. We had the fajitas, and the fajitas were great because they’re all the vegetables and all the peppers. And then they had the corn tortillas on the side. Then they brought the beans, and the rice, and some lettuce, and the sour cream, all on a separate plate that was all smushed together. And so there of course the sour cream, and the beans had some feta cheese, or some kind of white cheese sprinkled on top. And we hadn’t clarified with her that,

“Oh, please, we only want to have the basics. No animal products at all.” But we didn’t clarify that. We just kind of assumed she got it when we asked all those other questions.

So, then we had to politely ask her to take it back and please remove the cheese. Now, some people would say,

“Just eat around it.” Well, again, we like to try to educate people, and that the next time someone comes in and says they’re vegan, maybe this waitress will have more opportunity to ask questions such as,

“Do you want the cheese that comes on top of the beans? Or do you want the sour cream that comes with it automatically?” And then they would be able to clarify that. It makes it for a nice and sweet meal without having to become a little witchy when it’s time to eat. Course we’re paying for the meal, so I don’t feel like we should have to try to make things better once it arrives. We should make sure that it’s good before it gets there.

Then, of course, at the end of the meal, I always say we should say, “Thank you for going vegan with us, and for providing us with a wonderful vegan meal.” I always leave a note. I leave a card that says we’re going to review their restaurant on our podcast. Sometimes we give the card at the beginning of the meal. Sometimes we give it at the end. I don’t know that it makes a difference really, but sometimes people may say, “Ooh, they’re going to review us on a podcast. We’d better give them very extra special attention.” This time we didn’t do that, but we gave them the note at the end, and said thank you.

So, to recap. The five things you should do when you go into a restaurant that you know is not vegan and doesn’t have a lot of experience with vegans.

Number one: first, let them know you’re vegan.

Number two: ask if there’s anything on the menu that is vegan.

Number three: read through all of the options carefully, and then ask the waiter or waitress questions.

Number four: clarify again that no animal products are to be used. Examples: cheese on the beans or sprinkled on top of things, because sometimes they don’t know that the cheese is not what you don’t want.

Number five: leave a thank-you note for them going out of their way to help make your meal vegan.

This about wraps up another episode of the Two Vegans on a Mission podcast. Join us next week as we talk about our trip down to Minneapolis, where we’re going to participate, finally, in some more animal rights activities. This is going to be a protest at the Renaissance Festival against the exploitation of some of the animals that are being used in the Renaissance Festival. And then we may be able to participate in a Cube of Truth as well. So, we’re looking forward to that! Maybe you can join us out there as we help stop the exploitation of animals, and we encourage you to be vegan!

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We are a retired teacher, Louisa, and a retired physician assistant, Michael, married for 39 years, who want to help busy travelers begin and maintain a healthy life-style while on the road.

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