Sir Benedict’s Tavern: A Duluth treasure

May 31, 2016


Annie Walchuk
Zenith News

Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake, at 805 East Superior Street, is a Duluth treasure. Nestled in a romantic section of downtown, Sir Ben’s offers incredible food, an ample variety of beers, an eclectic customer base, music every night, and the best patio in town—just far enough back that you can enjoy the view without feeling like you’re sitting in traffic.

Sir Ben’s has been an icon in Duluth since the building was first converted from a gas station in 1978. Over the years, it has matured without losing its charm or quality. Originally, under Jack and Barb Arnold, Sir Ben’s was a gourmet sandwich shop. Now under Josh and Kaila Stotts, the menu has expanded to include a variety of appetizers, including a tasty roasted red pepper hummus and “The Best Taco Nachos in Town.”

On the lighter side, there is a traditional Caesar Salad with house croutons, and a Summer Berry Salad topped with walnuts, bleu cheese, and raspberry vinaigrette. For the heartier appetite, the Southwestern Salad is loaded with meat or black beans, onions, cheese, jalapeños, salsa, and corn chips.

There is always a fresh homemade soup of the day, including, of course, traditional English Onion.

And what would an English pub be without Bangers and Mash? Locally sourced “bangers” (British slang for sausage) and creamy homemade mashed potatoes make this the ultimate comfort food.

But sandwiches remain the heart and soul of Sir Ben’s. The Portobello Melt serves marinated and grilled Portobello mushrooms with caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and Thai pepper mayo on a pumpernickel bread that I did not think would work well. But the dark, flavorful bread actually brings the whole sandwich to a new level.

The Sir Ben’s Boar is house porchetta topped with caramelized onions (I am a sucker for caramelized onions), Fontina cheese, and fennel mayo served on homemade focaccia.

“B.Y.O.S.” is the Sir Ben’s way of building your own sandwich. Start with meat, hummus, or mushrooms, then pick one of four breads or a tomato wrap. Top that with cheese, veggies, and one of nine spreads. All sandwiches are served with chips and a pickle.

Music is at the core of Sir Benedict’s vibe. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays, you’ll find Mary Bue, Teague and Ian Alexy, Eric Berry, Marc Gartman, the Fish Heads, and many others.

Tuesday is open mic night, with the rare twist that all ages are welcome. Wednesday is the Bluegrass Jam. Anyone can join in—and an exciting number do! This is my favorite night to go to Sir Ben’s.

Thursday is the Celtic Jam. Again, anyone with heart and an instrument can play. Sunday is karaoke night, starting at 9 p.m. However, earlier in the evening on the last Sunday of the month, you will find Beer and Hymn Night—yes, hymns; it’s a hoot.

To help you hit those high notes in “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” Sir Ben’s has an extensive beer list. Local brews include Bent Paddle, Castle Danger, Bell’s, Indeed, South Shore, Mankato, and many others on tap, with more than 20 bottled beers and ciders. The wine list is unremarkable, but for the designated driver, there is a fine selection of soda, root beer, and tea.

The food, drink, and music are great, but, in all honesty, it’s the atmosphere that draws you in. Warm and comforting, buzzing with energy and happy people, Sir Benedict’s Tavern is a place where you will always run into a friend or make a new one by end of the evening.

Annie Walchuk is a born and raised Duluthian whose thirst for adventure led her to writing. She is a cook and baker, who spent over 20 years as a restaurateur, including a stint at the Northern Grounds Café in Ely. She also oversaw operations for a catering company and bistro on the edge of the Boundary Waters.


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