Bridgeman’s: Malts and family memories

September 9, 2014

 

Thomas Walchuk

Zenith City Weekly

 

Bridgeman’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlour, at 2202 Mountain Shadow Drive in Duluth, is tucked up between the Miller Hill Mall and the box stores over the hill, in the parking lot of a strip mall that houses a variety of B-grade stores.

 

There’s an old-time feel to the place. Soda jerks work the fountain in their old-fashioned red-and-white uniforms. The place is abuzz with activity and conversation under the breeze of retro ceiling fans.

 

Though Bridgeman’s is often busy, I’ve never had to wait long for a table in their spacious dining room, full of booth seating along the windows and aisles of larger round tables for big family gatherings.

 

The host brings menus and asks if you’d like something to drink, which, being a family establishment, means coffee or soda pop. If you already know what you want, it will be at your table in moments.

 

This is the longest wait of your stay, due to their popularity, but there is plenty to peruse on the menu. Part of the reason the wait feels so long is the anticipation—not for the food necessarily, but for the malts.

 

Our family has been coming to Bridgeman’s for years. The chain started in Duluth over 75 years ago, during the Depression, making the restaurant a delight for generations throughout Minnesota and the Midwest. It also explains the abundance of older patrons, who are treated like friends by the staff.

 

The menu is a full one, to be sure, encompassing more than should be attempted by any one kitchen. Stick to basics from the late ’50s if you want a good meal. That means burgers, sandwiches, and anything June Cleaver might have served Wally and the Beaver.

 

Even within these constraints, there are ample choices on the menu, not to mention they serve breakfast all day—a fact my youngest daughter and I took advantage of on our last visit.

 

She ordered the All-American, with two of everything a person could want for a breakfast feast, including a choice of eggs, pancakes, sausage, and bacon.

 

Normally, my favorite is the Clubhouse Sandwich, served on toasted bread of your choice with house-baked carved turkey, thick slices of bacon and American cheese, with lettuce and tomato.

 

It’s possible they include a special sauce that makes me crave their club fortnightly, but no one will confirm this. It comes with a choice of side, which, for me, means an unhealthy helping of crisp, hot fries.

 

But on this visit, I decided to collude with my daughter by ordering breakfast for lunch. A standard plate of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast was the Special of the Day.

 

My eldest chose to go the standard route and ordered a full-sized cheeseburger with all the fixings, served with a mound of fries and one of their famous malts. Though for years this combo could be had for less than $10, it is still the best deal around.

 

To finish off your meal, Bridgeman’s offers a complete book of dessert options. We keep talking about trying the Lollapalooza—next time!—but their malts always have a hold on us. It is one of the traditions we associate with our family gatherings at the happiest restaurant in Duluth, and one of the reasons we keep going back.

 

Tom Walchuk has worked in the restaurant industry for most of his long life. He is currently a restaurant and event consultant for Tippy Toe Tunes, a collaborative endeavor he co-founded with like-minded restaurant manager/ consultants. He believes every restaurant is a journey and it takes your own creative decision-making for a good experience to materialize wheresoever ye wander.

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