Zenith City Weekly
While Duluth may look like a tourist destination from the outside, here on the inside, we are clearly a college town.
But as a college campus, the University of Minnesota Duluth is unique. Because it is winter here six months of the year, the buildings are all connected, so it is possible to get almost anywhere without ever going outside.
It is not unusual to have made my way to campus in a blizzard, only to find students wearing shorts and sandals, having walked from their warm dorm rooms through various hallways and passages to get to class.
Not only was winter a reason to stay indoors, but there were limited options as to what you could find within walking distance. Bulldog Pizza can be reached from campus in anything short of a blizzard, but there is no direct route from UMD to the Kenwood Shopping center.
To make your way to the Mount Royal shopping complex at the corner of Woodland Avenue and Ste. Maire Street, you have to walk through a residential area first.
But that has changed, now there is a beautifully landscaped walkway entrance to UMD that provides students with a direct route to the new retail shops at BlueStone.
With the opening of Tavern on the Hill, a 350-seat restaurant designed to appeal to both neighborhood residents and college students, the first two phases of development on the far side of Woodland are complete.
Tavern on the Hill offers an extensive menu, from starters and Neopolitan-style pizza, to flatbreads, sushi, burgers, street tacos, sandwiches, and natural refreshments, not to mention pick-up and curbside service.
Across the way from Tavern on the Hill, Qdoba Mexican Grill offers what might be one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century—Coca-Cola’s 100-flavor freestyle soda fountain (and I say this as a Pepsi person).
Granted, they had to work to get an even 100 options with this thing, but there is something to be said for a raspberry-flavored Coke Zero. I did not even know I wanted one before I found out it was possible.
There is also a Starbucks Coffee, with the requisite drive-through, and a Chilly Billy’s serving your frozen yogurt needs. (I am suddenly wondering if the term “yuppie” is used anymore.)
Some of what students commonly find across the street from a college campus can be found in downtown Duluth: An arthouse theatre, a t-shirt shop with idiosyncratic local designs, as well as an assortment of bars and restaurants, each with its own hook (e.g., live music, big screen TV, incredibly greasy burgers).
So not everything is within walking distance of UMD, but BlueStone is certainly a giant step in the right direction, including the personal services salon Waxing the City, Sports Clips Haircuts, Kat’s Eyes Optical, and the Northern Communities Credit Union. These are not the only options for such services in the UMD area, but doubling up usually provokes some economic competition.
Although it could be just a happy coincidence, these changes seem to be impacting what is available on campus as well. University Dining Services, which had already been upgrading its menu in recent years, added Great Lakes Grains and Superior Sandwiches this fall. The Center Court Restaurant is advertising a fall semester menu with a half-dozen gourmet burgers and a too-good-to-pass-up $2 side salad.
It is like a Food Renaissance up on the hill at UMD. We have gone out to eat more often in the past month than we have in the past year, not just because there are new places in town to try out (some in and around the Miller Hill Mall), but because there are now several places right on the way home after school.
I have no idea how far things will go down this road, but it is already a big improvement.