We are visiting our friend Deborah in Duluth, MN, and I ask if the “pie place” is still open on the highway north to Grand Marais. I ate there almost 40 years ago and can’t get that pie out of my mind. “My treat” I offer, hoping to sweeten the deal.
It turns out, the Rustic Inn Café in Castle Danger, MN, is still going full steam, now under new ownership. We head along the North Shore of Lake Superior enjoying a crisp fall day on the 40-minute drive. Since I don’t recall what the café looked like all those years ago, I don’t recognize it when we pull into the large gravel parking lot full of cars. The first sign I see is perched high atop a rustic brown sprawling building: Fresh Pies. This is it.
A large deck defines the entrance to this neat building. White trimmed windows stand out on the dark brown walls. Warm air welcomes us as we enter the small lobby and stand next to the pie display case for the few-minute wait until we are seated. The pies on display tickle more memories as does the chalkboard on the wall listing more than 20 fresh pies of the day.
In the dining room, wood floors and log walls accentuated by smooth rock work create a homey North Woods feel. The motto here is “come for the pie and stay for dinner.” We’re here around lunch time and the menu offers tempting choices. We’ve come for the pie, but we’ll start with lunch.
The Rustic Inn Café makes more than pies and does a great job of it. The Sullivans (current owners) use fresh, local ingredients. Our friend, Deborah, insists we need the onion rings. So, we start with a towering stack of Castle Danger Brewery Battered O-Rings that are crisp, not too greasy, and absolutely delicious. These are some of the best onion rings I have eaten.
Next up: sandwiches. I order the house-smoked trout on a grilled ciabatta roll and fresh house made potato chips. My friends opt for a daily special Rueben on olive bread accompanied by pile of fresh crispy fries. The sandwiches are good and filling.
While I won’t be staying for dinner, I peek at the dinner menu. It features walleye, trout, and classic café favorites like meatloaf, wild rice as a side, beer battered fish (fresh fish daily) and chips, and burgers as the staples.
The food is great, a bonus to our trek north, but not the ‘real’ reason we are there. It’s pie time.
It’s All About the Pie
There are a lot of pies to choose from at The Rustic Inn. They are all made fresh daily. I can select from a more traditional two crusted pie; a crumble top; a butter crumb top; a meringue top; a meringue crust. There are warm pies, cold pies, room temperature pies; fruit pies, cream pies, and “blended pies” (multiple fruits). I can choose pie alamode, and even a gluten-free pie. A 5-layer chocolate pie is the choice for my dining companions and it comes with layers of different types of chocolate, cream, and chocolate cream on a traditional crust.
I opt for the Raspberry Cream pie. The raspberry filling is layered into a meringue crust – a heavenly alternative for this cream pie – and it’s piled high with a light cream cheese topping. The pie is wonderful; the layers of crust, filling and topping melt in my mouth. I am reminded of the pies my grandmother made with meringue crust and half expect her to pop out of the kitchen; the pie is that good.
The pies at Rustic Inn Cafe aren’t necessarily the prettiest you’ll find; they are some of the tastiest. I am delighted the Sullivans reinvigorated my memory of North Shore pies. If you are in Duluth, it’s worth the short hop north to great, locally-sourced food and terrific pies. – Story and photos by Anne Weaver, RFT Editor
Rustic Inn Cafe http: rusticinn.cafe
2773 Minnesota 61
Castle Danger, MN 55616