My rules for any vacation are simple: Relax and indulge.

This was no exception for my “staycation” trip to Lutsen earlier this month. The time of day was deciphered according to the sun, my Blackberry was switched to the off position and planning the next meal was the only thing on the agenda.

And when it comes to dining along the North Shore, few do it better than The Crooked Spoon in Grand Marais.

The small, intimate dining room is perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a cozy spot for lunch with friends. The setting is very “Northwoods” but with a touch of sophistication. The husband and wife duo of Nathan and Sara Hingos opened the café in August of 2006, after traveling around the country together and deciding to head back to Lake Superior to raise a family in Grand Marais.

Lucky for us, they also decided to open a quaint little café, packed with some of the best food in the area.

This was my first visit to the café, and after hearing so many great reviews (and after ditching the 120-degree Sven and Ole’s — I’m sorry, eating pizza and sweating just does not sound like fun) I was definitely anxious to try it out.

We started out with the crab cake appetizer — blue crab cakes with firecracker jicama slaw and cilantro oil. The plate was gorgeously colorful with an array of garnish sauces surrounding the bright slaw and crunchy cakes. The first bite was amazing — imagine a perfect combination of sweet and tang, sultry and savory plus a bit of a kick and delightful crunch. We were literally licking the plate clean. So not good etiquette but I so didn’t care.

Choosing an entrée was tough. The spice-rubbed pork tenderloin looked amazing and the home made sweet and spicy lamb sausage smelled divine. While we would’ve gladly done a Crooked Spoon sampler, we decided on the pappardelle pasta with sautéed jumbo shrimp — more than enough to split between the two of us.

The jumbo shrimp were quite the understatement. They were huge and cooked to perfection, with enough tenderness to fully soak up the white wine butter sauce that I would totally eat as a soup.

The meal was filling yet light with a freshness from the herbs that completed the flavors. And yes, even though we shared the meal, neither of us could finish.

If you’re heading here for lunch, the Crooked BLT is an absolute must. A new spin on an old classic — the rye bread sandwich is made with honey and black pepper glazed bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, aged balsamic vinegar and cucumber curry mayo. Though, if you’re like me, they had me at “honey and black pepper bacon.”

The menu is ever changing and the daily specials always seem to have a whole new level of creativity. I’ve been told you can’t go wrong here and that nothing ordered would be a disappointment, but I’m a skeptic. So I’m thinking another vacation to the North Shore is necessary in order for me to find out. Of course, all for the sake of research.

Sara Boyd is a web producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.


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