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Finding Minnesota: Grand Marais’ Angry Trout Cafe

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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By Angela Davis, WCCO-TV

GRAND MARAIS, Minn. (WCCO) — A trip to the North Shore wouldn’t be complete without a lakeside meal.

Fortunately, there are plenty of choices as you travel up north along the shoreline of Lake Superior.

Just off Highway 61, in Grand Marais, there’s a place that is the hands-down favorite for tourists and locals.

Almost all the produce is grown locally. All the fish comes from Lake Superior — and that is just the beginning.

It is the location that brings many first-time visitors to this restaurant.

It’s right on the shores of Lake Superior.

But it’s the strange name and the unusually small cotton napkins that are the first signs that you’ve stumbled into a place that’s different.

“You go to a lot of places and you get a yard of polyester fabric that you could clothe small child with,” Owner Barb Lavigne said. “It’s amazing how people pick up the napkin and say this is it, you know?”

At the Angry Trout Cafe, Lavigne and her husband George Wilkes, are all about good food. But they also care deeply about being environmentally-friendly and socially-conscious.

Wilkes pointed to a little fishing boat right outside the restaurant and said they buy local whenever possible.

The fish comes from the business and the boat right next door.

“He is a commercial fisherman. He processes it right there, puts it in a plastic bucket, walks it over to the door and gives it to us. There is no transportation, no packaging, it’s excellent quality. Really fresh. It is a wonderful sustainable food source,” he said.

And as for the leftover food …

“Some of it went to a pig farm this year. We’ve sent it to sled dog owners in the past,” he said.

“And we compost all the vegetables. We have a couple of gardeners who take it and use it in their gardens,” Lavigne added.

In the kitchen, workers are instructed to use reusable containers when someone wants to take food home and whenever possible, they use non-toxic cleaning products like vinegar to clean up.

And the menus? They are made out of pieces of cardboard from boxes that deliveries are made in. A local artist makes them look nice.

The couple does what they can to conserve energy. They even buy their electricity from a wind power company.

And when it comes to the furniture and artwork that adorns the Angry Trout Cafe, all of it is made by artists from the North Shore, right down to the recycled tractor seats that make up the chairs on the deck.

“It’s fun to just sort of look around and see all the things that are made locally. The salt and pepper shakers, the chairs, tables, outside tables and chairs, light fixtures, the stained glass, the bathroom — a local artist did some tile work in there. And it’s fun when people start to clue in to that and realize that this not like any other place they’ve been,” Lavigne said.

So still, you may be asking, “What’s up with the name Angry Trout?”

Well that’s actually a whole other story — a love story.

Before George and Barb were married, he wrote letters to her and then doodled a picture of a trout with a facial expression at the bottom of them.

It sort of became his signature. So when it came time to name the cafe, it seemed like the right choice.

If you want to learn more about the Angry Trout Cafe just check out its website.

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