Local Pairings: The Boat Club

Boat Club Owners

Fine Dining in a Nautical Atmosphere At Duluth’s Premiere New Restaurant
By Andrea Busche

Located in the lower level of the Fitger’s complex, The Boat Club is Duluth’s newest dining venue. Decked out in a nautical theme and featuring fresh seafood, juicy steaks, and other delights, The Boat Club offers tasty food in a gorgeous setting. And, whether you’re a local or a visitor to town, everyone will relish the up-close, exquisite views of Lake Superior.

Brand New to the Scene

The Boat Club opened to the public on February 11, in the space formerly occupied by Midi restaurant. In addition to the regular restaurant space, they also operate five large banquet rooms on-site at Fitger’s, which people can rent for parties and other events.

Co-owner Jason Vincent, along with his business partner/husband Jeff Anderson, decided to open a nautical-themed restaurant here, after Midi’s owner decided to semi-retire. Unbelievably, the men were able to hire every last one of Midi’s staff, along with adding 15 new employees. So, no one lost their job when Midi closed its doors.

Boat Club Room

The Vibe

Boats, water and fishing are a big part of the culture in the Northland. The Boat Club tips its hat to these local traditions with a sea-worthy vibe. “The name ‘Boat Club’ pays homage to the vibrant boating community here in Duluth,” Vincent says.

The restaurant features crisp white tablecloths and navy blue linen napkins. There are subtle touches of rope and wicker, with candles gleaming everywhere.

“We call our style nautical simplistic,” Vincent shares. “It’s very New England/East Coast. When you sit in the restaurant and look outside, you feel like you’re on the ocean.”

When summer arrives, The Boat Club will be ready. They plan to offer 25 outdoor tables, an outdoor bar and once-a-week “Yappy Hour,” where patrons will be welcome to bring their pups. Guests will also be provided with a set of binoculars and a shipping schedule, in order to take full advantage of Lake Superior’s majesty during their dining experience.

There are a couple of options for seating, including an upscale bar area and a restaurant space directly overlooking the lake. Since The Boat Club offers more upscale dining, most patrons (in both the bar and restaurant) were wearing business casual attire on the night we visited.

The People

Vincent is incredibly personable and eager to share details about his new boat-themed venture. But this isn’t his first rodeo.

Vincent and Anderson also own the Vanilla Bean restaurant in Two Harbors, as well as the Vanilla Bean Coffee House inside Fitger’s. In addition to their busy schedules in the restaurant industry, Anderson also maintains a career in politics, working as a District Director for Congressman Rick Nolan.

Vincent splits his time between the restaurants, spending two to three days a week in Two Harbors, and four to five days dedicated to the Boat Club. The couple resides in Duluth with their two dogs.

Our server for the evening was a hard-working young woman named Tara O’Daniel. Since the restaurant is brand-new (we dined here on the evening of their soft opening), she hadn’t gotten the opportunity to sample the food yet. But she is eagerly looking forward to trying the seafood trio, which includes lobster, bacon-wrapped shrimp and scallops.

The Food

The Boat Club offers salads, sandwiches, soup and pasta, but will probably become most well-known for its steaks and seafood. While the whitefish and trout are sourced locally, the Atlantic salmon is from Norway and the walleye is from Canada.

I was in the mood to keep it local so I opted for the macadamia walleye, with a side of wild rice pilaf. Although this particular piece of fish was from Canada, can you think of a more Minnesotan meal than walleye and wild rice?!

Boat Club Walleye

From the menu:

Macadamia Walleye – 10 ounce crusted pan-seared fillet, served with one side and a seasonal vegetable.

After some discussion with Tara, I learned the fish is first dipped in an egg wash and then coated with Macadamia nuts and Panko crumbs. The nuts had toasty edges and the breading was fluffy on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside. It had a light, buttery flavor.

The wild rice pilaf included tiny, delicate chunks of carrots and celery. The meal also included some garlicky, buttery green beans, which were scrumptious.

Mike chose the New York Strip steak.

Boat Club Strip

From the menu:

12 ounce New York Strip – Our signature steak. USDA choice certified Piedmontese.

OK, so I simply had to look up the word Piedmontese. Is this a dialect spoken only by those residing in the Piedmont neighborhood? Nope! The Duluth-esque name is purely coincidental.

According to Wikipedia: “The Piedmontese is a breed of domestic cattle that originated in the region of Piedmont, in northwest Italy.”

Ahem … as I was saying, Mike ordered the steak. He opted to have it cooked medium, leaving just a little pink. He also got a helping of those delicious green beans and chose the French Fries as his side.

The steak was juicy and tender and had those pleasing char-broiled “X” marks on the outside. It was seasoned simply with just a dash of salt and pepper. And the fries were beer-battered; neither too doughy nor too crisp.

Mike says, “Those were good fries. I would say they are in my top three list of ‘best fries.’” Now that’s saying something.

What We Drank

The Boat Club offers plenty of local craft beers, as well as domestics, wine and cocktails. After placing my food order, Tara consulted the bartender for the best local pairing to go with my dish.

It was recommended that I try the Mankato Leaf Raker Nut Brown. A robust nut brown ale, it was heavy on the malt and had a strongly nutty flavor, with slight hints of caramel and smoke. An excellent complement to my nut-crusted fish.

Mike chose the Duluth-brewed Bent Paddle Venture Pilsner. Light and crisp with a subtle floral flavor, this beer contrasted nicely with his juicy steak.

The Verdict

The Boat Club is a great place to enjoy fine dining in a nautical atmosphere. Featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can dine whenever it suits your fancy. And if you ever spend the night at Fitger’s Inn, The Boat Club handles their continental breakfast as well.

With menu options for every price point, The Boat Club is the perfect choice for an upscale-casual lunch between errands, or a dinner celebrating a special occasion. So, don’t miss the boat; stop in to try The Boat Club for your next dining adventure!