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Getting There
Burntside Lake
Guided Trips
You only have nine restaurants in the Ely area. Fortunately, they're all excellent. If you're only going to eat out once, you MUST eat at Burntside Lodge (above left and right). This is not only the best restaurant in Minnesota; it's one of the best restaurants in America. It is open only for dinner, from 6-9. Arrive early for a window table and lake view. The "appetizer array" is tasty, but the regular appetizers are all worth trying. Always order their soup of the day. Wine Spectator Magazine has recognized Burntside for its wine list. Their salads and breads are outstanding. But on a menu of creative and artfully assembled items, Walleye is the star. There are four kinds of Walleye, with Walleye ala Burntside the specialty. It is broiled in a mushroom-walnut-white wine sauce and served on wild rice. We always have one person order the New York Strip Steak with caramelized onion jam and garlic mashed potatoes, and sometimes one of our group tries the Papardella Pasta with house made duck sausage in balsam cream sauce. You'll pay $30 for your meal, but it'll be one of the highlights of your trip.
If you eat dinner out a second time, it should be at The Evergreen Restaurant in Grand Ely Lodge on Shagawa Lake. This is a national park style lodge with gift shop, classic lobby and a good restaurant. You can eat out on the patio and watch a spectacular sunset over the islands and water, but if the weather is rainy or windy you can try for a window table inside. Among the appetizers, the crab and cream cheese wontons and the bruschetta are favored by our group. Then start with a cup of the chicken wild rice soup and go on to the breads and salads. They're all very good. The Walleye is available broiled, breaded, pan fried, crab stuffed, or blackened, and sometimes as a special they offer it seared. The usual chicken, steak and seafood items are included, and the best dessert is their cheesecake. The wine list is limited but the few they have are good. Service is excellent. The Grand Ely Lodge is right across from the old abandoned iron mine on the north edge of Ely; you can turn left at the Chocolate Moose or go through town and turn left past the Wolf Center.
Silver Rapids Lodge is six miles out of town to the East of Ely on the Kawishiwi Trail, overlooking the rapids where White Iron Lake pours down into Farm Lake. The restaurant is part of a complex of cabins, motel and fishing docks. It is modern rustic in decor and most of the diners will be fishermen, canoeists and vacationers here for a week or two in the cabins or motel rooms so you'll hear lots of conversations about lures, water conditions and the best routes or holes. Silver Rapids does not match its local rivals in depth of menu or creativity in the kitchen, but what it does do it does very well. We like their ribs. The ever present Walleye is on the menu here fixed three ways at your preference. They do a good job with steaks. A cup of the soup of the day is worth ordering, and their salads are fresh and plentiful. They offer a couple of chicken entrees which are excellent. We've tried their daily special on numerous occasions and it's always very good. We suggest getting here around 5, so you beat the crowd of fishermen and canoeists coming off the water.
The three restaurants along the main street in Ely are all good, but we like them better as lunch stops on the day you spend visiting the Wolf Center, Bear Center, Moulter Museum, and downtown shops. The first one you come to is The Chocolate Moose. It's a quirky little place, an oversized log cabin where most diners elect to eat outside unless it's raining. They somehow always find the cutest high school and college girls in the area for waitresses and service is quick and efficient. They have a menu, with some great vegetarian entrees, but you should order off the large blackboard featuring the day's specials. Start with a cup of the soup of the day. It's usually pretty creative and always delicious. Then go to the quiches. The Chocolate Moose offers a rotating quiche of the day, and even if you don't usually like quiche, this is the place to change your mind. Another quirk here is their milk. Whether white or chocolate, it always comes with a foam, churned to get air into it for colder and richer taste. Save a spot for their pie of the day, another specialty. A truly outstanding lunch stop.

At the top of the hill is Vertin's, a classic small town 1950s restaurant where businessmen come for lunch and the locals stop in for dinner. They have a very traditional menu done consistently well. Chicken and fish entrees are prominent, but there are daily specials, good soups and fresh salads. When the soup of the day is chicken wild rice or tomato basil, order it. They do a great job with these two. The others in their rotation are pretty ordinary. If you're hungry, try the broasted chicken. It ranks with the best anywhere. This is one of the last restaurants in the country still serving a hot roast beef open face sandwich, so adults in your group nostalgic for 1955, or kids wanting to see how people ate back in the day, can try it. Dessert is mainly pies and ice cream.Vertin's other trademark is its all day breakfast, led by homemade caramel rolls. Service here is very efficient and the atmosphere is similar to a diner. At least half the customers are locals, and they converse across the room with the staff and each other about fishing, canoeing and weather.

Cranberry's is your third choice. It's a combination restaurant and saloon, with separate entrances. They list Mexican food on their advertisements, but that's a mistake. They don't do it well, and they'd be better to focus on the items they are better at. Our group includes several burger conneisseurs, and they think Cranberry's has some of the best they've eaten anywhere. When the soup of the day is Wisconsin Cheese, order it. You can't get it outside of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and this is some of the best we've found. If you eat just at the start of lunch hour, you might still get breakfast, and they do a fine job with pancakes, french toast and omelettes. Even though Vertin's advertises its all day breakfasts, many locals think Cranberry's offers the best breakfasts in town. Our group likes the fries here. They're thin and crisp. The salads are ordinary, but pies are homemade and very good. The breads are nothing special but they whip up a fine milkshake with real ice cream. Service is very efficient. The atmosphere is like you stepped out of a time machine into the 1950s.
Journey's End Cafe is an eclectic place with great specials, especially home smoked entrees. They claim to specialize in American and Caribbean cuisine, but there's as much TexMex influence on the menu as anything, and their real specialty is Texas Barbeque. Since it's across the street and down the street from four outfitters, it's a common stop for groups just returning from a wilderness trip. Journey's End also serves breakfasts, and since a lot of groups will stop here just before heading out on a seven to 10 day trip, the restaurant has developed the tradition of serving hearty sendoffs. Portions here tend to be quite ample. This is the only restaurant we've seen that offers Breakfast Specials. Most of the outfitters and hard core paddlers say Journey's End serves the best Real Coffee in town (Obviously The Front Porch serves all those special flavors but the hard cores don't consider that Real Coffee; If it doesn't strip paint it doesn't count.)
The Front Porch is a coffee and tea boutique that has expanded to offer great breakfasts and lunches. They offer every kind of gourmet tea and coffee imaginable, including espressos, lattes, cappucinos, frappacinos, hot chocolates, corettos, mochaccinos and exotic coffee and tea flavors from Arabia, South America and Asia. Quiches, soups, salads, pastries, desserts and other daily items are available off the blackboards. There's a fireplace for chilly days and the best wireless internet access in town. The decor is NeoSixties but it's a comfy place to check your email and lean back with a cappucino and beignet.
Pizza Hut is the familiar franchise you know from back home. They have the trendy appetizers, like Quepapas Potato Bites (wedges of potato filled with cheese and jalapenos) and Breadstix. They have all the usual pizzas, like their Stuffed Crusts, which we love. But they've added Pizza Mia Pizza, made with whole milk mozzarella and cheddar cheeses and what they claim are vine ripened tomatoes, although since they admit they ship them in from California and Mexico, we don't see how they can leave them on the vine long enough to ripen and then get them by rail and truck to Ely in time. There are Tuscani Pastas, in either Meaty Marinara or Creamy Chicken Alfredo. There are eight kinds of Wings, of which we like the BBQ, Parmesan Garlic and Cajun. Desserts include Chocolate Dunkers (chocolate sticks for dipping in hot chocolate) and Baked Cinnamon Stix. On the hill in the center of town.
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