Pickwick Restaurant & Pub - Serving Fine Food and Drink to Duluth since 1888
Pickwick Restaurant & Pub has a rich history in Duluth. According to Pickwick's website, it opened in 1888 as the Old Saloon within Fitger's Brewery Company and has operated at its current location at 508 East Superior Street since 1914. According to an article in Perfect Duluth Day 1918, Joseph S. Wisocki bought the business for $200, which he borrowed. It remained in the Wisocki family for generations until it was sold to Tim and Amy Wright in 2010, adding that the Pickwick is Duluth’s oldest and longest-operating restaurant.
According to Duluth Historian Tony Dierckins of Zenith City Online:
The Brewery saloon didn't become known as the Pickwick until 1919 or soon thereafter. That year Fitger's first produced a non-alcoholic drink called "Pickwick." It was served at Wisocki's Brewery Saloon and was said to be a "great mixer," perfect for those sneaking in their own hooch during Prohibition. People started saying they were going "to get a Pickwick." Soon they were saying, "I am going to the Pickwick." By 1920, Wisocki had changed the name and likely purchased (rather than continue leasing) the building at that time.
If I had to concisely describe the vibe at the ‘Wick, I might use the phrase “old money.”
The place is adorned with stained glass, dark, ornate woodwork, and swanky vintage chandeliers. It simply looks and feels … well, rich.
There is a pub area and also a more formal dining room, which offers gorgeous views of Lake Superior. A lit candle on each table provided a lovely ambiance.
Our fellow patrons (at 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday) were incredibly diverse. Some were in business suits, likely unwinding with an after-work cocktail and maybe an appetizer.
Some appeared to be tourists, decked out in tank tops and t-shirts. All ages were present, including babies, toddlers, teens, adults and seniors.
I ordered the Fresh Atlantic Salmon. From the menu:
Fresh salmon char-grilled to temp, and finished with a lemon dill compound butter.
Our server, Zoe, told me that the salmon is “sushi grade,” so I had my choice on how it was prepared. With a little guidance, I opted for medium-well.
The salmon had a deliciously crisp, salty crust with visible char marks on the surface. A generous dollop of lemon dill butter was slowly melting across the top of the fish, giving it an extra-rich mouthfeel. The dish was served with a large lemon wedge.
Pickwick entrees are served with a garden salad or patrons can substitute a Caesar salad or soup. Entrees also include a veggie of the day, plus a choice of Gouda mashed potatoes, Minnesota wild rice, baked potato, fries, or onion rings.
I opted for the standard garden salad with homemade Italian dressing and the Minnesota wild rice, and swapped out the veg of the day (squash and zucchini) for sautéed asparagus.
The garden salad was large, fresh, and colorful, featuring sprouts, cukes, shredded carrots, red onion, and homemade croutons, all served on a bed of fresh greens. The house-made Italian dressing was creamy and zesty.
Entrees also come with a small loaf of bread. Upon inquiry, I learned it is a Ciabatta sourced from Duluth-favorite Johnson’s Bakery. The bread was warm, chewy, flaky, and served with whipped butter.
The asparagus was crisp and slightly chewy, and deliciously well-seasoned. And the wild rice (a Minnesota delicacy!) contained onions, carrots, and celery. It was both salty and savory, leading me to believe it was slow-cooked in a rich broth.
I paired my fish with a glass of the Freakshow Cabernet out of Lodi, California. Zoe recommended it and it is described on the menu as “dense, full-bodied, supple and silky.” The rich wine was the perfect accompaniment to the salty, fatty fish.
My husband and photographer Mike chose the Napoleon Bacon Burger. From the menu:
“We hand-form these special patties from a mix of beef and freshly ground Applewood smoked bacon, blended together with Wisconsin cheddar and fried onions.”
The burger was thick and salty, and the bacon gave it a smoky flavor. The onions were fried to a delicious, caramelized finish. The tomato and lettuce were crisp and fresh. The burger was served on a shiny bun, also sourced from Johnson’s Bakery.
Pickwick sandwiches come with chips or fries. Or, you can substitute onion rings, a house salad, Caesar salad, or parmesan broiled tomatoes. Mike chose the fries.
The steak-style fries were crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The meal was served with a crunchy dill pickle spear.
Mike paired his burger with a Castle Danger Raspberry Honey Wheat, a fruited ale from Two Harbors-based Castle Danger Brewery. This beer has a beautiful, slightly pink color and a crisp, floral aroma with hints of rich berry. A smooth, light wheat body and a dry finish balance it out nicely.
While Mike dutifully cleaned his plate, my salmon fillet was huge, providing plenty of leftovers (along with a few bites of asparagus and wild rice) for lunch the next day.
Our server, Zoe, was very pleasant and patient with my many questions. She circled back to our table several times to check on us while providing plenty of privacy to enjoy a quiet meal. (We wanted to snap a photo of Zoe for the story, but she politely declined).
She was also very knowledgeable about food and beverage pairings and helped us each select a suitable beverage to complement our meal. The Pickwick’s hostesses were also very pleasant and accommodating.
While at first glance, the Pickwick may seem a little bougie, it has a variety of items – ranging from appetizers, soups, and sandwiches to fish and steak – to suit every price point and palate.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and the service was excellent. The vibe was elegant yet comfortable and relaxed, a great option for a casual meal or a special occasion.
We would highly recommend The Pickwick, and can’t wait to return. I’m already dreaming about my next order; it will most certainly include a side of their famous onion rings.
For more information and menu, visit pickwickduluth.com.
Andrea Busche is a Duluth and regional freelance writer credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications. Her food column, Local Pairings, was featured in Duluth.com magazine and later published in the Duluth News Tribune from 2016-2018.
This review is the first of what we hope to be many reviews of places to Eat & Drink Duluth. Destination Duluth and Pickwick welcome comments about your Pickwick experiences and suggestions for future reviews.