New Scenic Café's chef Scott Graden pushes Duluth's culinary boundaries

Two men speak outside a building
MPR News host Tom Crann and Chef Scott Graden at New Scenic Café in Duluth.
Courtesy of Keely Zynda

Appetites traveled to Duluth to meet Chef Scott Graden, the owner of New Scenic Café. Over its nearly 25-year run, the restaurant has become an iconic part of the North Shore experience alongside Betty's Pies, Split Rock Light House and Gooseberry Falls.

Despite being a classic backdrop to family memories, the restaurant has the habit of changing things up and pushing the region's culinary boundaries. “We put spring greens on the menu back in 1999 and for Duluth, that was shocking,” Graden said. “We took the chance and I think that risk piece was to share and bring different foods and different ideas to the consumer of the Northland here. That was a big part of it, the other thing was to bring ingredients that we didn't see here, but we saw other places.”

Garden explained they would experiment with new things on the menu that could be shocking to the customer while enrobing them with something that they were familiar with. However, he was always aware of the costs: “It's very expensive to change a menu. The training is very difficult,” he said.

a group of people at a restaurant
MPR News host Tom Crann at New Scenic Café in Duluth.
Courtesy of Keely Zynda

Graden also said New Scenic Café has developed its own DNA through all of the positive and negative inputs from customers. He shared samples of one of the restaurant’s seasonal recipes “Räksmorgås.”

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The chef said ever since New Scenic Café was opened in the late 1990s they’ve always sourced themselves from locals: “It was just based logic that you would buy from people around you.” He also highlighted the importance of connecting with his community and celebrating his context and surroundings.

Click play on the audio player above to listen to the full conversation and see Graden’s recipe below.

Räksmorgås

A hard-to-pronounce but easy-to-make shrimp and egg salad sandwich

Egg salad

Yields: 1 qt.

6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ tablespoon brine from non-pareil capers

1 tablespoon red onion, minced

½ tablespoon fresh dill, minced

1 tablespoon fresh chive, minced

1 pinch pepper

Preparation

Place the hard-boiled eggs in a large mixing bowl and use a pastry cutter to break the eggs down to a very coarse meal. Or you can chop them with a knife.

Combine the remaining ingredients with the egg in the bowl and stir until evenly combined. Taste for seasoning and use immediately or store in the refrigerator until you are ready.

Other

 4 rugbrød slices

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

12 tomato slices

2 cups coldwater (borealis) shrimp, cooked

1 lemon cut into wedges

1 sprig fresh dill

1 cup pickled beets

Minced fresh chive to taste

Preparation

Warm the rugbrød by toasting the slices gently in a dry pan over medium heat.

Spread mayonnaise over the rugbrød, then layer on slices of tomato; season the tomato with salt and pepper.

Mound the egg salad over the tomato, roughly ½ cup of egg salad per serving.

Carefully pile the borealis shrimp over the egg salad.

Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill and minced chives; season the top with a sprinkle of coarse salt.

Serve with a wedge of lemon and a side of pickled beets.

Editor’s note: This episode is from the MPR Connect “Appetites in Greater Minnesota” event held on June 5. The episode aired on All Things Considered on June 7.