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Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants Spotlight: Northern Waters Smokehaus

Did you know that Surfrider has a Great Lakes Friendly Restaurants Program? This is a regional spin off of Surfrider's Ocean Friendly Restaurants program

Eric Goerdt, a retired coast guardsman, started smoking fish on the shores of Lake Superior in 1998, and soon after opened Northern Waters Smokehaus in 2001. The Smokehaus specializes in smoked fish, meats, and quality cheeses, and is now an anchor of the Canal Park neighborhood in Duluth, MN. Surfrider’s North Shore MN Chapter spoke recently with the restaurant’s purchasing & beverage director Taylor Kline. 

Smokehaus FrontThe Smokehaus. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.

Smokehaus TeamThe team. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.  

What’s the coolest thing about the Smokehaus? 

Taylor: What a challenging question to answer… This place is constantly evolving, making it nearly impossible to pinpoint the coolest thing. What continues to inspire me about the Smokehaus is that, after more than 20 years, our team has been crafting charcuterie and smoking fish in a small, handcrafted manner. Our customer base keeps growing, contributing to a community of like-minded food nerds. Oh, and in November 2023, we moved into a new location that is significantly larger than our tiny corner deli, where we operated for 23 years. We went from having about a dozen stools to seating for 52 in the dining room, along with a patio that offers a view of Canal Park's iconic Aerial Lift Bridge. So, there are a lot of “coolest” things at the Smokehaus.

Smokehaus PlatterSmokehaus Platter. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.

How is protecting Lake Superior and the ocean important to you and your team? 

Taylor: Protecting Lake Superior and the oceans stands as a top priority for both this business and our livelihoods. The existence of Northern Waters hinges on clean water and thriving fisheries. We source products with local fisheries along the north and south shores of Lake Superior, as well as ocean fisheries—both wild-caught and farm-raised. Maintaining transparency regarding the origins of our raw products and staying informed about the conditions of our oceans and lakes form the foundation for ongoing internal discussions and conversations with our customers. We, humans have overfished our oceans and climate change is visibly changing Lake Superior, there is no denying that. It's our responsibility to use Northern Waters as a platform for advocacy for clean water and supporting sustainable fisheries. We see it as an opportunity to bring the topic of conservation to the forefront of the clean water conversation so everyone can benefit from the water resources we deeply depend on. 

Deli3The deli. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.

What sustainability practices do you have in place? 

Taylor: When COVID hit us, we had to dramatically switch our business model for to-go orders only. This provided the opportunity for us to ditch all one time use plastics and switch to sustainable, compostable utensils, plates, and glassware.  It costs much more to use these products but we see it as an investment into the environment and companies who share the same ethos as us.  Now that we have fully reopened to the public in our new location, our commitment to sustainability remains strong. We continue to utilize compostable items while also investing in reusable flatware, plates, glasses, and more. Additionally, we offer recycling and composting waste options for our guests.

Taylor: Furthermore, we strive to source raw products that are sustainably grown, harvested, and as seasonal as possible. Living in Northern Minnesota with a short growing season poses challenges, but these challenges drive our growth as a business, foster relationships with local agriculture and aquaculture, and compel us to be better stewards of the lakes, oceans, and lands that provide for us.

Smokehaus WhitefishSmokehaus Whitefish. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.

Big+Lake+and+Good+Seed+1Big Lake and Good Seed. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.  

Do you have any advice for restaurants hoping to make sustainable choices? 

Taylor: My advice is to reinvest in your local community by working with local vendors and supporting brands/products aligned with your company's ethos. The food service industry is an uphill battle every day, with challenging profit margins, the expense of quality food, a competitive labor market, long hours, and the ever-present risk of burnout. Amidst these pressures, sustainability practices can often take a backseat. However, if time is dedicated to prioritizing sustainability, I have no doubt that your guests will take notice, becoming even stronger advocates for your restaurant and its culture. 

Smokehaus TroutSmokehaus Trout. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.

Cajun-Finn-h3-2023Cajun Finn. Photo provided by Northern Waters Smokehaus.

Is your local restaurant Great Lakes Friendly?  If not, encourage them to sign up and join the movement to end single-use plastics!

Want to help Surfrider stop plastic pollution at the source? Consider donating today!