Norwegians aren’t known for their pizza-making skills, but don’t let that scare you away from Sven and Ole’s, blocks from Lake Superior in downtown Grand Marais. Just accept the restaurant’s name as a nod to Minnesota’s Scandinavian heritage and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
The large, open dining room is done up North Woods-style, with standard padded forest-color booths, a collection of wooden tables and flat-screen TVs, plus walls covered in a mishmash of collectibles, such as deer and fish mounts, wooden skis and antique fishing poles. Customers access a small lofted bar called the Pickled Herring Club, stocked with about 50 beer varieties, via an easy-to-miss stairway in the back of the room.
Order at the counter-mini ice cream parlor. You’ll soon see that the Minnesootah theme carries through the pizza menu, where hand-tossed selections include the Vild Vun topped with Canadian bacon, fresh mushrooms, black olives, onions, green peppers and wild rice, a surprisingly delicious combo. Really. There’s also gluten-free pizza and a range of deep-dish offerings, as well as hoagies, pastas, salads and appetizers—pickled herring and crackers sit alongside more traditional garlic bread and chicken wings.
The pizza is the thing to try, though. Devotees are easy to spot on Minnesota roadways and beyond, because the place gives away tens of thousands of Sven and Ole’s bumper stickers annually. If your server doesn’t deliver one with your food, ask.