Duluth Hell’s Kitchen To Close, Reopen as HellBurgers

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While I was in Duluth last weekend I stayed in the Canal Park area. It seemed like a third of the Minnesota had the same idea. I quickly found out there were two hockey tournaments and several Christmas parties.

This made it pretty impossible to get dinner reservation in the 5pm-7pm time frame at most places. Friday night we had a party of 7 and managed to get a table at Hells Kitchen with a rather short wait. The food was excellent as ever, but the service left a little something to be desired. When drinks run dry and the third attempt to remind the server is met with “I have thirteen tickets, I’ll get to you when I get to you.” there’s a temptation to roast the server, but instead I asked him “Did you just tell my wife that you’d get to us when you get to us? Profound.”. It did not seem like he had 13 open tickets, but we were a patient group and for the excellent food a few service glitches were worth tolerating. (I’m talking to you Adam, shape up dude.)

On Saturday evening I had a slightly larger party and once again everyplace in the area was booked solid, so I walked over to Hells Kitchen and they took my reservation for 5:30 and offered a small room. Score! When I was arriving a young couple walked up to the door, went inside, saw the gothic decor, and turned around. I mentioned it to the host and he said it happens a lot. I couldn’t help but wonder if Hells Kitchen was a little a head of it’s time for Duluth.

That night once again our food was great, there were a few small consistancy isssues and a couple of service glitches that made me ask the server if there was something wrong. “We’re not used to people ordering these things. It’s not like in the Cities where it’s packed all the time. That’s why we’re closing and reopening”

After a short conversation I found out they were going to rebrand as HellsBurgers, ditch the gothic decor, and focus on more standard americana fare like burgers and brauts.

So when I arrived home I shot off a letter to the owners asking them about closing and this is their response.

Basically, our food costs have risen 27% but we haven’t raised prices with the economic conditions being what they are. When we we analyzed our best sellers, it was hands-down our sandwiches and burgers, so that’s when we said “duh” and decided to expand in that direction. (A good number of diehards love our breakfasts but our strongest business by far was lunch and dinner.)
That said, we’ve been having fun designing our new menu, adding brats and a big variety of wings and even homemade foot-long corndogs and of course our award-winning chili and soups. (Note we are NOT trying to be fancy pants with foie gras burgers and exotic ideas…we’re just hoping to put out good food.)

While we’re at it, we decided to lighten up the place and remodel a bit and then we added spiked shakes (yum) for fun and then we got crazy and decided to add a movie screen to play old stuff from the 50’s 60’s 70’s and 80’s….and finally live music (free) on Saturday nights…HellBurgers give our place a nice kick in the ass, and from the immediate customer reaction to the news, our staff is feeling pretty excited about lightening up and brightening up our little corner of Canal Park.

I have to admit, it sounds like a great business move. Though, it’s a little sad the people of Duluth don’t seem to realize what a cullinary treasure they are losing in Hells Kitchen.

I’m sure HellsBurgers will still have some twists and I’ll check it out next time I”m in D-town.

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2 Comments so far

  1. stevenofsouth on December 10th, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

    Wow! Thanks for THE INFO! I LOOK forward to eating the heck out of some meat. Get it? Heck?


  2. David (jacc) on December 10th, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

    Now that’s funny on multiple levels.



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