Cloquet, MN – Diners, Drive-ins, and Dive, Dive, Dive!

Gordy’s Hi-Hat, Cloquet, Minnesota, is one of those”local legends” that the media seems to love, it’s been open since 1960. It was started, and is still operated by the family who owned one of Duluth’s (30 miles to the NE) first, and beloved drive-ins, the “London Inn,” a local high school hang out.

Duluth teenagers of the 1960s and 70s still get all glassy-eyed remembering the “Inn’s” onion rings, and the introduction of “California burgers” to their palate.

Many have tried, but failed, to duplicate the Inn’s rings, and the story was always told that the Hi-Hat, since they originated the side, filled the bill.

“Not so,” says Minnesota Burger Reporter Kawikamedia. He and his burger buddies made the trek to Gordy’s this week, on the advent of the shooting of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” featuring celebrity chef/host Guy Fieri and his traveling vintage Camaro.

The upcoming event has been prominently publicized in a recent article in the Duluth New Tribune, which recounts the history of the seasonal diner, and its founding family, the Lundquists. (This is a dated story, which will soon vanish into the paper’s paid archive section, if the link doesn’t work for you).

Kawakimedia was disappointed in the rings, which he said are not to the standard of the Inn, in his memory, and were reminiscent of any fast food ring, with far too much cornmeal as a breading choice. “If they are making them on site, as they say, they are wasting their time.”

The California burger disappointed as well, as did a mushroom and swiss burger also ordered by the party. While the patties were fresh meat once, they were undercooked, and had a “gray” pallor which was unappetizing.

Unrelated to the food, but a disappointment to the party as well, was the boast of free wifi, so the posse could crank out their verbage on their iPads….the wifi was next door at the co-owned ice cream parlor, just out of reach of the burger eaters.

Guy Fieri’s show makes all places he visits look most appealing, and I have enjoyed dropping in on many of his recommendations. I often wonder, watching an episode, how many places they shoot, or start to shoot, and abort, because the food doesn’t live up to the legend, or they just can’t get any personality out of a place or individual.

That I will never know. But I do know that no matter how lucious he makes the burgers and rings sound, at least two local burgermeisters will take exception to Guy’s opinion. While in the area, Fieri and/or the crew also visited the Duluth Grill, a former “Embers” restaurant (slogan used to be “If you don’t like your meat, it will be cheerfully exchanged!”) and, At Sara’s Table, in the Chester Creek neighborhood, possibly as fine a stop as Duluth has.

If you are determined to hit Gordy’s in anycase, you can make your drive have some merit, as Cloquet is the home of the only gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, recently lovingly restored by local oil barons, the McKinney family.

Want to make the London Inn’s rings at home? This is supposedly the real deal recipe:

London Inn Drive-in Onion Rings

4 jumbo onions
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
3 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 pint milk

Peel and slice onions into 1/2 inch thickness.
Pop out centers and rings.
Put all batter ingredients in
mixer bowl and blend thoroughly. [
Batter is thicker than pancake mix.
] Coat onion slices well.
Fry rings until golden brown,
salt with Lawry’s seasoned salt.

Source: Huck Andresen


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