It’s one of those places that people would describe as “it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.” Grand Marais, Minnesota, on Lake Superior almost at the Canadian border, an early French fur trading post, the translation of the town’s name is “Great Marsh.” The town is accessed via US Highway 61 (yes, the Bob Dylan one), and is approximately three hours north of Duluth and forty minutes south of the Canadian border. It’s an ideal jumping off spot to explore the magnificent Boundary Waters Canoe Area, national park.
It was 1981 when two brothers opened what we’d now call a “pop up” – a snack shop for the local Grand Marais summer celebration. It went so well, they reopened the next year and stayed open, expanding their menu to include pizza.
“Sven & Ole” are fictional characters in Scandinavian lore, and the frequent target of self-effacing jokes, much like “Boudreaux and Thibodeaux” are in the Louisiana area. Ole & Lena gags are another variation of the northern-European humor. (example: “Ole and Sven are at a funeral. Suddenly it occurs to Ole that he doesn’t remember the name of the dearly departed. Ole turns to Sven and asks: “Sven, could you remind me again who died?” Sven thinks for a moment and says, “I’m not sure,” Sven points at the casket, “…but I think it was de guy in de box.”)
Sven & Ole’s pizza has taken on a somewhat legendary status in Northern Minnesota, and has launched a campaign to be provided in regional bars and groceries. Like so many national brands that started in Minnesota and Wisconsin, using bars as outlets is a great way to build name recognition.
One of the few outlets our reporters have found so bar is a Superior, Wisconsin, gentlemen’s club, Centerfolds Cabaret (opens daily at 5 PM) on the main drag of Tower Avenue. Centerfolds bakes up frozen versions of Sven & Ole’s, and Kawika and the Minnesota burger posse were quite impressed with the pie. They liked the crispy crust, high quality pepperoni and sausage and ample cheese. Centerfold’s offers a number of condiments table side if you want to amp up your pie. Hot sauces are not advisable for application to other pies found in the club, tho.
If you live in Northern Minnesota or Wisconsin, you might start seeing Sven & Ole’s frozen pizza in your grocery. Ask for it by name(s).
Need another reason to visit Grand Marais besides pizza? (I don’t, but you might). Head up for the annual Fisherman’s Picnic at the end of July when the town really goes “wild.” You’ll also have the change to partake in the local favorite, deep fried herring on a bun! Herring used to be a major cash crop from Lake Superior – but not so much these days. Or try some smoked Lake Trout from the Dockside Fish Market(summer and fall only).
Superior, Wisconsin, appears just far enough away from Madison that it remains out of the clutches of Wisconsin’s nuttier than a fruitcake governor Scott Walker.