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Vincent expands business footprint with second restaurant

Owner Jason Vincent stands at the bar in the former Midi Restaurant in the Fitger’s Complex. He’s turning the space into The Boat Club, slated to open next month. (Duluth News Tribune photo by Steve Kuchera)1 / 3
Gary Johnson of Kraus-Anderson Construction removes the “M” from above the doorway to the former Midi Restaurant on Tuesday. The space in the Fitger’s Complex is being converted into The Boat Club, a nautical themed restaurant serving fish, seafood, steaks, burgers and sandwiches. (Duluth News Tribune photo by Steve Kuchera)2 / 3
Barrell O’Brien of Johnson’s Carpet wheels a trash barrel full of debris from the former Midi Restaurant space on Tuesday. (Duluth News Tribune photo by Steve Kuchera)3 / 3

The ship is coming in for Duluth diners at the Fitger's complex, and it's coming fast.

The Boat Club Restaurant & Bar will replace the recently closed Midi Restaurant in early February, remaking the storied space in just over five weeks.

"It's really Duluth's original waterfront restaurant," said new owner Jason Vincent. "It's amazing to be a part of that history and nostalgia."

Midi served its last meal on New Year's Eve after nine years at the 600 E. Superior St. complex, and the changeover started soon after. Vincent intends to open The Boat Club on Feb. 10, in time for Valentine's Day weekend.

"We're ahead of schedule," he said amid the intentioned scurry of a dozen workers Tuesday morning.

Vincent has owned the Vanilla Bean Restaurant in Two Harbors for two and a half years and last spring brought the Vanilla Bean coffee shop to the Fitger's complex. The former newsman admits he hasn't spent a lot of time as a restaurateur, but he's inspired confidence where it counts.

"He does have high standards," said Fitger's mall manager Tami Tanski Sherman. "All the businesses here are successful, all are locally owned — including this building — and this location can't be beat."

Vincent is looking to focus on local fish, fresh seafood and steaks, as well as burgers and sandwiches. He's bringing in an experienced chef from the Twin Cities, and the bar manager has a new drink menu in the works.

"People are tired of the chain feel, chain food," Vincent said. "We want to give them quality, upscale food. I think we've built a name (at Vanilla Bean) with quality, made-from-scratch food and top-notch service."

The Boat Club will inherit Midi's staff, but Vincent intends to add to its roster. The restaurant is hosted a hiring event for all positions Thursday.

"We are expecting to be busy," Vincent said.

The restaurant's hours will be expanded, serving breakfast at 5 a.m. every day and dinner until 11 p.m. on weekends, and reservations will soon be taken online at

While The Boat Club will cater to guests at Fitger's Inn, Vincent said there will be a balance serving locals as well. He pointed to the four banquet rooms and the recently remodeled Fitger's theater as amenities for the community and visitors. Plus, the pedestrian bridge over the Lakewalk will again offer full-service dining, adding to the outdoor seating options.

"There will also be a bar on the patio as well, though it won't be the Tiki bar," Vincent said.

Midi opened in 2007 following the closure of Bennett's on the Lake. Owner Marie Schmidt posted a farewell on Facebook and said it was an "honor" to have served for so many years.

Amid bare walls and floors Tuesday, an easel held the themes for the restaurant's future identity — nautical simplicity.

"We don't want to do anything that is distracting from the view," Vincent said as a picturesque snowfall piled high outside the big windows.

As the Midi flag lowers and The Boat Club's goes up, one thing might stand out for returning guests the most.

"Every table gets a shipping schedule," Vincent said, "because waiters were so often asked, 'What's that boat out there?'"

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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