The Red Herring: A new Duluth hot spot


Duluth is not a city with a lack of good bars or venues.  It seems that every block on Superior Street has its own bar with either a performance spacebrewery or both. With all that competition, this city seems like a tough market to start up a new bar. But the Red Herring is going to give it a try.

The Red Herring is a new bar/venue that just opened up on First Street in Duluth, right across from the Encounter.  I stopped in and took a look at the brand new place to see what all the commotion was about.



As I entered the dimly lit bar, there was a sense of openness to it. The opened garage door let patrons breathe in plenty of fresh air, opposed to a cramped, stuffy feel that some other windowless bars have. Brightly colored paintings are hung on the wall with pictures of flowers, animals, and rounded, primordial shapes. The bar’s furniture is mismatched as if they had been freshly picked from a high end yard sale.



After talking to Ellen Vaagen it became obvious where some of this excitement and atmosphere came from. Vaagen is a beaming young bartender at the Red Herring who has been working there since its June 4 opening.  She was quick to point out her favorite parts of the new bar.

“We have nice booze!” Vaagen said. “There’s a really good beer selection. And we have prairie organic vodka that’s from Minnesota.  It’s our rail vodka so it’s the base for all our cocktails.”



While most bars use cheaper brands as their go-to cocktail base, the Red Herring attempts to up the ante with more superb liquor choices. One of the most important elements to consider when opening a bar is the atmosphere, and the Red Herring’s is just right. When I stopped in there was no musical act playing and a low lull throughout the bar.

“It has a lot more space to spread out,” Vaagen said. “It’s kind of a quieter environment so you don’t have to yell over loud music.”

Of course, it’s not always quiet in the Red Herring. Being that it is a venue with frequent shows, the bar’s mood is liable to lean towards the rambunctious side while musical acts play.

“During shows it’s a much more rowdy crowd,” Vaagen said.



Another unique aspect of the Red Herring is its wide range of patrons. The bar is not known to attract only one age range, but many. Bar-goers young and old have flocked to the new bar looking for a fresh watering hole. This is another thing Vaagen loves about her new place of employment.

“[There are] lots of twenty and thirty-somethings coming in,” Vaagen said. “Lots of couples on date nights who want to grab a cocktail or people getting a drink before a show.

The Red Herring is quickly becoming a staple in Duluth’s night scene and grabbing its place in Duluth’s history.

“It’s been cool watching it develop from the ground up,” said Vaagen. “I kind of have a part in all of it, you know?”


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