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An Important Announcement About the Future of Northern Waters Smokehaus

Over the past year, we at Northern Waters Smokehaus have taken a serious look at our history and our present business model, as a way to plan for our future success.

At the beginning, we were just a small smoked fish shop somewhere in Superior, WI. After a great deal of hand-wringing, Eric gave in and came up with a few new options to satiate the customers who craved something more. Eventually the demand for something new built up again and Eric yielded, as he did again and again, and finally arrived at something beginning to look like the diverse lineup of products we offer. Frankly, it has gotten out of hand.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, we will still be offering a wide assortment of smoked fish & meats, cheese, olives, etc.

Sandwiches were originally just a marketing ploy. A chunk of baguette, cut and butter-spackled, is a perfect vessel upon which to sample out a few slices of saucisson sec. But, as the old saying goes, if you give a customer a sample sandwich, they’re going to want a sandwich menu.

And just like the smoked meats, the demand grew and grew, and so did the menu.

Offering a dazzlingly wide variety of options on our sandwich menu eventually became a point of pride. Silly protein-related puns turned into top-down designs of new sandwiches. Sometimes an employee would slap together a few random ingredients, obsess about it, start calling it a particular name over and over until it forcibly caught on. Sandwiches even came to folks in dreams, which is a sentence I never imagined I’d be able to write in a professional setting.

So we put them on the menu, gave them glorious painstakingly crafted signage, memorized how to make them, recommended them and observed people’s reactions to the clever names…then sighed as they ordered—yet again—the Cajun Finn sandwich.

cajun finn

The Cajun Finn: Scallion cream cheese, cajun-seasoned smoked Atlantic salmon, pepperoncinis, roasted red peppers, and lettuce on a ciabatta roll. Sure, it’s good. It may even be great. Heck, it’s probably exceptional. But every time?

In its nearly two decades of existence, the Cajun Finn has earned a cult-like following, and has become nearly synonymous with the name Northern Waters Smokehaus.

We’ve listened to the people, and are giving them what they want. So, without further ado, effective today, we are truncating our sandwich menu, and only offering the Cajun Finn. In the wise words of one employee, “choice is really just a burden.”

This is it.

Gone are the days of struggling to find a spot on the sandwich line to make a Hedonist, a Sitka Sushi, or a Northern Bagel. Gone are the days of the right-hand sandwich maker joking, “time to ride ‘the Finn Train,'” because, from here on out, it’s all Finn Train all day.

Our updated sandwich menu

We hope to see you soon for a sandwich. Try the Cajun Finn! It’s the only option.

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How to Survive a Summer Line at Northern Waters Smokehaus

By Ned Netzel, Frontline Force, Musician, Sandwich Inventor

Dig, if you will, a picture of yourself entering Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace for the first time. It is a sunny, hot summer day, and you have just spent the last fifteen minutes searching for a parking spot or “bridged.” Your GPS has sent you on what seems like a wild goose- *ahem* salmon-chase, but finally you arrive at our shop—perhaps you first heard of us while watching our segment on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives (filmed during our more idle days)—and after entering through the modestly-labelled “exit” door (appropriate only while wearing a raspberry beret) are asked to head to the back of what appears to be a line all the way through the building. Trust me: Those of us making sandwiches behind the counter are just as terrified as you. And those of us behind the deli cases feel for you. Now that we’ve acknowledged the mutual trepidation, I would like to lay out a (fingers crossed) concise guide to improving your experience, and that of your fellow patrons, at our establishment.

The “Flow” of our shop

This section is not about our talented designer, “Flo;” it is about the best way to navigate our tiny shop. A somewhat superficially confusing interior design element of our shop is that the checkout register is directly next to the exit door. Allow me to explain why this works best for everyone in three short points: First, it allows us to direct our line down through the building in such a manner that it neither clogs the hallway, nor blocks the entrance to our amazing neighbors, Lake Avenue Café . Secondly, it allows us to divide our tiny (even at two-times the size it was just 3 years ago) shop into an initial grocery/deliberation section, an ordering/payment section, and a final waiting/dining section. If this path is followed, the line will move steadily and your likeliness of feeling stuck in line will decrease greatly. Order grocery items, ask questions, and contemplate your sandwich order before the register; place sandwich orders at the register; prepare to be amazed after the register. My awesome (see: helpful, hilarious) coworkers and I are always there to help with the process, but you, dear reader, shall no longer be dependent on them.
Pro-tip: If you know exactly what you want, try ordering from our pickup/delivery department. You can even order online!

 

Interacting with Our Staff

Everyone in our shop is either human or service animal, so miscommunication is inevitable, but our staff is trained to do everything in our power to provide you with excellent service. Here are a few things you should feel free to ask of us, if we haven’t already offered them:

An Italiensk sandwich from Northern Waters Smokehaus
• Menus. 99%* of the time we have them available for our deli & catering department. You can take them with you or leave them once you’re finished. If you have your smartphone or tablet with you, all of the menus are available on our website. *This is one of  85% of all statistics made up on-the-spot for the purposes of this article.

• Samples. In an ideal world, we have curated samples for you already. In reality, sometimes the line and the long hours have us focused on figuring out what you want and getting it to you in a timely manner. This is your invitation to ask for samples. You have graced our shop with your patronage (or, in other words, waited in a long line to get there), so we would like you to leave with zero surprises about whether you’re getting what you want. With a few exceptions –  mostly frozen goods –  our products are available for sampling. All we ask is that you are respectful of your fellow customers. More on this in the next section, but as always, we are available to help guide the procession.
• Advice. Listen, our shop may be very small, but it can be overwhelming. The staff at NWS will never take for granted that you share our detailed knowledge of our products (shout out to the repeat customers and regulars who do, but there’s no expectation). The sandwich board alone merits hours of analysis (and aesthetic appreciation, shout out again to the phenomenal Flo). Ask us about our favorite sandwiches/deli items, customer favorites, pro-tips, and pairing recommendations. My coworkers and I are not robots, but due to the nature of the work, we often find ourselves repeating actions and phrases throughout the day. When engaged in a friendly manner, we at NWS are among the most thoughtful, funny, and helpful customer service representatives you’ll ever meet, and we love the food we prepare. It bears repeating that we feel for those of you who wait in long lines to experience our amazing products.

Interacting with your fellow customers

Please allow me to editorialize for a minute:
So many of us walk through the world in fear of those around us, or plagued by our own anxieties and problems. Have you ever found yourself feeling lost or alone in a sea of people? Humans are social creatures, yet so much that goes on in the world can isolate us, alienate us, or upset our carefully crafted and protected comfort zones. This isn’t wrong, by any means, but it is sad. Human existence is a strange and beautiful thing, and each person has a unique perspective on the world, yet it can be very easy to allow our joy and wonderment at our environment to become anger and annoyance.
With that said, the best advice I can offer you for surviving the long summer lines at NWS is to engage your fellow customers. Perhaps the person in front of you is ordering a month’s worth of deli items and you only want to order a few sandwiches: ask them if it’s alright to pass them and order. Our staff is used to facilitating these interactions, but we are not always able to. Perhaps you are new to our establishment and the person in front of you is a veteran Smokehauser: ask them if they have any recommendations. Take a look at our Trip Advisor reviews to find that we have passionate and knowledgeable customers. If I know anything about humans, it is that we love to talk about the things we like (guilty as charged: ask me about my favorite music sometime—probably not in the NWS line, although I have occasionally jotted down music recommendations for customers when I thought they would be valued. Maybe I’ll write a future blog post about music culture at NWS. I’ll have to check with my superiors first).
Share your light with your fellow customers, and be a mirror to reflect theirs. We’re all in this together.

Miscellaneous tips

*Have a locally crafted beer with your meal. Our shop can’t sell alcohol, but our neighbors at  Lake Avenue Café have a wonderful bar (a staff favorite post-shift haunt) and a liquor license that extends to the front deck and the tables in the hallway. Get your sandwich wrapped to-go or in a basket (which we trust you will return to us), grab a drink from Lake Avenue Café, and enjoy an exquisite meal in the sunshine of our shared patio.
• Feel as if you have waited long enough in line? Get something from our grab’n’go case and skip the wait for your sandwich, or have the deli staff make you a fish basket, which is typically ready by the time you get to the register. And of course, if lines aren’t your thing, here’s another reminder that you can place delivery and pickup orders online.
• Take it all in. Since we expanded our shop in 2014, we have put a ton of work into making NWS an aesthetically pleasing experience, from the smell and taste of smoked meats, fish and charcuterie, to the visual splendor of the hand-designed sandwich menu, to the serve-yourself nature of a number of our available grocery items, even to the music playing to keep our staff and guests dancing and smiling through the workday.
• Our pickup department has their own door, located in the alleyway between  our building and Duluth Pack. Our phone number is painted on the door next to it, and all you have to do to skip our voice menu and reach the pickup department is press 1. Unfortunately, due to the heavy volume of customers in our shop, if you want to order additional items once you arrive, you’ll have to wait in line. If you find yourself in this position, please refer to our wonderful How to Survive a Summer Line at Northern Waters Smokehaus guide.

If you have any further questions about the best way to experience our shop, I’m not surprised. I have worked at NWS for a few years, and I still learn things about our shop and sandwiches every shift. Just know that we’re happy you’re here for us, and we’ll do our best to be there for you.



P.S. If you noticed the Prince allusions at the beginning of this guide, I love you and you are part of what is right with this world. Try the Purple Range sandwich: A quarter pound of pastrami, cabbage, pepperoncini and red onion on a Crayo-spackled hero roll.