McGowan’s Menu: Karl’s Cuisine, Cafe and Winery

It isn’t every restaurant that has an international tourist attraction across the street from its dining room.

Karl’s Cuisine, Cafe and Winery has the Soo Locks across the street.

If you time things right, you just might see a freighter come through while you’re dining. But as John McGowan found out, Karl’s is a destination in its own right for lots of tasty reason.

The Locks are a major attraction to visitors to Sault Ste. Marie, and if you’d like to watch the big freighters come through, while enjoying lunch or dinner, Karl’s Cuisine, Cafe and Winery needs to be a stop on your visit. It’s been around in various forms for about 11 years.

“Well, when we first started we thought it would be more of a deli style, where people would walk up to a counter, and we’d have lots of different salads and stuff for people to buy, but as the years went on, we found that full service was the way to go. People appreciated that more, and so we changed our style a little bit there,” explains co-owner and chef Karl Nelson. 

It’s Karl’s name on the restaurant and it was his dream to one day have his own place, but the whole Nelson family is involved in running the restaurant. Wife Paula handles the business side.

“We’re kind of quirky. We’re in the shape of a boat, a little eclectic, our foods are all over the board. We don’t specialize in just one type of food, we love to experiment with all different ethnic foods, and American food,” says Paula.

“And our steak, a five ounce portion of New York Strip cut like a medallion.” Son in law Jared Gaul came from Iowa to major in fishery and wildlife studies at Lake Superior State University. But somehow he got side-tracked and now years later, he is helping Karl in the kitchen. This steak dish he’s preparing is a special. Karl’s features at least two specials a night for dinner.

Jared explains, “Today I’m going to prepare for you a blue cheese crusted New York strip medallion with morel mushrooms and wild leek risotto with a side of our house vegetable.”

They feature several salads as well. Their house salad is their biggest seller.

“And of course, it’s got Traverse City cherries in it. We make a sugared pecan that we do ourselves, and we put that in there and feta cheese, and of course, we make our own dressings too. So there’s a balsamic vinegar dressing that’s in there and really puts the salad together and makes it pop,” says Karl.

But one thing has been there since the beginning at Karl’s, and it’s as popular as it’s ever been.

“Our strombolis are available for both lunch and dinner, and catering. We do a lot of catering with strombolis.”

It’s basically pizza dough wrapped around ingredients. This one is the Italian Stromboli, and the Greek with all the fresh spinach leaves is about as popular. It’s something that would never come off the menu.

“I’d say our biggest seller is Stromboli. That’s what we started in the beginning. It’s been with us ’til now, and we sell a lot of Stromboli and I would hate to see it go away.”

Three years ago they acquired a winery and that part of their business will be expanding.

PPaulasays, “But we do get it in the juice form. We just put in a vineyard in our home three years ago, we’re adding a hundred grapes a spring. And we will be developing our own original wine from our grapes in the near future, which we’re really excited about.”

Paula is also proud of their fish selections, particularly the planked whitefish and the Alaska salmon.

Both Karl and Paula say they do their best to make their guests feel welcome.

“Well I hope that they’re happy with the food, and that the view that we have here is fantastic. Hopefully they get top see some freighters go by and enjoy Sault Ste. Marie,” says Karl. 

“I think it’s just a fun comfortable place to get a great meal, where you leave totally satisfied have a wonderful glass of wine, enjoy your good company, and have great service,” Paula says. 

Karl’s cuisine, Cafe and Winery is located on West Portage in Sault Ste. Marie, right across the street from the Locks. They’re open six days a week 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.