Joe Huie’s Cafe

Feb. 14, 1988

With a wave, Joe Huie retired from his landmark Duluth cafe in 1973. (News Tribune file photo)

Duluth remembers Joe Huie

By Don Jacobson, News-Tribune

The death of 95-year-old Joe Huie, former Duluth restaurateur, on Friday (Feb. 12, 1988) brought forth a flood of memories from residents who recalled Huie’s eatery as “the” place to go in Duluth.

Joe Huie’s Cafe was known not only for authentic Oriental food at great prices, but also for the fun and companionship that were always part of the meal, the residents said.

But even more than the restaurant, the residents remembered Joe Huie himself. He was described as honest, hard-working and always willing to help a friend — of which he had many, from residents of skid row to prominent politicians.

Joe Huie came to Duluth in 1909 from Canton, China. After working in several other restaurants, he opened Joe Huie’s Cafe in the 1940s.

Joe Huie’s Cafe was an unpretentious, somewhat cramped restaurant at 103 Lake Ave. S. It had wooden booths, unadorned walls and ceilings and a utilitarian lunch counter.

It was an around-the-clock operation which became especially popular with the bar-rush crowd.

“I remember that people would stand in line to get into Joe Huie’s at 1 a.m. and the line would stretch for blocks,” said Walter Pietrowski, a Park Point resident. “It didn’t matter if it was raining or if there was a blizzard — they’d be out there.”

Pietrowski described Huie as “just a wonderful guy who never got mad, not even at drunks. It was the kind of place that you could go to at night and see every kind of person, from women in ballroom gowns to street people. It was a real melting pot.”

Pietrowski remembered that Huie would come down to the grocery wholesale house where he worked as a teenager to buy vegetables. “He was incredibly punctual, every day at exactly the same time. And he would only buy the best vegetables, and would mark them to make sure they were the same ones that we delivered to him.”

Duluth’s residents “lost an institution when they lost Joe Huie,” said multimillionaire Jeno Paulucci on Saturday, himself no stranger to Chinese food. “What I remember most about him was that no matter who you were or when you went there, you were welcome. He was an honest, friendly man. And he was such a hard worker. No matter how early I would stop by, he was there.”

Huie’s was also a favorite spot of Duluth police officers. Duluth Police Chief Eli Miletich said he remembered Joe Huie’s Cafe as such a popular place that “people would drive up from the Twin Cities just to have a meal there.”

“Joe himself was a gentleman among gentlemen,” Miletich said. “When I was a young officer, we would have coffee there and he would tell us great tales from his own youth.

“Joe Huie represented the best of the people of Duluth.”

Miletich recalled one incident that happened around 1970. Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey was in Duluth for “some function or another,” Miletich said.

“It was a quiet Saturday morning, and Humphrey was driving up the street toward the airport, where he had a plane waiting for him. As we were going up Lake Avenue, he saw Joe on the street and immediately stopped the motorcade.

“He jumped out, hugged him, and talked to him for a good 10 minutes while his aides were tugging at his sleeve.”

Humphrey had no political motive to do it, Miletich said. “He just loved Joe like everybody else.”

Share your memories by posting a comment.

3 Responses

  1. The father of a friend of mine, Manley Burns, assembled a large collection of photos of Duluth during the 1950-60’s when he was a highway inspector while the freeway was being built. Last I saw of the collection it was at the UMD library. I believe it was for a Master’s thesis. The librarian also was able to copy photos for me. I hope to see the pbotos again and I hope they are still there. They include homes and businesses especially in West Duluth and the West End.

  2. Brian Rajala

    My college roommate and I splurged every so often going to Joe Huie’s (the early 1960’s) for dinner so no dishes to wash.

    Once, I was served a salad with a dead fly. When I pointed it out to the waitress she reached in, pulled out the fly and without saying a word, tossed it on the floor.

    End of problem?!

  3. Willie

    Joe Huie fried shrimp to this day is still the best I have ever had. Never found anyone who made it like he did. We lived in woodland and my dad would take me there often when I was a little boy in the late 60’s and 70’s. I was scared of the patrons at the next door Metropol bar but dad being 6’5″ and very big made me feel very safe! Miss both of them so much

Comments are closed.