Mama T's Smokin' Eats serves up fresh dishes in South Superior
Located in the former Hacienda building, the business offers southern comfort foods and signature drinks.
SUPERIOR — Tanya Lowney serves up southern comfort food and signature drinks in Superior's South End neighborhood five days a week. She opened Mama T’s Smokin’ Eats Aug. 29.
“I wanted to bring something different to Superior,” she said.
The response to the family run business, located across the street from Village Lanes, has been overwhelming. Lowney said they're going through 200 pounds of pork, 120 pounds of wings and 60 pounds of pastrami in two days.
She couldn’t pin down the most popular item.
“Everything has been a hit,” the business owner said.
Battling supply chain issues and rising food prices, Lowney has adopted a new model.
“When we’re out, we’re out, because we’re doing the volumes of the DECC right now,” she said. “What the DECC does in catering volume we’re doing here in this little place.”
She’s been upfront with patrons about that fact, and posts updates daily on the business's Facebook page .
On Friday, Sept. 16, most of the tables were full of diners sampling an assortment of sandwiches, burgers and fries. Mike Gavin, who lives about 10 blocks from Mama T’s, was back for his second taste. Over Labor Day weekend, he ordered the nachos.
He chose the pastrami Reuben for his second outing, while his friend Ashley Hart opted for the Ultimate Smokin’ Pork.
“They're both very good,” Gavin said, and he planned to return. “I like seeing more restaurants pop up here in South Superior.”
Fulfilling a dream
Mama T’s Smokin’ Eats is located in the former Hacienda building at 6428 Tower Ave. Lowney, who grew up in South Superior, worked at the Hacienda for former owner Sandy Rivord while she was going to college. Lowney went on to work as building and grounds manager at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.
When the Hacienda closed its doors in June, the South End native saw an opportunity.
“This has been my dream for my entire life is to open my own restaurant,” she said.
Visitors will see an entirely remodeled interior and a new deck outside. They’ll be able to pick from a menu filled with house specialties and signature sauces.
“All of our items are fresh. Nothing is frozen other than our cheese curds,” Lowney said.
The hamburger is ground at nearby Superior Meats; other meats are smoked on-site. The poblano peppers and tomatoes featured in meals come straight from Lowney’s garden.
“I try to use as much fresh ingredients as I can. If I don’t have it at home, I will go to the farmers' market and buy from the farmers' markets. So I want my customers to have the freshest, highest quality food here,” Lowney said.
Many of the recipes, like the business itself, are rooted in family.
“I got my love of cooking from both of my grandparents,” Lowney said, crediting grandmothers Ann Bezlay and Annie Francis-Olson for their influence.
Some of the items on the menu have been named in honor of Lowney’s five children.
“Each one of my kids have a nickname, so I kind of named it after their favorite foods,” she said.
The Big Boy Burger is named after her oldest son; the smoked shredded pork sandwich with poblano and jalapeno peppers is named the Peanuts Inferno after Lowney’s “number two child,” who likes everything spicy.
“And then I have a JoJo Burger. He’s my picky one. He just likes meat and cheese,” Lowney said.
Mama T’s offers a range of signature drinks and craft brews, as well. The kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to bar close Friday and Saturday, with the kitchen closing at 7 p.m. daily.
Sundays are "Fundays" at the restaurant, where an alternative menu will be served in addition to wings, pizzas and Mama T’s signature apps — mac and cheese bites, cheese curds and poutine. On Sunday, Sept. 25, for example, the business hosts an Oktoberfest celebration featuring brats, Bavarian pretzels, Earth Rider Oktoberfest and Bent Paddle’s Dark Coffee beers.
Lowney has plans to add a pavilion and deck expansion to the site, as well as a breakfast menu. She is currently seeking additional employees — cooks, servers and a dishwasher — to allow the business to expand to seven days a week. Mama T's currently employs 10. Applicants can message the restaurant on Facebook or stop by during business hours. Her goal, Lowney said, is to bring some life back to Superior.
“Everybody’s always going to Duluth, which is great, however we need to support each others' local businesses, and that’s really important to me,” she said.