I’ve had a secret I’ve been trying to hide ever since I started working in Cloquet about 18 months ago.

I’ve, uhh, never been to Gordy’s Hi-Hat.

I know. It’s awful.

“If you’ve never been to Gordy’s, have you ever really been to Cloquet,” I’ve asked myself.

To be fair, I’ve attempted to go a number of times. Several years back, while working at the Duluth News Tribune, I did a feature on the Minnesota Wilderness. Photographer Clint Austin and I were at a game, and we were going to stop at Gordy’s for dinner beforehand.

Gordy’s closed the weekend before the game we were at.

Last summer, I planned to go a few times and each time something happened and my plans didn’t work out. Then school started, and I was planning to go grab a burger and fries before covering a Cloquet football game. One thing led to another, and I just didn’t have time to get to Gordy’s before the game.

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Back in January, I was grabbing a cup of coffee at the Warming House next door and I ran into Sever Lundquist, grandson of owner and founder Gordy Lundquist. Sever was doing some work on the store to get it ready for the planned opening in March. I admitted to Sever that I had never actually eaten at Gordy’s.

Let’s not even talk about the look of horror on Sever’s face when I told him. Needless to say, he encouraged me to remedy the situation once they opened up.

After my conversation, I started to contemplate writing about my first experience at Gordy’s — I envisioned my wife and I sitting at one of the picnic tables, chatting with other folks and enjoying a good burger and fries.

COVID-19 had other plans for Gordy’s and my column.

After a few weeks’ delay, Gordy’s finally opened to a huge crowd Wednesday, April 8, and I decided even without the idyllic situation I was going to have my first Gordy’s experience.

I pulled into the parking lot Monday, April 13, and Sever was walking back from delivering an order to a waiting car. The carhop service is a return to the “roots” of the first restaurant owned by Gordy’s — a drive-up A&W shop that opened in Duluth in 1951, Sever said.

My server — Mary Johnson — came up to take my order and tried her best to take my order from a nice, safe distance, but she had a hard time hearing me because I was wearing the mask my wife made me.

Mary Johnson, in her 11th season working at Gordy's Hi-Hat, hands Pine Journal reporter Jamey Malcomb a menu during his first visit to the restaurant Monday, April 13, in Cloquet. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal
Mary Johnson, in her 11th season working at Gordy's Hi-Hat, hands Pine Journal reporter Jamey Malcomb a menu during his first visit to the restaurant Monday, April 13, in Cloquet. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

I didn’t really think it was necessary — I was in my car and Mary was nowhere close to me — but we were taking pictures, too, and I didn’t want my wife to yell at me.

Mary told me she’s worked at Gordy’s for 11 seasons now. She didn’t plan to work this season, but her plans changed when she was laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

I ordered a couple burgers, fries and some onion rings and took it all back to my place in Duluth for lunch with my wife — since, like everyone else we know, she’s working from home, too.

After the road trip from Cloquet to Duluth, the fries and onion rings needed a few minutes in the oven to crisp back up, but they were just dandy. Since my wife was home, she already had the oven heated up.

The burgers were tasty — I had the mushroom Swiss burger and my wife had a cheeseburger — and I no longer have to hide my lack of Gordy’s experience.

Plus, thanks to COVID-19, Monday, and every day for the foreseeable future, I was able to eat lunch with my wife. While most things about this pandemic just plain stink, I’m trying to focus on a couple of the positives — like all the time I get to spend hanging out with my wife.

Maybe next year, I’ll write a sequel to this column about my first “traditional” Gordy’s experience.

Thank you to Mary, Sever and everyone at Gordy’s for staying out in the middle of all this to deliver everyone their Gordy’s fix. Thanks also to Dave Harwig for getting out in the middle of this to take some photos of me grabbing lunch. It’s not always glamorous for Dave, but he really helps us out.

Jamey Malcomb is a reporter for the Pine Journal. He can be reached at jmalcomb@pinejournal.com.