At Black Woods, we like to think of ourselves as more than just restaurants.
Locally owned and family-operated since the early 90’s, we take pride in treating our guests like family and serving our community through fundraising programs; donations and contributions; and grassroots, hands-on involvement with local organizations that share our commitment to giving back. Our support of all things local doesn’t end with our community work. That’s why we partner with a variety of Minnesota and Wisconsin companies throughout the year to ensure that as our menu changes with the seasons, it remains filled with the healthy, farm-fresh, and organic ingredients that you’ve come to expect from Black Woods.
So, from our family to yours, welcome to Black Woods! We hope you love our food as much as we love preparing and serving it – and we hope we’ll see you back soon!
Black Woods is locally owned and operated. We opened the first restaurant in Two Harbors in 1994 and have grown through the hard work and dedication of our employees who make up our family. Most of our management grew along with us through other positions in the company.
Black Woods has branched out to include restaurants in Duluth, Proctor and Two Harbors and catering services across Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Black Water Lounge and Greysolon Ballroom. We now employ more than 400 people.
We value the strength of our communities and believe in the rewards of their growth. Black Woods is a proud supporter of local elementary and high schools, UMD Athletics and Fine Arts, and the Duluth Heritage Sports Center. We’re honored to have helped raise more than 4 million dollars to date for those affected with ALS through our sponsorship of the annual Black Woods Blizzard Tour snowmobile ride. We also do our part to help stimulate the local economy by purchasing ingredients, supplies and equipment from regional markets.
We reach out in support of local fundraising opportunities. With our various venues and locations, Black Woods will assist your fundraiser to make it successful. We will go above and beyond for your cause. From the Boys & Girls Club of the Northland to the Minnesota/Wisconsin ALS Association, we have helped raise thousands of dollars for the community.
Ben Thoen grew up in Washburn, WI and after graduating from Washburn High School attended Le Cordon Bleu. Classically trained during school, Chef Thoen had the opportunity to work under very accomplished chefs his entire career, beginning at a young age. His first job at the age of 13 was with Good Thyme Bistro in Washburn working with Chef Chris Basnia and launched him into everything hospitality. His fondest memories of his early career are of working with French Chef Germain Palledeau learning the ins and outs of the business of food and honing in his catering and banquet skills in Chicago, IL for Lettuce Entertain You and Wolfgang Puck Catering. Chef most recently had the opportunity to train in Miami Beach, FL and earn his Vegan & Raw Chef Certification with Vegan Fusion ™. Chef Thoen is very happy once again back home in the Midwest after having lived across the country and could not be more proud than to work with the Black Woods Group. As Executive Chef he leads the restaurant location kitchens and works side by side with the creative sales teams, skilled general managers and the powerful support teams that make up the Black Woods Group.
Blake Yorde was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but has made his home in the Northland for almost his entire life. He went to High School at Duluth East before proceeding on to University of Minnesota Duluth to pursue a degree in Communication with a Minor in Coaching. Blake feels these degrees proved that he could learn and helped him polish his ability to talk to a wide range of people.
Blake began his career in the hospitality industry when a friend approached him to assist at Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors, MN. There, he ran the deli and got his start in banquet bartending. After a few years, Blake was ready to come back to Duluth. This was when he found his place within the Black Woods Group. He worked at the Duluth Black Woods and at the Greysolon Ballroom by Black Woods before becoming the General Manager of Black Water Lounge in 2011. He oversaw Black Water for almost three years. Blake left the company for a short period of time after that but made his way back to the Group when he began bartending at Tavern on the Hill in 2015. Then, in 2018, he transitioned back into a management role and now leads as the General Manager of Black Woods on the Lake. Blake feels the most important part of his job is to take care of our guests, and to provide them with a complete dining experience.
Blake is an adventurous Minnesota Man. He is passionate about the outdoors and spends as much time as he can either in the woods or in a boat. He found his “little piece of heaven,” in Alaska, where he has been a fishing guide for most of his adult life. During the winter, when Blake isn’t ice fishing, you can find him at Spirit Mountain, making the fresh snow powder so that people can go snowboarding, skiing, and tubing. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Joy, and his 10-year-old Alaskan Malamute, Sage.
Growing up I’ve always had a passion and commitment to make other people happy, throughout my younger life I’ve moved around and always followed my heart to keep people smiling.
Beginning my career in the restaurant business nearly 15 years ago, I began climbing the ranks from the dishwashing position to a hosting position and many more odd jobs around the restaurant. Once I graduated from Duluth East school I moved to the twin cities where I continued working in the hospitality industry. My love for people has kept me constantly striving to make an impact in the lives of so many people, in so many places. My management experience does include 10+ years of assisting in management, as well as hourly positions before that at a few other Twin City establishments.
On my time off I spend my days mostly outside, playing football or basketball or walking my two dogs. Another passion of mine is travel, especially a weekend out to Las Vegas, or even if it is just to Minneapolis for a Vikings game or even a Wild Hockey Game, or up to Grand Marais for a day trip.
As I’ve stated before, I have an ongoing passion for this business and I only hope to have an impact similar to the one Black Woods Group has had on me. Whenever you are up the North Shore be sure to stop in and say hi and meet our great team!
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