Downtown St. Paul lunch, walkable? Cheap and quick a big plus
Recently started working in downtown St. Paul. Any recs on good lunch spots?
I'm looking for places within a ten-minute walk from 5th & St Peter (shorter is better)... I can probably do occasional visits to sit-down places, but more often I'll be limited to spots where I can duck in, order my chow, and either eat it there or carry it back to the office. Budget is about ten bucks a day, with occasional splurges.
So far I've tried -
Kincaid's. They actually cater the employee cafeteria where I work; excellent sandwich/soup combos for $6, etc. I wasn't impressed with the caesar salad but have enjoyed everything else I've had.
Aroma's Pizza in the Lowry building. The only place I've found out here that has hot slices ready to be served (*NOT* precooked-and-chilled slices to be popped into the oven to warm over and dry out). Good pizza, and a pizza-salad-drink combo. I was happy to find this place but wonder how they stay in business -- they're tucked away in a back corner of this building -- no sign outside that I could see.
D. Brian's in Town Square. Love their Chipotle Chicken wrap, but after wondering about the doneness of the chicken once, and getting a piece of underdone chicken the next time, and watching them pull the chicken out of a plastic tub with a mysterious slightly pinkish liquid the third time, I've given up.
Hunan Garden. Just-okay smallish greatest-hits-of-Chinese-American buffet; cheap at under $7.
There's Chipotle, of course.
Am also aware of Subway, Quiznos, McDonald's, LeeAnn Chin in skyways, and a Jimmy John's at 7th Place. Was sniffing curiously around A Rebours but there was no menu posted outside (c'mon, restauranteurs, I want to see what I'm getting myself into before I walk in and take up your time). Am curious about Matty B's Supper Club, which seems to have reasonable lunch prices.
Appreciate any comments.
Babani's, on the corner of 10th and St. Peter. It's America's first (only?) Kurdish restaurant. I'd walk a mile for the dowjic soup, which contains chicken broth, lemon, yogurt, basil, and rice. The food has a definite Middle Eastern leaning (tabbouleh, kebabs, etc.) but differs enough from typical fare to be worth a visit.
Oh the chains - I used to work in downtown st paul and really there needs to be better options.
D Brians is great - but you will really be sick of it before you know it.
Does the Liffey do anything for lunch? I haven't eaten there but have had food from the Local which is the same and is fine for lunch.
Patrick McGoverns has excellent Turkey items - big enough to split a to go for 2 days of lunches.
And what is the pizza place across the street - I can't think of it - but its excellent - big portions of italian specials & good slices. Same side as McGoverns, but a block closer to the Liffey....can't think of the name.
I just had one of Cossetta's cannoli this weekend, and was pretty underwhelmed. I like Cossetta's in general, but their cannoli seemed to be filled with some sort of strange overly whipped, overly flavored, mascarpone-like cream. The pastry was not super-crisp, but not as soggy as others I have had.
I still have not found what I would consider a great cannoli in the cities (even after reading Dara M's article on the subject), but am hopeful that D'Allesantro's deli in the North Loop may be the savior. They are my new favorite lunch spot, now that I'm working within walking distance -- and they have had consistently great Italian and Italian-American dishes. You could transplant them to northeastern NJ and they could hold their own. Last week I saw cannoli on their "specials" board, but sadly I was already chowed-out.
re: Chris Mitra
I am really sorry to hear that about a Cossetta's cannoli.
The one I had a couple of months ago seemed to have ricotta
in the filling, which was the only way I really like them.
Lund's seems to have mascarpone in theirs, and the effect is
too light, like whipped cream. I suppose the shell may have
been a bit less than super crispy, which is inevitable unless they are filled to order. I don't mind that aspect though. Let us know how the Buon Giorno ones are.
Faith -- I agree, I only like my cannoli with ricotta, which is why I was disappointed with the one I got from Cossetta's. I just Google'd the Dara article about cannoli for reference again, and it turns out that her Cossetta cannoli also was the same mascarpone/whipped cream kind that I received.
MSPD -- Buon Giorno is one of the few that I have not yet tried, but it is on my "to-do" list.
KTFoley -- Yeah, definitely check out D'Allesantro's. I had been meaning to post about it here before, but had not gotten around to it yet. It is a great lunch place because their daily specials are always changing -- I don't think I have seen a repeat yet. They have had a number of regional dishes that I have not seen anywhere else (except when growing up in NJ).
Yes, get to Buon Giorno. It's comparable to the best I've had in NYC (including Viniero's, Ferrara, Bruno Bakery, DeRoberti's, etc.) Maybe Dara wouldn't, but I would drive from Bismarck to get one.
Like a moth to one of those redneck bug zapping lights, every time a thread about cannoli hits this board, I helplessly trek over to Buon Giorno and have them fill me one (or two or three). Today was no exception.
The beauty of Buon Giorno is that even if you hate their cannoli, something will make your trip worthwhile. I'm more impressed with their desserts every time I'm there -- they've put a lot of effort and talent into their bakery case.
Hi all. Thanks for the tips! I'll have to check out Babani's, Patrick McGovern's, and the Liffey some time when I can take a longer lunch.
I tried Cossetta's some years ago, but I don't remember how I liked it. Maybe it's time for a return visit...
Interesting side discussion of cannoli. As far as I'm concerned, if it isn't ricotta, it isn't real cannoli and I'm not interested. :)
While hijacking the thread I forgot the original point: Tanpopo is probably my favorite downtown St. Paul place. I'd be a regular there if I worked nearby. A Rebours would also be high on the list although I haven't been there for ages at lunch. When I was, they had a great charcuterie plate for $8 -- a steal and would be a filling lunch. I'm envisioning lunch specials at St. Paul Grill and Sakura as well.
While there are many chowish options in downtown St. Paul, I couldn't think of much that I would consider truly walkable (without feeling overly rushed) from your location. If you're willing to walk to Tanpopo (which is fabulous), then Black Dog Cafe is a good option for sandwiches or pizza.
But, has anyone heard of Mr. B's Bar-B-Que in the Food Court at Northwest Center? It was mentioned in the Pioneer Press the other day. Sounds like it could be very close to you... If you try it, please do report back.
re: The Dairy Queen
I ate at Mr. B's earlier this week. I had a huge BBQ chicken sandwich. The sauce was excellent, slightly sweet and spicy. Definetly enough sandwich for more than one meal if you can figure out how to save it without the bun turning to complete mush. Bonus cookie place across the hall for dessert.
Also in the same food court area is a Eddington's (soups, salads, sandwiches), a mexican joint and a pizza place that supposedly has a 2 slices and pop deal for $5.
May be a bit of a walk but I'll mention the Gopher Bar (NE corner of Wacouta and 7th). The coney island dogs really are the best I've ever had.
I don't want to muddy the waters with non-chow info but the Gopher does seem to have a "cranky" reputation on certain subjects. I suspect they're not trying very hard to enforce the smoking ban; I think they've had their wrist slapped for that. I also recall some minor skirmish a few years back about some gay-unfriendly tshirts the staff was wearing.
On to happier subjects: I think they do pretty brisk lunch business. You won't find anything that transcends "Bar Food" but my experience has been good. I'd stop by occasionally if I worked anywhere close.
ps: big "ups" for Ruam Mit and Babani's -- sure wish I worked walking distance to those places!
re: shoo bee doo
That place has been closed for more than 10 years. There was a dustup several years back when The St. Paul Cos. wanted to purchase the Seventh Place block to expand its headquarters; the Coney Island owner put up a huge fuss, saying that he was going to reopen any minute -- but it never happened. I believe the block has now been designated a historic landmark.
Just down 7th from Cosettas (away from downtown) is an Irish pub. Can't recall the name, but you can't miss it. Good reubens there.
D'Brian's was good the last time I tried 'em. They had a cranberry mayo that was very nice. They're in the skyway system, one building away from the Norwest/Wells Fargo tower on the skyway level, just behind the escalator that used to lead to that indoor park. (or at least they were the last time I wandered through the skyway)
there's a decent place for soup on the first floor of Galtier, right near the main entrance.
And if they're still letting the general public in, the Minnesota Life cafeteria had some good burgers and onion rings, and their salad bar was respectable too. They're also good for breakfast. Everyone went nuts over the cheesy hashbrowns. Didn't do much for me, but I'd hear people talking about them all over town.
Were you referring to the soup at the LoTo? It's an excellent place opened by David Fhima, the owner of Fhima's. The food is excellent, prices are fair, a good happy hour, and the view of Mears Park is relaxing. In addition to the bar/restaurant, I believe they also have a coffee shop, wine shop, and bakery/deli in that same space. I highly recommend the hummus and the beef stew.
If you're into Thai, consider Ruam Mit Thai Cafe (475 Saint Peter St, just north of West 7th).
And, with a little walking, you can have great pizza at Red's Savoy Pizza (421 7th St E, St Paul, 55101 - (651) 227-1437) -- great place for beers after work too, and I think it may be the only bar in town with union wait-staff.
Oh, reading your initial post I was all set to chime in with my recommendations, but I see I've been beaten to the punch on most of them. Given your criteria, I'd second recommendations to Ruam Mit Thai (takeout would be a good idea given your time constraints) and Black Dog (for pizza, if you have an hour long break).
Also, if it's still open, the cafeteria on the 3rd floor at what was Marshall Fields (now Macy's) had some good salads and wrap sandwiches - I am/was particularly fond of the fresh mozzarella salad and the Kobe beef wrap (which is not on the everyday menu but showed up from time to time as a special).
Finally, I'm glad you discovered the cookie place, which is what I miss most about workng downtown St. Paul - if you haven't yet, try their snickerdoodle - it's just divine, especially with some ice cold milk. Mmm.
I just ate at Matty B's Supper Club on Wabasha between 4th & 5th Streets. They had a special soup, sandwich and salad bar for $6. The soups were MN wild rice and cream of mushroom with brie (yum!), there were four kinds of bread & croissants with typical sandwich meats & cheeses. The salad bar was not super impressive with a bowl of mixed greens, a couple of cheeses, some dressings, etc. One thing I really liked is they were pretty regularly monitoring the whole set for cleanliness & replensishing it as needed. Check it out.
Matty B's has since changed their hours to be a true supper club and only open in the evenings.
Great Waters Brewery at St Peter and 7th street ped mall has a decent menu with reasonable prices. Just call in your order ahead of time and have it waiting.
Erberts and Gerberts (subshop at Wabasha and 4th) has good good sandwiches.
The Dunn Brothers coffee shop at 5th and Wabasha has a deli, along with the grill outside during the summer.
There is a deli in the Riverview Market grocery store on Wabasha street next to Candyland. Many times they will even list day old roasted chicken, etc. in the cooler at a cheap price.
Pickerman's serves subs in the securian building at 6th and Wabasha. They even serves Gyros. There is an Arby's there too, on the other side of the chinese restaurant.
There is a catering company that serves lunch in the landmark plaza. You can get a great homecooked meal for around $6-7. The southwest chicken cesaer salad is great.
The Four Inns is a cafe in the US Bank building skyway. They have regular specials along with a full menu. Prices for sandwiches are very reasonable: $3-5. Specials run $5-7. Again, get a paper menu and order ahead to have it waiting if you're short on time.
The Q Restaurant and Coffee Shop is another great alternative for some good eatin at affordable prices. Breakfast is served until noon, and the hamburgers are 100% black angus. You can get fruit smoothies, espresso, mocha, chai and more.
The place is getting a whole new look too. Hidden inside The Lowry building, (next to Pazzaluna) you'll find The Q open M-F from 7-2. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
P.S. Wednesday they make a Chicken Ranch Wrap that is amazing but be sure to try the burgers... you won't be sorry.
Ah... I wondered about Matty B's. I'll have to give that a try. The Q too.
And oh, St. Paul Cookie Company... :) I think I've gained five pounds in freshly-baked chocolate chip oatmeal cookies already.
Don't forget Mickey's Diner on 7th Street & St. Peter. It's a dining car on the National Register of Historic Places. Most, if not all, of their food is brought in fresh daily - no storage space. The fries and hashbrowns are to die for! Great breakfasts too & very reasonable prices.
I spent six years in DT St. Paul and since I have left to the Mpls side, the only place I crave is the Cajun Grill in the world's cruddiest looking food court in the old Norwest Center. Get there right at 11:15 AM and order the blackened fish, your favorite rice dish, and the mixed vegetables. 5.80 and oh so good.
Micky's is quaint, but a grease pit. I'm sorry, but, Cosetta's is cool and everything, but a little over priced. Just grab a two slices and a soda at Pino's (same food court) for an even $5.
Now, if you can drive up to University some day, then we've got some suggestions....
West Indies Soul, Saigon, and a host of others I still miss...
OK, reporting back...
Matty B's: I tried the lunch buffet and had mixed feelings. The sandwich meats & cheeses didn't look very good and I wasn't keen on the various types of sliced loaf bread they had for sandwiches. They had a noxious split-pea-and-chicken soup the first time I went, that was (happily) replaced with a perfectly decent cream of mushroom soup after about half an hour. The second time I went there were no soup options that appealed to me at all. The salad bar was very small and lacked some basics such as croutons, although the servers will bring you some if you ask. I did find the lettuce was fresh and moist (i.e., not dried-out on the edges like a lot of the bagged stuff). Blue cheese dressing was pleasant. I just go when I feel like a big plate of salad (or two) with blue cheese dressing.
The Orient: I ran into this spot in what I think is the Securian building, just across the skyway from Towne Center. Big, clean, well-lit seating area; cheap and good food. My first visit was not encouraging--the pork-and-veg stirfry in my combo was undercooked (I ran into a piece of pork that was literally raw in the middle, like pink poke-it-with-the-fork-and-shudder). It says something about the relative paucity of lunch options that I went back again, vowing to look closely at the food for doneness. Subsequent visits were much better. They do a good fried rice, and eggrolls that are meat-heavy and basically Vietnamese. Kung pao chicken is good if a little light on the vegetables, and I load it up with the chili-in-oil sauce they have sitting out in a big vat by the flatware (yay!). But the surprise star of the show is a pale, unremarkable-looking "hot and spicy chicken" with onions and peppers that turns out to have a lively, spicy, sweet, thin sauce (think Thai or Vietnamese). Mmm. Portions are enormous and cheap (entree + fried rice + eggroll + small soda, $5.89). They have the world's slowest checkout person, but I go on the early side, so I haven't encountered any real bottlenecks.
Ho Fan's (Chinese food in Towne Centre): I haven't eaten there yet. They have cook-to-order entrees available, which is tempting, but when I look at the food in the steam tray it never looks appealing to me. Do they have lousy lighting or is it really the food?
Eddington's: the servers are a little surly and harried and remind me of the Soup Nazi. Salad was OK. Chicken caesar wrap was decent (tho I think I confused them when I asked for it without the slice of cheese). The soup I've had there has been forgettable. I think their reputation as a great soup place rests mostly on the free hot breadsticks.
D. Brian's: I have not returned since I got spooked about the underdone chicken. (At least at the Orient I can scrutinize the food before placing the order -- at D Brian's it felt like a roll of the dice whenever I ordered a chicken wrap.)
Wish I could drive up to University, but retrieving my car from the ramp takes precious minutes and I try to keep lunch under an hour most days.
I still need to try the Q, Babani's, and the Cajun Grill. Have weaned myself off the cookie place (gaining too much weight). I'm still looking for a really great chicken caesar salad with fresh romaine, a good garlicky dressing, parmesan cheese, and preferably warm chicken (suggestions are appreciated).
How about Christo's in the Depot? The buffet is about $10 if I remember correctly. Very good salads and incredible soups. Actually, this may sound strange, Pino's (pizza by the slice) has a pretty good Caesar salad for a cheap place. A slice, salad and soda for under $5 I think. The fish at Cajun is a must, but if you are watching your weight, you may want to hold back.
I work at the Science Museum. West 7th has some other fast, not fast food places, that you might want to try.
At the corner of Kellogg and 7th is a satellite Babanis. Very good gyros, decent fries. Service can be a little slow.
Next door is Blink Bonnie. I haven't been but my co-workers speak highly of the sandwiches. I think they might be a local chain.
Right on that corner is Eagle Street Grille. I've not had lunch there, but their fries are good and they pour a nice beer.
Chico Chica is down the street from them. Totally average american-mexican, good service, lovely courtyard.
Near the Downtowner (also good for lunch, though not terribly fast), is Cabin Fever. Sandwiches and soups are very good and it's a wonderfully cozy location if you are looking for a break from the office.
And there is a sandwich/soup/ice cream/coffee place at the Library (can't remember it's name). Very good sandwiches, charming counter service.
MTC on previous recommendations:
The fish and chips at The Liffey are nice.
A Rebours makes a lovely lunch and if you give them a timeframe, they'll make sure you meet it.
I love Ruam Mit Thai, but they are very slow. You can call in orders ahead of time, though.
Sakura makes a great lunch stop and is very close by.
The Original Coney Island referenced earlier STILL is not open, but when it does, you can be assured of the finest coneys on the planet. The sign in the window says they're still remodeling but anybody's guess how long it will be before they reopen.
Until then, try:
Day by Day Cafe down W. 7th a little ways (excellent home-cooked food, run by recovering alcoholics).
West Indies Soul for the best Caribbean food in the Twin Cities (a ways down University just off Dale).
El Burrito Mercado, across the river on Concord, a buffet-style authentic Mexican place inside a grocery store.
Savoy Inn, corner of Lafayette and E. 7th, for excellent Italian.
The basement cafeteria in the State Capitol is very good, as is the cafeteria at the Minnesota History Center up by the Cathedral.
The aforementioned Christo's in Union Station has a great lunch buffet.
And of course, White Castle on Rice (would that be White on Rice?), just off University.
Thought of a place I don' t think has been mentioned here yet: Golden's Deli. There's a sidewalk window along the street that forms the Western border of the farmer's market, or you can go inside if you prefer. Their sandwiches, while not spectacular, are pretty solid and far better than most you'll find downtown. Plus, you're likely to spot a TPT (public TV) celeb - their office is very nearby.
Chico Chica's on w.7th is no longer..It's now El Patio owned by the Taco Morelos people from eat street. We went there on Cinco de Mayo..it was pretty busy but we still got a booth right away. Foodwise..and I almost hesitate to say this becuase it's so new and I think it's still worth a try..but it was not so good..or maybe ok. Husband had the torta which he described as ok and not as good as the ones at El Burrito Mercado. I ordered a chimichanga,,not sure why. I don't think I've had one since high school but the idea of the chicken mole one intrigued me. It was not good,inedible even.I forgot i don't really like Taco Morelos mole'. It's kind of thick and too sweet. When they came and saw the two bites missing from my plate they offered a box which I accepted just to be nice.
On a high note, good margaritas, chips and their salsa is good. We ate inside but the patio looked really inviting.Colorful lights and cute setting in general. Too bad. We'll try again though and I will try to avoid a bout of temporary insanity and order something other than a chimichanga.
Rau Mit was mentioned somewhere in this post, they have been evicted. I tried to go there last week for lunch after reading this. Apparently they owe 24,000 in back rent.
Sakura. Best food in Downtown Saint Paul. Period. Full Stop.
Gopher Bar. Ok, the owner is a macho-man right-wing hick with a potty mouth. But so what. They grill the coney-dog buns in butter (I hope it's butter) before they assemble them. The only real choice is how many (1 or 2 if you want to look down and see shoes) and what to drink with them.