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Apr 9, 2007 09:28 AM

[MSP] Outdoor Dining?

Do you have any suggestions for good outdoor dining? Sidewalk dining is just about the only thing I miss about Ann Arbor, MI and I haven't yet found anything similar in the twin cities.

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  1. What comes to mind quickly are all patio dining - would that satisfy you? If so:

    Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis has a really gorgeous patio and decent chow to boot.

    Several places on West 7th St. in St. Paul (near the Excel Center) have really beautiful patios. The food's not terrible, but nothing to write home about: The Liffey, Chico Chica: 242 7th St., and I think McGovern's just built a lovely patio last season, but haven't been there so experience it myself: 225 Seventh St W

    W.A Frost on Selby in St. Paul has a gorgeous patio and solid (and pricey) food:

    The Happy Gnome (also on Selby in St. Paul) has a very comfortable patio, great beer list, and decent bar food:

    Lots more, but they don't come to mind as quickly.

    6 Replies
    1. re: diesel

      All wonderful recommendations, except for the Happy Gnome, which really has mediocre, at best, food. I keep hearing the beer list is great, but the food is really pretty lousy. And, sadly, the patio could be nice if it weren't smelly. If you want outside+barfood in a neighborthood not too far from the Happy Gnome, I recommend instead the patio at Muddy Pig.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        TDQ, I know you've mentioned the patio stank at the Happy Gnome before, but I've never smelled it; I offer as credentials that fact that I've spent a fair bit of time on that patio (it's just a couple of blocks from where I live) and have an extremely low tolerance for reek. :) I generally don't sit near the outdoor bar/door to the building, so maybe that's the ticket. They do a decent burger and fries, but I agree that the food is very hit-or-miss. The patio is a great place to sit on a nice afternoon, though.

        1. re: mcgeary

          I totally respect your chowsense, mcgeary, and I appreciate that you've been multiple times. I so wanted to love the Happy Gnome, but my one and only experience was so truly bad, where the food was so awful, the patio so smelly, and the service so indifferent that I've never been willing to give it a second chance, especially with WA Frost down the street and Muddy Pig around the corner, both of which have great (in the case of Frost) or good ( in the case of Muddy Pig) food. Happy Gnome even managed to mess up the dessert, which they bring in from the place (A Piece of Cake? Or is it A Slice of Cake, I can never get the name right) across the street by letting sit around too long and get soggy and stale.

          I might have been willing to give it a second chance because a nice patio is a thing of beauty in St. Paul when the weather turns nice but, alas, no one on chowhound --even you--has had much positive to say about the chow there. The comments about the chow itself have been lukewarm at best. Consensus seems to be the beer list is terrific, although, unfortunately I am not much of a beer drinker.

          Life is too short for truly awful chow especially when there are two acceptable alternatives within a couple of blocks. While the Happy Gnome may do a decent burger and fries, the Muddy Pig around the corner does a consistently very good burger. Their patio's not spectacular (the real issue is that it's cramped and a little on the shady side) but the food is good.

          Maybe I should give Happy Gnome another chance, but, I just can't seem to force my feet to carry me there.

          EDIT: I'd even rather go to Billy's on Grand Avenue and sit on the patio than to Happy Gnome. Billy's has some nice salads on their menu, which can be very appealing when it's really hot out and you want something "light."


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Eh, I'd say that the beer is the best reason to go to the Gnome, so if you're not beer-motivated there's not much point. And, you're right, Frost is pretty much the best in town for high food quality + high patio quality. Have you eaten there since Russell Klein left? I've been curious whether the food has slipped. I thought they had bad food before Russell took over, and I'm hoping they don't backslide now that he's gone.

            1. re: mcgeary

              Oh poo. I wish I were a beer drinker, then. I hate missing out on stuff.

              And, no, I haven't been to Frost recently and haven't really heard from anyone who has. Maybe now that it's patio season someone can check it out?


      2. re: diesel

        For the sake of posterity, I'm going to note an update to diesel's fine post above and that's that Chico Chica on West 7th in St. Paul has been replaced by El Patio Mexican Grill:

        Funny, they interviewed the chef/owner in today's Pioneer Press--he's most proud of the enchiladas and margaritas on his menu (the latter being made with fresh lime juice.) I recall someone saying the margaritas were too sweet, but, I could be wrong.


      3. I've eaten at all of these places and the food is decent to really good at most of them. When it comes to me and eating outside, I'm willing to run the gamut of food quality!

        Solera (rooftop!):
        Stella's Seafood Cafe (rooftop!):
        The Local (sidewalk):
        Brit's (sidewalk and rooftop):
        Birchwood Cafe (sidewalk):
        Sea Salt Eatery (this is a seasonal place by Minnehaha Falls - opens this month sometime):
        Mill City Cafe:
        Tuggs (gorgeous patio, OK food):
        Pracna (gorgeous patio, MEH food):

        A few I'd like to try:
        Barbary Fig (patio
        )Clicquot Club Cafe (sidewalk):
        Punch Pizza (E. Hennepin - courtyard)

        5 Replies
        1. re: MaggieB

          Sea Salt Eatery opened April 1.

          Crema Cafe has a neat little quiet patio and now serve dinners. Recent review in Star Tribune:

          Bagu Sushi is opening a patio soon.

          A lot of the usual suspects mentioned on here have outdoor seating: Out in Lilydale, Osteria I Nonni has quite a few outdoor tables (patio). Trotter's Cafe, Longfellow Grill/Highland Grill, Barbary Fig, Birchwood, Cupcake, Al Vento, Riverview Wine Bar, Lucia's, Lurcat, Muffuletta, Town Talk Diner all have good to great food and sidewalk/patio dining.

          When I ran the Aquatennial Torchlight Run last summer, we cruised past the Monte Carlo Bar & Cafe and their patio looked like a nice place to enjoy a meal.

          I may be a bit behind on the times having not hung around there last summer, but what about the places at and around the Guthrie?

          1. re: MSPD

            I listed Spoonriver and Nochee, both near the Guthrie. I haven't seen any outside dining at Cue, though they certainly have the space for it.

            When did Town Talk get a patio? Is it out back or something?

            1. re: Jordan

              Town Talk has tables along the front in the summer (she said "sidewalk dining"). You have to put up with the Lake Street traffic, but a lot of people say it's quieter than the inside. I don't know...I've never sat out there and the noise inside has never bothered me all that much.

              I forgot to put Tin Fish over at Lake Calhoun on my list too.

            2. re: MSPD

              I like Longfellow's patio when the weather's nice--great people watching. Highland Grill does indeed have a few outside tables, but it's nearly identical food to Longfellow and Longfellow's patio space is so much nicer, that it gives it the definite edge over Highland, I think.


            3. re: MaggieB

              Isn't Brit's Pub the one with the roof-top lawn bowling? I've always wanted to try that. I've only been there once or twice and only in winter. Food is ok for bar food.

              Along the lines of Sea Salt Eatery (which really is one of the funnest+chowish, yet casual, spots in the Cities for outdoor dining, as long as you don't mind standing in line), is Tin Fish at Lake Calhoun. It's not as good as Sea Salt but it's great for a little snack if you're at Lake Calhoun canoeing or just generally being out and about. It's more of a "snack shack," lakeside, with a few tables.


              Punch Pizza in St. Paul on Cleveland has a mini-patio, as does, Blondie's on Snelling nearish to Randolph in St. Paul.

              Also in St. Paul, if you're a breakfast-y kind of person, Day by Day Cafe on West 7th St. has a little patio.


              It looks like the Shamrock on West 7th ("the Irish Nook") might have a patio, but they will have to step the burgers up a couple of notches before we'll be back. We found them so greasy that the buns were soggy. The fries were good.

              Here's a story from the Star Tribune on outdoor dining that's a little old, but still pretty relevant: (you might have to register --free--to see the full story.)

              Finally, my very favorite spot in St. Paul (after Sea Salt Eatery) to sit outside for at least 10 minutes: Izzy's Ice Cream on Marshall. MMmmmmm ice cream.



            4. In south Mpls, add:

              Al Vento (great enclosed patio)
              Broder's Pasta Bar (good patio for drinks and appetizers while waiting for a table)
              First Course (sidewalk on a not-too-busy street with plenty of airplanes overhead)
              5-8 Club (ditto)

              In SE Mpls, add Signature Cafe (nice alley seating in residential neighborhood)

              In the Mill District, add:
              Nochee (great patio, busy Washington Ave.)
              Spoonriver (sidewalk seating, plenty of people-watching on weekend farmer's market days)

              1. I don't know how far you are willing to travel. There are a few places south of the cities that you might want to try, and the drive there isn't too bad either. I've posted about some of these places before.

                In Red Wing a half hour south of the cities, there is Oar Dourve. they have an outdoor patio that will be open soon to eat out on with a beautiful garden below to enjoy.

                In Stockholm, Wi about 20 minutes south of red wing on the wisconsin side. there is Gellys Pub 715-442-2023 They have great fish, burgers, and daily specials that are well worth the trip. They have a deck outside that is great to sit on.

                In Pepin, Wi about 30 minutes south of red wing on the wisconsin side, there is the Garden Pub and Grille. Right on main street in Pepin. Big beautiful wooden restaurant with only open air dining. Burgers, sandwiches, pizza and such with a big of gourmet flare.

                The Pickle Factory has a deck you can also eat on that overlooks the lake. They have a great fish sandwich, burgers, sandwiches, etc.

                Last but not least there is "pizza on the farm" Tuesdays between Stockholm and Pepin. The staff from the harbor view cafe will serve pizzas on the farm cooked in a brick oven outdoors. Perfect for picnic style eating. Bring your own blanket, chair and some appetizers and drinks. As they only make the pizza for you. Farm fresh ingredients. Well worth the drive. The pizzas are large, and are about $20. each. For directions you'll have to stop in Stockholm or Pepin and get directions from the locals.

                1. Thanks! I'm familiar with some of these spots (Sea Salt, Al Vento, Broder's) and have been to some of the other suggestions but not in the summer so I didn't notice that they had outdoor dining (Happy Gnome, Birchwood). Now I can add all these options to the mix once the weather cooperates.