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Recs Near St. Paul Fairgrounds

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I'm attending a classic car show with my husband and we're staying near the fairgrounds. Are there any decent places within a 15 minute drive of the area? We tried a Juicy Lucy at the Nook after a show last year. My husband is not a fan of Indian food or sushi - otherwise we're pretty open.

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  1. I'm assuming from context that you are talking about the Minnesota State Fairgrounds... ;-)

    Both downtowns are within 15 minutes of the fairgrounds without traffic, as is Roseville. There's a lot of ground to cover....

    I'll make a couple of suggestions and hope others will chime in.

    Based on your choice of the Nook last year, I'll steer you to another pub: Barley John's. If you or your husband enjoy good beer, this is the place to go.

    Another suggestion - a little more adventurous - is Fasika. It is an Ethiopian restaurant right down Snelling from the fairgrounds.

    Finally, there are several restaurants on University that seem to be favorites of the board. Ngon Vietnamese Bistro, Little Szechuan, and Cafe Bonxai are a few that come to mind.

    These are the three fairly random ideas that popped into my head as I read your post. If you post again, let us know whether there are any other things you'd like to find - specific cuisines, prices, etc.

    I'm sure there are others who will pipe in as well. Have fun!

    Here are the places mentioned. Note that Ngon still comes up as an old restaurant at the location (Pho Anh) and Cafe Bonxai comes up as the old restaurant at that location (Best Steak House).

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    Little Szechuan - West End
    5377 16th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

    Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant
    510 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    Best Steak House
    1613 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104

    Pho Anh Vietnamese Restaurant (CLOSED)
    799 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104

    Barley John's Brew Pub
    781 Old Highway 8 SW, Saint Paul, MN 55112

    2 Replies
    1. re: bob s

      I like BobS's recommendations--also, Maverick's for roast beef sandwiches. Maverick's is on Lexington at Larpenteur.

      Have fun! Please report back if you can to let us know what you did and didn't like!

      ~TDQ

      -----
      Mavericks
      1746 Lexington Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

      1. re: bob s

        I hear good things about Chianti Grill, on Larpenteur just a spit West of Snelling. It's where the old Ciatti's used to be, and I hear it's a significant improvement on Ciatti's.

        -----
        Chianti Grill
        1611 Larpenteur Ave W, Falcon Heights, MN 55113

      2. A couple more thoughts:

        China Jen on Snelling at Cty Rd. B (same strip mall as Outback Steakhouse) --I love their scallion pancakes, among other things. If you follow the "Places" link in the Wiki for China Jen you'll see a link to an old thread that talks abouts other people's visits to China Jen.

        Saigon Star on Cty Rd B2 has pretty good pho. Same strip mall as TGI Fridays.

        For breakfast, there's a Key's Cafe & Bakery ast Lexington and Larpenteur (in the strip mall next to the one Maverick's is in) for egg and bacon type breakfasts and wonderful caramel rolls. In that same strip mall, there's a St. Paul Bagelry. The bagels are missing a certain je ne sais quoi they seemed to have had in the past under different owners, but are still quite good.

        Nelson's Cheese Shop would be very convenient just for sandwiches--to go only.

        Muffuletta for a bit more "upscalish" type food and a focus on local and seasonal ingredients. They also have a patio in summer (which I've never sat at.)

        And since the wiki for Ngon Bistro is wonky, here's a link to a recent thread about Ngon Bistro: http://www.chow.com/topics/381260

        ~TDQ

        -----
        China Jen Restaurant
        2193 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

        Muffuletta In the Park
        2260 Como Ave., Saint Paul, MN 55108

        Saigon Star Restaurant
        2480 Fairview Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

        Key's Cafe & Bakery
        1682 Lexington Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

        St Paul Bagelry
        1702 Lexington Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

        Nelson Cheese Factory
        1562 Como Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55108

        19 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Sorry, it is the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. What a great list already - looks like I have some homework ahead of me! We did eat at Muffuletta (I couldn't recall the name) last year as well....sat on their patio and enjoyed a great meal watching some of the cars from the show cruise by.

          We tried to find a Greek restaurant that came highly recommended by the guy sitting next to us at the bar at The Nook last year. It was supposed to be not far from the U of M campus. Any ideas of the name?

          Also, are there any fairground stand recs that you'll admit to?

          Thanks so far. I promise to report back after the trip.

          1. re: redheadteacher

            Are the fairground stands open any time other than State Fair time? I didn't think they were. Here's a whole thread about that, though. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320859

            Here's a thread on breakfast at the fair: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/320289

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Yes, we Minnesota chowhounds proudly admit to loving the food at the MN State Fair.

              Unfortunately, any food during non-MN-State-Fair-time is done by a convention-hall-type vendor and is the standard crud (hot dogs, popcorn, "nachos" with florescent cheese glop, etc.).

              For a fast but decent lunch, try Abu Nader Deli for gyros sandwiches (or Nelson's Cheese Shop for classic sandwiches).

              And you're within 15 minutes - even during rush hour - of Izzy's Ice Cream Cafe!

              Anne

              -----
              Abu Nader Deli & Grocery
              2095 Como Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55108

              1. re: AnneInMpls

                [EDITED TO SAY "NEVER MIND" - there's one heck of a lag for edits to Places entries.]

                Note: It's "Izzy's Ice Cream Cafe" - no 'Production' in the name - but I can't my fix to stay in the Places entry. At least the address and phone are right....

                Anne

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Having trouble with the places link for Izzy's. Here's another try at getting the right one.

                  Note: The link should actually go to http://www.chowhound.com/places/320 .

                  (The links ending in 962, 963, 965, and 969 are duplicates. Sigh. Ah, well, they did say that Places is a BETA.).

                  Anne

                  -----
                  Izzy's Ice Cream Cafe [DUPLICATE
                  ]2034 Marshall Ave, St Paul, MN 55104

                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    Did Bobby Flay do a throwdown with Izzy's? (I really can't stand the show but sometimes even with cable, there's nothing to watch!)

                    Any recs on flavors? We were in Maine last week and I tried Grapenut and Ginger for the first time.....suggestions from New England hounds. Yummy good!

                    1. re: redheadteacher

                      Yep, Bobby Flay did an Izzy's throwdown, and we were alerted real-time by the world's hippest chowhound MSPD.

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/322001

                      Izzy's won - of course - for their Hot Brown Sugar ice cream. That's the only thing I like about Bobby Flay; he usually lets the other guy win on his show.

                      My favorite flavor is Dark Chocolate Zinfandel, followed closely by their grapefruit sorbet. My husband's vote goes to Cherries Jubilee. If either of us were coffee fans, we'd go for the Peace Coffee.

                      But you can ask for as many tastes as you like before you commit to a flavor. Plus, you get a mini scoop on top (the Izzy) with any single or double scoop. So you're never limited to just one flavor!

                      http://www.izzysicecream.com

                      Anne

                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                        OK...seriously I can hardly stop laughing long enough to type. My friend Tara who lurks here and hangs on my every post (ha ha) is never going to let me hear the end of the "world's hippest chowhound" comment.

                        As for "redheadteacher"s question, Izzy's is a very rich, decadent ice cream. They do some unusual flavors, but their specialty isn't crazy off-the-wall stuff like grape nuts and ginger sounds. I gravitate towards their sinful flavors like cheesecake, peanut butter, chocolate stuff, etc. I always get the hot brown sugar or salted caramel if they have them. When they first opened they did a "cream cheese" flavor which was ridiculously "weeklong guilt trip" rich. I haven't seen it there in years.

                        1. re: MSPD

                          Grape Nuts is actually a fairly common New England flavor - I never understood the appeal but people love it.

                          Wow, cream cheese flavored ice cream would be incredible - especially with strawberry topping.

                          1. re: MSPD

                            They still do the cream cheese flavor sometimes . . . I can't imagine eating a whole cone of it, but it is the PERFECT Izzy scoop on top of Dark Chocolate Zin. Lord have mercy.

                            1. re: MSPD

                              Salted Caramel!??!??! Please tell me that's not a typo! I have lived in the metro for abou 5 years, but haven't made it to Izzy's.....if they really have Salted Caramel Ice Cream, I will head out there today!

                              1. re: nieves

                                They DO make a salted caramel flavor.

                                I'm not sure it'll be gauranteed available on a particular day. Maybe give them a call, first?

                                1. re: KTFoley

                                  And, if they don't have a flavor out, be sure to ask for it! They keep track of requests and use that to help decide what to make next.

                                  Interestingly, the Hot Brown Sugar that took down Bobby Flay was last year's winner in their flavor contest. This year's contest just happened - and they're now switching to every other year. :(

                2. re: redheadteacher

                  Yeah, the stands are the fair aren't open during non-fair season.

                  As far as the Greek place goes...there is a fast food greek place in Dinkydome. It's not worth the trip when you could just stop at Dino's Gyros on Snelling and Larpenteur - it's the same idea but better. It's a fast food chain, but all Greek. Not bad for what it is.

                  The closest Greek place to the U I can think of would be Gardens of Salonica. It's very good. I just noticed on the web site that they use locally sourced and organic ingredients when possible. Who knew?

                  -----
                  Dino's Gyros
                  1670 Snelling Ave N, Falcon Heights, MN 55108

                  Gardens of Salonica
                  19 5th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

                  1. re: pgokey

                    Gardens of Salonica used to be one of my absolute favorite restaurants. But I think it has gone downhill so much that I think it's my Chowhoundish duty to warn people off of it any time I see it mentioned in a thread.

                    Your mileage may vary, but I've yet to hear a good report (either on Chowhound or otherwise) in the past few years.

                  2. re: redheadteacher

                    Your friend might be thinking of Kafe 421 ... not exactly Greek, but definitely Greek-influenced. It's a good stop for dinner.

                    -----
                    Kafe 421
                    421 14th Avenue S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55415

                    1. re: Jordan

                      you could be thinking of Abu Nader Deli @ Como and Raymond. I believe the owners are Lebanese (Palestinian?), but everything on the limited menu is made with love and entirely from scratch. a few varieties of little car-driver friendly spinach and pepper pies, falafel, schwarma, stuffed grape leaves, salads and dips. I was weaned on Middle Eastern soul food, and it's one of the very few places in MN where I can get a proper fix. What it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in flavor...in spades.

                      1. re: g rote

                        And there's another Middle-eastern-ish cafe nearby: Mim's Cafe. It's on Raymond (aka Cleveland), right at the intersection where you would turn to go past the U of M student center. Mim's is very, very casual and student-oriented.

                        Anne

                        P.S. For a nearby "nice" dinner, I would vote for Muffaletta - the menu is good, and the outdoor seating is charming. Or, for adventure, I'd head to University Ave (turn right one half block for BonXai Cafe, my latest love, or turn left for many great Vietnamese, Hmong, Ghanaian, Thai, and Szechuan places).

                        Enjoy your visit. Oh, and don't eat at Porky's.

                        -----
                        Mim's Cafe
                        1435 Cleveland Ave N, St Paul, MN 55108

                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          I had the MOST delicious falafel and baba ghanoujh at Mim's on Friday -- crisp, well-seasoned falafel balls without a hint of grease, and smoky, smooth baba ghanoujh with a splash of really tasty olive oil on top. It was my first trip there and I loved it. As Anne said, it's very casual, but if you're in that part of town it's a real gem.

                3. Wow! With all these recommendations I hope that we have some time to look at the cars! One added question: I've been told that the Grand Old Creamery has the best ice cream in town. What's the chouwhound opinion?

                  Thanks - I'll report back after our trip next week!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: redheadteacher

                    Well, I don't like Grand Old Creamery's ice cream - I find it bland, too sweet, and strangely textured. But it gets good reviews, and some people swear by their vanilla.

                    I think you should do your own taste test - Izzy's and Grand Old Creamery are within a mile of each other.

                    Anne

                    -----
                    Grand Ole Creamery
                    750 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      I prefer Izzy's to GOC, but Grand Ole Creamery does ok on the more "traditional" flavors (my favorite is their Black Hills Gold), but their house-made waffle cones--you can see them making them there right in the front of the shop--are awesome, the best I've had in the Twin Cities.

                      By the way, if you're a car buff, you know about Porky's on University Avenue where the classic cars hang out in summer, right? Not fantastic chow, just burgers and onion rings and such, but, still...

                      ~TDQ

                      -----
                      Porky's
                      1890 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        We found Porky's when we came for the show last year - my husband is like a bloodhound when it comes to finding gearheads. We didn't eat there but had a frozen custard that I recall was delicious.

                        1. re: redheadteacher

                          Along the same stretch as Porky's (a little ways west on University at Vandalia, next to the Dubliner) is Bonnie's Cafe. If you like your basic inexpensive roadfood breakfasts (eggs, bacon, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, etc.) this is a great place. A party of two can fill up for less than $10.

                          Another of my favorite chow spots in MSP is along that stretch too -- the Russian Tea House (next to Wendy's at Fairview Ave). A must visit IF you like home-made Russian foods like borscht, piroshkis, pierogies, and cabbage rolls (that's about the entire menu). Several times, I've wrecked the inside of my car trying to eat their massive, chewy, hot poppy/chocolate chip roll on my way back to work. It's always worth it. Don't be scared off by the name -- it's mostly a carry-out joint with a small dining area upstairs.

                          If you get over to Izzy's, stop in at Legacy Chocolates a couple doors down. And if you have kids or any interest in trains, there's a very cool train store (Bob's Train Store I think) a couple more doors down (equally cool for kids and serious scale model train enthusiasts). I've killed many an hour there with my kids.

                    2. re: redheadteacher

                      My vote is Izzy's.