Southerners looking for Chow in St. Paul
I am attending a national conference in September in St. Paul. A group of about 30-40 of us from North Carolina are trying to go out to dinner one night. We are looking to get a taste of the town. Several restaurants have been suggested so I was trying to get some guidance. Where would you send a group of southern ladies looking for a taste of the Midwest?
Downtowner Woodfire Grill
Great Waters Brewing Company
M Street Café
Macy's River Room Restaurant
Mancini's Char House
Matty B's Supper Club
The Port of Call Lounge
The Saint Paul Grill
Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub
Woolley's (Inside Embassy)
Are you looking for a literal taste of Minnesota? Foods indigenous to the region? Or are you looking to simply get a sense of how the locals throw down? I've been thinking about this, and it sort of makes a difference as to the type of place I'd recommend past what's been mentioned. Also, what neighborhood in St. Paul - is it in fact downtown?
Minnesotan foods would include wild rice dishes and walleye. We're home of the Pearson's salted nut roll it turns out. And then of course there are the hotdishes...oh, so many glorious hotdishes. Best served in the basement of a Lutheran church. Or at Hot Plate - a great diner throwback, but hardly a place for a night on the town, or a group of 40.
Other than that, food from local immigrant groups makes sense. Frogtown (near downtown St. Paul) is known for Vietnamese (recommendations covered but the restaurants are all pretty small for a group of 40). Northeast Minneapolis has Nye's Polynaise Room - voted best bar last year by Esquire - for polish food. Then there are lots of Germans and Scandinavians that settled here. There are a couple of good German places in town - Black Forest Inn, Gastof, and Gasthaus.
If it's just local haunts you want, I'd say the ones closest to downtown are covered well enough. The size of the group limits the options. Most of the best places in town just aren't that big.
If the group wanted to head into Minneapolis, there are a lot of different options that open up. Downtown MPLS is only 15 minutes from Downtown St. Paul.
A little more information might produce a great list of options.
Nye's Polonaise Room
112 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit
2300 University Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter
8390 Lofton Ave N, Stillwater, MN 55082
5204 Bloomington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417
Thanks Pgokey for the insight. Since this is a mixed work crowd who may not have as adventerous taste in chow, I'm trying to find something fairly mainstream. Probably in the realm of regional specialties, such as the walleye, etc.
We will be staying in the downtown area at the Crown Plaza, I believe, without transportation so I imagine we will be looking for something in a relatively closer proximity. I will keep your suggestions in mind though in case I can venture out on my own - I love local haunts.
If you're staying downtown without transportation, of the restaurants the 'hounds have given the "thumbs up" to thus far, the St. Paul Grill, A Rebours, and Pazzaluna are probably the most comfortably walkable. McGoverns and Downtowner would be a little bit longer walk, but doable. Remember, though, McGovern's is a bar. If your friends aren't that chowish, I'm beginning to re-think Great Waters Brewing--nice patio with a view of Rice Park and the food's pretty basic, sandwiches and burgers and salads. You can get walleye there; they have a wild rice burge (both regional specialties.) Also, they have steak and meatloaf. Maybe not such an awful choice, if you want to keep it super casual.
I've been there with a large group for drinks and they've been very accomodating. I'm not sure how they handle large groups for meals, though.
I generally agree with TDQ's and MSPD's calls on the places they've listed. I'll add that while both Sakura and Fuji Ya are perfectly good, perfectly pleasant Japanese restaurants, I don't think they give much of a taste of the Midwest.
All of the places that you've listed are downtown. If your group is not set on staying downtown, I'd suggest two other places that would be a titch more local:
1) Tavern On Grand. Known for their walleye. For those who don't like fish, there's a variety of other food. I think that they have a separate room that could accommodate a group of 40, but I'd call ahead.
2) W.A. Frost. I haven't eaten there for a while, but understand that the food has gotten better. (Note, though, that there was a post today that said things have slipped in the last few months.) From my recollection, Frost will be a more expensive than Tavern on Grand but not as much as St. Paul Grill. Frost has a separate room that they could use if it can't otherwise accommodate a group of 40 in the regular dining room.
Both of these places are just up Cathedral Hill from downtown. A quick 5-10 minute taxi ride. Take a ride down Summit Avenue as you go to either place or on your way back to see beautiful late 19th century homes along the bluff.
W.A. Frost & Co
374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102
Tavern On Grand
656 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105
On that list, the St. Paul Grill is going to offer the finest dining and, price aside, would be my preference. That kind of menu would please just about everyone. The location and atmosphere are a bonus -- the restaurant is located in the beautiful Saint Paul Hotel and overlooks Rice Park (an urban "square"). I have a soft spot for those places as my wedding reception was in the adjoining Landmark Center and many of my wedding photos were taken in and around Rice Park. As for "group" availability, you are early enough that you can probably secure 6 or 7 tables of six there.
For chow alone, I would cross the following off your list:
Macy's River Room
Port of Call
I would also recommend calling A Rebours restaurant, www.areboursrestaurant.com and asking if they can accommodate that size group. You certainly are ahead of the game.
Welcome and enjoy the Cities.
A Rebours! Cute little "bistro'ish" place and right downtown, although, I'm not sure if there's anything particularly St. Paul'ish and/or Midwestern about it. Still--very cute, good food and it has a similar lovely view of Rice Park that the St.Paul Grill does.
Impeccable service at the St. Paul Grill, by the way, perhaps the best in downtown St. Paul. Mancini's is going to feel more "old-timey" and "comfortable"--it's family-owned and operated.
I should mention that neither of the two places I mentioned, Muffuletta and Ngon Bistro, are downtown St. Paul, whereas almost all of the other places you've mentioned are.
Here are the "places" links to A Rebours and St. Paul Grill.
A Rebours [CLOSED]
410 St Peter St, St Paul, MN 55102
St Paul Grill
350 Market Street, St. Paul, MN 55102
For a group that large?
Downtowner Woodfire Grill--maybe, though it's not very typically Midwestern
Forepaugh's--known more for atmosphere than chow
Fuji Ya--no opinion
Great Waters Brewing Company--this is really more of a bar
Kincaids--this is a chain
The Liffey--McGovern's is better, I think
M Street Café--no opinion
Macy's River Room Restaurant--no opinion
Mancini's Char House--the food isn't spectacular here, but this is classically St. Paul supper club--they serve walleye, too, which is a regional specialty. They have a fun lounge, too and they handle groups pretty well. http://www.mancinis.com/
Matty B's Supper Club--a bit pricey. Personally, I'd pick Mancini's over Matty B's--for a more classic atmosphere.
Patrick McGovern's---this is mostly a bar,b ut the food is pretty good.
The Port of Call Lounge--no opinion
Q Restaurant--no opinion
The Saint Paul Grill--pricey, but classically St. Paul. I don't know if they handle groups.
Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub--no opinion
Woolley's (Inside Embassy)--no opinion
I've had nice meals with a group at Muffuletta in St. Paul and they do try to source their ingredients locally. http://www.muffuletta.com/wine_rm/wine_rm.htm They say their wine room seats up to 30--I don't know if they can handle 30-40, you might call.
Also, how about Ngon Bistro? St. Paul has some fantastic Southeast Asian cuisine and Ngon Bistro says they will handle groups.
Here's a link to a recent thread about Ngon Bistro http://www.chow.com/topics/381260
Have fun, and please report back!
Muffuletta In the Park
2260 Como Ave., Saint Paul, MN 55108
Mancinis Char House
531 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102
Pho Anh Vietnamese Restaurant (CLOSED
)799 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104
re: The Dairy Queen
It would depend on the night, I suppose. I haven't been back to Ngon Bistro since Dara's review (two weeks ago?), but the time I went, it was a weeknight (not Friday) and they had two large groups of about 12 each and there was still plenty of open space in the restaurant--at least half the restaurant was free, I'd guess. They specifically say on their website that they handle groups for events. Now, I don't know if that means shut the restaurant down and you rent the whole place out or what, but it might be worth calling. I think great Vietnamese cuisine typifies St. Paul right now. About 15% of Twin Citieans are foreign born and, Asians comprise about half that.
re: The Dairy Queen