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Visiting St. Paul 9/14-9/16

Hi. My husband and I (and 1-year-old son) will be in St. Paul for the first time this weekend for a wedding. We will be staying at the St. Paul hotel (without a car) and are looking for area attractions and dining recommendations for the weekend. Specifically...
*Dinner for 2 on Friday (low-key atmosphere, top-quality food and service)
*Breakfast or Brunch Saturday (child-friendly, walkable if possible, but taxi okay)
*Outdoor activity Saturday afternoon (with light lunch/snack option nearby); prefer walking (with stroller)
*Early breakfast Sunday as we have a late-morning flight

Unfortunately, I've had very little time to research the area but want to make the most of our time there. I thought this would be the best place to get some quick (but trusted) recommendations. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. Definitely hit the St. Paul Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. Harvest time is here and it will be a fun and beautiful place for you all to walk to from the hotel if the weather is nice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RedPepper

      Thanks---that sounds like the perfect activity before the late-afternoon wedding. I appreciate your suggestion.

    2. Unfortunately, downtown St. Paul is pretty thin for good food right now. Au Rebours the best French in downtown just closed. Kincaid's is an upscale chain and is everything you would expect with decent service and passable food. St. Paul Grill is probably the class of the field in DT St.P as a Hotelly supper club, power lunch establishment. Margeuax would be a little bit of a walk with a stroller but I have had a fine meal there and it would be more family freindly.

      My advice, take a cab out of downtown (this is not a real cab friendly town, hailing cabs in downtown St. Paul is pretty unrealistic) and there are much better offerings. Heartland is a James Beard worthy establishment that sources all of their ingredients locally and will be dynamite food. The Glockenspiel on west 7th st, the main drag between downtown and the airport, has really good german fare. There are lots of great asian eateries on University Ave. Mai (My?) Village is good and the interior is beautiful, but there are others where the food is star not the atmosphere. Others would be more qualified to comment on what's best in that area than me.

      2 Replies
      1. re: GastronautMN

        I checked out the Heartland web site and it looks like a great spot. Our son will not be with us, so hopefully they have a nice, relaxing atmosphere (we rarely have quiet nights out!). Thanks for taking the time to reply.

        1. re: GastronautMN

          Breaking News: I don't know if this affects your plans, but Margaux closed last evening.

        2. My husband & I stayed at the St Paul hotel for our anniversary and also tried to stay in the neighborhood. Their brunch at the St. Paul Grill was actually really good.. and probably $15/pp. Their menu is on the St Paul hotel website (let me know if you want a link).. but read the fine print. In addition to the meal you get a nice plate of fresh fruit, a GIGANTIC cinnamon roll, and champagne,oj, or mimosa. It's not really snooty, and you get a nice view of their flower garden.

          We had dinner a pazzaluna (across the street to the east) the night before. Split a pizza w.cheese curds on it and split a side of broccoli rabe. Not the most culturally interesting place in St Paul (seems kind of like a chain restaurant), but the food was good.

          Totally agree - go to the Farmer's Market. St Paul is the best one around (and we kind of have a lot of them around here). They'll have quick breakfast foods, but not sit down meal.

          I agree that you should try cabbin' it or catching a ride w.friends somewhere, though. Downtown St Paul has pretty buildings, but they're mostly offices or art studios, and dead on the weekends. Saturday afternoon (if it's warm), maybe head to Minneapolis Sculpture Garden or Como Park? We also have lots of other parks & lakes and green land around here, but I think it's going to be chilly this weekend.. hopefully someone will come up with something awesome for you.

          1 Reply
          1. re: reannd

            Hmmm...maybe we should fuel up at the hotel brunch before hitting the farmer's market. Thanks for your suggestions. I think we'll investigate some of the local parks and lakes as well. As long as we are bundled up (and it is not raining), we should be fine. We are also Midwesterners, after all!

          2. As previous posters have noted, there is not a lot happening in downtown St. Paul food-wise. Another option for dinner is Tanpopo Noodle - which would probably accommodate your child as well. It would be a long walk from the St. Paul Hotel but it's doable. I think that the walk is relatively safe, but it would be a bit "quiet" between the hotel and the restaurant.

            I think that the idea of Farmer's Market is a good one. If you are going to take a taxi, I'd recommend either of the recommendations by reannd (Como Park or Minneapolis Sculpture Garden - which also has Loring Park right next to it) or the Uptown area of Minneapolis. You'll have a great choice of food in Uptown and it's a quick walk to either Lake Calhoun or Lake of the Isles. There are boat rentals and a small kid's playground on Calhoun (at W 32nd St. and East Calhoun Blvd).

            Places links:

            1806 St. Clair Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

            605 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102

            Tanpopo Noodle Shop
            308 Prince St, Saint Paul, MN 55101

            St Paul Grill
            350 Market Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

            360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

            Margaux [CLOSED]
            486 N Robert St, St Paul, MN 55101

            Kincaid's Fish Chop & Steak
            380 St. Peter Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

            Mai Village
            394 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

            1 Reply
            1. re: bob s

              Great suggestions. Do you know how long the taxi ride is to Uptown? (Just trying to see how much we can squeeze in before the 5pm wedding.) Thanks!

            2. Will you have your child with you for all the meals? I have a 1-year-old and I know cabs are tricky because of the car seats. Tanpopo definitely is kid-friendly and while the food at Cossetta's is not real exciting, it is decent red-sauce Italian IMO and very child-appropriate. Another option downtown is Sakura, a sushi restaurant with other Japanese options. I haven't taken my son there but I would, if it were early. The Farmer's Market is a great suggestion and Rice Park, just outside your hotel, is a pretty little park. The Children's Museum in DT St. Paul has plenty of activities for toddlers, although it is a bit spendy at $8 per person. My son loves it. If you will have a chance to get into the Macalester or Highland neighborhoods let me know and I can suggest other kid-friendly spots.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sweetpig

                If you go to Cossetta's you might want to walk just a bit further south and see Irvine Park. It's a beautiful little park with a great gazebo surrounded by somne of the oldest homes in St. Paul:

                I see the Alexander Ramsey House (historic MN site) has an Irvine Park walking tour scheduled for the morning of the 15th. More info here: http://events.mnhs.org/calendar/index...

                EDITED: I had another note below re: how to bus instead of taxi'ing to the Como Park Zoo re: St. Paul Susie's recommendations, but apparently it's been deleted. Guess I should have talked about eating on the bus...anyway, just know it's easy as pie. There...food-related content!

                1. re: clepro

                  If you follow the link to the como zoo there is a link for the bus..... I'll have pie too.....

                  1. re: clepro

                    More great ideas---thanks! (And, I love pie!)

                  2. re: sweetpig

                    Child will be with us for breakfasts and lunch on Saturday (not dinner on Friday (!)). I think I will skip the sushi (unfortunately) as I am pregnant, but I'm definately leaning toward the Farmer's Market and, if time allows, the Children's Museum. Thanks for these great ideas!

                  3. Welcome to Saint Paul. where are you coming from?

                    Dinner on Friday - another option is the Downtowner woodfire on West 7th. -just a few blocks away from your hotel. Its also fairly child friendly if you go a little earlier & make a resi so you don't have to wait.

                    http://www.downtownerwoodfire.com/mai... - low key, excellent food

                    brunch/breakfast - doesn't Keys have a downtown outpost?

                    http://www.keyscafe.com/00_frameset.html 500 North Robert Steet

                    Things to do.

                    The MN Children's Museum is great! If you have a membership to another museum you can usually get in free. Its a few blocks from your hotel. But its indoors. '

                    http://www.mcm.org/ - the habitot room was a bad weather lifesaver for me when my kids were little!

                    A short cab ride away is como park - it has a free zoo with some great 1 yr old things to do & see. There is also some rides there called "como town" but that might be seasonal. You can also walk thru the park around the zoo & enjoy the day.


                    Warning - if you take a cab out there (its only a few miles) make sure you have the numbers to the cab company to get back to the hotel.

                    Harriet Island is a good option to get outside and kill some time. I think there is a playground there & you can also take a riverboat ride & learn about the mississippi. (again this might be seasonal)


                    There is a link on that page to the paddleboat company. Your child might be a little young for that - but you and your hubby might enjoy. I've taken out of town visitors on it and they loved it.

                    I love the farmers market - Love it! but as a visitor without a fridge and with a stroller it would not be my top pick - especially if you have a farmers market which you can visit at home.

                    If you want to do the children's museum and the famers market that might be a nice taxi free combo.

                    They have a bagel spot in the famers market, a bruggers is right next door to the children's museum and there are a few spots inbetween for lunch or a snack & a cup of coffee. That might be a fun day!

                    Another good snack option is the kettle corn guy at the farmers market - if he is there - he hasn't been the past few times I've been.

                    and a few apples (honeycrisp) would be an excellent snack as well.

                    You could also probably swing over the Harriet Island or just walk along the river as well after the Museum and farmer's market. You'll have plently of time - the downtown area of the city is compact.

                    Have a great trip!

                    p.s. - If you had more than one day to spend and a car I would totally agree with the loring park/uptown/walker combo! Next time!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: St Paul Susie

                      forgot the link

                      Downtowner Cafe [SEE DOWNTOWNER WOODFIRE GRILL]
                      253 West 7th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

                      1. re: St Paul Susie

                        Wow---I guess we should have stayed a few extra days (at least!). It's true that we will be fridge-less, but I'd still like to check out the Farmer's Market. I'd love to see the local bounty and snack along the way. I'm sure some things will keep over a few days! Also, the museum may be a good escape if starts to get too chilly. We'll have to play that by ear. Absolutely, next time, we'll have to visit some of the other sites---this will serve as a teaser for a future trip. Thanks for taking the time to reply!

                        1. re: angiemail

                          The St Paul hotel has little fridges.

                          Don't remove anything w.out calling the front desk, though.. just stack on top. They have some automatic minibar system that can tell if something is missing..?!

                          1. re: reannd

                            Oh - good point - you might also be able to call before you get there and request and empty mini bar since you are traveling with a 1 yr old and need it for snacks etc. Will make the stay a little more enjoyable to see farmers market goodies vs. overpriced packaged stuff!

                            Enjoy the trip!

                      2. You've got a bunch of good recommendations so far. I'll add a few more.

                        I'd agree with walking the Farmer's Market. The stand in the center offers bagel sandwiches. It's not a full on noshing kind of market, but you can get your snack on there with apples, honey sticks, cider donuts, etc. The market runs until 1pm on Saturdays and this weekend there'll be a string band playing from 9am to noon.

                        The MN History Center is within walking distance. It's fun and there's some cool hands on stuff for him and you. The cafe there is very nice. Be sure to try the wild rice soup, made with hand harvested lake rice. The cafe is open from 11 to 2 on weekends.

                        Babani's has Kurdish food and is tasty. They are very low key. Service can be spotty.

                        I'd also recommend Black Dog for sandwiches, pizzas and coffee.

                        Oh and it is totally greasy, but you could consider Mickeys Diner for breakfast. The diner is on the National Register of Historic Places and was enjoyed by Alton Brown and crew on the last episode of Feasting on Asphalt.

                        Black Dog Restaurant
                        308 Prince St Ste 100, Saint Paul, MN 55101

                        Babani's Kurdish Restaurant
                        544 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                        St Paul Farmers Market
                        275 4th St E, St Paul, MN 55101

                        Mickey's Diner
                        36 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                        Minnesota Historical Society: Cafe Minnesota [DUPLICATE
                        ]Saint Paul, MN, USA, Saint Paul, MN

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Uisge

                          Apple Cider Donuts---say no more! Thanks for these recommendations---the Black Dog looks good for lunch.

                        2. Do not miss the farmer's market.

                          On Friday night take a cab to Heartland. Really excellent local food in a nice setting. Good, reasonable wine list.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Michael Florey

                            I decided to make a reservation there. Looks perfect---thanks!

                          2. W.A. Frost is a good bet for dining for the two of you if you want a low-key atmosphere, good food and good service. Very close to downtown StP (cab...easy). If the weather is clement, the patio s very nice. If you're there at a time when the store is open, Garrison Keillor's "Common Good Books" is just across Western Ave. from the restaurant (restaurant is Selby and Western). might be a nice Saint Paul Experience, if you want one.

                            W.A. Frost & Co
                            374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102

                            Common Good Books
                            165 Western Ave N, St Paul, MN 55102

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: cayjohan

                              The patio looks really nice at Frost---I wish we had an extra day to dine there! Still, I love bookstores and may try to squeeze in some time to visit Common Good Books. I appreciate your suggestions!

                              1. re: angiemail

                                Books and food are the best things about travel!

                                I wish I had time to type in a list of the best used bookstores that are nearest good food in the Twin Cities... Suffice it to say that we have great used bookstores here, and they're usually in lower-rent areas that have great ethnic food.

                                In St. Paul, there's Midway Books on Snelling & University, which is half a block away from Bon Xai (Vietnamese-fusion), home of the best coconut soup in the universe. And not that far from all the other Vietnamese places, like Ngon (slightly upscale) and Saigon (very hole-in-the-wall).

                                But you've already gotten lots of good recommendations. Definitely go to the St. Paul Farmer's Market, books or no.


                                Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
                                799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                                Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
                                704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                                Cafe BonXai
                                1613 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                            2. I'm a member of the bellstaff at The Saint Paul, so of course I'd say you're already on the right track with your choice of hotel. If you stop by the concierge desk, I think you'll find them more than capable of giving you great suggestions for all your activities. Also, if you need transportation, we offer a hotel van/towncar service. I'll be there on Friday, so depending on when you arrive, I may even be the one to greet you when you pull up. Have a great weekend!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Darbley

                                Good to know about the hotel car service. Thanks for letting me know!

                              2. Hope you can report back - as you see we Saint Paulites can get a little excited when someone distinguishes Our Fair City from the Fair City across the river! (Um, lots of Places mentioned here, huh?)

                                Did you find your dining experiences pleasant and/or great?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: cayjohan

                                  I never replied because of the arrival of baby #2, but I wanted to belatedly thank everyone for your recommendations last year. We decided to eat at Heartland and loved every morsel (not to mention the service and atmosphere). I was a bit surprised that the hotel staff had not heard of the restaurant, but hopefully that has changed in a year. We also really enjoyed visiting the farmers' market and walking around St. Paul. I just wish we would have had more time to explore and indulge in the other suggestions! But, we look forward to our next visit!

                                  1. re: angiemail

                                    That the St. Paul Hotel didn't know about Heartland is absolutely shocking. I hope it wasn't the concierge or he/she should be immediately fired. Perhaps you got someone on their first night or the resident rube.

                                    Thanks for the report!

                                    1. re: MSPD

                                      What's worse, at least 4 employees that we asked (including the concierge and bellman) had no clue. I was surprised as well, especially because I had gotten such rave reviews about the restaurant. For this and other reasons, I think the hotel must have been "off their game" that weekend. Still, we had a wonderful time in the city and especially at Heartland!

                                      1. re: angiemail

                                        Wow. Hopefully Lenny Russo, or someone close to him hears about that. As a chef/restauranteur of his caliber, I would make sure I'm top-of-mind with every concierge in town.

                                        Along those lines, the concierge at the top hotel in St. Paul should be able to easily recite every top-tier restaurant in St. Paul (and MSP in general), regardless of its location in a non-downtown residential area. Good economy or bad, I would think it's imperative for the independents in the hospitality industry to give each other a hand. Heartland isn't a "dime-a-dozen" joint -- it's a restaurant of significance in the Midwest regional culinary scene.

                                2. shocking!

                                  Thanks for the update. Congrats on the chowbaby #2.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Also, Cossetta's is great for an informal quick pasta/pizza dining experience. Cafeteria-style. Might be a little walk from the St. Paul Hotel but worth it.

                                    Somewhat close to the southwest side of the Xcel Energy Center if you navigate by landmarks.

                                    Cossetta Italian Market-Pizzeria
                                    211 7th St, W St Paul, MN