Minneapolis vs. St. Paul scenes
- i_heart_mushrooms Feb 10, 2008 12:11 PM
Who doesn't like to start a good food fight? Now, I'm a Minneapolis city girl that tends to stay in the same safe scenes. Sorry to sound a bit ignorant, but when I get the chance to venture into in St. Paul here and there, it's a whole new cultural experience to me. Don't get me wrong, the local Southeast Asian tastes in Frogtown tend to find me as a regular, but would the 'real' St. Paul please stand up?
Is it just me or having the label "Twin Cities" really seems to be a curse to people like me, who never really discovered the little treasures of St. Paul? Now I'm hungry for more, but where in St. Paul do you think are the rest of the little treasures? Has anyone heard of the expected PR launch to separate the "Twin Cities" label? What sort of cultural implications do you think this means for us Minnesotans?
Here's a start. As a St. Paul girl, born and raised, there are some quintessential St. Paul places that are standbys. The Lexington--a classic supper club on Grand and Lexington. Mancini's steak house on West 7th. Ristaurante Luci on Cleveland near Randolph. W.A. Frost on Selby and Western. Moscow on the Hill, again on Selby and Western. Cafe Latte has become a classic in it's own right--Grand and Victoria. Cecil's Deli in Highland Park--yes, I know it's not like New York, but it's the reuben I grew up with. Khyber Pass on Grand and Snelling. Heartland Wine Bar is a favorite, as it's two blocks away from my house. The original (and best) Punch Pizza. Having listed these, I think the small Asian places on University and the Mexican-American restaurants and markets on the West Side are the heart of things.
Next person who I see recommending Savoys Pizza I think I might hurl. Ate there yesterday, and I can still feel that cardboard crust and too-spicey sauce cruising through my system. I woke with heartburn, and it may have taken my pizza appetite away permanently. But definetly St Paul is a different "flavor" of everything than Minneapolis. Thats what makes it great, having 2 cities like this so close together, is that they are different for different things, and we get to enjoy both. My personal favorite thing in St. Paul right now is the Como Park Conservitory Sunken Garden flower display. I'm here to tell you it is AH-MAZE-ING. Go there to get a little relief from this cold winter weather. You won't be disappointed. Then go eat pizza at COSSETTA'S !!
I would add:
- The Nook on Hamline & Randolph
- Aesops Table
- Day by Day Cafe
- Swede Hollow Cafe
- Big Daddy's BBQ
I would subtract:
- "Minneapolis vs. St. Paul" dichotomies. Perfectly fine topic for some other board.
I live on the border between the two cities, and I say it's about time they were treated as one. I've never understood the focus on the differences instead of the similarities. To me, it's just one big metropolitan area (though there is one huge difference - you can keep ferrets and honeybees in St. Paul but not in Minneapolis).
I see many more similarities than differences for dining - such as Asian (University Ave & Eat Street), Mexican (Cesar Chavez Blvd & Lake St.), yuppy hangouts (Grand Ave & Uptown), great breakfast joints (all over), and neighborhood bistros (scattered like jewels). It used to be there were more small bakeries in St. Paul than in Mpls, but that has evened out recently.
i_heart_mushrooms, if you want some "borderland" places to help ease into a St. Paul experience, try Birchwood, Cupcake, Obento-Ya, and Sea Salt (in Mpls), and Trotter's, Jay's Cafe, Muffuletta, and Izzy's (in St. Paul).
For help discovering more St. Paul treasures, check out posts by The Dairy Queen. She's a great St. Paul resource!
Having worked in both SF and Oakland (separated by SF Bay) and Minneapolis and St.Paul (separated by the Mississippi) I can't really see a reason to divide such an integrated system. Same vendors, same growing seasons, same food reviewers, same dining public. As there are neighborhood places in Minneapolis I will be unlikely to ever check out, there are also places over here you probably will never sample because they really aren't that outstanding or unique, they're convenient.
The idea of abolishing the term "twin cities" is valid not because they have such great separate identities, but because there are so many other "twins" across the country that it's not really meaningful or marketable. There's always rivalry and provincialism. The funniest crack in the Bay Area is a proposed "Bay Mirror Project" an installation of a gigantic mirror enabling San Francisco to admire itself. BTW the Bay Area is often confused with other Bay Areas too. Clearly the more glitzy town prevails and it is more accurately called the SF Bay Area. I'll never be able to stomach the Minneapolis Twin Cities.
The basic lay of the land is that there are conglomerations of restaurants as well as destination venues in both cities (ie: Eat Street and Uptown, Grand Avenue and Selby behind the Cathedral). Smack down time, which city is better (higher quality/more diverse)? People argue for their side of the street everywhere in the world. Why bother?
try heartland, meritage, strip club, tons of mom & pops. food is generally cheaper for quality in st. paul.
lots of restaurants stake their claims in minneapolis for the larger audience/higher volume, many choose st paul for the cheaper rent. talking $11/sq foot and up vs $.60. that's pretty significant(!), so little places survive in st. paul that would perish in minneapolis, including places with lower priced (and wonderful) products, like bakeries & noodle houses. getting snobby about one side of the river vs. "the other guys" is silly--as keg's 1st paragraph illustrates. many restaurant owners have a place on both sides of the river, & many great places get as close as possible to the borderline to court both sets of customers-- i'd add the craftsman to Anne's "borderline" list (barely on the mpls. side).
as a former uptown snob who's now moved to st. paul i can say i appreciate st. paul and its foodways much more now. i don't think driving a wedge between mpls and st. paul makes sense, there is so much interplay between the two anyway. having two cities seperated only by a few bridges means "more for me" in terms of food variety and availability.
I don't think you can divorce the style of the towns from the restaurant scene. Minneapolis has more people consciously trying to look and act urbane/hip/cool/trendy/non-conformist -- pick your favorite word. St. Paul is much more a family town and a college town. At least at the margins the restaurant scene reflects this. There is no Psycho Suzies or Chamber's Hotel Bar equivalent in St. Paul.
St. Paul is great for breakfast. Bon Vie on Selby is creative and outstanding. The New Uptowner has great eggs Florentine, as well as biscuits and gravy. Bravo! next door makes a mean cappacino. Coffee News Cafe by Macalester makes a nice breakfast too. Shish on Grand Ave. by Macalester has nice Mid-Eastern food for lunch. The lamb burger is huge and very good. The mousaka is also fine.
But at all these places you are more likely to run into my 11 year old daughter than some 28 year old vegan with unfortunate piercings.
When I moved to Minnesota 4.5 years ago I lived at Grand and Victoria so got a taste of St. Paul. Soon after I bought a house in S. Minneapolis and since then spend most of my time on this side of the river purely for traffic reasons - getting over to St. Paul for dinner during rush hour feels like a pain to me. Same reason we rarely head to some of the good spots in St. Louis Park or other western suburbs, it's just kind of a pain.
Not being a native, I like to think I don't have the one side is better mentality. Different restaurants have different qualities to me, regardless of their location. We head to St. Paul probably once every 2 weeks to hit Tanpopo, Khyber Pass, Saigon, and Little Szechuan. We sometimes frequent Sakura or other (mostly sushi) spots in downtown St. Paul, but there is something about downtown St. Paul at night which is kind of sad, it's such a ghost town that you begin to wonder what's wrong with us for being there. When my husband lived in the Warehouse district we were regulars at Nami and some other downtown spots, but now we're more likely to be near our home, or offices near NE, purely for ease of parking. Basically, we go through phases depending on the traffic, time of day, weather, and obviously what we feel like eating. I don't think MSP being the Twin Cities versus 2 geographic locations with a river separating has made any difference in my mind.
In response to Michael, it's kind of sad that you would pigeon hole Minneapolis as hipster, non-conformist, and therefore bad (if I'm reading your tone right). There are PLENTY of family-oriented places all over the city. Head to any of the Turtle Breads and you can't walk 2 feet before tripping over a stroller. Considering how diverse both of our cities are, I don't think family oriented vs. hipster trendy captures either of them well at all.
Yes, I personally find a piece of the Minneapolis scene to be affected and pretentious. Others may think it's cool or charming. But I do believe that whatever you call it, it's found in Minneapolis and not really in St. Paul, including in restaurants and their clientelle. Doesn't mean Minneapolis lacks family oriented places. As you note, it's got 'em. Still, I stand by my assertion that you are not going to find places in St. Paul trying hard to be hip or urbane. There is no Uptown or warehouse district equivalent in St. Paul.
re: Michael Florey
You're probably right that you won't find the pretentious bar/restaurant places in St. Paul, which is probably a result of the fact that many fewer single 20-somethings with disposable incomes choose to live in St. Paul. Additionally, the traffic through downtown St. Paul couldn't support places like Chambers, Cosmos, and 20.21. I guess to me though those types of spots are so few and far between, I would never think that they define the restaurant scene in Minneapolis.
I've also found that while a place may look pretentious to an outsider, when you eat there you find that the staff really does care about providing a great, experience for anyone and everyone, regardless of how you're dressed (I'm thinking of Fugaise, Nami, and 112 as places that may seem intimidating).
Also, after living in NY, Boston and Atlanta, what's considered affected and pretentious here wouldn't even register on the radar of those cities.
So, I don't disagree with your assertion that there are more style over substance places in Minneapolis vs. St. Paul, because of the younger and more affluent residents, I still don't believe that you can define Minneapolis by those places.
All very true. I guess I was reacting to the "they're both the same" responses. The restaurants in Minneapolis do seem different to me than the places in St. Paul. We go to Fugaise and 112 all the time, as well as Cafe Barbette. Great places, but there's nothing like them in St. Paul. In some ways, I wish there were.
re: Michael Florey
Man I got some serious eating to do in St. Paul! Thanks you're all great resources. Does sounding like a St. Paul newbie a pretty bad thing?
Sorry to pit the 'twin cities' together, but when I say "curse" of that label- I mean it's like that ethnic background in you that you never knew about...anyone feel me? For example (not a bad analogy), I have Thai/Laotian/Vietnamese background, but when specific cuisine flavors get grouped in the common notion of "Southeast Asian" or "Asian" cuisine- it's easy to say "it tastes all the same". But then again, that brings up the question of authenticity.
I agree with the Bay Area example. Although it can be purely marketing by separating the "twins", it's a step towards breaking down that too easy mold of everything having to be in a melting pot. Should I have to ask for a tour guide to a city that's 5 minutes away because unfortunately I think it's all the same? I don't think so.